Where to stay in Malaga | 5 Best areas on a first visit
I am just back from another trip to the capital of Costa del Sol and I am starting to realise how difficult can be to decide where to stay in Malaga, especially on a first visit.
Straight to the point, as I usually do, the Historic Centre is the best place to stay in Malaga. That is where you find the typical Spanish character and some of the best hotels in the city.
There are however other 4 great areas to stay in Malaga that may work better for couples, for just one night, near the beach or if travelling in winter or by car.
In this guide, you will find all you need to know to make a final decision on the area and the hotel for your next trip. But let’s start straight away with a quick summary table including the key points.
Where to stay in Málaga – Key Points
This table lists the top 5 areas with all the important info in a short format and my suggested hotels. Keep reading or click on the neighbourhood name for a more detailed description of each area.
|Bars & Restaurants
|History, architecture, museums, and nightlife
|Vibrant, with many tapas bars and restaurants
|Convenient, centrally located
|Historic with beautiful Baroque buildings
|Lively, best nightlife in Malaga
|Couples looking for a boutique stay
|Trendy with sophisticated dining and rooftop bars
|Walkable, 15 mins from major sites
|Modern vibrancy with stunning street art
|Quieter, with some bars closing earlier
|BEACH – La Malagueta and El Palo
|Proximity to the beach
|Relaxed with fresh seafood restaurants
|Requires taxis/ride shares for some parts
|Beachside, relaxed surf town vibes
|Quieter, more laid-back
|El Ejido/La Goleta
|Great value for money, groups, and families
|Local, authentic eateries
|Walkable access to central Malaga
|Authentic local neighbourhood
|Less focused on nightlife
|Long stays, digital nomads, business travellers
|Emerging scene with new bars and cafes
|20 mins walk to city centre, public transport for beaches
|New centre, practical but lacks charm
Best Hotels in Malaga
If you are short on time, just check out my 3 favourite places to stay in Málaga, from budget to boutique hotel
City Centre – Where to stay in Malaga on a first visit
- Best area to stay in Malaga for history, architecture, museums and nightlife
- Vibrant Spanish atmosphere with charming narrow lanes and plazas
- Walking proximity to top attractions like the Picasso Museum and Alcazaba
- Great shopping, tapas bars, restaurants and entertainment options
- Beautiful historic architecture and a majestic cathedral to visit
- Centrally located makes for convenient travel around Malaga
- Can get very noisy and busy with tourists in peak season
- Hotels are usually more expensive than anywhere else
- Few budget accommodation options compared to other areas
- Uphill streets and cobblestones
- Rooms facing the street may hear late-night pedestrian & party noise
As the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, Malaga’s historic heart wonderfully captures the city’s rich Spanish essence that initially drew me here. Wandering the pedestrian lanes, I soaked up the vibrant character of this city.
I love the magnificent Spanish Baroque buildings, a new surprise corner after corner. Start your walk from the lovely Plaza de la Constitución, the central square of the Historic Centre, known as “Plaza de las Cuatro Calles” (“Four streets square”).
Today there are certainly more than 4 streets heading into it, all pedestrians and easy to wander around and get lost between the ornated facades, the lovely local bars and the many restaurants open till late.
Take the Calle Marqués de Larios for the best trendy shopping in the city. Turn left in any of the small lanes to experience the local vibe, eventually ending up at the grand Catedral de Málaga, with its ornate stonework shimmering as sunlight touches its intricately carved towers.
The entrance is affordable and you get a free of charge audioguide. A little tip here. They won’t give it to you (I think they have a limited number of them) so you need to expressly ask for it, but once again it’s free.
As you exit the Cathedral, you can enter with the same ticket to the bell tower. Unfortunately no lift, but I tell you the effort is well paid back. I had from there one of the best views of the city, probably similar to the one from the Gibralfaro Castle, although much closer to the old rooftops.
Another must-visit place is certainly the Picasso Museum, especially if you are into art and design. A simple but effective tip here is to buy the tickets in advance because queues can be really long. You will get an entry time and you just need to show up and enter, there is no need to wait and waste your time.
There are honestly so many tapas bars and restaurants that is difficult to suggest a special one. My personal favourite is the La esquinita del chupa y tira, near the Plaza de la Merced.
It’s a small boutique bar with a limited selection of true local delicacies, at a very affordable price. I had twice my lunch there and I am so looking forward to going back on my next trip.
Another place you should visit is the Mercado Central beckoned with the intoxicating perfume of fresh churros and paella. I got lost for hours investigating the food and handicraft stalls. Plus, there are plenty of places for a cheap lunch or an early dinner drink.
By now, I am sure you realised that this is the area for the movida, the best nightlife of Malaga, where you can have a drink till late, and a couple of clubs to stay awake till the early hours of the morning.
Malaga is one of the best places to stay in Costa del Sol in winter and the Historic Centre is one of the favourite neighbourhoods to be based in the city, just steps away from all the major attractions, bars, restaurants and theatres.
