Winter in Malaga, Spain (Best Things to do & See)

If your dream is to soak up some off-season sunshine while discovering a new, exciting destination, pop visiting Malaga in winter on your to-do list. The vibrant city, the capital of the Costa del Sol, is warm and pleasant year-round. With incredible local markets, colourful festivals, tapas trails, tropical gardens and historic sites to explore, you’ll never be short of things to do.

Consider visiting Malaga in December to see the Christmas lights and to gather with locals in the shadow of Malaga Cathedral on New Year’s Eve to feast on grapes – symbolising good luck for the coming year. Or head here in February for the city’s epic carnival.

Visiting Malaga, Spain in winter is a fun and exhilarating experience. Read on to find out the best things to do & see during your stay.

Malaga Winter Weather

With a mild climate and little rainfall, you can’t go too wrong visiting Malaga in the winter months. Here’s what to expect during each month of the winter season.

Malaga in December

The weather is mild in the month of December, reaching daytime temperatures of 17°C/62°F (which can feel very warm in the sunshine). Do bring a jacket or jumper though, as it can be cold in the evenings and you could experience a few rainy days too (although it never lasts long).

Malaga in January

The temperatures in January are much the same as in December, with a little less chance of rain. In the mountains, you may see a smattering of snow on the peaks, but on the coast, it’s beachy business as usual.

Malaga in February

Visit Malaga in February to bask in an average temperature of 18°C/64°F. Rainfall is low and days are pleasant enough to walk around in a t-shirt on sunny days. Bring some warm clothes for the evenings, which can be a little chilly.

Best Things to do in Malaga in Winter

Wondering what to do in Malaga in winter to see the best of the city? You can delve into local history and architecture, browse vibrant produce markets, see Picasso’s unseen artworks and so much more.  Here are a few ideas to inspire your trip to the Costa del Sol in winter.

Follow Malaga’s History Through the Ages

The city of Malaga is a dream destination for those interested in art and history. Its heritage dates way back to the Phoenicians, and when the Romans arrived, they began to build their trademark structures too. The Roman amphitheatre in Malaga is particularly well-preserved and still hosts open-air concerts throughout the year.

When the Visigoths and Moors arrived in the city, they added 11th-century Malaga Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle to the growing cornucopia of landmarks dominating the cityscape.

When the Moors departed Spain, the Renaissance era began to blossom. Malaga Cathedral was constructed and today, visitors can climb the tower steps to gain epic views.

In more recent years, the Picasso Museum and the Carmen Thyssen Malaga museums have also opened in historic palaces, giving those interested, a veritable feast of activities, architecture and artworks to discover.

Explore the Alcazaba

This 11th-century fortress is a must-visit when in Malaga. A stunningly preserved example of Moorish architecture, it showcases horseshoe arches, intricate stonework, colourful tiled walls, water fountains, and beautiful gardens.

Walk the grounds, taking time to scale the stairs to parade the palace walls (watch your step!), and download the free audio guide on your phone to learn the history of the site.

Within the fortress, you’ll find a small archaeological museum that provides context to the history of the site and showcases artefacts from the Roman, Phoenician, and Moorish periods.

The cityscape of Malaga is best viewed from above, and the Alcazaba offers several vantage points to take it all in and get your bearings. Making it the ideal spot to start your tour of Malaga.

Tip – Get to Alcazaba early (I arrived at opening time and it was very quiet) and buy a combined ticket to the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle. Neither is overly expensive to visit (€3.50 each or €5.50 for both), but having a pre-purchased ticket will save you waiting in line when you head further up the hill to Gibralfaro.

Alternatively, you can join a walking tour, such as this one, which includes skip-the-line access:

Stroll Along Malaga’s Beaches

There are dozens of beautiful beaches stretching across Malaga (and the Costa del Sol in general!). Playa de la Malagueta is a short walk from the city centre and port. Relax in a chiringuito sipping chocolate caliente (hot chocolate) as fishermen bring in their haul.

Enjoy lunch in a quaint restaurant at Playa Pedregalejo or dip your toes in the water as you wander along the shoreline. Although the water temperature may be a little brisk, you’ll still see people swimming at the city’s beaches at this time of the year.

Playa Guadalhorce is ideal to visit in winter. The beach is next to a nature reserve at the mouth of the river, with excellent hiking trails and birdwatching opportunities.

You can check out the archaeological site nearby which dates to the times of the Phoenicians and wander by the lagoons to discover endemic flora and fauna.

Browse Local Markets

The best way to get to know a city is through its markets. Inhale the heady aroma of spices and the scents of fresh flowers. Watch local food being prepared and shop for handicrafts created by regional artisans.

A favourite is Mercado Central de Atarazanas, located steps from the main shopping street Calle Larios. The market building used to be a place where ships were sent to be serviced and repaired. It dates to the 1860s and is known for its exquisite stained glass window etched with Malaga’s seafaring history.

Although fresh fish is a mainstay, vendors also sell pastries, fresh fruit and vegetables, olives, cheese and more. There are also bars where you can enjoy a beer and plates of tapas.

