Last updated on November 26th, 2023
After two months in Malaga (before we moved to Tenerife North) and thorough explorations of the city, I thought it was finally time to share some of my favorite Malaga hidden gems and not-so-popular spots that are worth a visit!
I either learned about some of these places from people who have been living in the area for ages or found them on my own when wandering through neighborhoods.
In other words – I have visited all these beautiful (and somewhat unusual) locations on my own and now want to bring them to your attention. However, don’t just scroll through them, looking at captions. There are many details under each hidden gem with more unusual things to do.
So see alternative Malaga and share how you find this city!
Malaga Hidden Gems – Unique Way to Experience the City
Looking for an alternative way to spend time in Malaga? Here are a few quick suggestions!
Hidden Gem Activities in Malaga:
- Sightseeing treasure hunt – become more than a tourist & discover local insider places
- Malaga sunset cruise – with a glass of cava & live music
- Crime challenge Malaga – explore hidden corners while being a detective
- Unique day trip from Malaga – to see a majestic mountain range
Hidden Gem Hotels in Malaga:
Malaga City Hidden Gems
So in this article, I talk about some hidden gems and secret spots in Malaga city. But the entire Malaga region also is full of some incredible and lesser-known landmarks and marvels.
For that reason, I created a separate post with obscure places to visit from Malaga. The best way to see them is by car but some spots are also accessible by public transport. And many of them still haven’t been discovered much!
1.) La Concepcion – Off the Tourist Path Botanical Garden
Let me start my list of Malaga hidden gems with La Concepcion Botanical Garden in the northern part of the city. This is the place that not many tourists visit even though it is in many guidebooks. I guess the reason for this is that few people love and understand the value of botanical gardens.
And while I can relate to that, I still believe you’ll love this place since its entire area features not just a wide variety of plants but also a number of sculptures, fountains, and other decorative elements.
Coming here feels like entering an oasis with collections of palms, bamboo, cacti, and water lilies. Parts of the garden even remind of Bali or just somewhere else where there is a jungle. Plants there are from around the world, including tropical and subtropical species.
And the reason for this is that the owners who created La Concepcion (on the same territory where they had a house), the Marquis and Marchioness of Loring were passionate about plants and gardening in the mid-19th century.
In addition to its extensive plant collections, the garden also offers a number of amenities, including guided tours, long walking paths, educational programs, and a cafe. So it is very easy to come here for half a day and don’t even notice how quickly time passes.
You do not need to be a fan of plants or gardening to love this gem. Even if you enjoy spending time in beautiful outdoor spaces, a visit to La Concepcion Botanical Garden will be special. It is one of the examples of the most important and impressive botanical gardens in Spain and is a must-see attraction for visitors to Malaga.
And you know what? It also offers some pretty views of Malaga city!
Check prices and schedule on the La Concepcion website. And if your trip falls on Sunday, expect free entrance to the garden.
2.) Peña Juan Breva Flamenco Museum & Bar
The next Malaga hidden gem is a place that will be of particular interest to those who love flamenco. It is Peña Juan Breva Flamenco Museum & Bar which is a cultural center, museum, and bar at the same time.
Being all about the art of flamenco, a traditional style of music and dance that is popular in Andalusia, this museum is a cool spot where to learn about flamenco shows and watch some of the best in Malaga flamenco performances.
The museum is named after Juan Breva, a famous flamenco singer from Malaga who lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It features a collection of artifacts related to flamenco, such as costumes, instruments, and photographs, as well as interactive exhibits that allow visitors to learn about the history and culture of the art form.
Museum on its own is small and you need a max of 1 hour to go through its exhibits. But from my own experience, it is interesting and informative enough and is a good museum for those who want to learn about flamenco for the first time.
But the best part about this gem is the bar and underground performance room where visitors can enjoy live flamenco shows accompanied by tapas and traditional drinks. You’ll find decorations in a traditional style, with colorful tiles and artwork as well as portraits of flamenco singers and guitar players, and all of that just creates a festive atmosphere.
To be able to watch a show there, you need to make a reservation at least a few days in advance as the place is quite popular among locals. For that, I recommend you go there directly and make a reservation on spot (if you don’t speak Spanish) and if you do then better call them. Señor Paco usually responds to calls and is very helpful.
