8 reasons to visit Malaga in December (2023 guide)

Christmas lights on the Calle de Larios in Malaga, with buildings on either side and angels in the middle.

Are you considering visiting Malaga in December? Here are my top reasons to do it!

My plane had taken off from the dark, freezing East Midlands Airport, the sun gradually rising as we journeyed due south. 

Two and a half hours later, we landed at Malaga Airport, the heat immediately apparent as I stepped off the plane. 

I spent a week in Malaga in December and January (I was there for New Year) and maintain that it’s one of the best times to visit this part of Andalusia. 

The weather’s much warmer than back home, it’s one of the oldest cities in the world (seriously!) and the bars selling tapas and Spanish wine are open long into the night. 

So, here’s exactly what I loved about Malaga in December!

Top reasons to visit Malaga in December

Celebrate Christmas and New Year, bask in the rays of December sunshine, enjoy fewer crowds and head out to the Costa del Sol… Malaga in December is a treat.

Christmas celebrations

Malaga lit up Christmas tree

Malaga knows how to embrace the festive spirit with its extraordinary Christmas illuminations. 

Come December, the city’s main thoroughfare, Calle Larios, thrums with a spectacle of light and sound.

A stroll beneath the luminous arches, as they bathe the historic street in an ethereal glow, marks a wonderful start to the season!

Plus, Malaga’s charming Christmas markets spring to life.

The bustling marketplace at Plaza de la Constitución is an absolute must-visit. 

Each stall showcases unique crafts, artisanal gifts, and an array of local delicacies. 

As you navigate the festive labyrinth, indulge in traditional treats like polvorones and mantecados which are both Spanish Christmas cookies!

If you’re searching for thoughtful souvenirs or gifts, they sell locally-made leather goods, beautifully-crafted ceramics and premium olive oils.

As you journey through the market, embrace the atmosphere, let the scent of roasting chestnuts guide your way, and enjoy the radiant glow of fairy lights dancing above. 

All these elements make December in Malaga truly special.

New Year’s Eve traditions

12 grapes in Malaga

Spanish traditions are rich and varied, but one ritual particularly stands out during a December visit to Malaga – the unique custom of ‘Las doce uvas de la suerte,’ or ‘The twelve lucky grapes.‘ 

As the clock chimes midnight on New Year’s Eve, Spaniards across the country, and indeed, visitors in Malaga, partake in this tradition in unison, each consuming a grape to the chime of the clock, symbolising good luck for the coming twelve months.

I took part in this last year, and I’ve had a pretty good year so far!

If you want to experience local customs, head to the Plaza de la Constitución.

 As midnight approaches, this central square brims with anticipatory excitement – and during the countdown, everyone’s eating the grapes!

The twelve grapes are usually accompanied by a glass of cava, Spain’s answer to champagne. 

As the final chime rings out, a toast is raised to the new year, marking the beginning of the celebrations that continue into the early hours. 

There are also fireworks!

Verdiales Music Festival

Verdiales Music Festival takes place on December 28th, coinciding with the Día de los Santos Inocentes – Spain’s equivalent to April Fools’ Day. However, the festival is no jest, as it represents a significant and cherished tradition in the Malaga region.

The festival focuses on Verdiales, a local form of flamenco that originated in the Malaga province’s rural heartland. 

Performances comprise of troupes, known as “pandas”, singing, dancing, and playing instruments dressed in customary Andalusian attire. 

Taking place just outside of Malaga city, the site buzzes with competition between different pandas, and the atmosphere is nothing short of electric. 

As a visitor, you’ll be warmly welcomed and encouraged to join in the dancing and revelry!

Seasonal cuisine

Tapas spread out on the table

While Malaga is known for its year-round offering of sumptuous seafood and tempting tapas, the colder months witness the arrival of hearty stews and seasonal seafood dishes.

One of the stars of this winter menu is the ‘cazuela de fideos con almejas’ – a warming noodle and clam casserole, simmered to perfection in a tomato and saffron-infused broth. 

El Pimpi, one of Malaga’s iconic bodegas, serves up this dish. 

For dessert, try turrón, a traditional Spanish nougat that features prominently in Christmas festivities. 

Vicens, a Catalan-based company with an outlet in Malaga, produces some of the finest turrón in Spain, with flavours ranging from classic almond to innovative combinations like coconut and raspberry.

Comfortable weather

Girl enjoying a glass of wine wearing a light pink jumper with roads in the background in Malaga in winter.

While Malaga in December might not offer the balmy temperatures of the summer, it certainly provides a pleasant escape from the freezing temperatures in many other parts of Europe and North America. 

