Thanks to its location on Spain’s southern coast, right on the Mediterranean, Malaga boasts fine, sandy beaches, a welcoming seaside ambience, and a whopping 300 days of sunshine a year. And to top things off, it’s very affordable and comes with good-value real estate.
To appreciate Malaga’s many charms, start in its historic center, the centro histórico. Walk the length of Calle Larios, the wide, gaily tiled, pedestrian-only street that is the heart of the centro histórico.
Window-shop at Calle Lario’s many boutiques, linger over coffee in one of the cafes, or stop in at the ice cream parlors. Hit the side streets to explore enticing sidewalk restaurants and bars. (El Pimpi is one of my favorites. A filling lunch of several large tapas and a beer will set you back less than $20.)
Just a 10-minute walk from the centro is the sparkling blue Mediterranean. Malaga’s boardwalk, or paseo marítimo, runs for miles along the water. Here, near the centro, the paseo borders a park on the land side: a lush swath of greenspace with fountains, benches, and trees. You’ll also find Muelle Uno, or Wharf One. Lined with shops and restaurants, Wharf One is a very popular place to hang out and stroll on late afternoons.
Malaga gets millions of tourists a year—mostly Europeans—which means that many local shopkeepers speak a little English. But make no mistake: This is a very Spanish city, with hundreds of thousands of local residents and plenty of business not related to tourism. Go just a short ways from the centro and you’re in residential neighborhoods where locals live: areas with broad streets and sidewalks, small parks and squares, and midrise apartment buildings with shops and cafes on the ground floor.
And as you head away from centro into these residential areas, prices drop accordingly. Go just a couple of miles from the centro, to an upscale neighborhood not far from the sea, and you can find apartments for well under $100,000…like a two-bedroom, 785-square-foot apartment that was recently for sale. On a high floor of an elevator building, with panoramic views, its recent asking price was just €73,000 (about $83,500). Or what about a three-bedroom in a high-rise near the beach? Its 839 square feet of living space also include a balcony, and its asking price is €92,200 (roughly $105,500).
If you feel like taking on some minor upgrades, you can even buy a single-family home here—one was recently on offer. With 861 square feet of living space, it has two bedrooms, one bath, a large living room/dining room, a full downstairs and a rooftop terrace. Its asking price was €84,000 (about $96,150). And the beer and tapas in this neighborhood will cost you at least a third less than they do in centro.
If you prefer, you can also choose to live outside Malaga proper. Malaga sits midway along the Costa del Sol, with beach towns both to the east and west of it. To the west lie the chic resorts of Marbella and Puerto Banús. Charming former fishing villages like Nerja lie to the east. All are accessible by public transport.
And from anywhere along this coast, the rest of Spain—and Europe—is just a hop and skip away. Fly out of Malaga’s convenient international airport (you can get to it on the metro) to destinations all over Europe. Or take the bus or high-speed train—the bus and train stations sit conveniently back to back, right in central Malaga—and see all of Spain from the ground.