Discovering Andalusia: A 3-Day Itinerary for Malaga with Granada Day Trip

> June 06, 2023
Discovering Andalusia: A 3-Day Itinerary for Malaga with Granada Day Trip

To see some of the best places in southern Spain is not possible in 3 days, I hear? Watch me! I dare you to go to this promised land of burning sun, delicious tapas and vibrant culture, and enjoy the heck out if thanks to my itinerary.

You can of course spend how many days in Malaga as you need. But I think that with this Malaga itinerary 2 days seem like a reasonable amount of time, with an extra day trip out to Granada.

But also, before you go, read 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Go to Andalusia and Andalusia in 10 Days Itinerary in case you would like to wander around the region a little more.

Here is the itinerary of what to do in this lovely city and a bonus Malaga to Granada day trip!

Day 1 Malaga: Old Town, Alcazaba de Málaga, Picasso Museum, Roman Theatre, Malaga Cathedral, The Automobile and Fashion Museum
Day 2 Malaga: Malagueta Beach, Soho, Castillo de Gibralfaro,  Muelle Uno, Mercado Central de Atarazanas
Day 3 Granada: Alhambra, Albaicín, Sacromonte, Science Park

Day 1 of Malaga + Granada itinerary: Malaga

Map of day 1 Malaga and Granada itinerary

See today's route on Google Maps

Main sites visited on day 1: Old Town, Alcazaba de Málaga (fortress), Picasso Museum, Roman Theatre, Malaga Cathedral, The Automobile and Fashion Museum
Restaurant tips: El Pimpi | El Tintero | Zury
Hotel recommendations: Hacienda Fresneda María by Charming Stay
Further reading: 20 Tips for Malaga | Andalusia itinerary | Top Places in Andalusia 

Day 1—Malaga—stop 1: Old town

Malaga Old Town—Andalusia itinerary

Malaga Old Town

Time spent here: 1 hour to infinity

Malaga Old Town is a charming neighborhood that grabs you and won't let you go. And I don’t mean the fact that you could easily get lost in the maze of the little narrow lovable streets—even though you wouldn’t mind getting lost in this one. It's the first item on the list of what to do in Malaga, at least my list. You can just wander around and enjoy the stunning pieces of architecture. Just remember to leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way back out!

Your main destination will be the heart of the old town, the Plaza de la Constitucion, a lively square surrounded by cafes and shops. The square is a great place to start your exploration of the old town, as it provides easy access to many of the neighborhood's attractions.

The connected narrow alleys and marble streets will guide you through the Old Town while you look out for a lovely place to grab a coffee. Well, I like my coffee dark as my soul and top quality like the tips I gave you on traveling to Spain. But having a cup of coffee in Spain is a rather unpleasant experience I recommend you avoid—but if you like drinking dirt, be my guest!

So, while you discover the nooks and crannies of Malaga's Old Town, look out for tapas bars rather than cafés. There are plenty of them. In fact, you could probably eat your way through the entire neighborhood and still not try everything. It's like a tapas crawl, but without the embarrassing photos from the end of the night and a two-week hangover.

Day 1—Malaga—stop 2: Alcazaba de Málaga

Alcazaba de Málaga—Andalusia itinerary

Alcazaba de Málaga

Distance from previous stop: 1 km/0.6 miles, 13 minutes
Time spent here: 1 hour

Alcazaba de Málaga is a giant fortress that's been standing guard over the city for centuries. It's like something out of a medieval tale, with towering walls, hidden gardens, and sweeping views of the sea. And let's be real, who doesn't love a good castle? More so when it is a Moorish masterpiece!

The highlight of Alcazaba are the stunning gardens that surround the fortress. Once you step inside, it feels like you've entered a secret oasis in the middle of the city, with lush greenery, tranquil fountains, and colorful flowers everywhere you look. Which you basically did. It's the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and relax in a peaceful setting.

If you’re visiting in high tourist season, you have to expect lines for tickets up to 45 minutes long. If you just can’t take it or you don’t want to wait, get the guided tour and skip the queue. 