Reading through, you may have already understood how much I love the Old Town, however, there are unfortunately a few drawbacks to staying here.
The entire heart of Malaga can get very busy with travellers walking around, even crowdy in peak summer season, especially at the weekends.
An important tip I give you here is to avoid booking a room facing the street. They are usually noisy at night with people walking around and the usual partygoers. Below are 3 selected hotels close to the action but peaceful enough to have a quiet night’s sleep.
Here are my 3 favourite accommodations in Malaga city centre:
The Clock House ($$$$): Stunning sea views, comfy beds, and friendly staff in a charming environment.
Hotel Bro – Adults only ($$$): One of the few places in the city with a pool, a great bonus in summer. Modern and stylish
El Museo ($$-$$$): Central location, steps away from major attractions. Friendly staff and comfortable studios to 2BR apartments.
I have summarised in the below table my top 7 attractions and things to do in Malaga Centro that you should not miss out on:
|A Renaissance-era cathedral known for its incomplete second tower.
|The cathedral is nicknamed “La Manquita,” meaning “the one-armed lady,” due to its missing tower.
|Alcazaba of Malaga
|A well-preserved Moorish fortress-palace dating back to the 11th century.
|This is one of the best-preserved Alcazabas (Moorish fortifications) in Spain.
|A museum dedicated to the works of Pablo Picasso, born in Malaga.
|The museum is housed in the Buenavista Palace and contains over 200 works by Picasso. Buy the tickets in advance to avoid the long queue
|Ancient Roman theater dating back to the 1st century BC.
|It was rediscovered in 1951 after being buried for centuries under a garden.
|Vibrant local market in a 14th-century Moorish shipyard.
|The market’s main entrance is a beautiful horseshoe arch from the original shipyard.
|Carmen Thyssen Museum
|Museum showcasing 19th-century Spanish and Andalusian art.
|The museum is located in a 16th-century palace and features over 200 artworks.
|An iconic hilltop castle offering panoramic views of Malaga.
|The castle’s name comes from a lighthouse that once stood on the hill (Gibr-Al-Faro means “Rock of the Lighthouse”).
Soho – Best place to stay in Malaga for couples
- Best for couples looking for a boutique stay
- Trendy, upscale neighbourhood with boutique shopping and art galleries
- Sophisticated brunches, fine dining, rooftop cocktails
- Stunning street art, cool urban architecture and design elements
- Luxury apartments and boutique options beyond just hotels
- Clean, safe and walkable for solo female travellers
- Far from major tourist sites (15 mins walking)
- Few budget lodging or eating options
- Area became quite deserted late evenings with most bars closing earlier
- Can feel sterile lacking traditional Spanish charm
If Malaga’s historic heart captures Andalusia’s old soul, the Soho district personifies modern vibrancy. It’s actually interesting how different are the two areas, though they are just separated by a road, the Alameda Principal Avenue.
Once you step in, you will notice straight away the stunning street art spread in the maze of pedestrian streets surrounding Soho. What I love the most about this area is the mix of boutique shops, galleries, characteristic restaurants and bars that make you feel more of a local than a tourist.
Soho is one of the trendiest, if not the trendiest area to stay in Malaga where you can find sophisticated brunches and fine dining, beside some of the best luxury hotels in the city.
Being mostly pedestrian and somehow still not undiscovered by the crowd, Soho is a very quiet area centrally located in Malaga where you can chill out, and enjoy some quiet time before experiencing the much busier historical part of the city.
It must be said that some of the streets have lost that charming Spanish feeling that you can find elsewhere, with modern buildings and contemporary details.
Overall, Soho is the perfect place to stay for couples looking for a boutique and possibly luxurious hotel. I would not suggest it for a budget holiday, though.
Here are my 2 favourite accommodations for a stay in Soho:
Only YOU Hotel Málaga ($$$$$): One of the most luxurious hotels with an infinity pool and sea view. Amazing rooms. Unique stay
Art Apartments Soho ($$$$): 1BR and 2BR, walking distance of major attractions. Comfy rooms, excellent service, and stunning views.
I have summarised in the table below my suggested 3 attractions to check out in Soho.
|Centre Pompidou Málaga
|A branch of the famous Parisian modern art museum.
|This is the first ever Pompidou Centre outside France.
|MAUS (Málaga Arte Urbano Soho)
|An open-air urban art project featuring murals and graffiti by renowned artists.
|The project transformed Soho into a vibrant street art hub, attracting international artists.
|Teatro del Soho
|A contemporary theatre revitalized by actor Antonio Banderas, hosting various performances.
|Antonio Banderas played a key role in reviving this theatre, a cultural landmark in Soho.