If you want a truly local experience, head for Mercado de Salamanca, a Moorish-style building with an arched entrance selling all manner of fresh produce. It’s not as fancy as the previous market, but you’ll gain a true flavour of life in Malaga when you shop here.

Photograph Views from Gibralfaro Castle

The landscape of Malaga is dominated by the Moorish castle atop the hill as it keeps watch over the city. Gibralfaro (Rock of Light) Castle – a symbol of Malaga, was built as the city’s defence with the walled Alcazaba below helping to protect it.

The castle was built by the Caliph of Cordoba when the Moors ruled Andalucia, and it remained under their rule until it was besieged in 1487 by the Spanish monarchy and their armies.

During a visit, walk along the restored castle ramparts, and visit the lookout tower to see where residents used to cook, source their drinking water and live.

The castle offers unsurpassed views of Malaga, all the way along the Costa del Sol and towards the Malaga mountains, plus, in winter, it’s a much more pleasant experience minus the summer crowds.

If you feel energetic, there’s a steep walkway to access the castle from the city, or you can book a fun Segway, Tuk Tuk, or eBike tour.

Experience Malaga Carnival

In February, the iconic Malaga Carnival takes place for a week in the city. An epic fiesta for all. It begins with a procession of the God and Goddess of the carnival and continues with a Battle of the Flowers, children’s entertainment, live music, dance performances and copious quantities of Malaga wine and street food!

On the final day, a giant papier-mâché fish is paraded through the streets and taken to the beach to be burned on a bonfire. This symbolises the start of Lent and the carnival’s end.

It’s a time of year when Malaguenos (locals from Malaga) get together to enjoy a fun celebration. The streets of Malaga are blocked to traffic as marching bands play and people dance and sing along. If you happen to be in the city at this time, you’re in for a special treat.

Hang Out in the Vibrant Harbour (Muelle Uno)

Pier One (Muelle Uno) is the bustling and vibrant port area of Malaga, and it’s a pleasure to spend a few hours in. Stroll along the promenade, under the shade of the waterfront pergola, and watch the cruise ships, superyachts and tour boats jostling for space in the port.

Stop for a spot of lunch, or an ice cream cone as the little ones can run around freely in the expansive play areas.

From the end of November to the beginning of January, you’ll find festive Christmas markets taking place here. And while the weather conditions may not feel very Christmassy, the vibe is certainly festive!

Nearby, the Centre Pompidou displays art of the 20th and 21st centuries, with several monographic exhibitions taking place each year.

Discover the City’s Tapas Trail

One of the best places to start a self-guided food tour of Malaga is at Atarazanas Market. The vendors sell everything from freshly baked artisan bread to veggies and fruit, plus, there are casual tapas bars in the market where you can sample Andalucian delicacies for reasonable prices.

For the finest ice cream in Malaga, try Casa Mira Andres Perez, and for a glass of sweet Malaga wine, head for the city’s oldest bar – Antigua Casa de Guardia.

Follow the tapas trail and share plates “raciones” with friends and loved ones. Traditional dishes to try include berenjenas (fried aubergines) drizzled with cane syrup, patatas bravas or garbanzos (chickpeas) with spinach.

Some favourite places include Cortijo de Pepe and Bodeguito El Gallo near the Picasso Museum, Bodega Bar El Pimpi and Meson Mariano specialising in artichoke dishes. If you prefer a local to give you pointers, book a Malaga tapas and wine tour instead.

Take a Picasso Tour

The famous father of Cubism, Pablo Picasso was born in Plaza de la Merced in Old Malaga. The city was so proud of this heritage that they opened a museum dedicated to his works.

In the historic centre of the city, close to the Roman theatre and Malaga Cathedral, you can explore over 280 pieces of his iconic and often controversial artworks.

Visitors can browse never-seen-before paintings created across different time periods, alongside sculptures, ceramics and collages in Buenavista Palace.

Pop into the library containing hundreds of books, photos and documents and take a tour to learn all about the mindset of this creative genius.

Afterwards, stroll to the historic Casa Natal where the artist was born to learn more and to observe the bronze statue of the artist from a café across the square.

Join in with the Festive Fun

The festive season in Malaga begins in early December and concludes around January 6th. Check out the Christmas Market along Paseo del Parque for one-of-a-kind gifts, visit the craft market near the port or look for seasonal handicrafts in Soho (check out the murals) or Malaga Park.

See the twinkling lights along Calle Larios (Malaga’s main shopping street) and celebrate New Year’s Eve with locals, keeping up with the tradition of consuming 12 grapes at midnight for good luck.

On the evening of January 5th, the Three Kings (Tres Reyes) parade through the city to much fanfare with gold, frankincense and myrrh. They throw toys and gifts into the crowd for children and hand coal to those whom they deem less than good.

It’s a fun event for families, and the following day (6th) is much like Christmas Day and a public holiday.

Some restaurants offer King’s Day menus and it’s a great time to sample turrón (nougat) and Roscon de Reyes – a bread cake decorated with candied fruit.

