Every year, more and more travellers are opting to spend Christmas in Malaga. And we certainly understand why. Christmas in Málaga is beautiful! With around 320 days of sunshine a year, Christmas in Malaga is always going to include some sun. Daytime temperatures are in the low, sometimes mid- 20s. Clearly, that makes for perfect days to enjoy lunch on the seafront promenade or even relax on the beach. It’s also perfect weather for sightseeing, cycling along the Mediterranean coast or sipping a glass of Sangria at one of the lovely squares in the centre. At night, it cools down just enough to enjoy the typical Christmas atmosphere.
The Malagueños are already well and truly in the Christmas spirit starting in November when the amazing Christmas music and lights show begins in the city centre. Spanish Christmas holidays continue until January 6th– the Three Kings Day. So even if you want to spend Christmas and New Years at home with family and friends, there’s still time to enjoy the festivities here long after you have taken your Christmas decorations down back home. Or even before you put them up, for that matter”
To help you get the most out of Christmas in Malaga, read on to find out all about the Christmas traditions here. And of course, all the Christmas in Malaga must-see places and things to do.
Christmas Lights in Málaga
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 Christmas lights in Malaga. This year the official switch on of the Christmas lights is November 25th. In fact, they are spectacular even when not lit with the sun reflecting off them. The light show is from 6 30 p.m. to midnight Monday to Friday. On the weekends, you can enjoy it from 6 30 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The main squares of the city: Plaza de la Marina, Plaza de la Constitución and Plaza del Obispo get a large Christmas tree as well as Plaza de Enrique García Herrera (behind the Central Market) and Calle Alcazabilla in front of the Roman Theatre. Last year, the enormous ficus trees of the Alameda Principal were adorned with hanging leafy strings of lights that twinkle in the sunlight of the day and light up as night falls. Paseo del Parque is lined with lights as are all of the side streets of the historical centre. As well, most streets in residential neighbourhoods around the city all have nice displays of Christmas lights in Malaga.
Be sure not to miss the 3-D video mapping on the south tower of the cathedral of Malaga. It’s simply amazing!
By far the biggest and brightest lights are on Calle Larios. This is the centre stage for Christmas in Malaga with a spectacular display running the entire length of the street.
Each year has a different theme. In 2021, the inspiration for the Christmas lights in Malaga came from a festive forest complete with giant trees, flowers, angels and autumn leaves. We can’t wait to see the new theme for Christmas in Malaga 2022.
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 between 6.30 pm and 10 pm. Unlike past years, in 2021, the times were unannounced in order to avoid crowds. Still, the centre is packed with people no matter what. The light and sound show on Calle Larios attract the crowds in droves on the weekends so try to plan your visit during the week. The lights stay on until midnight.
Did you know? The Christmas Lights in Malaga are ranked as some of the best in Europe.
The Nativity Scenes
One of the much-loved Spanish traditions at Christmas are the nativity scenes, known as Belenes.
The Nativity Scene is deeply rooted in Spanish culture. These collections of figures can be found in almost every household. Most families often start with a humble four or five figurines. Over the years, they add figures and animals to the scene until eventually it sometimes ends up taking over the whole living room.
Besides the nativities in private homes, there are plenty of Belenes set up around the city free for the public to visit. The most interesting Nativity scenes in Malaga are the ones showcased in Málaga City Hall (the biggest belen in town!) and in the brotherhoods. The brotherhoods extend their Easter competition for the best, most beautiful processions in the city to Christmastime. Naturally, they all claim to have the most impressive Nativity scene in Malaga.
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 are automated.
The belenes are real works of art, involving hours of painstaking handiwork. Dozens are set up during Christmas in Malaga. It’s well worth visiting at least one or two during your visit.
Best places to see the NATIVITY SCENES:
Besides the afore-mentioned brotherhoods and Malaga City hall, the Cathedral has an impressive nativity scene (entry is via the door on Plaza del Obispo).
As well, the Diputación on the western seafront hosts one of the largest, complete with a light and sound show.
Did you know?
There is an official nativity scene route with a ‘passport’ showing the location of all the main ones in the city – ask for a copy at the tourist office.
Enjoy a Nativity Scene treasure hunt with your kids!
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.
Family and Christmas in Malaga
Family is extra important during the Christmas period. As in most countries, It is tradition to have a big family dinner. However, unlike other countries, it is not on Christmas Day. Their Christmas dinner happens on Christmas Eve- which is called NOCHE BUENA… the GOOD NIGHT! And they don’t eat turkey, either. The protagonist of the meal is GAMBAS – shrimps… and much, much more!
Traditionally, the children don’t get presents from Santa Claus. They get presents on the night on January 5th from los Reyes Magos- the Magic Kings (the Three Kings).
