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Don’t get me wrong, Malaga is a stunning place all on its own and one of the best vacation destinations in Spain.
You could have an amazing time in this Spanish city without ever taking day trips from Malaga.
That being said, with easy transport links to surrounding areas and plenty of sunshine, it would be a shame not to venture a bit further into Andalusia (and further).
Here are the top day trips from Malaga, complete with information on what to do there and why you should go.
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For a day packed with culture and sightseeing, Granada is a fantastic choice. Situated at the bottom of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Grenada has some of the most beautiful landscapes and buildings in the Andalusia region.
Granada is home to plenty of Spanish-Islamic art which reflects the rich history of the region. One of the top places to see is the Alhambra, a UNESCO site and “palace city” which used to be the stronghold of the city.
Today, you can see the Museum of the Alhambra which holds artifacts from the site and tells more of the history within the walls.
For the area’s Christian past, check out the Cathedral of Grenada in the center of the city. It was built during the Renaissance and has a main chapel with praying statues. You can also visit the Royal Chapel, which marks the burial site of the Catholic monarchs.
Part of exploring Granada is appreciating its food scene. Eating out can be cheap, as many bars will serve free tapas with the order of drinks.
Locals eat dinner late, from around 8pm to the late hours of the night, so keep this in mind if you want to join in with the culture and live as they do!
Situated in a mountainous area just west of Malaga, Ronda is the perfect day trip from Malaga if you’re looking to have a proper day trip without going too far.
See the famous three bridges, Puente Romano, Puente Viejo, and Puento Nuevo that take visitors above the canyon floor. You can also see a great view of the canyon from the former tall hall next to Puente Nuevo.
Wander the streets to discover gems like the Plaza del Socorro, the political center of the city with its glittering white and gold front. You can also plan a stop in the Palacio of the Marques de Salvatierra, a museum with Renaissance art that opens occasionally.
It was also home to Madonna’s music video for Take a Bow, so culture all around!
Literature lovers will also be enchanted with Ronda, as Ernest Hemingway spent some summers here and weaved in descriptions of the Spanish lifestyle and history into his writing.
What once started as a Roman settlement is now a thriving city filled with gardens, museums, and annual festivals. It also has the highest summer temperatures in Spain, so be prepared with your shorts and tank tops and flowy skirts.
You don’t need to go far in Cordoba to find fascinating history, as the center is a UNESCO site and the second largest Old Town in all of Europe.
Other sights to see include the Roman Bridge which spans the Guadalquivir River, which acted as the only bridge in the city for twenty centuries.
Take the time to appreciate both the Christian and Islamic influences in the city.
Discover the 12 Christian churches, see the interior of the Great Mosque of Cordoba, and keep an eye out for sculptures across the city of various religious and political leaders who have been a mainstay of the area throughout its history.
Ah, Nerja. If you’re interested in beautiful beaches, a “small town” feel, and a cave network that’s something unlike you’ve probably ever seen, Nerja is the place for you.
Nerja is the eastern limit of the Costa del Sol region, and it has a rich history as a quiet fishing village. Today, it’s grown into a town with over 25,000 people and plenty of things to do.
If it’s sun you’re after, go for a stroll along one of the sandy beaches. We took our shoes off and sat in the sand and marveled at the beauty of the clear blue water.
For gorgeous views of the coastline and of the sunset, take a walk to the “Balcony of Europe,” a dedicated pedestrian area that sits on the edge of a cliff and has benches and lookout points for you to enjoy.
And of course, you can’t miss a stop at Nerja’s natural treasure, the Caves of Nerja, or Cueva de Nerja. These caves were discovered in 1959 by 5 friends completely on accident, and today there are guided tours of the cave system. Not only is it an incredible natural formation, but you can also see cave paintings that were left during the Paleolithic period.
Known for its shopping and monkey population (and what else do you need, really?!) Gibraltar is an overseas British territory at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula.
Guided tours are the best way to get to Gibraltar from Malaga, as it will help speed up your border crossing (don’t forget your passport) and the guides can share the best places to go. Some tours are shopping-only, while others are more sightseeing based.
The Rock of Gibraltar is probably the most famous sight to see here, and tourism to this area is mainly driven by this towering limestone structure, as well as the beautiful landscape.
You can also take a bus on your own to Gibraltar, but this is often going to take longer than the guided tour bus options, so I’d advise to stick to the tours!
If you want a “picturesque” day trip form Malaga, look no further than Frigiliana.