La Malagueta and El Palo – Best area to stay near the Beach
- La Malagueta Beach is best for a stay close to the city centre – El Palo for a real beach experience
Pros of El Paso
- Gorgeous beaches with golden sand
- Relaxed surf town vibes perfect for sunbathing and swimming
- Fresh and affordable seafood restaurants lining the coastal promenade
- A quieter alternative to busier city-centre beaches
Cons of El Paso
- Far from most tourist attractions and key sights
- Limited public transport requires taxis/ride shares to reach
- Fewer amenities like beach clubs compared to resort towns
- Can feel isolated or remote at night when businesses close
Malaga is a city by the coast with a few beaches close to the centre and other more remote options, either south or north.
Let’s start with La Magueta Beach, the urban beach. It’s a great wide beach with a free section and the possibility to rent sunbeds and sun umbrellas. Since last summer there is also a water castle which is great fun for any age.
In saying that, it’s not my favourite place to be. The water is not that great, being so close to the port and the sand can be dirty, with cigarette buts, beer caps and bottles (probably from the previous night parties). There are better options.
El Palo Beach is my suggested place to stay by the beach in Malaga, around 5km north of the city. Both the water and the sand are so much better, a real beach destination, still so close to the city centre.
Do not expect, though, any nightlife or particular magnet. It’s a very quiet part of the coast, which works great for a family stay in Malaga where you want to mix time at the beach with your kids and half-day visits to the city attractions
Here are my 2 favourite accommodations by the beach:
Gran Hotel Miramar GL ($$$$$): Reason #1 to stay in La Malagueta. This is the best hotel in Malaga, with characteristic Analucian interior design in a beautiful palace. Did I mention the pool?
La Jabega ($$$): 3BR apartment in El Palo with sea and city views, close to the beach, the ideal place when travelling with kids. Free private parking, which is so rare.
El Ejido/La Goleta – Great value for money in Málaga
- Best value for money, especially if travelling in a group or family
- Excellent budget food, lodging and transport options
- Authentic local neighbourhood experiences beyond tourist zones
- Very walkable access to central Malaga’s top museums and landmarks
- Enough parking options
- Urban landscape with only a few historical building
- Noisy from heavy traffic through the major streets
- Fewer upscale restaurants or entertainment venues
I discovered El Ejido on my last trip to Malaga when I rented a car in Spain to visit other great places in Andalucia. Parking the car in the city centre or Soho was not an option at 20-25 Euro/day, and that’s the cheapest alternative I found.
So I decided to stay in this area, with free street parking, although sometimes challenging to find. The great surprise was the amazing value for money offered in food and lodging.
This is a student area, and affordability is one of the most important things to attract returning local customers, besides the great quality of food of course.
I had here one of the best value dinners in Spain, at Caravana. The food was just amazing and we could not believe the final bill, so cheap!
The walk to the city centre takes around 15-20 minutes, which is not too bad, however, consider that this area is slightly elevated, so there is a fair way up on your way back to the accommodation.
Overall, I believe El Ejido is one of the best places to stay in Malaga for families or group of friends looking for a spacious apartment.
Here are my 2 favourite accommodations in El Ejido:
Amazing Apartment ($$): Cozy and clean 2BR apartment within a short walking distance from the centre
Lovely Capuchinos ($$): Beautiful 2BR apartment with exceptional cleanliness and comfort. Offers a fully equipped kitchen, quiet street views, and a small balcony.
Perchel – Good part of Malaga for a long stay
- Best for a long stay, digital nomads or business
- Up-and-coming neighbourhood with plenty of new bars and cafes
- Great choice of markets, supermarkets and shopping
- Very affordable accommodation options
- Urban feeling with 70s/80s building. Lack of charm
- Far from the city centre and the beaches
I finally like to mention Perchel in this post because it may be just the right choice for you if you are planning a long stay in Malaga.
Perchel is the New Centre of the city, which, true, lacks in character but it is so practical being one of the best areas in Malaga for supermarkets and local markets.
Accommodations are also quite cheap, mostly apartments that work better for a long stay when visiting attractions is not the main focus of your time in Malaga.
The walk to the city centre is not too bad, around 20 minutes, mostly flat, however, you would need public transportation to the beach. Being south of Malaga, the location works great for easy access to the Malaga airport, just 10-15 minutes by car.
Final Thoughts on where to Stay in Malaga
The Historical Centre is my favourite area to stay in Malaga. In saying that, it can get very busy in the peak summer season, especially on the weekend. For a more chilled-out and boutique option Soho works better and you will be a stone away from the historical part of the city.
I would stay at the beach only if travelling with my kid and I want to make it fair for everyone, morning in the city, afternoon by the beach.
I was in El Ejido on my last stay because I rented a car in Malaga to see the region. I was not impressed by the architecture of the area, mostly boring 70s/80s buildings but I found an amazing value for money in both accommodation and food. Street parking was not as easy as I thought, although possible and for free.
I would not consider Perchel as a choice unless you are planning a long stay and in that case, the area is unbeatable for its supermarkets and shopping options.