The meal on Noche Buena is the most important meal of the year. All the family gets together that night. So, if you are thinking of having a night out on the town on Dec. 24th, well, you are out of luck! Well, at least until midnight. Before that, all the bars and restaurants are closed because everyone is with their families. But the poor bar workers, after having the biggest meal of the year then have to head back to work again as the bars open at midnight.
In the past few years, more and more restaurants are opening on Noche Buena offering a fancy Christmas Eve menu. (We have more information and recommendations about that in the last section of this blog.)
Or if you are staying in a flat, we suggest stocking up on supplies before the shops and markets close on Dec 24th and eating at home.
Christmas Day, December 25th
On Christmas Day, the city is very quiet with pretty much everything closed. Be like the locals and spend the day at the beach. Venture a little further east along the promenade to discover the quaint fishermen’s neighbourhoods of Pedregalejo and El Palo. Have your Christmas lunch at a chiringuito (typical beach bar). If you need warming up, try a cup of caldo de pintarroja- a spicy fish stock soup with a kick! And of course, you have to try one of the famous ‘espetos de sardinas’ cooked on the boat barbecues.
New Year´s Eve – Noche Vieja
The best place to go to in Málaga on New Year´s Eve is the main square of the city: Plaza de la Constitución. They will have a stage set up with either a DJ or a concert. This usually starts around 11 p.m. At midnight, we “do the grapes”. On each (recorded) DONG of the clock at midnight you have to eat one grape, so twelve grapes in quick succession which is very difficult to do, believe me! This will bring you 12 months of good luck in the new year.
It is a very nice atmosphere, everyone is having a good time. In fact, you can find all ages there: families with young children, elderly couples, young people. It is normal to take a bottle of cava to drink at midnight. The party in the square continues after midnight.
Three Kings Day January 6th
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 each other presents. The Three Kings arrive from the Orient (usually by boat in the port of Malaga) on January 5th to deliver presents to all the children.
In anticipation of this, Malaga celebrates the Three Kings Parade (La Cabalgata) that takes place from 5 pm on January 5th.
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 hard sweets/ candies into the crowds as they go past. It is great fun watching the kids in the crowd fling themselves onto the ground trying to retrieve as many sweets as possible. Top tip: watch out for the flying sweets!
Best places to see the parade:
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, plus there is more room to spread out.
After the parade, the excited children go home to bed to wake up the next morning to their toys delivered by the Three Kings. And then the next day they go back to school. Life can be cruel sometimes!
10 more things to do during Christmas in Malaga
1. Go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve
Head over to Málaga’s spectacular cathedral to enjoy the traditional midnight mass which starts at 11 p.m. The mass is called ‘La Misa de Gallo’, the mass of the cockerel. Supposedly as it was the cockeral that was the first to see the newborn baby Jesus. Line up with the locals to kiss the forehead of ‘el niño Jesús’ held by the bishop.
2. Try some typical Christmas sweets
The Malagueños have a very sweet tooth at Christmas when tables are laden with pastries and dulces (sweets). 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 flavoured ice cream. Discover where to try the best ice-cream in Málaga.
The perfect dessert for Christmas in the sunshine!
3. Visit the Christmas markets
No Christmas would be complete without a visit to 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. Unlike other European cities, those in Malaga stay open after Christmas itself, closing late on January 5th.
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 as well as artisan products.
On some of the stalls you may be surprised (or maybe even shocked!) by what you see. That’s because what they sell is for the practical jokes day- El Día de los Inocentes (the Day of the Innocents) which falls on December 28th. It is basically the Spanish equivalent of April Fool’s Day. So head to the Christmas markets in El Parque and pick up your practical joke supplies!
Muelle Uno also has a big Christmas market with mainly arts and craft items
4. Bike to the Belen in LA MOSCA
La Mosca is the name of a neighbourhood in the upper part of El Palo. The Nativity Scene here is so big, they start assembling it in September! Built into the side of the mountain, it is probably the most unique nativity scene in Malaga.
It is an approx. 8 km cycle to get there from the city centre, quite steep in parts. Therefore, we recommend renting a trekking bike for this ride,
although it is do-able with a City Bike if you don’t mind getting off and pushing the bike now and again. From MALAGA BIKE, cycle east along the coast to Pedregalejo. Follow Calle Bolivia (one Street north of the promenade) and turn left on Calle Angel Guimera. Turn right on Calle Gabriel y Galán then left on Calle Amador de los RÍos. Turn right on Calle Eucalyptus. Keep on this road which will take you directly to the Belen.
5. Cycle to the Corralones.
These traditional Andalusian communal housing complexes are decorated for Christmas in the neighbourhood of La Trinidad. Cycle around the back streets and visit the adorable Plaza Bravo. Ask the neighbours if you can have a peek inside their patios. They will always welcome you inside!
