The 12 Best Historical Sites in Malaga vs. Marbella

From the Roman conquerors to the Moorish rulers, Malaga and Marbella both have fascinating histories that date back thousands of years. And during your visit to the Costa del Sol, it’s worth dedicating some time to exploring the numerous historical landmarks in and around the cities.

While you can get a good feel of the history simply by walking through the streets, there are some notable sites that I recommend you check out.

My 6 Favorite Historical Sites in Malaga

1. Catedral de Malaga

The Catedral de Malaga is arguably one of the most important landmarks in all of Malaga. This impressive structure took over 200 years to build (from 1528 to 1782), which means it has quite a few different architectural styles. The facade is Baroque, the altar is Gothic, and the interior is Renaissance!

There are lots of interesting designs and artistic elements to see inside. However, I highly recommend you purchase tickets that include a visit to the cathedral rooftops. Once you ascend up the building’s spiral staircase of 200 steps, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views over the entire city!

2. Alcazaba de Malaga

No visit to Malaga would be complete without touring the Alcazaba de Malaga. Perched atop the scenic Gibralfaro Hill, this fortification complex was built during the Hammudid dynasty in the 11th century (although it was continuously remodeled and rebuilt for the next 300 years).

Once inside, you’ll be able to see the palace with its ornate fountains, lush gardens, and collections of Moorish pottery and ceramics. But it’s really worth coming here for the views! Having a bird’s eye view of the city and ocean is a great way to see Malaga from a completely different perspective.

3. Castillo de Gibralfaro

Castillo de Gibralfaro is also located on Gibralfaro Hill (it’s connected to the Alcazaba de Malaga) and was the main watch tower and fortress of the city. Much of the building has been lost over time, but visitors will still be able to walk around the perimeter wall. As you might imagine, the views from there are absolutely stunning!

4. Palacio Episcopal

Easily my favorite building in the entire city, Palacio Episcopal is hard to miss with its bright yellow and red Baroque facade. It was built in the 18th century by Antonio Ramos, who was also the main architect of the Catedral de Malaga.

Although it was originally built for the archbishop, it’s now a museum and cultural center. In addition to seeing the rotating gallery of international and local artists, you’ll also be able to admire the palace’s painted ceilings, intricate wood carvings, and peaceful outdoor courtyards.

5. Plaza de la Constituci贸n

When walking around the city center, you’ll inevitably cross through Plaza de la Constituci贸n. This large public square has existed since the 1500s and was once bordered by the old City Hall, the Mayor’s home, the convent of the Augustines, and the Malaga prison.

The square is now home to several cafes, restaurants, and shops, although you can still see a part of history in the Fuente de G茅nova (Fountain of Genoa), a 16th-century marble fountain.

6. Teatro Romano de Malaga

The Teatro Romano de Malaga is the oldest historical landmark in the city. It was built in the 1st century at the order of Emporer Agustus and remained completely undiscovered until an excavation project in the 1950s.

During your visit, you can walk across the stage or spectator seats, which, at the time, could seat up to 2,000 people. There is also an on-site interpretation center with artifacts and architectural remains from the theater and other sites around Spain.

My 6 Favorite Historical Sites in Marbella

7. Iglesia de la Encarnaci贸n

If you’re wandering through the Old Town of Marbella (which, in my opinion, is a beautiful historical site on its own!), you’ll likely come across the Iglesia de la Encarnaci贸n.

As with many churches in Andalusia, this one was also built inside an old mosque that dates back to the 1500s. However, many of the architectural elements you see today were constructed in the 18th century, most notably the Baroque and Renaissance elements of the building’s facade and altar.

The Iglesia de la Encarnaci贸n is also home to the Sol Mayor Organ, one of the largest and most important organs ever to be built in Spain.

8. Rio Verde Roman Villa

The Rio Verde Roman Villa houses the remains of a villa that was built in the 1st century in the ancient Roman city of Cilniana. Although most of the structure is now in ruins, it’s still possible to see portions of the villa’s walls and the layouts of living quarters, dining areas, and thermal baths.

However, I believe the most impressive part of the villa is the mosaic tiles on the floor. The black and white patterns are well preserved and depict intricate designs of animals, flowers, tools, and utensils.

9. Capilla San Juan de Dios

This small chapel is also located inside the Old Town of Marbella, although it might take you a bit to find it amongst the winding, narrow streets. It may not seem like much from the outside (it’s topped by a simple white bell tower), but take a peek inside, and you’ll get to see the gold altar, colorful frescos, and Mozarabic wooden ceiling.

If you’re in town during Semana Santa, aka Holy Week, then you’ll get to see the Capilla San Juan de Dios in its full glory, as most of the religious processions start and end here.

10. Muralla Urbana de Marbella

The Muralla Urbana de Marbella (which translates to the Urban Walls of Marbella) are the remnants of the town’s old city walls. Built in the 10th century, the walls were constructed to protect the Alcabaza fortress and mosque against invasions and raids.

Although you cannot go inside the castle, you can still walk around the perimeter to see what remains of the wall. Make sure to take your camera, because you can get some really great photos of the castle and blossoming trees!

11. Town Hall of Marbella

Located in the Old Town’s Plaza de los Naranjos (Orange Square), the Town Hall building is not to be missed during your visit to Marbella. The Renaissance building was constructed here in 1568 and features a courtroom and committee room.

But even if you aren’t allowed inside, you can still admire the century’s worth of history from the outside. Take a look at the sundial and court of arms on the building’s exterior. You’ll also see a stone plaque commemorating some significant points in history, including Ferdinand and Isabella’s conquest of the city in 1485 and the creation of the city’s water supply system in 1632.

12. Plaza de Toros de Marbella

Personally, I am not a big fan of Spain’s bullfighting culture, although I believe the bullrings can be quite beautiful and a testament to the country’s love for the sport. This is especially true for the Plaza de Toros de Marbella. This arena was built in 1964 and has been used for fights as well as concerts, performances, and festivals.

When I’m in Malaga or Marbella, it seems like there’s an interesting part of history to discover around every corner. But if you really want to immerse yourself in the history of Andalusia, then I recommend visiting a least a couple of these sites during your visit!