Indulge in a Hammam at the Arabic Baths

When you’ve finished exploring Malaga’s Moorish treasures, step inside the serene oasis of Hammam Al Andalus for some well-earned relaxation.

Indulge in a traditional pampering session, amid décor that is more Marrakech than Malaga. As you float in the sparkling indoor pool, gazing up at a ceiling of stars, observe the hand-painted Zellij tiles, columns and flickering candles.

Enjoy a blend of treatments including purifying Midra massages, Kessa scrubs with fragrant botanical oils, hot and cold plunges and steam rooms. Afterwards, sip sweet mint tea in the lounge while listening to Arabic/Andalus music. It’s a fabulous winter experience in Malaga suitable for adults.

Visit Malaga’s Globally Inspired Botanical Gardens

Jardin Botanico-Historico La Concepción is a natural gem on the edge of the city. Constructed in 1855, the romantic gardens boast a collection of tropical and sub-tropical plants spread across a 23-hectare oasis.

Visit Around the World in 80 trees, a trail transporting you through bamboo forests and pine woods and enter the Loring Museum hidden inside a Greek temple-like structure. Photograph the beautiful city below from the Mirador, stroll along palm-lined avenues and immerse yourself in serenity while relaxing by the Nymph’s Pond.

You may think there won’t be much to see in the winter, but the landscapes, tree-lined pathways and sculptures are a pleasure to visit at any time of year. Don’t leave without checking out the mini hiking trails – Viewpoint and Forest.

Also, if you wish to keep your budget intact, the extensive gardens offer free Sunday entry between October and March.

Best Day Trips from Malaga in Winter

If you’ve got a little more time up your sleeve while visiting Malaga, consider taking one or more day trips from the city, into the surrounding areas. There are so many more amazing places to discover within 1-2hrs of the city centre, here are just a few ideas.

Also read: Best Things to do in the Costa del Sol, Spain

Hiking in Sierra de Mijas

If you’re seeking places to visit near Malaga and enjoy connecting with nature in the great outdoors, there’s no better option than hiking in the Sierra de Mijas. Just above the pretty, white-washed village of Mijas (around 40 minutes drive from Malaga), is the highest peak of Pico de Mijas, towering over the Costa del Sol at 1150 metres in height.

It’s a challenging trail beset with mountain goats – one for seasoned walkers – with the full hike taking up to six hours or longer at a moderate pace. But the views along the coast and down towards Africa are simply breathtaking.

Bring plenty of water and snacks as there are no restaurants or ventas on the trail, and wear sturdy, comfortable shoes as you traverse the coastal, alpine landscapes.

NB. If hiking with young kids and dogs during these times, keep an eye out for processionary caterpillars. They can, if touched (or licked), cause an allergic reaction.

If you’re not up for hiking, you can also explore the area on a quad bike adventure! Book it here.

See the Alhambra Palace of Granada

Granada is just over a 1.5-hour drive from Malaga and a wonderful day trip to see the world-famous Alhambra Palace. A city, within a city, the 13th-century grand palace sits atop a verdant hillside – a revered dynasty of the Nasrids, overlooking the Albayzin, Granada’s Arabic Quarter.

Spend half a day exploring the three palaces – Palace of the Lions, Partal Palace and Comares Palace. See the communal baths, frescoes and ornate archways. Discover the picturesque Generalife Gardens and the etched Mudéjar palace ceilings.

Imagine life here as you overlook the city below and photograph the Sierra Nevada mountains iced with snow. Afterwards, head into the city, to the labyrinthine Albayzin to explore Moroccan tearooms, silk and lantern shops.

Stay until evening, and wander into the new town to Calle Navas, where free tapas are handed out with every drink! If you plan to stay longer, the ski resort of Sierra Nevada is just 40 minutes from Granada.

Book your day trip to Granada here.

Take a Train to Seville

Just two hours from Malaga by train (or by couch if you join a day tour from Malaga) is the traditional Andalucian city of Seville. Blissful in winter, there’s so much to see and do here, that you’ll struggle to fit it all into a day trip.

A few highlights and must-sees include Seville Cathedral (the resting place of Columbus) and La Giralda, the adjoining bell tower offering outstanding city views.

Enjoy bike rides through Parque Maria Luisa towards the iconic Instagram favourite Plaza de España. Book a tour of the Real Alcazar or glide along the Guadalquivir River on a cruise.

You can walk across the bridge to the birthplace of flamenco, a district known as Triana, and even take a lesson from a professional!

At sunset head for Las Setas de Sevilla (Metropol Parasol) before feasting on tapas in Seville’s oldest bar El Rinconcillo. Winter is the perfect time to explore Seville, as temperatures in Southern Spain in the summer months are sizzling, often exceeding 38°C/100°F.

Book your day trip to Seville here.

Read More: Visiting Seville in Winter / Malaga or Seville – Which Should You Visit?

The south of Spain is the perfect destination for a winter holiday. You have an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local landscapes minus hordes of tourists. You can shop in markets, dine like a local and explore museums and attractions without being delayed in queues.

So, if you’re seeking a combination of winter sun, exciting activities and festive fun, Malaga in the winter is the place to be!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.