Siting pretty down on Spain’s Costa del Sol in Andalucía, Malaga is a popular summer destination for Brits and Europeans seeking a bit of sun, sand and sea. Yet don’t dismiss it during the rest of the year, when the crowds are smaller and the temperatures a little more bearable!
Christmas is a fabulous time to visit, when the city is decked out in festive glory, and it’s a chance to learn more about the culture and traditions in this part of the country. The Spanish really know how to do Christmas, and it’s a joy to be part of the celebrations as a visitor.
Tips for visiting Malaga at Christmas
Hotels and restaurants
If you’re planning on being in Malaga in the run up to Christmas, or even over the big event itself, there are few things to consider to make your trip run without a hitch. Firstly, prices can rocket, especially in the week leading up to the 24th and 25th, so it’s important to book your accommodation well ahead. Christmas is a popular time to visit, so leaving reservations until the last minute could see you disappointed – all the best rooms are snapped up weeks, if not months, in advance.
Likewise, if you have your heart set on a particular restaurant in the historic centre, you should make a table reservation in good time. The Spanish love to eat out, especially at Christmas, so plan well ahead if you fancy joining them and tucking into some tapas.
The same goes for transport. A hire car Malaga should be arranged in good time, particularly if you’re planning on heading out of the city to explore further afield. Day trips to places like Granada, Ronda and Cordoba are all easily achievable, and make a pleasant contrast to the city of Malaga.
Public transport in town does run throughout the festive period, but some services will be limited so do check the schedules so that you’re not left standing unexpectedly at the bus stop! Malaga centre is quite walkable, but you might not want to wander for miles in the cooler weather, or if you’ve glammed up with heels!
Perhaps the most important thing to realise when visiting Malaga at Christmas is that it’s the 24th rather than the 25th of December which is the key day. Most places close by lunchtime on Christmas Eve, with the remaining time spent celebrating with family and friends. The evening is for the festive dinner, which often features seafood and cured ham. Some places will be back open on Christmas day, which is a better time to find a restaurant or bar if you want to eat out.
Best things to do in Malaga at Christmas
If you’re heading to Malaga during the Christmas period, here are the experiences you really shouldn’t miss:
Browse the Christmas markets
Christmas markets are of course all part and parcel of any city break over the festive period, and the ones in Malaga certainly don’t disappoint. The biggest market takes place in Malaga Park and is open throughout December and into the new year. Here, you’ll be able to get your hands on traditional Christmas decorations, artisan crafts and locally produced food – all of which make perfect presents to take back home to your family.
You’ll also come across festive markets in places like Plaza de la Marina and Muelle Uno. These are smaller but no less jolly, and are often a bit quieter if you’re not a fan of the large crowds which congregate in Malaga Park, especially at dusk.
See a nativity display
There are lots of nativity scenes to take in as you stroll around the centre of Malaga, and most are done to an extremely high standard. Just head to a church or government building and you’re likely to find one. Known locally as “Belén”, which literally means “Bethlehem”, the displays can even be found in shop windows along the El Corte Ingles. The festive exhibits here put even Oxford Street in London to shame!
The Town Hall is another good place to see a nativity. This one has been around for the longest, and features exuberant light and water displays to illuminate the endearingly biblical scene.
Bask in the glow of the Christmas lights
The streets come alive in Malaga at Christmas, with illuminations and jollity spreading through the city’s arteries like magic. Some of the light displays are quite extravagant, making for great photo opportunities as you wander around the town. The best illuminations are often said to be on Calle Larios in the centre of the city, where sparkling themed arches form a long, bright tunnel all the way down the road. You can enjoy a bit of festive shopping while walking beneath this enchanting canopy. There’s a music and light show too, to get you properly in the Christmas mood.
You’re likely to come across illuminated streets all across the city, and sometimes in unexpected places like on the side of the cathedral. Head to Plaza de Constitution, the Alameda Principal, Huelin Park, Calle San Juan and Plaza del Obispo to start your search. The Botanical Gardens often have a spectacular display too, bringing together the monuments and gardens to create a mesmerising scene.
Take in a musical performance
You don’t need tickets for the theatre or seats at a show if you want to get your music fix during the Christmas period. Just head down to one of the squares, and you’re likely to come across carol singers and traditional musicians performing all manner of festive tunes. Music groups are particularly active in the week running up to Christmas Day, so keep your eyes and ears peeled.
Sometimes, entire orchestras put on an evening of entertainment, although this tends to be inside public venues rather than out in the cold. Keep an eye out on event listings to see what’s on during your stay. There are often other scheduled, professional performances to enjoy, like ballet, opera and flamenco. The Cirque du Soleil has also been known to make an appearance in Malaga at Christmas, with icy-themed shows to capture the imaginations of visitors of all ages.