22 things to do in Malaga in winter (2023/4 guide)

There are so many reasons to visit Malaga in winter.

Winter sunshine? Check. Centuries of fascinating history? Check. More tapas than you can physically consume? Check.

This glorious Andalucian city sits at the very bottom of Spain – nearly as far south as you can get in continental Europe.

Malaga basks in over 300 days of sunshine per year, with much warmer temperatures than virtually anywhere else on the continent.

But while tourists flock to Malaga – and the entire Costa Del Sol – for sunshine, the city also encompasses Moorish ruins, art galleries (it was the home of Picasso!) and an enigmatic old town with a labyrinth of cobblestone streets.

If you’re thinking of visiting Malaga in winter, I recently visited the Southern Spanish city with Jet2 and subsequently put together this full article to inspire further trips.

What’s Malaga in winter like?

Winter brings an unexpected charm to Malaga, Spain’s sixth-largest city and a gem of Andalusia.

As the city sheds the summer heat, a soft coolness takes its place.

Average temperatures hover around 17°C (63°F), making winter an ideal season to experience Malaga without battling scorching temperatures.

I couldn’t imagine climbing to the top of the Alcazar in the summer season!

It barely ever snows here (in fact, it was only recorded once in the 20th century).

Plaza de la Merced is the centre of the city.

Even in winter, you can feel the sun’s gentle warmth on your face while standing here, whether you’re admiring the festive decorations or watching the sun light up the brightly coloured buildings.

Not far away, you can find Pablo Picasso’s birthplace, now a fascinating museum dedicated to the famous artist – it’s rarely overcrowded this time of year.

The city’s gastronomic scene thrives throughout the year, but in winter, you may find a table at El Pimpi or La Cosmopolita without having to book weeks in advance.

You can savour traditional Andalusian cuisine, with dishes like “plato de los montes,” amidst the backdrop of a crisp winter evening.

The beach might not be top of your list during winter, but don’t disregard a trip to Malagueta.

It’s the perfect season for beach walks – and you can even take a winter dip in the chillier waters!

How to get to Malaga

Malaga sits in the heart of the Costa del Sol, on the coast of Andalucia in Southern Spain.

The city’s large airport makes it an easy-to-reach destination for tourists from most European major cities.

Malaga’s also well connected to other major cities in Spain, like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville, by rail and road.

Visit Malaga with Jet2

Wing of Jet2 plane on the way to Malaga in winter with mountains in the background

I visited Malaga on a Jet2 city break.

Jet2 is the second largest provider of package holidays in the UK, with flights to Malaga from East Midlands, Stansted, Leeds Bradford and various other airports.

All Jet2 flights include 22kg of hold luggage (a rarity for European short-haul flights these days!) and they’re well known for being reliable.

In fact, during the travel chaos of summer 2022, when you couldn’t log on to Facebook without hearing horror stories of cancelled and delayed flights, Jet2 was virtually the only airline I heard consistently good things about!

Jet2 are well known for package beach holidays, but Malaga is one of their city break destinations; where you can book flights and hotels as part of a package deal. These city breaks can be arranged in summer or winter.

Booking a package deal means that your holiday is ATOL protected, and often you can get cheaper deals.

Take a look at the where to stay section on this post to read about the hotel we booked through Jet2, or you can click through to their website here.

Full disclaimer: I was a plus one on this trip with Jet2, which means that my partner received the flight and hotel complimentarily in exchange for coverage on his blog.

As I was a plus one, I was under no obligation to mention Jet2 in this post.

But we had a great experience with them and I love how they take the hassle out of booking city breaks, so I thought it was worth explaining about them a bit more here!

How to get to Malaga from the airport

We took the train from Malaga airport to the city, which was ridiculously easy.

Simply walk to the airport train station and use your contactless card to tap on.

One line goes to Malaga centre and on the other side it heads to Firgaloua.

It takes about 15 minutes!

Winter weather in Malaga

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

If you’re looking for some winter sun in Europe, you really can’t go wrong in Malaga.

In fact, while we were there, we were told the city has 300 – 330 days of sunshine each year (different people told us different things, but the general consensus is that there are a lot of sunny days!).