Winter in Malaga is mild, with temperatures often reaching 15-20 degrees Celsius during the day. In fact, it’s constantly heralded as a European winter sun destination.

Snow was only recorded once in the 20th century.

So you can pack away the heavy winter coats and enjoy the city’s attractions without the overwhelming heat of the summer months!

For example, Malaga’s Alcazaba, a stunning Moorish fortress overlooking the city, has a lot of steps – I couldn’t imagine climbing them in the roasting summer months!

Fewer tourist crowds

View of Alcazaba, a Moorish palace with Roman ruins in the foreground.

Malaga experiences fewer tourists compared to the peak summer months in December. 

This drop in tourist numbers means less crowded attractions, shorter queues, and a more relaxed atmosphere to experience the city.

Take advantage of this quieter period by visiting popular sites like the Malaga Cathedral or the Picasso Museum

Similarly, the city’s beaches, such as La Malagueta, are less hectic during this time. The beach bars are shut, but there’s a certain tranquillity to this coast in the winter!

One of my guest bloggers visited Malaga in February and also reported this as a major perk. Read about her experiences here.

Go winter swimming

Girl standing at the rooftop of the Barcelo Malaga hotel. The sun is setting in the background.

Beach holiday in December, anyone? 

I actually did make it into the Med for a swim when we were in Malaga – we also had a rooftop pool which I took a dip in (although this was heated!).

Sea temperatures hover around a relatively mild 16-18 degrees Celsius – which I’m used to swimming in back home in Devon, UK. 

La Malagueta Beach is located near the city centre and has a clean, sandy stretch for a quick dip. It’s invigorating, promise!

Quiet Costa del Sol beaches

If you want to venture further down the coast, the Costa del Sol beaches are virtually abandoned. 

One of the top picks is Burriana Beach in nearby Nerja. 

Known for its clear waters and amenities, this popular beach transforms into a quiet haven in winter. 

Further west, the beaches of Marbella, like Playa de la Bajadilla and Playa de Venus, are rammed in summer but deserted in winter!

Have a picnic, take in the Sierra Blanca mountains, or settle down with a good book. It’s bliss!

Best things to do in Malaga in December

Bright blue skies in the background with the Alcazaba and the king in the foreground.
  1. Visit Picasso Museum
  2. Explore Alcazaba of Málaga
  3. Stroll along Málaga’s Christmas Light Display
  4. Wander through the Historic City Centre
  5. Enjoy seafood at the Málaga Port (Muelle Uno)
  6. Visit Malaga Cathedral
  7. Go on a tapas and wine tour
  8. Explore the Atarazanas Market
  9. Visit Gibralfaro Castle for panoramic views
  10. Relax at the Hammam Al Ándalus Málaga (Arab baths)

Check out my full guide to visiting Malaga in winter, including all of my top things to do, by clicking here.

Weather in Malaga in December

Gardens in the Alcazaba, with pillars around the side of a bush complex and palm trees in the background.

December is the start of winter in Malaga, but its Mediterranean climate means that the city still enjoys relatively mild temperatures. 

Daytime highs typically reach around 17-18°C (63-64°F), and at night, temperatures can drop to around 8-10°C (46-50°F).

The sea temperatures average around 17°C (63°F) in December, which some might find refreshing, though others may find it too cold for a swim. 

Rainfall increases in December, but it is still less than in many other European cities with an average of 5-6 rainy days throughout the month.

Here’s a quick reference table for the weather in Malaga in December:

Average High Temperature18°C / 64°F
Average Low Temperature8°C / 46°F
Average Sea Temperature17°C / 63°F
Average Days of Rain5-6 days

What to pack for Malaga in December

  • Comfy day clothes: Bring some light clothes for warm days.
  • Cosy evening clothes: Don’t forget a sweater or jacket for cooler nights.
  • Raincoat or umbrella: Just in case it rains!
  • Comfortable shoes: For all the walking and exploring you’ll do.
  • Swimming suit: If you want to try swimming, even if the water might be a bit chilly.
  • Sun protection: Sunscreen to protect your skin, sunglasses for your eyes, and a hat to cover your head from the sun.
  • Fancy clothes: If you’re going somewhere special, like a nice restaurant or a show.
  • Plug adapter: This is needed if your chargers don’t fit the plugs in Spain.
  • Map or travel guide: To help you find your way around the city.
  • Water bottle: To make sure you drink enough water while you’re out and about.

Are you ready to visit Malaga in December?

Swap the gluwein for a cold cava this Christmas, because Malaga in December is an absolute treat!

With plenty of attractions, great weather and festivities, this city should be high on your winter bucket list.

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