For the expat or digital nomad, Málaga is many things. Mostly, it’s safe, international, modern, affordable, well-connected, has great weather, and radiates life.
All of which makes Málaga everyone’s Spanish home.
Here’s an exclusive expat guide to living in Málaga – the capital of the Costa del Sol.
Is Malaga a good place for expats?
Spain’s Costa del Sol, in the autonomous region of Andalucía, is one of Europe’s premier destinations, and Málaga is its epicenter, so yes, it’s a great place for expats.
An old city, founded in 770 BC by the Phoenicians, she wears her age extremely well. It is one of Spain’s most contemporary urban landscapes yet embraces millennia of history and culture.
Along with being one of Europe’s safest cities, Málaga offers year-long summers, pristine Mediterranean beaches, and incredible cuisine and accommodates every imaginable lifestyle.
Málaga is a great destination for singles of any gender, retirees, digital nomad professionals, and families of all shapes, sizes, and incomes.
As Spain is a mecca for the LGBTQ community, Málaga wears that crown with pride.
Málaga’s comfortable lifestyle and affable community is accepting of English speakers, as English is Málaga’s second language.
Insider Tip: Learning Spanish earns great respect from the locals, known as Malagueños.
In fact, Málaga is open to everyone. Wheelchair accessibility is city-wide, even in taxis.
La Malagueta and Misericordia beaches have ramps and wheelchair-accessible toilets, and showers, and are staffed with trained professionals. Amphibian chairs and hoists are available during the summer.
Insider Tip: Málaga is a flat and well-maintained city. The paving is finished with a cobbling effect which helps provide traction for wheelchairs.
Málaga is a city of pleasure, activity, and sport.
Watersports, mountain hiking, soccer/football, basketball, adventure, and more than a dozen golf courses – Malaga has it all.
Love fishing? Enjoy deep-sea fishing for sea bass, Dorada, Bonito, tuna, marlin, and swordfish.
The Sierra Nevada mountains are to the east and home to some of Europe’s best skiing and winter sports.
Besides, Málaga is amongst the top European cities with the best quality of life and acceptance of expats.
Málaga is the cultural capital of the Costa del Sol
Málaga is a paradise for culture vultures. There is always something going on, culturally speaking.
Malagueños live and breathe music and dance so much that other Spaniards refer to Málaga as “Cantaora” (singer). Flamenco is ingrained in Malagueño culture and has its own festival, Flamenco Biennial, every November.
In fact, every month of the year is festival time in Málaga:
- In January, the Contemporary Music Festival
- February and March are Málaga’s Carnival
- August is the Málaga Feria, the annual fireworks-filled fair
- October is Picasso Month
- One of Europe’s largest Jazz festivals in November.
- All ends with a festival of dance in December, the Verdiales Festiva.
If you are a visual art connoisseur, you will love living in Málaga.
The Museo Picasso, offering an intimate look into the life and creativity of the city’s most famous son, is one of Málaga’s nearly 40 museums.
Insider Tip: Most museums offer free admission on Sundays.
Contemporary art lovers will enjoy The Cube at the Centre Pompidou Málaga at the port.
If you are a fan of urban art and underground culture, you will appreciate the Soho district, which is home to an amazing Street Art Project.
Málaga’s heritage also has a jaw-dropping natural side.
El Torcal de Antequera, a UNESCO site, is one of Europe’s most remarkable karst reserves.
The Fuente de Piedra Lagoon, Iberia’s largest natural lake, hosts Europe’s second-largest flamingo colony.
The world’s oldest Neanderthal cave paintings are in the prehistoric world of the Fundación Cueva de Nerja.
Málaga has numerous zoos, aquariums, botanicals, reserves, and castles. Including Cortijo Jurado, a real haunted castle!
Málaga’s climate is one of its biggest attractions
Bathed in more than ten months of sun, Málaga feels like an endless sabbatical.
The Mediterranean provides moderate springs and autumns, sandwiching a long dry, hot summer.
January is the coldest, November the wettest, while July and August are the hottest and driest months of the year.
Málaga’s winters are the warmest in Europe. The short season is defined by rain and wind, lingering around 60 F/16 C.
Insider Tip: Málaga only requires summer and fall clothing.
December to February is the only time swimming is not an option unless you have Nordic blood. Even then, sunbathing on the beach behind windbreakers is still a favorite way to pass the sunny days.