3.) Lagunillas Neighborhood – Center of Street Art in Malaga
The neighborhood of Lagunillas in Málaga is located in the center, just a short walk from the city’s historic part and main tourist attractions. While it is not home to any major museums or cultural institutions, the neighborhood’s vibrant street art, quirky shops, and alternative culture make it a cool destination for those who are looking for something a bit off the beaten path.
The street art scene in Lagunillas started in the early 2000s when local artists began using the walls of the neighborhood as their canvas. That turned it into a hub for street art in Malaga, attracting artists from around the world to leave their mark on its walls.
In addition to its street art, Lagunillas is also known for its alternative vibe. The neighborhood has a number of independent shops, bars, and cafes, and is home to a diverse community of artists, musicians, and other creatives.
Once there, besides walking around, I recommend you buy traditional homemade Spanish food (mainly takeout) in a very local shop La Oliva Negra. Or walk a bit farther to El Ombu Empanadas and try amazing Argentinian empanadas. And then one of our favorite places is SAN Sabor restaurant with southern Italy cuisine.
If you don’t have accommodation yet where to stay in Malaga, consider the Lagunillas neighborhood for an alternative experience like a Hotel Bro with some rooms with pools.
4.) Mercado de Salamanca
It is a fresh produce market not so much known among tourists but very well known among locals where you can experience the local culture and cuisine, and see how the market life really was in the past.
Mercado de Salamanca offers a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, of course seafood, and cheeses. It is rather small but has a lively and bustling atmosphere where visitors can sample some of the fresh seafood and traditional dishes, such as paella, tapas, and fried fish.
We lived next to this market and loved going there for cheap fish and seafood which was always great. The selection is somewhat limited compared to other markets but prices are the lowest and vendors are so friendly and always ready to help you choose the right product. The butchers section includes some intriguing products made on-site such as salchichas and fresh chorizos.
If you don’t intend to do fresh produce shopping, then go for fried fish and tapas (we liked this cafe on the corner). Shops here are much cheaper than at Mercado Central.
The exterior and interior of the market building have Moorish influence which is another reason why you’d want to see it yourself.
5.) Rooftop of the Catedral de la Encarnación
While the Catedral de la Encarnacion is not a Malaga hidden gem (it’s in all guidebooks), its rooftop is something that many people find out about only after visiting the cathedral. It is a not-to-miss place in Malaga if you don’t have a fear of heights and are comfortable with climbing stairs.
Overall, the Catedral de la Encarnación is one of the most impressive Gothic cathedrals in Spain. But its rooftop can be of particular interest to some people as it offers a unique perspective of the city of Malaga. From the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Old City, the sea, and the surrounding mountains.
If you love photography, the rooftop provides an excellent opportunity to capture beautiful photos of the cityscape.
You will not be able to visit a rooftop on your own as there are only guided tours available. The first one starts at 11:00 and then every next hour with the last entrance at 18:00.
Find out about entrance fees and guidelines here.
6.) Hotel Castillo De Santa Catalina for Drinks, Sunset & Views
And here is a hidden gem boutique hotel in Malaga that I can recommend from my own experience not just for an overnight stay but for a visit.
Mark and I have been there twice in different seasons. One time at the end of January, when we came for his birthday celebration in an intimate setting, and another time in the spring when the weather was so nice and allowed us to spend more time outside.
And here is why I recommend it and believe it is a very unique place in Malaga city.
Hotel Castillo De Santa Catalina is a historic hotel housed in a 1932 castle that was built in the neo-mudéjar style, a form of architecture that combines elements of Islamic and Spanish Renaissance styles.
It is situated on a hilltop overlooking Malaga’s port, the Mediterranean Sea, and some of the most prestigious neighborhoods for living. Its panoramic views are stunning as well as the territory of the hotel, its garden, and old building.
Hotel Castillo de Santa Catalina was opened as a hotel in 1971 after the castle was extensively renovated and restored to its former glory. Prior to that, the castle had served as a private residence for many years.
If you want to stay in a quirky boutique hotel in Malaga, this castle-hotel can be a great option. However, besides staying there, you can always come in as an outside guest to enjoy a meal or a drink in their cozy restaurant in this way having access to their beautiful grounds.
Especially gorgeous time here is in the evening during the sunset as this hotel is one of the best places where to watch sunsets in Malaga! And if you are also out of ideas on things to do in Malaga for couples, you can always come here for a romantic dinner or drinks.