6. We wish you a CHURRO Christmas!
A must of the things to do in Málaga is starting your Christmas Day with the typical Spanish breakfast of thick hot chocolate and churros at the best churro place in town- Casa Aranda. Founded in 1932, they obviously know a thing or two about making churros. They are open on the morning of Christmas Day until 1 p.m.
Calle Herrería del Rey, 3, near the central market Atarazanas.
7. Bike to the Botanical Gardens (El Jardín Botánico Histórico de la Concepción)
Just 7 kms from MALAGA BIKE, the Botanical Gardens are easy to get to, following the bike path that takes you almost all the way there. During the Christmas season, after dark, the gardens are magically illuminated for the holidays. Tickets should be booked in advance online to see the lights.
8. Discover the mountain cuisine
If you are feeling energetic, cycle up to the montes of Malaga for Christmas lunch in one of the Ventas along the roadside. The most typical dish is ‘un plato de los montes’. No turkey here though! The best way to describe it is a full English breakfast- Malaga style! We recommend la Venta de Leon which is at the top of the mountain road. Better to call ahead and book your table.
Only 20 kms from Malaga city centre and 900 metres altitude, you will need to book a trekking bike for this ride. The route is called Malaga- Fuente de la Reina/Puerto de Leon on our maps page.
9. Go Christmas shopping on Christmas Day!
If you need a shopping fix on Christmas Day! All the shops in the port of Málaga will be open. Check out the store Coolligan-one of our favourites- for really cool vintage football/soccer wear. The perfect Christmas present for the football fan in your life! Then continue cycling out to the end of the cruise ship terminal to get a spectacular overview of the port and the city’s skyline
10. Pack a picnic and have lunch with the flamingos
The Guadalhorce Nature Reserve is just 8 kms from MALAGA BIKE. Cycling over the longest wooden bridge in Europe, you´ll be in the middle of nature in no time. Lock your bikes at the entrance of the reserve and enjoy strolling around the lagoons. (Entrance is free).
If that’s not enough things for you to do in Malaga, don’t worry. We have “just” 41 more things for you to do. Check out our AMAZING blog: 50 Things to do in Malaga.
Recommended restaurants for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve
A lot of restaurants in Málaga are closed on these special days, but no worries! We´ve got you covered!
We have put together a great list of 5 restaurants in Málaga open on Christmas Eve/day and/or New year´s Eve for you to celebrate Christmas dinner or lunch in Málaga.
Please note that reservations are required for all of the restaurants listed in this blog.
Noche Buena (Christmas Eve)
Restaurante Vino Mío
The Cervantes Theatre guards the doors of this restaurant in Málaga’s historical centre. With a selection of international cuisine focused on the Mediterranean diet, they also have a wide wine selection. At other times of the year, their live flamenco show is the highlight of this restaurant, but on Christmas Eve they will have live Spanish Christmas music.
Phone number:+34 952 609 093
Hotel Molina Lario
Located in the centre of Málaga, with views of the Malaga Cathedral are just a couple of reasons why the restaurant of this 4-star hotel Restaurante Matiz is a great place to celebrate Christmas Eve in a special way. Different menus for Christmas Eve and amazing views over the city and port, make this location perfect to celebrate the holidays.
Phone number: +34 952 062 002
Noche Vieja (New Year’s Eve)
Parador Málaga Golf
A different proposal for those who want to end the night with a stay in a unique place with an exquisite menu and dreamy gardens. This is the total package. Beautiful views, amazing dinner, stunning hotel rooms and a buffet breakfast. Price is around 100€ including a one-night stay.
Phone number: +34 952 381 255
Its location makes it unique. With the sea as the background and set back from the long white pergola in Málaga’s port, El Palmeral’s dishes are based on the Mediterranean cuisine offering an exquisite menu. This restaurant will have live music according to the occasion. Therefore, it is the ideal place for a New Year’s Eve dinner, delighting all your senses.
Phone number: +34 952 609 649
Restaurante José Carlos Garcia
How about a Michelin Star menu to finish the year?
José Carlos García, famous Spanish chef and holder of a Michelin Star, proposes a special menu for New Year’s Eve. The proposal is so unique that the restaurant will not be serving anything of their regular menu. Located in Muelle Uno in Málaga’s port, you´ll enjoy the spectacular view of the skyline of the city while dining.
Phone number: +34 952 003 588
The MALAGA BIKE team wish you all a very happy holiday season.
Our shop will remain closed from December 24th to January 1st inclusive. We will reopen at 10 a.m. on January 2nd.
If you wish to rent a bike for an extended period of time over the holidays, please contact us before December 23rd.