Is Malaga expensive to live in?
A single person could comfortably live on $1500/€1300 a month, a couple on $2500/€2200, and a family of four around $3500/€3000.
Málaga’s affordability is very competitive with Porto, Portugal.
In Málaga, real estate value can vary dramatically depending on age, amenities, and location.
Málaga rentals fluctuate between $7-14/6-12 €/m2.
Studios can be found at around $550/€500. One to four-bedroom apartments in the range of $600/1500-€550/1300 a month.
Property sales average between $1100-3000/1000-2500 €/m2.
Apartments can be found at around $130,000/€115,000.
Utilities average $100/€90 a month for 1-2 people.
Insider Tip: Spanish rentals require deposits of 1-12 months, a bank guarantee, or a letter proving employment. Plus, agencies typically charge a finder’s fee.
You can find more information on rents and rental procedures in our Renting a Property In Spain guide.
Golden Visa properties
Málaga’s real estate market has proven to be a solid option for Spain’s much-desired residency-by-investment program.
If you are after a luxury property, head to Marbella, a Málaga suburb and the hub for luxury real estate.
Property rents around $23/20 €/m2 here. One to five bedrooms will cost between $2000-9000/€1800-8000 a month.
Marbella real estate sales fluctuate between $4500-7000/4000-6000 €/m2, pricing villas into the multi-millions. This is one of the most popular areas for Golden Visa property investors who love the idea of buying a luxurious home on one of the most exclusive strips of land and getting Spanish residency as a bonus.
If you have questions or need more information about your Golden Visa investment options in the area, contact us via our page on Residency and Citizenship. We will be happy to help.
To understand how to purchase property safely and avoid fatal mistakes, read our Buying A Property In Spain guide.
Don’t forget to budget for your healthcare insurance. Although, as a legal resident, you can use Spanish state-funded healthcare, many expats opt for private insurance.
International health insurance is also a popular option. To make sure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal.
Read more on healthcare in Spain, your options, and costs in our guide Health Insurance For Expats In Spain.
Driving in Málaga
Malaga is a busy city. The city center is almost always heavy with traffic. If you can, avoid driving through the center at 8.30-9.30 am, 1.30-3 pm and 7-9 pm.
Finding where to park can also be challenging. You can almost always find a space in the public car parks in the city center, but they are not cheap. If you need parking for less than 2 hours, look for blue zone parking, it is a bit cheaper.
Find more information on Spanish driving regulations and the car registration process in our guide, Sorting Out A Car And Driving In Spain.
The best areas to live in Málaga
Málaga is a consortium of lifestyles in various districts.
El Centro, the Old City, is downtown Málaga—a location with accessibility to everything from daily life to pleasure. In the summer, you’ll see more tourists than locals.
Whether it’s street art, modern art, or culinary arts, Soho is the Art District and one of Málaga’s most sought-after addresses.
Between the port and El Centro, forget New York City or London, Soho is the hip and swanky place to be; with exhibitions, brewpubs, sushi bars, international restaurants and clubs, and a skateboarding park along the river’s edge.
Málaga’s most popular beach district and a definite home for the Mediterranean beachfront lifestyle. Located next to Soho and between Castle Gibralfaro and the sea, the district brags about its 4000 ft/1200 m of coastline.
La Malagueta is favored by expat families. It has a very international presence and is considered Málaga’s best example of urban development. It is very peaceful and hosts many of Málaga’s 30+ international schools.
La Malagueta is one of Málaga’s most expensive areas. Its northeastern neighborhood, El Limonar, is the city’s most exclusive address.
Paseo Marítimo de Oeste
Paseo Marítimo de Oeste is also a beach district on the western side of Málaga, the more affordable side. A working-class area filled with stores, activities, parks, and plazas, this is an area that the Malagueños favor.
As Málaga’s university district, it’s modern with a dynamic nightlife and is very international, both in presence and cuisine. Favored by students and young families as it focuses on that type of budget and lifestyle.
Málaga’s trendiest area was also Picasso’s home. Centered by its vibrant Plaza de la Merced, it’s a lively district that foodies will enjoy, full of cafes, restaurants, markets, shopping, and tourists.
Among Málaga’s oldest but very functional districts, El Perchel is another working-class area and not touristy. It’s home to the port, the beach, the main train station, the bus station, supermarkets, plazas, activities, and Málaga’s freshest seafood.
