Malaga or Granda for a few days

Malaga or Granada: Which One To Stay In For 5-6 days?

If you are planning a trip to Andalusia in southern Spain for five or six days, you might be asking whether to head to Malaga or Granada.

Both historic cities are beautiful and have plenty to offer but Malaga has more shopping and the beaches are nearby. Granada has the famous Alhambra palace complex which is one of the most famous Islamic monuments in the world plus the ancient Albaicin neighborhood.

The ancient port city of Malaga, with a population of just under 580,000 people, is a working city on the Mediterranean coast.

It is the second biggest city in Andalucia after Seville and it is the sixth largest city in Spain in terms of population. 

Granada, 90 km to the north east from Malagá, lies at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is half the size of Malaga with a population of 240,000.

Granada also traces its roots back many centuries and is famous for its fine Islamic architecture and Moorish legacy.

Both cities are within the province of Andalucia on the southern coast of Spain, just a few miles from Africa. The area was ruled by the Moors for many centuries until 1492AD when Christians recaptured Granada.

Malaga or Granada: What travelers say

  • Malaga has more things to do and is less crowded. However, Granada is more famous as a city break destination.
  • Many travelers find that Malaga is big enough to spend a few days in – and also has great transport connections with the wider area. The city center is beautiful with plenty of shops and restaurants. There is an impressive cathedral, beautiful gardens and a lovely walk along the coast. 
  • Malaga offers a wider choice of museums and is a great place to stroll around and go out at night. It has a city beach and the nearby beaches of the Costa del Sol. 
  • Málaga has some historical sites including Roman ruins and a Moorish castle. Granada has the Alhambra and is generally a more attractive place.
  • A popular recommendation is to do two nights in Granada. The Alhambra itself can occupy an entire day. Then you will have the following day to enjoy the other interesting aspects to the town, particularly the Albaicin neighborhood.
  • Other travelers feel that one night is enough in Granada – and suggest you can do most of the interesting things there in that time.
  • Some travelers warn against rushing around the Alhambra. There are some quick tours which take around three to four hours. But that might feel too short for such a large and fascinating place.
  • Malaga has the attractions of the sea and is better connected. Granada is a nice contrast with the surrounding mountains and the atmosphere.
  • Many travelers recommend splitting your time between the two cities evenly. Malaga and Granada both have a lot to see. Day trips are also easy by public transport. 

Malaga or Granada: Access & transportation

Malaga or granada

There is no direct train from Malaga to Granada, although it is possible to do the journey with one change at Antequera (taking one hour and 30 minutes).

It costs around 60 euros round trip to get from Malaga to Antequera and on to Granada using the fast AVE train.

The bus is the cheapest and easiest way to get between the two cities and it takes around two hours. There are more than 30 buses per day connecting Malaga and Granada. 

The bus price is around 28 euros round trip. It is worth noting that the bus station at Granada is well outside the city center

Malaga is well connected by public transport because it is the capital of the province. Day trips to the white towns of Ronda, Mijas and Marja are all straightforward. 

There is a local train that goes to Fuengirola and Benalmadena.

Malaga Airport has excellent flight connections by air to many European cities. It is the third largest airport in Spain and is only 8 km from the city center. You can get to the airport by bus or taxi in around 15-20 minutes.

You can also take the high speed AVE train from Madrid to Malaga. The journey takes less than three hours.

Malaga or Granada: Vibe & people

Malaga

The main sites in Malaga are downtown and easily walkable on foot. The center of the city is very compact and it is easy to see everything.

The city center is very with fascinating architecture. It is very Spanish in feel. The Malagueta beach is only a five minute walk away.

The city has a laid-back feel which is in contrast to the beach tourist resorts along the Costa del Sol. 

Travelers highlight how charming and friendly the people are in Malaga. People say that they feel safe visiting the city. The locals embody the charm of the Andalucia region. 

Granada

The ancient city of Granada is at its most beautiful in the Spring when the sun begins to set. Walks around the Albaicin neighborhood at sunset are breadth taking.

Granada is simply a gorgeous place. Expect to find yourself walking on the ancient cobbles – while trying to avoid scooters and cars along the narrow streets.