  • Alcazaba website
  • Google Maps link
  • Opening times: daily 9am–6pm in the winter, until 8pm from April to October
  • Tickets: €3.50 or €5.50 combination ticket Alcazaba+Gibralfaro

Day 1—Malaga—stop 3: Picasso Museum

Picasso Museum in Malaga, Spain

The Picasso Museum in Malaga

Distance from previous stop: 0.8 km/0.5 miles, 11 minutes
Time spent here: 1.5 hours

If Malaga has something to brag about, it is definitely the fact that Malaga is the birthplace of the one and only Pablo Picasso—one of the most significant artists of our time. Whether you're a die-hard fan or just curious about his work, you'll be able to immerse yourself in the world of one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. Or maybe you came just for the building.

The museum itself is housed in a stunning 16th-century palace, which adds to the overall ambiance and charm of the experience. As you wander through the various galleries, you'll be able to see the evolution of Picasso's style, from his early academic studies to his later, more abstract works.

There are over 200 pieces on display over 2 floors, though his most famous works are in other, more famous, museums of the world. There is a café in the charming courtyard as well.

An audio guide is included in the ticket price, or you can take a guided tour. 

Day 1—Malaga—stop 4: Roman Theatre

Roman theatre in Malaga, Spain

Roman Theatre

Distance from previous stop: 190 m/623 feet, 2 minutes
Time spent here: 30 minutes

Teatro Romano de Málaga is a historical museum and an ancient Roman theater from the times of when the Romans inhabited the area. It's one of many places in Spain where you feel like the time has stopped centuries ago as everything is in perfect condition. I had this weird urge to score some sheets and wear it like a toga to fit in. Never mind, no Caesar cosplay today.

The Teather is an impressive and huge structure that offers ultimately breathtaking views of the town, which I enjoyed probably the most from there. It gives you a unique opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of Malaga and kind of appreciate the rich history of the region. And it's also the perfect spot to snap some photos and make all your friends jealous. After you are all fed up with the scenery for the day—as if that's possible—head a few stories down.

One of the most fascinating parts of the Roman Theatre is the underground section, which was only discovered in the 1950s. Here, you can see the intricate system of tunnels and corridors that were used to transport people and goods around the city in ancient times.

You can also enjoy the Roman Theatre from the outside in the evening when it's lit up by like a bazillion little lights, making it the most romantic spot.

Day 1—Malaga—stop 5: Malaga Cathedral

The Malaga Cathedral—Andalusia itinerary

The Malaga Cathedral

Distance from previous stop: 400 m/0.2 miles, 5 minutes
Time spent here: 1 hour

Even though there is no official religion in Spain and religious freedom is guaranteed, most of the population are loud and proud Catholics. So, you can bet your bottom dollar that there is at least one spectacular cathedral in every city. And the second day of our itinerary starts right with one of the most glorious out there—Catedral de la Encarnación de Malaga, Catedral de Malaga for short.

But everyone just calls it “La Manquita” meaning “the one-armed woman”—because it’s missing one of its towers. Apparently when they were building it, funds ran low, and so there are just a few pillars where the south tower was supposed to be. Charming, isn't it?

La Manquita is the tallest cathedral in Andalusia, which took about 200 years to complete. And thank God they did, the structure is fascinating and impressive as they come. You can peek inside for free, but I think it’s worth taking a better look. You can buy a ticket to see all of the interior and the museum for EUR 8. 

The best part, though, is the rooftop tour. You will follow a guide up the 200 stairs, and then walk the perimeter of the roof, taking in some cool views of the city.

  • Malaga Cathedral official website
  • Google Maps link
  • Opening times: Monday to Saturday 10am—6pm, Sunday 2pm—6pm. The rooftop generally opens one hour later than the cathedral, tours are every hour, on Sunday they start at 4pm. 
  • Tickets: cathedral and museum: €8, just the rooftop: €8, cathedral and rooftop: €12.  

Day 1—Malaga—stop 6: The Automobile and Fashion Museum

The Automobile and Fashion Museum in Malaga, Museo Automovilístico

Most of the cars are real cars, but there are some artsy ones, too

Distance from previous stop: 3.2 km/2 miles, 40 minutes
Time spent here: 1–2 hours

As bizarre and random as it may sound, Museo Automovilístico y de la Moda was actually a nice surprise for me. This rather unique museum in Spain is home to an impressive collection of vintage automobiles and designer fashion, which made me enjoy it even though I'm not exactly a fashion enthusiast. But I love style and sophistication which the museum is full of.