The white buildings of the village stick out from the bright blue sky and the nearby ocean, while the cobblestone streets create a maze of sorts that provide an air of mystery at every turn. Stumble upon colorful blooms of lavender and jasmine, or marvel at the Moorish architecture that makes the area so unique.
Some of the sightseeing highlights in Frigiliana include the Fuente Vieja (a beautiful fountain), multiple churches, and the Casa del Apero which houses the tourist office.
Frigiliana is best for a relaxing day trip where you sort of let yourself melt into the landscape and laze around eating tapas and taking in the breathtaking views.
Horseback riding is also a popular pastime in the village, and you can ride past the rivers and natural landscapes for a memorable day out.
When some people think of Malaga and the “bachelor party” type getaway, they’re actually thinking of Marbella. Situated on the Mediterranean sea, Marbella is known for two things: luxury and party.
Take, for instance, Marbella’s Golden Mile, which is a stretch of four miles that hold the fanciest villas in the surrounding area. This was the center of Marbella’s booming tourism in the 1960s and hosts hotels like the Hotel Marbella Club with gorgeous views of the mountain and the sea.
The beaches are also plentiful, with 24 to choose from. Run your hands through the golden sands and make sure to stake your place early, as they can fill up fast in the summer. One of the most popular beaches is Artola beach, situated in the Dunas de Artola, as well as Cabpino – though clothes aren’t required here so if that isn’t your style, beware!
If you’ve come for a bit of culture in addition to the sun and nightlife, you can visit the Contemporary Spanish Engraving Museum, Bonsai Museum, or Mechanical Art Museum.
Stop for dinner to enjoy some authentic Marbella cuisine which is often fried fish, gazpacho, or garlic soup. Finish with a churro and an oil cake to top it all off.
Make sure to visit Marbella in June for the Fair and Fiesta of San Bernabe where you can take part in activities and enjoy colorful performances.
While Antequera isn’t necessarily known as a popular day trip from Malaga, that makes it all the more adventurous!
Antequera is called the “heart of Anadlusia” because of its central location in the region. One of the best reasons to go is the Anteaquera Dolmens Site, a UNESCO site that spans 3 cultural monuments and 2 mountains.
It is one of the most important representations of megalithic architecture and has been preserved to keep in tact this fascinating structure and how it interacts with the landscape around it.
Other things to do in Antequera include seeing the Palace of Najera, visiting the Roman baths that have been excavated, and dropping by the museum which holds about 80% of all of the artistic treasures from the region.
Antequera benefited from the Costa del Sol tourist boom of the 1960s, though it underwent a downturn at the beginning of the eighteenth century once Spain lost its colonies in the states. Today, I think it’s a great mix of old and new and well worth a visit if you’re spending a couple of weeks in Malaga.
As one of the first villages around Malaga to be developed for tourism, Torremolinos is ready for you and your family to come enjoy its sandy beaches, amazing nightlife, and awesome choice of restaurants.
It’s so close to Malaga that it’s sometimes called a “suburb” of the city, though it is a destination in its own right.
The main street in town is the Calle San Miguel, which is lined with shops and filled with knick knacks for you to take home with you.
Wander through the old fishing village of El Bajondillo, where you can snap some beautiful photos of the markets and the beach. If you want a bit more activity going on, you can go paragliding or windsurfing, or just sit in a sunlounger and watch the sunset.
Torremolinos was once known for its highrises, but today it has plenty of public gardens with thousands of species of trees and plans. Colorful blooms sprout up from the ground, and there are even forests with barbecue options on the edges of the town.
From more than 6 miles of sandy beaches to a castle on a hill, there is plenty to do in Fuengirola to keep the whole family busy for a day.
Fuengirola is perfectly used to visiting tourists, as this village grew due to the amount of tourism visiting the Costa del Sol. You’ll find the people friendly and willing to help you, even with the silliest questions.
If you want a more active day, rent a pedal boat or go jet skiing across the waves, or visit the Mijas Aquapark which is just about a five minute walk from the Fuengirola center.
For a cultural day out, consider the Roman ruines located at the end of Los Boliches or visit the Castillo Sohail. This castle from the Moorish period has plenty of different concerts in the summer and has stunning views of the surrounding area.
Of course, the Costa del Sol is fantastic for relaxing and Fuengirola is no different. Sit on a ferry cruise, take a blanket and lay out on the beach, or play a round of golf at one of the local courses.
If nightlife is your thing, you’ll find clubs and bars both at the beachfront and in the center of the town. The party doesn’t really get started until midnight, so plan your day accordingly and live it up in the evenings.