On our New Year’s trip, the temperature ranged from 17°C to 22°C in the daytime, and we constantly had bright sunshine with limited cloud coverage.

Bright blue skies in the background with the Alcazaba and the king in the foreground.

The city sees mild temperatures throughout the winter period; in fact, it’s probably the warmest and driest of all the Andalusian cities! 

The average winter temperature is a high of 17°C and a low of 8°C, although from my experience, it can certainly be hotter.

The winter months are rainier than the summer months, but wet weather is still a lot rarer than elsewhere in Europe! 

Why visit Malaga in winter?

The narrow streets in Malaga old town with historic buildings on either side.

There are quite a few reasons to visit Malaga in winter!

Here were my favourite things about this Spanish city in December and January:

  • Weather: 20°C in December sounds good to me! Not only was it warm enough to sit outside and take a dip in the rooftop pool (I also swam in the sea, but I appreciate that not everyone’s as into cold water swimming!), but it’s not too hot to spend time walking around the city, climbing up the steps of the Alcazaba or touring through the old town.
  • Christmas: While Southern Spain is a great deal warmer than other European destinations, Malaga’s a great winter city break because it goes all out when it comes to Christmas. You’ll find beautiful lights in Larios Street, festive markets by the harbour, and Christmas trees nestled amongst palm trees. The festivities go on to 6th January, which is King’s Day in Spain.
  • Fewer tourists: The city was quite busy over New Year, but generally the winter season means fewer tourists and more authentic local experiences.

About Malaga: a short history

Historic buildings in Malaga city centre.

Malaga’s renowned for its sunshine, but many tourists don’t realise that it’s actually one of the oldest cities in the world.

It was founded by the Phonecian people, who came from modern-day Lebanon and Syria.

They sailed across the Mediterranean, stopping frequently as they were wary of open water.

When they stopped in Malaga, they started building the port city, only to be interrupted some 1,200 years later by the Romans.

The Romans lived in Malaga for around six hundred years, when Moors invaded the Iberian peninsula and started building fortifications, like the Alcazaba that stands above Malaga today. 

Church in Malaga with tower into the sky with a little cloud coverage.

Malaga was the second-last city to fall in Moorish Spain when the Christians unconquered in 1487.

After this time, a new port was built and Malaga became important city when it came to trading with the Americas. 

Malaga grew further in the Spanish industrial revolution, and life revolved around the port; but in the 20th century, the city suffered enormously in the Civil War and fell to Franco

Although Franco ruled Spain until 1975, tourism to Malaga and the Costa del Sol started in the 1950s.

Costa del Sol is one of the most popular places to visit in the country; it’s home to some of the best vacation rentals in Europe and its beaches are buzzing in the summer months (although they’re quieter in the winter!).

But Malaga’s worth a visit too!

Things to do in Malaga in winter

While you probably won’t be spending time doing watersports, there are countless other things to do in Malaga in winter.

1. Explore the historic Alcazaba

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

Malaga’s Alcazaba stands proudly on top of one of the city’s hills, with epic views over the Mediterranean Sea.

Dating back to the 11th century, the Alcazaba was a palace and defensive castle. 

It’s a huge complex, with palace rooms, subtropical plants and sweeping vistas from the top. 

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

Winter is the perfect time to explore this monument; there are a lot of steps, and I can imagine it would be sweltering in the summer months! 

While it’s an impressive complex, there aren’t any information boards to read as you’re walking around.

So I’d recommend taking a guided tour of the palace to learn about the history from a specialist guide. 

We did this tour of the Alcazaba; it was very busy as it was a bank holiday, but it was well worth doing!

2. Walk around the Roman theatre

Sign indicating to the Roman Theatre in Malaga. There are trees in the background and the sky is a bright blue.

One of the most interesting things about Malaga is that, just by visiting, you’ll stroll through layer after layer of history. 

In fact, it’s the only city where you can see Phonecian, Roman and Moorish architecture in one vista.

The theatre was built by Romans but was largely destroyed throughout the ages; although some ruins still remain.