The museum's collection contains about 100 automobiles such as Jaguar, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche in great condition, sometimes with funky paintjobs. More than 300 Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and other pieces add to the portrayal of luxury. The exhibitions are made in an interactive and fun way, that makes the whole experience more entertaining.

But not only the cars and fashion make this museum so unusual– it's also the atmosphere. The museum is housed in a beautifully restored 1920s building that was once a tobacco factory, giving it a sense of history and character that is hard to find anywhere else.

Day 2 of Malaga + Granada itinerary: more of Malaga

Map of day 2 Malaga and Granada itinerary

See today's route on Google Maps

Main sites visited on day 2: Castillo de Gibralfaro, Soho, Mercado Central de Atarazanas, Malagueta Beach, Muelle Uno
Restaurant tips: El Pimpi | El Tintero | Zury
Hotel recommendations: Hacienda Fresneda María by Charming Stay
Further reading: 20 Tips for Malaga | Andalusia in a Nutshell | Top Places in Andalusia 

Day 2—Malaga—stop 1: Castillo de Gibralfaro

A tourist in Castillo de Gibralfaro—Andalusia itinerary

Castillo de Gibralfaro

Distance from previous stop: 1.1 km/0.8 miles, 15 minutes
Time spent here: 1.5 hour

Start your day at the castle atop Mount Gibralfaro, which you need to go for if only for the views. It's a short but kinda steep hike, so I recommend coming up to the castle in the morning, when the sun doesn't burn you to ashes. And it is also a very popular place to visit in Malaga, so you'll also avoid the crowds if you start early. A win-win situation!

The castle is open to the public. You can explore its various rooms and chambers, including the chapel, armory, or even stables. And of course, no visit would be complete without climbing to the top of the castle's towers for a panoramic view of Malaga and the seashore.

The inside is not what makes it unique, the main draw would be the scenery, for sure. With all the oohs and aahs you're going to make along with taking the pictures, the visit will take you not even two hours.

Day 2—Malaga—stop 2: Soho

Soho art of Malaga, Spain

Soho street art

Distance from previous stop: 1.1 km/0.7 miles, 15 minutes
Time spent here: 30 minutes

Soho is an up-and-coming trendy neighborhood; you'll find all the cool kids hang out there. It's bursting with modern murals and other street art, snazzy bars and trendy cafés. If you are feeling particularly bohemian and artsy, it's the place to go.

And I can't forget about the nightlife. Soho is home to a variety of bars and clubs, where you can dance (or in my case, sit) the night away and mingle with the locals. It's the perfect destination for anyone who loves to party and have a good time. I'm not one of those people, so I can't give you an honest review here, sorry pals.

You can also visit the CAC Malaga (contemporary art center) or see if the Teatro de Soho (performing arts center) is showing anything. Otherwise just browse the various art studios and quirky establishments.

If street art is something you are interested in, you can download a map of all the works on the website of the MAUS project (Málaga Arte Urbano Soho) and learn about what you can see.

Day 2—Malaga—stop 3: Mercado Central de Atarazanas

Mercado Central de Atarazanas in Malaga, Spain

Mercado Central de Ararazanas

Distance from previous stop: 1.2 km/0.7 miles, 15 minutes
Time spent here: 2 hours

To all the foodies out there, don't worry I didn’t forget about you! Our final Malaga destination is Mercado Central de Atarazanas, a food market full of local cuisine and culture bustling with people and overall good vibe.

The market is in a stunning building that dates back to the 19th century with beautiful stained-glass windows showing interesting scenes from Malaga's history. As you wander through the market's stalls while drooling over all the deliciously looking food, you'll be greeted by the sights, sounds, and smells of fresh produce, seafood, meats, and spices. Once you enter, the almost magic-like scent punches you in the face hard.

Are you feeling adventurous? Great! Try some unique products available on the market, such as snails, bugs or bull's tail. People call it a gastronomic experience; I call it pure insanity and self-harm.

Day 2—Malaga—stop 4: Malagueta Beach

Malagueta Beach in Malaga, Andalusia

Welcome to Malagueta!