Its restaurant is situated in a lush garden with a terrace that provides gorgeous views of the sea and has a variematy of plant species, including palm trees, cacti, and flowering shrubs. You can see more of my photos below.
7.) El Mayorazgo Neighborhood & La Cheesequeria With Best Cheesecakes in Malaga
La Cheesequeria is another hidden gem in Malaga that I love so much which is a must-visit place if you are on your way to the hotel Castillo. You can find both of these places in the same neighborhood not far from each other which makes it easy to check them out on the same day.
Overall, El Mayorazgo neighborhood is among the best neighborhoods where to live in Malaga. It is known for its tranquil atmosphere and large green spaces.
It is not really a place to visit if you only have a few days or especially one day in Malaga. But if you are staying longer and want something unique and hidden, then come to this neighborhood even to walk around. Its hilly streets have traditional Spanish architecture with whitewashed walls and red-tiled roofs and several parks and gardens with plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
And then make a stop at La Cheesequeria cafe which specializes in cheesecakes that are different from all other cheesecakes you tried before. They have this liquidish, pudding-like filling that melts in your mouth!
8.) Lesser-Known Museum of Wine
Malaga is famous for its art museums and many people plan their travels often just to be able to see the museum of Picasso or Museo de Carmen Thyssen.
But not many people pay a visit to this awesome Museum of Wine, dedicated to the history and culture of wine in the Malaga region. Not only is it an interesting museum in the historic city center but it also occupies a beautifully restored 18th-century palace.
The museum on its own is small but it offers a comprehensive look at the wine-making process, from the cultivation of grapes to the bottling and aging of wine. It includes exhibits on the different grape varieties that grow in the region, the history of wine-making in Malaga, and the different types of wine, including sweet wines such as Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel.
Besides a regular museum visit, guests can join guided tours, tastings and different workshops (inquire about them in advance since they are not daily), and learn about the techniques and traditions of wine-making that have been passed down from family to family through generations. There is also a wine shop where you can purchase a bottle of wine or wine-related souvenirs.
You’ll find it hidden in this neighborhood on a quieter street.
9.) Malaga Hidden Beach El Peñón del Cuervo
If you are in Malaga now (or get here soon), you’ve probably noticed that the city beach is pretty average and it is too close to the port. In summer, it gets so crowded with people that you can’t even find one inch of unoccupied sand.
For this reason, I have a suggestion – head out to El Peñón del Cuervo, a beautiful and secluded beach on the eastern outskirts of Malaga, near another hidden gem place – the neighborhood of El Palo.
El Peñón del Cuervo is a relatively small beach, with a length of approximately 100 meters but one of its most notable features is the landscape and serenity. It is surrounded by rocky cliffs and lush vegetation that create a nice backdrop for photos and offer stunning views.
The best time to be here is in the late afternoon or exactly for the sunset. Sunsets here are well worth a ride from the center.
In summer, El Peñón del Cuervo is also popular for sunbathing and relaxing as it is relatively quiet and peaceful compared to other more crowded beaches in Malaga.
The best way to reach it is by public transport or car. But if you want an adventure, rent a bike in Malaga and follow partially biking path and partially road to El Peñón.
There are also several amenities nearby, including a small supermarket and public restrooms. It is also possible to rent sun loungers and umbrellas on the beach.
10.) Pedregalejo & El Palo – More Malaga Hidden Neighborhoods
In continuation of the El Peñón del Cuervo beach located in El Palo, I want to dedicate a separate section to El Palo and nearby Pedregalejo neighborhoods which are true hidden gems in southern Spain.
Both of them are quite simple but known for their traditional fishing village feel, fish restaurants, and quieter beaches.
One of the most distinctive features is their long history as fishing communities which is still noticeable today. Both of them managed to maintain the traditional charm with their many authentic seafood cafes, fishermen’s houses, and fish markets.
In summer, both Pedregalejo and El Palo are also popular for their beaches with black sand coastline excellent for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. And in the evenings, they have a vibrant nightlife with numerous bars at affordable prices being open late into the night and popular among young people and students.
Even if you are visiting Malaga for a few days only and want to find the best seafood, come to Pedregalejo or El Palo, hidden in the eastern part of the city. Not only you’ll be able to taste very good seafood at lower prices than in Malaga but also get a feel of traditional Andalusian life as well as access to nice beaches.