It’s definitely not on par with Rome’s colosseum, but it’s a pleasant enough site to amble around! You can also take in the view from the road. 

Opposite the Roman Theatre, you’ll find a glass pyramid, which has Phonecian fishing pools underneath that date up to 2,800 years. 

3. Do a food and wine tour

One of our must-dos while we were in Malaga was a food and wine tour.

This tour visited three local bars and restaurants and gave us a chance to try some authentic Andalusian wine and tapas dishes that you’ll only find in this southern city.

All food and drinks are included in the tour and the guide details some interesting history of the city.

For example, did you know that avocados are commonly grown in the Malaga region – but it’s the only region you’ll find them in Spain?

4. Visit one of Malaga’s museums

The outside of the museum of Malaga, with palm trees in the foreground.

Although you’ll likely have some nice, sunny weather while you’re in Malaga, the winter is slightly wetter than the summer. 

But don’t worry if you do have some rain – there are 38 museums in Malaga! Here are some of the best:

  • Museum of Malaga: This is the biggest museum in Andalucia and the fifth biggest in Spain! If you want to find out about the history of this fascinating city, along with its architecture, then don’t miss it. 
  • Centre Pompidou Malaga: This is a branch of the famous French art gallery; in fact, it was the first one to be located outside of France. 
  • Wine Museum: A must-visit for any fans of a bevvy! The wine museum details all of the history and information about Spain’s favourite drink. 

5. Amble down Calle Marques de Larios

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

Possibly the most famous street in Malaga, taking a stroll down Calle Larios, which extends off the Plaza de la Constitution, is a must for any type of traveller.

Built in the 19th century by Larios, a wealthy architect from the northern part of Spain, you’ll find Malaga’s famous Christmas decorations if you walk down this street in December and early January.

Malaga’s festive lights draw tourists from around the world. While 2022’s were slightly more budget-friendly (due to the rising cost of energy prices!), they were still an impressive feat!

They stay illuminated until the second week of January.

If you’re visiting Malaga in February or March, you’ll still find this street to be full of life and interesting architecture. 

6. Gaze at art in the Picasso Museum

Line outside the Picasso Museum, a stone building in the heart of Malaga.

Malaga’s most famous resident is Pablo Picasso, and if you’re interested in art at any capacity then head to the Picasso Museum.

This museum hosts some of his best pieces throughout his career, although you’ll need to visit his birthplace to see his earlier art collection.

Leave yourself plenty of time to visit the museum, as there can be queues and there’s plenty to explore.

Click here to book tickets including an audio tour.

7. Take a stroll around La Concepción Historical-Botanical Garden

Not only is Malaga renowned for pretty much being immune to bad weather in the winter months, but you can also walk through a jungle while you’re here!

Don’t miss La Concepcion Historical-Botanical Garden, home to an abundance of tropical and subtropical plants. 

Spanning over 55 hectares, the botanical garden boasts seasonal flowers; while there’s certainly more to explore in the summer months, you won’t be disappointed by a winter visit.

8. Embark on a sunset cruise

Even though it’s winter in Malaga, you can still go on a sunset cruise! 

These cruises leave the harbour at around 5:30 pm every day, sailing out into the sea and taking in some of the most spectacular sites of the Andalucian coastline before the sun treats you to an array of reds, yellows and oranges as it plummets over the Mediterranean coastline. 

This cruise also includes a glass of cava and some even incorporate a light show.

9. Wow at the Malaga Cathedral

The domineering cathedral of Malaga, with towers and detailing.

One of the most impressive Malaga landmarks is the cathedral.

A looming structure in the middle city, Malaga Cathedral dates back to 1528, although it wasn’t completed until 1782.

However, it was previously a mosque during the years when Malaga was under Moorish control. 

The back of Malaga Cathedral, with trees with oranges in the foreground.

It resembles Cathedrals across the Spanish empire and has heritage items from the Americas inside. 

It’s worth visiting from both sides and taking a step indoors if you get a chance! 

10. Watch a Flamenco show

When in Andalucia… watch flamenco! 