Time spent here: 1 hour to until you burn

Even though Malagueta Beach didn’t make it to my list of the best beaches in Spain, it's a nice place to enjoy your daily dose of sun. I mean, the competition is just too tough in Spain—have you seen the beaches in Mallorca? Man, that’s the R&R I could get used to!

The location of Malagueta Beach is pretty handy, you can find it right in the city center. I have nothing special to say about it, to be honest. It's a beach, it serves its purpose—you get there, dip your tired feet into the Middaterean sea, you recharge your batteries, and you go away.

Day 2—Malaga—stop 5: Muelle Uno

Muelle Uno, Malaga, Andalusia

Muelle Uno

Distance from previous stop: 1 km/0.7 miles, 15 minutes
Time spent here: 2 hours

Now it's time to finally see the place you have been looking down from the panoramic views all the time. Muelle Uno is a pretty and fancy coastal promenade located in the heart of the port area of Malaga. It’s a very modern-looking and clean neighborhood, which I didn’t expect a port can be!

There’s a white roof structure that shades part of the walkway from any remaining sun, and a huge colorful glass cube, which isn’t just an art piece. It’s an artistic skylight that lures you into the Centre Pompidou underneath, the only of its kind outside of Paris.

But if you are not in the mood or not wearing your artsy pants at the moment, just walk around. At the end of the promenade is La Farola Lighthouse worth stopping by, or have dinner at one of the many restaurants.

I rather waited until we got back to our hotel to have this insanely good dinner. In the restaurant belonging to Fresneda María, the epic hotel where we stayed the whole time, the meals were almost Michelin-like, so you don’t have to mourn that you haven't filled your stomach at the market. At least you have more space for the divine cuisine of the hotel's restaurant.

Day 3 of Malaga + Granada itinerary: day trip to Granada

Map of day 3 Malaga and Granada itinerary

See today's route on Google Maps

Main sites visited on day 4: Granada’s Alhambra, Albaicín, Sacromonte, Science Park
Restaurant tips: Bar los diamantes | Bar La Trastienda | Bar La Riviera 
Hotel recommendations: Hotel Casa Morisca | Hacienda Fresneda María by Charming Stay
Further reading: Granada Guide| Day Trips from Granada | Top Places in Andalusia 

Day 3—Granada—stop 1: Alhambra

La Alhambra—Andalusia itinerary

La Alhambra

Time spent here: 4 hours

Yep, you read that right. You'll need at least 4 hours to visit the most impressive Moorish palace complex in the world. Moreover, there is nothing much to do in Granada besides Alhambra, so there's no hurry. It is one of the most famous attractions in Spain and there is a good reason for that. That's also why you have to book your tickets months in advance to be sure to get in.

The road from Malaga to Granada won't take you long. Alhambra is only one hour by car from Fresneda María, the hotel that I can't say enough how much I recommend staying at. Early bird gets the worm, so no staying in their most comfortable beds and hop on the road to be the first visitor in Alhambra of the day.

A tourist at the Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Gorgeous views and handsome tourists at the Alhambra

Here are a few basic things you should know before you visit the Alhambra:  

  • Don’t expect a palace. Expect a whole city. Make sure you have 3–4 hours minimum to see everything.  
  • The Alhambra is on top of a hill–there’s a lot of walking up and down the hill, probably in the heat. 
  • Get your tickets up to 3 months in advance from the official website. Plan your visit to all the other parts of the complex around the 1-hour time slot indicated on your ticket for the Nasrid Palaces. Kids need their own tickets even though they enter for free. 
  • Important: Make sure to have your passport with you when you enter. Your ticket has your passport number on it and without a passport, you’ll be forced to buy another ticket at the entrance—if you’re lucky and they have any available. True story.

For all the deets hop over to my Granada article to plan your visit to the Alhambra.

The view of the Alhambra from the Albaicin neighborhood at sunset
The Alhambra at sunset as viewed from the Albaicín

Just remember, under no circumstances DON'T SKIP THIS PLACE!! It was a highlight of my vacation and will be of yours too. So don’t be stupid, listen to my bright advice and visit Alhambra.