Malaga or Granada: Sights & culture

Malaga

There is so much to see in Malaga within easy walking distance of the harbor. The 8-11th century Moorish Alcazaba fortification  is smaller but older than the Alhambra in Granada.

Just a few hundred yards from the city center is the impressive 16th century Malaga Cathedral.

Malaga is an art lover’s paradise with lots of fascinating museums including the Picasso Museum, the Carmen Thyssen Museum, the Russian Museum (the home of the Russian State Museum in Europe) and the Contemporary Art Museum.

The central neighborhood known as Soho is a center of urban art and underground culture. It has large murals on the side of buildings, ethnic restaurants, street markets and arty cafes.

Visitors praise the food scene in Malaga with its many restaurants and tapas bars.

Other places to visit include the Grand Miramar Hotel , which used to be a hospital during the Civil War and functioned as law courts before that.

The Gardens of La Concepcion boast some of the finest tropical plants in Europe.

The Centre Pompidou Málaga, which is in the port area, is an offshoot of the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The modern building has a colorful cube on top.

Beneath the walls of the Alcazaba is the Teatro Romano, Malaga’s Roman theater dating back to the 1st century AD. 

In the downtown area there is the largest concentration of 19th century buildings in the whole of Spain. There are around 1000 buildings which are all well preserved.

Malaga is one of the most ancient cities in Europe with a history dating back 2,800 years. The old center is close to the port and there is lots to see within walking distance of the harbor.

Visitors also praise the food scene in Malaga with its many restaurants and tapas bars.

The Cathedral of Malaga, built between 1528 and 1782, is at the heart of the old town and is one of the most important architectural sites in the city.

Within a short walk from the cathedral are some of Malaga’s many museums. The artist Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga and the Picasso Museum houses more than 200 of his works in a restored 16th century palace.

Other significant museums include the Carmen Thyssen Museum, the Russian Museum (the home of the Russian State Museum in Europe) and the Contemporary Art Museum. 

The Centre Pompidou Málaga, which is in the port area, is an offshoot of the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The modern building has a colorful cube on top.

A well-preserved Roman theater stands just to the south of Malaga. It lay undiscovered for many years but was unearthed again in 1951. The ancient monument is a reminder of how important the city was to the Roman empire.

Standing above the city, at the base of Gibralfaro hill, is the city’s most famous landmark, the Moorish fortress Alcazaba. It is smaller but older than the Alhambra in Granada.

Alcazaba was built by the Hammudid dynasty in the 11th century. Nearby is the hilltop fortress of Castillo de Gibralfaro.

In the downtown area is the largest concentration of 19th century buildings in Spain. There are around 1000 very well-preserved buildings.

There are several beaches within easy reach of the city. One of the best, Playa Pedregalejo, is a 30-minute walk away. La Malagueta is a small urban beach lined with nice residential buildings.

The Gardens of La Concepcion, just outside Malaga, is a superb botanical garden with some of the finest tropical plants in Europe.

There is also a mansion within the grounds that belonged to the Marquis Loring. From there you get spectacular views in many directions.

Granada

The ancient fortress of Alhambra, built in the 13th and 14th centuries, is the most popular tourist attraction in the whole of Spain. 

Travelers warn that it is a vast site, and even a six hour visit may not be enough to see the whole place.

The Generalife gardens, which are the grounds of the Alhambra, almost require a day on their own.

The highlight of Alhambra is the Nasrid Palace, a mansion built for the Spanish Muslim rulers.

Another must-see inside the Alhambra is the palace of Charles V, an incredible piece of Renaissance architecture.

It is recommended to buy tickets to the Alhambra when they go on sale, up to three months in advance. It is such a popular destination that tickets sell out very quickly.

Some visitors recommend trying to visit Alhambra in both the daytime and evening to see it in different lights.

Many travelers warn that Granada is a big place with lots to see and long distances to walk between the main sights – with plenty of climbing to get up and down the hills and stairs.

A popular itinerary is to take the bus to the top of the city, walk back down through the Albaicin and end the day by watching the sun set at the San Nicolas viewpoint.