This dance actually originates in Granada, some 120 kilometers away (it’s a great day trip from Malaga!), but there are plenty of flamenco shows in the coastal city. 

The music and dance are alleged to come from the caves of Sacromonte, high above the city of Granada.

Roma Gypsies, Muslims and Jewish people all lived in these caves when they were persecuted by Christian Spain in the 15th century. 

Flamenco merged Islamic music with Roma dancing, creating a unique style that’s nowadays famous all over Spain.

Click here for information about a Flamenco show.

11. Go back in time at Calle san Agustín

Another street to stroll down while you’re in Malaga, the Calle san Agustín was where Picasso’s nursery was located. 

It’s a charming historic street in the Old Town that’s quintessential of Malaga. 

12. See the Birthplace of Picasso

The birthplace of Picasso is a national monument, and it’s a site of pilgrimage for art lovers from all over the world.

It hosts the second museum of Picasso with paintings from when he was a child. You’ll be amazed at some of the incredible illustrations from when he was just nine years old! 

13. Visit the Mercado Central de Atarazanas

If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy tasty tapas while you’re in town, don’t miss this mercado!

Sitting in the heart of the city, it encompasses various tapas stalls with something for everyone.

A must for all foodies, there are even some tasty vegetarian options.

14. Explore Castillo de Gibralfaro

Sitting high above Malaga city centre, Castillo de Gibralfaro is famous for its epic views of Malaga’s narrow streets and the coastline of the Costa del Sol. 

Dating back to the 10th century, the castle was originally a lookout and defensive fortification to protect this area of the country when it was under Moorish control. 

It’s best accessed by bus; while it does directly connect to the Alcazaba, this route isn’t actually open for tourists. 

15. Soak in the Hammam Al Andalus

Outside of the Hammam in Malaga

This was probably my favourite thing that we did in Malaga.

Taking inspiration from the city’s Moorish past, this hammam encompasses three warm/ hot thermal baths of different temperatures, along with an ice-cold bath and a steam room. 

There are plenty of places to sit and enjoy a cup of mint tea (it was the mintiest brew that I’ve ever tasted!), and the architecture is gloriously reminiscent of the city’s history, immediately inviting relaxation as soon as you step in. 

My favourite thing about the Arab baths was that, unlike some spas, it was peaceful and quiet.

The number of people for each session is limited, and silence is encouraged. This made it the perfect place to relax! 

16. Relax, walk or swim at Playa Malagueta

Lettering of Malagueta with golden sand and palm trees in the background.

If you want a bit of beach fun, head down to Playa Malagueta!

Ideal for coastal strolls and picnicking on the sands, Playa Malagueta is much quieter in the winter than in the summer. 

Can you swim in Malaga in winter?

I did go for a swim here, but I live in Devon in the UK and was swimming in the sea there until November this year! Research told me the water temperature would be around 15°C.

I didn’t find it too difficult to get in but was conscious of the health risks of staying in cold water for too long and just had a dunk and brief swim.

I’d only recommend it if you’re clued up on the risks of hypothermia and have experience swimming in colder water.

The sea temperature might be mild enough for a proper swim in November!

Other beach alternatives

Malagueta has imported sand, so Malaga locals usually recommend visiting more natural beaches like nearby El Palo.

This is a little further than Malagueta, but you could rent a bike and cycle to the beach! However, we opted to just visit Malagueta as it’s much closer to the city centre.

17. Stroll around the harbour in the evening

Man looking out on the harbour at Malaga in January.

Even if you don’t go for a sunset cruise, don’t miss walking around Malaga’s harbour in the evening.

The pedestrian street spans along the water, with plenty of food stalls, shops and entertainment. 

It’s all open throughout the winter; as the sun sets earlier, the whole area comes alive earlier! 

In December, there’s a mini Christmas market here too.

Christmas markets in Spain don’t have gluwein, but they do host plenty of festive cheer!

Day trips from Malaga

Gorgeous Andalucia is a must-visit destination in Spain, with beautiful cities and incredible landscapes.

And many of the best spots in Andalucia are visitable on a day trip from Malaga!