11.) Santuario de la Victoria
Santuario de la Victoria is a beautiful Catholic church in the historic Conde de Urena neighborhood. You can visit it right after a street-art neighborhood Lagunillas.
The church has a historical significance as it was built in the 17th century in the Baroque style. Since then, it became one of the most important churches in Malaga city and one of the most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture.
Its exterior is quite ornate, with intricate stonework and a large central dome. However, the most striking is its interior with a number of impressive works of art, curved lines, and use of light and shadow to create dramatic effects.
If you can visit the Santuario de la Victoria during the Semana Santa (Holy Week), you’ll have the best memory as it holds some of the most impressive processions, which are a major cultural event in Malaga. In fact, this church is the starting point for several of the city’s most important processions that attract people from all over Europe.
The church is usually open from 9:00 to 13:00 and between 17:00-19:00. I recommend you go inside through the chapel to the second floor to the altar following a spiral staircase.
The chapel and altar have ornate decorations in the form of gold leaf, intricate carvings, and colorful frescoes, creating a stunning display of Baroque art and architecture. In the center, there is a statue of the Virgen de la Victoria, the patron saint of Malaga which is one of the most important religious symbols in the city. You can see more in photos below.
12.) Hidden Automobile & Fashion Museum
Here is another unique museum to visit which is hidden from the tourist paths. I guess the reason why not many people go there is because of its location quite away from the city center. And the best way to reach it is either by bike, bus or on a long walk.
I found out about this museum just by accident, gave it a try, and in the end was totally amazed by its big collection of 90 special automotive displays that describe the tasteful development of automobiles throughout the twentieth century.
But besides the cars, there is also an impressive collection of designer clothes featuring top brands such as Chanel, Prada, Dior, and Balmain throughout history. Thanks to this exhibit, visitors can see vintage clothing and accessories, including dresses, hats, and jewelry, and have an interesting glimpse into the fashion of different eras in Spain and beyond.
What’s interesting, Malaga Automobile and Fashion Museum is on many lists of the best museums in the world. Yet, it is always quiet and rather empty which makes it a true hidden gem.
Located in the Old Tobacco Factory in the Huelin neighborhood, it is undoubtedly a reward for all fans of cars and fashion and is a unique place to visit in Malaga for couples or families with kids!
You can book your ticket in advance to reserve a spot.
Hidden Local Eats in Malaga
13.) Bar Molinillo 33 – Secret Bar With the Best Spanish & Argentinian Food
Since going to a good tapas bar is always among the must-have experiences in Spain, I thought to start this section of hidden gems in Malaga with one of our favorite local secret bars with incredible Argentina-style empanadas, probably the best tacos in the entire Malaga region (and I tried them in many spots), and very affordable prices.
Bar Molinillo 33 is located off the beaten path even though it’s in the historic center of the city. In fact, it is in close proximity to Mercado de Salamanca mentioned above.
Among locals, it is wildly popular for its traditional Andalusian cuisine, always friendly service, and a variety of drinks. And all of that always costs a fraction of what you’ll pay in those touristy restaurants on Granada street in the very center.
The bar is small, so on Fridays and Saturdays it always gets full of people and you need to show up early.
Come here for chit-chats in a very local environment while savoring the rich Mexican, Argentinian and Andalusian food like empanadas, patatas fritas, bondiola de cerdo, croquetas, and of course tacos. Eat it all with a glass of their delish red wine or locally produced Malaga beer.
14.) Desal Cafe – Lesser-Known Breakfast Spot in Malaga
There are many cool and famous breakfast spots in Malaga city. But I wanted to share one of my absolute favorites which is also a bit off the touristy path where you’ll find very good breakfast and brunch options on a budget with awesome views.
Desal cafe has two locations and both of them are somewhat hidden from the eye, even though both of them are in the center.
I love them both for their delicious croissants, big variety of food options, and for very reasonable prices. Very few places in the center will offer breakfast for as little as €5 including a meal and hot drink. But Desal cafe does, together with a lovely interior and vibe.
Here is the first location which I love for its incredible combo plates and a quiet passageway with outside tables.
And here is another location on the side street where not many people turn to. They have the same menu and the same selection of breakfast and brunch options but I am particularly fond of their benedict eggs.