On Málaga‘s western side and another beach district, Torremolinos is one of Spain’s most open LGBTQ communities with a very vibrant gay scene. Torremolinos has an impressive 6 miles/9 KM of coastline, dozens of nightclubs and discos, aqua parks, and theme parks. Torremolinos is a district of life, not for peace and quiet.
Málaga’s suburbs cater to additional lifestyles.
Marbella is Málaga’s chicest area. Puerto Banús and the Golden Mile are its most exclusive addresses.
Marbella is where royalty holidays with global celebrities and international tycoons, offering multi-million dollar villas, superyacht marinas, and luxury shopping.
You can find more information about the expat life in this area in our Living In Marbella guide: the pros and cons, costs, best areas, schools, etc.
Estepona – Costa Natura
The Garden of the Costa del Sol, Estepona, is a modernized fishing village with views of the Rock of Gibraltar and Morocco. Estepona has an upscale marina, resorts, and beaches.
Estepona is often synonymous with its famous resort Costa Natura, a residential family-oriented nudist community. Spain’s first nudist resort, Costa Natura, offers day passes for anyone to enjoy.
However, Estepona is much more than that. It’s also a brilliant family location, perfect if you are looking for a quieter life. To know more about Estepona’s pros and cons, lifestyle, costs, and various areas, read our Living In Estepona guide.
Travel links and transport in Málaga
Málaga sits comfortably in Spain’s southern corner but is completely connected to the world.
The city hosts one of Europe’s busiest international airports – Málaga – Costa Del Sol (Pablo Picasso) International Airport.
The Port of Málaga is one of Europe’s favored cruise ship destinations, also offering ferry routes to Morocco and the city of Melilla. The coastline hosts 15 marinas.
Insider Tip: Ceuta and Melilla are Spanish cities on the African continent. Though they are part of the EU, Spanish authorities conduct passport checks when you depart from them. So keep your documents ready.
Málaga’s very functional metro system offers monthly passes for $45/40€, and $30/27€ for students and retirees.
Málaga also connects domestically and internationally via its main train station, R.E.N.F.E. – Málaga María Zambrano, and by bus as well.
Internet and mobile connection in Málaga
High-speed, reliable 3G/4G/5G internet, fiber optics, and Wi-Fi are the backbone of Málaga’s connectivity.
Málaga was chosen to host a Google Cybersecurity center and is Spain’s first Cloud region. As well as Vodafone’s newest Business European center.
No-contract unlimited mobile data averages around $28/€25 a month. Monthly residential internet (12 Mbps) averages about $45/€40.
Insider Tip: Some internet providers bundle free TV with nearly 200 European channels.
Banking and finance facilities in Málaga
Finances are easily managed in Málaga, with international banking widely available, including Barclays, Citibank, and Deutsche Banks. Opening a Spanish bank account is relatively easy.
Málaga also provides access to crypto exchanges, ATMs, and tellers with the presence of Bitbase operators.
Coworking spaces in Málaga
You will find plenty of them. Equipped and comfortable coworking spaces are throughout Málaga, accommodating a region saturated with talent.
Málaga beaches and coast
Málaga offers dozens of fully serviced beaches. Chiringuitos (beach bars), cafes, restaurants, and shops, with lifeguards and regular police patrols during the tourist season.
There are also a few beaches that are nothing more than sand and the sea.
Remember that it’s illegal to use soap/shampoo in beach showers or in the sea. Also, many beaches are adopting a no-smoking/alcohol policy.
On the western side is Playa de los Álamos in Torremolinos. A favorite for surfers and families, it offers everything you could want at the beach.
Most beaches offer a nudist area or are nudist tolerant, as the right to be nude is enshrined within the Spanish Constitution.
Playa Nudista Guadalmar is Málaga’s most famous nudist beach and the only officially recognized one within the city.
Insider Tip: The city’s easily accessible beaches will be packed during the summer. For a less-crowded stretch of sand, head east to the quaint fishing village of Pedregalejo, a 19th-century retreat for the Bourgeoisie. The pristine beaches are relatively exclusive and open to those in the know.
Or try Playo de Maro, an hour past Pedregalejo. The beach is secluded amongst green hills, outlined by crystal clear water. It’s perfect for snorkeling, kayaking, and diving.
All of Málaga’s beaches are family-friendly, and every beach is open to everyone; per Spanish law, private beaches have been illegal since 1982.