Day 3—Granada—stop 2: Albaicín

The white houses and narrow stone alleys of Granada’s Albaicin neighborhood

Walking through Albaicín 

Distance from previous stop: 2 km/1.2 miles, 30 minutes
Time spent here: 1.5 hours

Albaicín is a historic hilly neighborhood in Granada that offers stunning views of the palace and the city below. This UNESCO World Heritage site served as a home to Moorish people after the Catholics reconquested Granada again (here's some history so you're as smart as I am here). Therefore, the influence of Muslim architecture is noticeable on almost every step in all the little narrow streets and picturesque buildings.

The best way to spend the time in Albaicín is simply to wander around. You can take a guided tour as well, but I'm not exactly a fan of the idea. But you do you.

Rather than spending money on a bored part-time guide, stop at one of the fantastic tapas restaurants, the best ones being in the streets around Plaza Nueva. I got lucky there with amazing finds, so now I can share my wisdom with you. I hundred percent enjoyed Bar los diamantes, Bar La Trastienda, or Bar La Riviera.

La Riviera even lets you choose your free tapas from a menu, which is almost too good to be true. What am I talking about, free tapas!? Yep, you heard that right. Granada is famous for serving its tapas for exactly 0 money. You just pay for drinks and tadaa, tapas land on your table!

Day 3—Granada—stop 3: Sacromonte

Sacramonte in Granada, Spain


Distance from previous stop: 1 km/0.6 miles, 13 minutes
Time spent here: 1 hour

Sacromonte is a Gypsy quarter of Granada, where you can get the best views of Alhambra. The higher up you go, the better the views get. It's right next to Albaicín, so you can't miss it even if you had too many glasses of sangria with your tapas.

Note that Sacromonte can be quite hilly and also steep in places, so it would sober you up anyways. But more famous than for the hill and its scenery it is for its cave homes, which have been inhabited since the 16th century.

Sacromonte neighborhood in Granada, Andalusia
Looking up at Sacromonte neighborhood

Many of these caves have been converted into bars, restaurants, and flamenco venues. You can enjoy there one of the traditional performances while sipping on local wine and sampling traditional tapas, which you hadn't had for such a long time.

To learn more, head up to the museum, where you can visit almost a dozen cave houses that have been recreated to look like they did back in the day. The €5 is worth the 20-minute walk through (or more if you’re really into it).

Day 3—Granada—stop 4: Science Park

the Science Park Museum in Granada, Spain

The WOW exhibit at Granada’s Science Park

Distance from previous stop: 3.4 km/2.1 miles, 45 minutes
Time spent here: 2 hours

And to close this itinerary with something awesome, your last stop is going to be one of the coolest museums in Spain. The exhibitions in Science Park in Granada cover all spheres of science: planets, animals, the human body, robotics, physics, etc. I liked how interactive, fun, and playful they were! There aren’t just stuffed animals standing in line, they are set up to show their movement, or how they would hunt for example. I especially loved the human body exhibit.

You don't have to be a PhD to enjoy Science Park. On the contrary, it's especially great for kids, but adults will enjoy themselves as well. I even saw teenagers having fun, which is the best compliment a museum can get.

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About me

About me

Hi! I’m Jan. I live in Prague, Czech Republic. I try to experience the best the world has to offer, and I don’t cease to be impressed. But if I’m not, I’m sure going to tell you! You can count on my full honesty and real opinions here. No bullcrap. I own and run several companies, which gives me great (but not unlimited) freedom to roam the world.  

I was first inspired to start this blog by my own experience of researching for upcoming trips—I often struggle with a lack of good information, accuracy, and authenticity of resources. You wouldn’t believe how many “travel bloggers” don’t even visit the destinations they write about! 

My goal with this blog is to provide you with complex and practical information so that you can plan your own vacation, complete with insights you’d only get if you visited the place. I also put together itineraries that are fully planned out trip guides.

Another aspect that drives this platform is my curiosity about the history, geography, politics, and economy of each country I visit, so I try to include this information in my articles, too. It’s always great to get the bigger picture, right? 

And just to be clear, I am not trying to compete with backpacking blogs or provide hacks for an economical and affordable experience. My vacations follow the standard pattern of traveling by plane, staying in good hotels, and renting a car on the spot to get around. I’m also always up for a fantastic meal, though I don’t shy away from local delicacies and street food, either.  

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