You can book day tours to many of these destinations, or alternatively, the city’s well-connected by rail and has plenty of car rental options.  

18. Granada 

Ancient arabic fortress of Alhambra, Granada, Spain.

Sitting north of Malaga in the midst of the Andalusian mountains, this city encompasses all that Andalucia is famous for.

Visit the Alhambra, a Moorish palace similar to Malaga’s Alcazaba but larger, on a full guided tour. 

This was where the Moorish control over Spain ended, so it’s an incredibly significant site to visit and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. 

You can also visit the Cuevas del Sacromonte, where flamenco originated, and stroll around the gorgeous city centre. 

Take a look at this guided tour of Granada from Malaga.

Or if you’d like to do it independently, high-speed trains connect the two cities. 

19. Gibraltar 

Gibraltar is a fascinating spot, projecting from the south of Spain yet actually a part of another country. 

Gibraltar isn’t part of Spain, but actually the UK. So you’ll go through customs and end up in a very British part of continental Europe – home to fish and chips and bright red phone boxes!

Explore attractions like St Michael’s Cave, the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens and the Rock of Gibraltar.

You can explore Gibraltar on a day tour from Malaga – click here to read more. 

20. Ronda

Ronda, Spain at Puente Nuevo Bridge.

An iconic place to visit in Andalucia, Ronda is a village sitting on the edge of a cliff with breathtaking views and historic architecture. 

Most famous for Punte Nuevo, a bridge connecting two cliffs, Ronda has a “new town” which dates back to the 15th century and an “old town” with dates from Moorish rule. 

You can either drive from Malaga to Ronda, take a train (there are only a few a day, so be sure of train times before you set out!), or go on a guided tour. 

Guided tours leave from Malaga centre daily and also include a stop in Setenil, which is known for its buildings built into cliffs. 

Click here for information about the Malaga to Ronda and Setenil guided tour. 

21. Seville

Plaza de Espana in Seville, Andalusia, Spain

One of Spain’s most popular cities, winter is the ideal time to visit Seville as there are far fewer tourists!

It’s a little further from Malaga than the other options on this list, but it’s still a popular day trip thanks to its gorgeous Alcazar, which is a Moorish-Renaissance palace, Seville Cathedral and the Plaza de Espana which is a large square with murals from all of Spain’s provinces and frequent flamenco performances. 

It’s two hours by train each way or just over two hours by driving. 

Click here for a guided tour option.

22. Marbella

Marbella is one of the Costa del Sol’s hotspots, and if you’re looking for somewhere beachy to kick back and relax close to Malaga, this beach town has clubs, golden sands and wonderful vibes!

However, as winter is the off-season, many of Marbella’s beach clubs are closed during the cooler months. Vincci Estrella del Mar is a 5* resort that stays open throughout the year!

Of course, you can walk on the beaches, like Playa de Venus and Playa de la Fontanilla, and the weather’s usually warm enough to sit and relax on the sands. 

In December, Marbella’s rather festive too!

You can take a bus from Malaga to Marbella, self-drive or do a guided tour.

This guided tour option travels from Malaga and journeys to the pretty village of Mijas, the elegant Puerto Banus and Marbella.

Where to stay in Malaga

The room at the Barcelo Malaga hotel

We stayed at the Barcelo Malaga Hotel, which was incredible.

Famous as one of the most instagrammable hotels in Europe, it encompasses quirky features like a slide going from the first to the ground floor and a rooftop swimming pool.

And yes, the swimming pool is open in the winter months – I took a dip every day! 

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

Rooms are large, bright and comfortable, with jet showers and cosy, huge beds.

I also loved the breakfast buffet, with options like guacamole and hummus that I spread on toast, flaky and creamy pain au chocolates and freshly squeezed orange juice. 

It’s about a 15-minute walk to the old town, but we quite enjoyed the stroll.

All you need to know about Malaga in winter!

With milleniums of history, bright blue skies and mild temperatures, delicious food and even better wine, there’s so much to love about visiting Malaga in winter.

At just 2.5 hours from Northern Europe, you can set off in the morning and be around the pool sipping a glass of cava by lunch time!

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