The 13 Best Cultural Attractions in Malaga and Marbella

While many people come to Malaga and Marbella for sun and surf, these cities have much more to offer than golden sand beaches. Between the numerous museums, landmarks, and historical sites, Malaga and Marbella have plenty of unique cultural sites to delight travelers. So, if you’re looking for a fun activity to do during your visit, then here are a couple of attractions to add to your Costa del Sol itinerary.

My 7 Favorite Cultural Attractions in Malaga

1. Alcazaba de Malaga

Looming over the city of Malaga is the Alcazaba, an 11th-century fortress built by the Hammudids and Nasrids. It’s one of the best-preserved Alcazabas of its kind and features ornate palaces, courtyards, and gardens.

If you’re willing to make the short but steep trek from the city center up to Gibralfaro Hill (it’s only a 15-minute walk), then you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the city and the surrounding Mediterranean Sea.

2. Centre Pompidou Malaga

If you go to the waterfront, you’ll likely notice this strange, colorful cube by the pier. This is the Centre Pompidou Malaga, a contemporary art museum and the only international branch of the famous Centre Pompidou in Paris.

The galleries are located underground (the cube acts as a skylight). There are temporary exhibitions as well as semi-permanent exhibitions that rotate every couple of years. When I first visited, I was able to see works by Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, and René Magritte. However, they have since changed the exhibition to feature artists like Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Henri Matisse.

3. Museo Picasso Malaga

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga and is considered to be the city’s most famous resident. If you want to learn more about the artist and his works, then I highly recommend that you visit the Museo Picasso Malaga. It features more than 285 of his works, all of which were donated by the Picasso family.

The area around the museum also plays an important role in Picasso’s history. The home where he was born is located just 660 feet away, and his nursery school and father’s workplace can also be found on that same street.

4. Atarazanas Market

If you’re a big foodie like me, then a trip to Atarazanas Market is an absolute must. Housed inside a beautiful Moorish shipyard in the center of the city, the market has hundreds of vendors and booths selling everything from produce and spices to meats and fish.

It’s also a great place just to come for lunch. Throughout the market, you’ll find little bars and cafes where you can grab a drink and some classic Spanish Tapas.

5. Malaga Cathedral

As one of the most important historical monuments in the city, the Catedral de Malaga is a stunning architectural masterpiece. It features a mix of Renaissance, Gothic, and Baroque elements, which makes sense considering that it took over 200 years to build.

While the interior of the cathedral is an impressive site itself, it’s the rooftop that makes a trip here worthwhile. From here, you’ll have dramatic views over the entire city! Just make sure you buy the right ticket (rooftop access is an additional fee) and wear comfy shoes, as you’ll need to walk up 200 steps to the top.

6. Parque de Malaga

Situated between the city and the sea is Parque de Malaga. This 81-acre park is a lush oasis of palms, roses, orange trees, and birds of paradise plants.

While strolling through the park, keep your eye out for the different monuments, sculptures, and fountains. There’s also a bandstand (if you’re lucky, there might be a concert playing while you’re here) as well as different cafes and kiosks where you can grab a drink.

7. Teatro Romano de Malaga

Dating back to the 1st century, the Teatro Romano de Malaga is one of the few ancient sites in the city left by the Romans. When it was discovered in the 1950s, archeologists found that more than half of the seats in the theater had survived, along with the marble floors and stage with original paintwork.

While you can see the theater without entering the site (it’s located right in the heart of the city center), it’s worth going for the on-site museum, which contains other items and artifacts excavated from the area.

My 6 Favorite Cultural Attractions in Marbella

8. Old Town

While Marbella may be known for luxury yachts and high-end beach bars, there’s still a place where you can find charming whitewashed buildings, beautiful squares, and classic cobblestone alleys. And that’s in the Old Town!

Head to Plaza de los Naranjos (Orange Square) to see the Town Hall building or to grab lunch at one of the cafes. Then you can explore some of the town’s historical sites, like the Iglesia de la Encarnación, a church known for having one of the largest and most important organs in all of Spain.

9. Puerto Banus

If you want to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, then you need to go to Puerto Banus. Located six miles west of Marbella’s Old Town, this marina is known for its fashion boutiques, gourmet restaurants, and glitzy nightlife.

Of course, you’ll also see lots of mega-yachts in the harbor. Some of the wealthiest people in the world moor their boats here, including the King of Saudi Arabia.

10. Avenida del Mar

Stretching from Old Town towards La Venus Beach is Avenida del Mar. This large square is known for its fountains, pergolas, and cast iron sculptures designed by Salvator Dali. There are ten sculptures in total (my favorite is the “Man above the Dolphin” and “Woman Facing the Sea.”

Most people walk along Avenida del Mar and have no idea they’re in the presence of Dali statues! It’s one of my favorite places in Marbella because it’s essentially an art museum that you can visit for free.

11. Museo Ralli

Said to contain one of the most important Latin American art collections in Europe, the Museo Ralli is not to be missed. In addition to artists from Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Cuba, it also features European art from the 15th to 18th centuries.

This museum is one of the five Ralli museums around the world. The others are located in Israel, Uraguay, Chile, and Sotogrande, Spain.

12. Muralla Urbana de Marbella

The Muralla Urbana de Marbella, otherwise known as the Urban Walls of Marbella, used to be the old defensive walls that circled the city and its fortress. It was constructed during the 10th century, although much of it has been destroyed over the last few centuries.

Unfortunately, you will only be able to admire the walls from the outside, as the castle is closed to the public.

13. Museo del Grabado Español Contemporaneo

Located inside a historic 16th-century hospital, the Museo del Grabado Español Contemporaneo (which translates to the Contemporary Engravings Museum) is one of the only museums of its kind in Spain. It contains over 4,000 prints from Spanish and International artists, including Picasso, Dalí, Tàpies, and Miró.

If you feel inspired by what you see, you can also sign up for one of their classes and workshops. They have courses on engraving, screen printing, and cyanotype available throughout the year.

This is just a small sampling of the different cultural attractions you can see during your trip to Malaga and Marbella. Whether you’re wandering the ancient ruins of castles and theaters or learning more about the fascinating painters and artists from around the globe, you’ll have no problem finding something to keep you entertained while you’re here!