In the second location, there are a couple of tables outside near the entrance facing the church Parroquia de los Santos Mártires Ciriaco y Paula. They are always occupied but if you come early just when they open, you’ll be able to have breakfast with the church view in sight.
15.) O Melhor Croissant – Unique Croissant Place
What’s interesting about this place is that actually it is located right in the most touristy part of Malaga in front of the famous market Mercado Central. But since everyone comes to the market to eat seafood and paella, they miss many awesome places around.
One of such places is O Melhor Croissant which sells croissant sandwiches with savory and sweet fillings. But the thing is these croissants are nothing like what you tried before.
The dough is slightly sweet with caramelized top and sugar powder but with a savory filling, it just tastes so unique! If you are on a sugar diet, then this is not the right place for a meal. But otherwise, you have to try their savory croissants either with tangy salads, tuna, and cheese, or Iberian ham. And then if you grab a seat near the window, you can just watch life outside.
This Malaga gem is a good place with reasonable prices excellent for breakfast, brunch, or any other time during the day.
16.) La Catrina Cerveceria y Mexican Tapas
If you want to find the best Mexican food in Malaga then don’t look any further and just go to La Catrina Cerveceria tucked among local bars on Juan de Padilla street.
I tried Mexican food in many restaurants around Malaga and this one turned out to have the best nachos, burritos, enchiladas, and tacos (together with Bar Molinillo 33, ha). The menu also includes vegetarian and gluten-free options, making it accessible to people with allergies and intolerances.
La Catrina Cerveceria is truly special because it offers a unique and vibrant atmosphere that blends Mexican culture with Spanish hospitality. The owners are a family from Mexico who moved to Spain a few years ago and opened their authentic Mexican restaurant with colorful decor, Mexican music in the background, and a menu that showcases the flavors of Mexico.
One of the standouts here is its extensive selection of craft beers, including many local and Mexican varieties. Its bar also serves a range of tequilas and mezcals, making it a popular spot for drinks and nightlife.
It is a true hidden gem in Malaga right in the center of all the touristy spots!
17.) Paco Jose Freiduria De Patatas y Frutos Secos
Here is one of my favorite Malaga hidden gems when I crave some Spanish snacks. Paco Jose Freiduria De Patatas y Frutos Secos is a small snack shop in the old center of Malaga. There are a few locations but I like particularly this one as it is one of the biggest.
As the name suggests in Spanish, they specialize in fried snacks, such as patatas fritas (which in this shop means chips) and dried fruits and nuts. But there are also some local candies, crystalized pineapple, sweets, souvenirs, and even beer.
You have to come here to try their (traditional to Malaga) roasted salty almonds (very different from what you tried before), dry apple pieces, berries, or anything else you’d like, really. Many bars and hotels order nuts and chips from this shop to serve them later with beer.
Freidurias are quite popular in many regions of Spain. They often serve as a quick and affordable snack shop for locals and visitors alike. Paco Jose is just one of many freidurias but it prides itself on high quality and reasonable prices.
18.) Mama Mia Italian Restaurant
Mark and I learned about this restaurant from our new friends who have been living in Malaga for much longer than us. As the name suggests, it specializes in Italian cuisine, particularly pizza and pasta dishes.
Mama Mia is a truly local restaurant in Malaga that has been serving Italian food since 1972. I am quite picky when it comes to Italian dishes but this place seriously met my expectations in this way getting a mention.
We ordered gnocchi, lasagna, and maccheroni al forno and they were so good that I almost leaked my plate. Our friends also praised big tasty pizzas and salads.
Mama Mia has such a location that tourists never go there. Yet, it is situated in a nice neighborhood not far from the coast. Their prices are way below prices in restaurants in the center, but the food is always fresh and up to the standard.
So if you want good Italian food in a local environment with decent prices, don’t hesitate to come here. Besides delish food, you’ll also find a cozy and relaxed atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating available. There is a large menu with a variety of Italian dishes, so you’ll definitely have plenty of options to choose from!
Okay, this is it for now for my Malaga hidden gem list. I will be adding more spots as I discover them. But if you have any secret spots in Malaga that you’d love to share, please do so in the comment section!
More Posts About Malaga & Beyond
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- Is Madrid worth visiting – honest answers about the capital
- Best road trips from Madrid – how to explore central Spain
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And if you are looking for more tips for travel in Andalusia, find inspiration here through my other posts about Spain.