Granada Cathedral, which was built on top of a mosque in the 16th century, is the second largest cathedral in Spain.

Malaga or Granada: Food & nightlife

malaga or granada  by night

Malaga

Malaga is known for its extremely vibrant nightlife and excellent bar scene. Visitors also praise the food scene in Malaga with its many restaurants and tapas bars.

The Mercado Central de Atarazanas was constructed in the 19th century on the site of a 15th century Nasrid port. The stalls inside the market sell all kinds of food including fish, meat and vegetables plus tapas.

Muelle Uno is a newer shopping and restaurant complex at the port which houses 17 restaurants.

Visitors like the Restaurant El Pimpi for its authentic Andalusian decoration and music. Royalty and movie stars have all visited over the years. Here you can also enjoy tapas and Malaga’s sweet dessert wine, the virgen moscatel. 

The beach bars – or chiringuitos – are a great place to order fresh fish and eat it overlooking the sea.

A fun place to head is the art district of Soho with its new galleries.

Travelers report there is ample and very good evening entertainment in Malaga with theaters, concerts  and shows.

Granada

Los Diamantes Is a very popular place for lunch. This busy restaurant is one of the most popular tapas joints in Granada.

La Fabula Restaurante is a fine dining restaurant within a restored 1909 mansion.

Los Jardines de Zoraya, a restaurant in the historic Albaicin neighborhood, has a flamenco show twice per evening alongside a three course meal.

Bodegas Espadafor is a traditional bar dating back to 1910 with old posters and wine barrels

Visitors praise the traditional tapas joint Bar Avila which has been run by the same family since 1967.

Malaga or Granada: Shopping

Malaga is the place to head for great shopping. There is a large selection of stores all walkable from downtown. 

Some of the best streets are Calle Larios, Calle Nueva, and Calle Granada which have lots of boutiques.

A large department store near downtown is called El Corte Ingles.There are also two malls in the same area called the Larios Center and Vialia.

Malaga or Granada: Lodging

Malaga

About as central as one can be is Don Curro (3 star) which is very good value. It is only a short walk from the new seafront area.

In the same area is Hotel AC Malaga Palacio (4 star) which has a romantic rooftop restaurant, perfect for watching the sun go down with a view over the port.

Also near Calle Larios is Hotel Molina Lario (4 star) which has parking and a good restaurant called Cafe de Bolsa.

A higher end recommendation is Vincci Posada del Patio (5 star).

For those on more modest budgets there is Ibis Malaga Centro Ciudad (2 star) and La Casa Azul is a small and elegant bed and breakfast near Malagueta Beach.

Further afield is the fabulous Tryp Malaga Guadalmar Hotel.

Another recommendation from travelers is Hotel NH Malaga (4 star) – a good hotel with parking.

The Barcelo Malaga (4 star) is a modern hotel with contemporary rooms.

Those on the smallest budgets may want to try The Urban Jungle Hostel (2 star), a relaxed boutique hostel with shared kitchen and rooftop bar.

Granada

Many travelers have good feedback for the Vincci Albayzin (4 star).

Another frequent recommendation is Hotel Alixares (4 star).

Hotel Saray (4 star) is described as large, modern, comfortable and affordable.

One of the most luxurious hotels in Granada is Parador de Granada, very close to Alhambra, with modern and elegant rooms.

The Hotel Casa Morisca is one of Granada’s original boutique hotels located in a 15th century mansion.

Malaga or Granada: day trips

Malaga

From Malaga the whole of Andalucia is available to you.

One popular trip is to the white town of Mijas which is 34km away. From there you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea. 

Nerja, which is 58 km away, is a former fishing village with caves to explore. 

Another popular trip is to Torre del Mar, a tourist resort with a long sandy beach.

Granada

One option is to take a bus or coach to Vejer – be aware it’s a long trip which will take most of the day.

If you can rent a car, travelers suggest looking into the great driving trips around Costa Tropical, La Herradura, Almunecar and Salobrena.

Other popular trips from Granada include the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Sacromonte Caves.

Two hours from Granada is the mountain town of Ronda where Ernest Hemingway spent a lot of time.