If you think of Malaga as mainly a sun and beach destination you might be surprised to discover what the city has to offer at Christmas. For almost six weeks from late November to early January, Malaga celebrates the festive season with a whole range of activities for all ages.
From lights and music to food and drink, Malaga at Christmas offers a great destination for a short break. And in the sunshine!
Read on to discover our top picks for the best things to do and see in the city over the Christmas holidays.
The Christmas lights
Many cities do Christmas lights well, but Malaga takes them to another level.
Between the end of November and 6 January, the city sparkles with literally hundreds of thousands of lights.
The main squares (Plaza de la Marina, Plaza de la Constitución and Plaza del Obispo) get a large Christmas tree, the Alameda Principal and Paseo del Parque are lined with lights and most streets in the old quarter have a decent display.
You’ll even see Christmas lights and decorations on the seafront promenades!
But the biggest and brightest are on Calle Larios, the centre stage in Malaga at Christmas with a spectacular display running the entire length of the street.
Each year has a different theme – in 2019, the inspiration comes from a festive forest complete with giant trees, flowers, angels and autumn leaves.
The display includes a light and sound show when the lights flash and twinkle in time to four pieces of music. The show takes place every evening at 6.30 pm, 8 pm and 9.30 pm.
Our top tip: The light and sound shows on Calle Larios attract the crowds in droves so visit during the week or go for the 9.30 pm show.
Did you know? Malaga ranks eighth in Europe for the best Christmas lights. The Christmas lights are on between 29 November and 6 January between 6.30 pm and midnight.
The Nativity Scenes
One of the best-loved Spanish traditions at Christmas are the nativity scenes, known as belenes.
These beautifully crafted scenes show the Bible story of Jesus’ birth and the events surrounding it in minute detail via tiny figurines and models, many of which move.
The belenes are real works of art, involving hours of painstaking handiwork. Dozens are set up in Malaga, and it’s well worth visiting one or two during your visit.
Best places to see them: The Cathedral has an impressive nativity scene (entry is via the door on Plaza del Obispo).
The Diputación on the western seafront hosts one of the largest complete with a light and sound show.
For details on how to get there, ask our staff to pinpoint the location on a map when you pick up your cycle hire in Malaga.
Did you know?
There is an official nativity scene route with a map showing the location of all the main ones in the city – ask for a copy at the tourist office.
With over 300 days of guaranteed sunshine a year, Christmas in Malaga is always going to include quite a lot of them.
Daytime temperatures can reach the low 20s, making them perfect for enjoying lunch on the seafront promenade or even on the beach.
Best places to enjoy it: Ask us for recommendations on the best places to eat in Malaga. If you fancy cycling to somewhere a little off the beaten track, check out these top four restaurants.
Did you know? Fried fish (known as pescaíto frito) and grilled sardines (espetos) are typical food in Malaga all year round. Why not enjoy a dish or two at Christmas?
The typical Christmas sweetmeats
OK, fried fish isn’t average Malaga Christmas fare so what is? The Malagueños have a very sweet tooth at Christmas when tables are laden with pastries and sweetmeats. Favourites include:
Turrón – similar to nougat and made with almonds and sugar.
Mantecados – pastries made with lard and sugar in various flavours.
Mazapanes – marzipan figures made from almonds and eggs.
Roscos de vino – pastries in a doughnut shape with aniseed and wine flavouring.
Best places to buy them: Casa Mira on Calle Larios makes some of the best traditional turron in Malaga while Lepanto almost next door creates turrones in different flavours. For pastries try La Mallorquina on Plaza Felix Saenz or Atarazanas market.
Did you know? You can also buy turron ice cream. Discover where to try the best ice cream in Malaga , the perfect dessert for Christmas in the sunshine!
The Christmas markets
No Christmas would be complete without a market or two, and Malaga comes up trumps here too. The city is Europe’s top spot for Christmas markets according to European Best Destinations.
Different markets take place around the city in the run-up to Christmas, and unlike other European cities, those in Malaga stay open after Christmas itself and don’t close until late on 5 January.
Best places to see them: The largest market in Malaga at Christmas takes place on the Paseo del Parque.
Dozens of stalls sell traditional Christmas gifts and decorations, handicrafts, clothes and accessories. Muelle Uno has a big Christmas market too with mainly arts and craft items.
Did you know? It’s easy to cycle to the Christmas markets in Malaga, and you can rent a panier for all your purchases. Be sure to order one when you book your rental bike.
Three Kings Parade
The festive season in Spain doesn’t end until Epiphany on 6 January, known as the Three Kings or Día de Los Reyes.
This is the day when families and friends traditionally give their presents and children receive theirs delivered by the Three Kings on camels the night before.
In anticipation of this, Malaga celebrates the Three Kings Parade that takes place from 5 pm on 5 January.
The parade, consisting of lots of floats (including three with each King on them), makes its way through the city centre accompanied by street artists, dancers and marching bands.
Those on the floats throw thousands of sweets into the crowds as they go past, so make sure you take a bag to put them in (and mind the flying sweets!).
Best places to see it: This is one of the most popular events of the year, particularly with local families so getting a good spot to watch it can be difficult. The Paseo del Parque is usually a little quieter than the city centre, and there’s more room to spread out.
Did you know? It’s impossible to cycle in Malaga city centre during the Three Kings Parade so if you’re planning to go out on your bike, ask us for recommendations for alternative routes.
Bike Malaga at Christmas
Our last tip for a great Christmas in Malaga is to take one of our bike tours. They give you a great introduction to the city and show you a side to Malaga that many tourists don’t see. The perfect start to your festive holiday!
And with most things closed on Christmas day, what better way to enjoy the day than taking a festive bike ride on one of our rental bikes.
Read on to find out about our special holiday season bike rental offer.
MALAGA BIKE TOURS & RENTALS HOLIDAY HOURS:
Dec. 24th we close at 2 p.m. Dec. 25th closed all day.
Dec. 31st we close at 2 p.m. Jan. 1st closed all day.
But don’t worry- you won’t miss out on having a bike!
We have a HOLIDAY SEASON SPECIAL OFFER FOR OUR CLIENTS:
Two-day rental price for three whole days of cycling fun!
Rent a bike on Dec. 24th before 2 p.m. and bring it back on Dec. 26th before 7 p.m.
Rent a bike Dec. 31st before 2 p.m. and bring it back on Jan 2nd before 7 p.m.
City bike 3 day holiday season offer: 20€ per bike
Trekking bike 3 day holiday season offer: 30€ per bike
Terms of renting: Please bring one piece of a photo ID and please check with the place where you are staying to see if they have a safe place to store the bikes inside during the night. Bikes must not be left on the street overnight.
Please book ahead to avoid disappointment!