Granada vs Malaga

Granada vs Malaga: Why I Prefer Granada Over Málaga

Granada and Malaga are two highly recommended cities in Andalusia, Spain. So you might consider setting a base in one of them and visiting the other as a day trip. Malaga is definitely the bigger city with almost 580,000 inhabitants compared to Granada with about 230,000 inhabitants. But size is not everything in the battle of Granada vs Malaga. Keep reading to find out why I prefer Granada over Malaga. The smaller city has so much more to offer than their main tourist attraction Alhambra. Check out my article 10 Reasons To Visit Granada. Of course, that doesn’t mean Malaga isn’t worth a day trip. There are plenty of things you can do in Malaga.

Getting There and Getting Around

It’s definitely easier to get to Malaga since it’s a big city with a big international airport. So even if you’re going to Granada, it might be cheaper to fly to Malaga and take the train to Granada from there. So this point in the competition Granada vs Malaga has to go to Malaga. Since getting to Malaga is very easy, the city is also a great starting point for a southern Spain road trip.

Both Malaga and Granada have good train connections to the rest of Spain though. We travelled from Barcelona to Granada by high-speed train. It was quite expensive to be honest, almost €100 per person one way. But it’s a direct train which is very spacious and super nice. And taking the train is so much more eco-friendly than flying if you’re travelling within Spain.

Malaga also has a better location for day trips in the area. There are numerous beautiful locations you can reach from Malaga with public transport within an hour or two. From Granada, you can easily do beautiful hiking day trips though or visit small mountain villages in the Spanish Sierra Nevada mountains.

Main Sights 

The main sights in both cities are quite similar in what they are, Alhambra in Granada and Alcazaba in Málaga. Both are palatial fortifications known for their Islamic architecture. Alcazaba is impressive only if you haven’t been to Alhambra. I went to Alhambra first and a few days later to Alcazaba in Málaga. Alcazaba just felt like a small version of Alhambra. In Alhambra, there’s even one part called Alcazaba as well, but it’s only a small part of the whole complex in Granada.

So all in all, if you can’t get a ticket to Alhambra (tickets sell out fast), Alcazaba is a good second choice. But if you’re short on time and have already seen Alhambra, you don’t need to see Alcazaba in Málaga as well. If you’re planning to go to Alhambra, you should check out my 10 tips for visiting Alhambra first.

In Málaga, I actually preferred to walk on the walls of the higher castle Gibralfaro, which is connected to Alcazaba. From its walls you get great views and there are way fewer people than in Alcazaba. 


Malaga has a lot more museums than Granada. The most famous museums are the Centre de Pompidou and the two Picasso museums. The surrealist artist Pablo Picasso, who is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, was born in Malaga after all. One of the Picasso museums is actually the house where he used to live. Besides those Malaga has over 30 other museums you can visit. Granada’s most famous museums are probably the Science Museum or the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte (Cave House Museum). Read more about the cave house museum in my list of 10 Reasons to Visit Granada.

All in all, Granada can’t compete with the variety of museums in Malaga. But how many museums do you really visit on your holiday? I usually don’t visit that many museums, to be honest. Sometimes I don’t feel like visiting a museum at all, so that’s not a good enough reason to sway me towards Malaga. 

Nightlife and Beach Life

Since Granada is not located on the coast, you can only enjoy beach life in Malaga. I was there at the end of October and even though it was still very warm, it wasn’t quite “beach weather” for me. We went to the beach anyway while we were in Malaga. It’s always nice to have a beach next to the city. The sand is quite coarse and dark, so not quite the tropical beach atmosphere. 

For me, the Spanish lifestyle of only eating dinner after 8 pm (many restaurants only open at 8 pm) is nightlife enough. I’m not a party person, but I think for partying Malaga is more popular. For me, that’s just another reason why I prefer Granada. 

Walking Around 

I just loved walking the streets of Granada, the atmosphere is so relaxed and cosy. In the week we were there we must have walked the same streets a dozen times, but I still really enjoyed it. There’s just something about those narrow cobblestone streets. 

In Malaga, the streets are way bigger and everything felt more hectic. Next to our hostel, there was a tiled street, and it made the most horrible sound every time a car went over it. I’ve never heard anything like it.


I have no idea why, but in Malaga, flies kept crawling all over us no matter where we went. This was in late October, I don’t know if that’s the case all year round or if we just went to a lucky time. Besides flies, we also saw a few cockroaches in restaurants and on the street. When we saw the cockroach in the restaurant, the waiter just said that’s Malaga and that in the pharmacy next door there are even more. In Granada, I didn’t notice any flies or cockroaches at all. 

Granada vs Malaga: My Winner

Yes, technically Malaga has a lot more activity options than Granada, but I preferred the atmosphere in Granada. I spend six nights in Granada and thought I don’t want to leave yet. And I spent three nights in Malaga and thought, okay, ready to move on. So, it was kind of more of a feeling for me that I preferred Granada. 

Have you visited both cities? Which is your winner in the contest Granada vs Malaga? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to check out my article 10 Reasons to Visit Granada.

Granada vs Malaga

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