Málaga’s cuisine focuses on seafood, especially the freshly-caught Mediterranean anchovy. So much, that Spaniards call Malagueños boquerones (anchovies).
But, they are only eaten in months whose names do not contain an ‘R’!
Málaga is a foodie paradise. It’s an incredible mix of Spanish and international, traditional and modern, and always shared with friends and family.
The food reflects the region’s harvest, including olives, almonds, grapes and raisins, goat cheese, sweet wine, honey, seafood, pork, seasonal vegetables, and fruits.
Málaga’s most popular food is the Plato de los Montes de Málaga, Dish from Málaga’s Mountains. It’s a combination platter of french fries/chips, a fried egg, chorizo, morcilla, pork, and fried green peppers.
Spain and Málaga are home to the world’s best olive oil.
Insider Tip: Don’t buy olive oil from a grocery; numerous markets sell the local farmers’ freshly pressed harvest that simply cannot be matched.
Atarazanas Market is Málaga’s largest and best outdoor food scene. It’s dozens of local farmers and vendors selling Málaga’s best and freshest foods in a converted historic Arabian shipyard.
It’s also one of Málaga’s best places to eat. Atarazanas Market has been central to Malagueño gastronomy since the 19th century.
Málaga is southern Spain’s largest wine region. Known as Mountain Wine, there are nearly 20 styles, with sweet wine called Málaga, the most famous. Malagueños often mix Málaga with the local Mistelle.
The Port of Málaga also doubles as a social center full of restaurants, cafes, bars, shops, and cultural attractions, all anchored by the Cube.
Shopping in Málaga
In Málaga, the world is at your fingertips, literally. Spain has its own Amazon site, Amazon.es, so if all else fails, there you go.
Near the airport is a Makro warehouse store and an IKEA. There’s a Costco in Seville, easily accessible by car, bus, or train.
Insider Tip: Costco and Marko honor memberships from any country.
Málaga has several of Spain’s iconic department store; El Corte Inglés.
The high-end shopping district is in El Centro, anchored by Calle Larios. Calle Larios was built in the 19th century as Málaga’s fashion hub, and it still is.
Since then, the surrounding streets have also joined the scene, each a little bit unique for different shoppers and tastes.
Luxury shopping is prolific in Marbella, including Marina Banús at the Puerto Banus and Marbella Center on Avenida Ricardo Soriano.
Málaga has several malls. Larios Center is everything you expect from a mall in the US or UK. At the train station is the Vialia Shopping Center. Near the airport is Factory Outlet Málaga, with an El Corte Inglés outlet store.
Insider Tip: The malls and El Corte Inglés are the best options for electronics and professional supplies.
Málaga has several artisan markets. Made in Soho is worth a visit on the first Saturday of each month. It’s obviously in Soho on Calle Tomás Heredia.
On the fourth Sunday of each month, you can enjoy the Merced Market in the Plaza de la Merced.
Final thoughts on living in Málaga
Málaga is for anyone whose number one concern is quality of life.
Málaga is not only saturated with the sun but with an entrepreneurial spirit and creative inspiration, and it is young at heart.
Whether you want to retire, have a family getaway, invest in real estate, or find a perfect location for your HQ as an entrepreneur or an aspiring creative, Málaga can certainly become a perfect home for you.
Other popular locations in Spain to consider:
- All About Living On The Costa De La Luz, Spain As An Expat
- 10 Must-Know Facts About Living In Granada, Spain
- The Essential Guide To Living In Valencia As An Expat
- Living In Barcelona – The Expats’ Guide
- The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Living In Madrid
You might find useful:
- Living In Spain – practical tips and information on Spanish visas, residency, healthcare, taxes, the pros and cons, and more.
- Best Places To Live In Spain – the best and most popular expat locations in Spain.
- Taxes In Spain For Expats – understand your tax liabilities and how much you have to pay when living in Spain.
- Didn’t find what you were looking for or need further advice? Comment with your question below, and we will do our best to help.
Helpful external links:
- List of public schools and educational centers in Malaga – Educacion.Malaga.eu.
- Facilities and spaces in Malaga – Malaga Town Hall site.
- Electronic services portal by The Malaga City Council.
- All the information about Malaga public transport, including buses, subway, trains and bicycle hire – Consorcio Málaga, app download required.
- The British Consulate in Malaga – site.
- The Consular Agency in Málaga (Fuengirola) – site.