Malaga and Cadiz are two historical towns nestled in the south of Spain. Both offer countless hours of sunshine and are preserved from mass tourism, maintaining the true Andalucian charm. These are two very different places, yet both Cadiz and Malaga are worth visiting. So, how do you choose which to visit?
The question of ‘Cadiz or Malaga’ is a difficult decision to make. Both are ancient port towns and have a rich history and culture. However, Malaga is much larger than Cadiz with a bustling nightlife and a big city feel. Whereas, Cadiz is considered more authentic with that special Andalucian charm.
From the overall vibe to food and budget, we have researched each destination to help you choose between Cadiz or Malaga. No need to flip a coin when you’ve got the in-depth travel tips and guide to give you all the details you need.
Cadiz vs Malaga: Overall vibe
Cadiz and Malaga are both considered some of the best beach towns in Spain. They are 3 hours apart in the Andalucia region of Southern Spain, separated by the Parque Natural Los Alcornocales and Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema. Despite being fairly close to one another, Malaga and Cadiz have a varied overall vibe.
Both towns are made up of historical centers and newly developed districts. Malaga’s modern city area is extremely developed and does look like a concrete jungle in places. Cadiz, while it has been modernized nearer the beachfront, has been able to keep hold of its authentic charm.
Both places are also wonderfully welcoming of tourists. Though, Malaga is slightly more accustomed to seeing holidaymakers due to the more commercialized town and university scene. Cadiz is more traditional and family-oriented, in the Andalucian sense, giving tourists a better insight into this region’s beautiful background.
Cadiz vs Malaga: Getting there
Accessing Malaga is considerably quicker and easier than getting to Cadiz when traveling internationally. Malaga airport is only 8 km away from the center. So you can either hop on a shuttle bus into town or take a private taxi straight to your hotel.
To get to Cadiz, you can fly into either Jerez or Seville. From both international airports, you can take either a bus or train to the coast and access Cadiz that way. The train from Seville also goes to Malaga. Getting between Cadiz and Malaga is slightly challenging and takes time. The best journey is a bus via the Costa del Sol towns and Algeciras.
Once you are in Cadiz or Malaga, getting around is pretty easy. Both towns are pretty places to walk around and explore, while also offering decent public transportation systems to help you explore further afield. Hiring a car and driving in Cadiz or Malaga can be a pain as the city roads are often congested and busy.
Cadiz vs Malaga: Culture
As we have already mentioned, both Cadiz and Malaga have got a rich history, independently stretching back some 3,000 years. Make sure you clue yourself up on the cultures and know how to travel with respect in Spain. Both places have monuments and cathedrals spanning a variety of eras. From Roman to Moorish, and everything in between, Malaga and Cadiz have a history weaving through the streets that you can discover simply by walking.
As a larger city, Malaga does have more museums and cultural sites to be explored. Out of the 23 museums in Malaga, these are the most highly rated across Spain:
- Glass and Crystal Museum
- Carmen Thyssen Museum
- Automobile Museum
- Two Picasso Museums
- Collection of the Russian Museum
- Centre Pompidou Malaga
- Museo de Malaga
Cadiz’s Old Town though is something rather spectacular. The 17th and 18th-century architecture paired with the shoreline fortifications give an authentic insight into the Andalucian culture. Be sure to visit Cádiz’s three most important historical sights in the Old town: the Cathedral, the Roman Theatre, and the Tavira Tower.
Spain is well known for its festivals and public holiday celebrations. Both cities embrace cultural events, however, Cadiz has a particularly colorful and unique festival every February. The costumed parades and musical shows are entertainment for locals and visitors alike.
Cadiz vs Malaga: Nature
Coastlines and mountain ranges, southern Spain has a bold and rugged terrain that is filled with wild animals and incredible landscapes. While both have beaches, it is Cadiz that takes the win for the best beaches with miles upon miles of white sand along the Atlantic ocean. Malaga’s coast is also impressive and has the calm Meditteranean Sea lapping at the shore, though they tend not to be as clean as Cadiz.
Besides coastal views, both Cadiz and Malaga have rocky interiors, parklands, and beautiful natural spaces. Cadiz has raw nature on offer, whereas the Malaga area has many hiking and bike trails, marinas for boating, and watersports for tourists. So choosing between the two really is down to personal preference: are you after pristine beaches and raw wilderness, or do you want a more established landscape to explore?
Cadiz vs Malaga: Food
Fresh seafood and tapas bars are stand-out classics of the fantastic Spanish food culture that can be found in both Cadiz and Malaga. No matter where you choose to go, you are guaranteed excellent food for your vacation.
Malaga’s restaurant scene is lively and offers a broad spectrum of choices to suit most people’s tastes. You will find tapas bars and good places to eat throughout the old town, monumental area, and seafront.
Cadiz has a smaller range of places to eat out at. However, there are some excellent places along the seafront that offer affordable tapas with traditional Spanish flavors. Check out these must-visit places when heading out for food in Cadiz:
- Arte Serrano for tapas and Spanish cuisine
- Las Flores for seafood and fried fish
- Royalty Cafe for historical tea sessions
- El Faro for some of the best gastronomic seafood in Cádiz\
One thing to keep an eye out for in Cadiz is their churros! One bite of this delicious snack will leave you craving more and more. You can also enjoy wine tasting in both cities.
Cadiz vs Malaga: Nightlife
Looking for a good Spanish fiesta? Once the sangria is flowing, and the flamenco is in full swing, both two destinations offer a vibrant and colorful experience. However, Malaga’s nightlife is year-round, while Cadiz tends to quieten down after the peak summer season.
Without a doubt, Malaga wins this category and is renowned for its lively nightlife. You will find plenty of bars and clubs nestled in Malaga’s historic center. There are some nice rooftop bars that overlook the old town and Cathedral, perfect for a slightly more casual drink. To be as close to the action as possible, look to stay near these districts depending on what kind of nightlife you are hoping for:
- The best nightlife district: Centro Histórico
- Runner up alternative: La Merced
- Best for beach parties: La Malagueta
There are a handful of local pubs and bars in Cadiz with live music and good drinks. But generally speaking, the nightlife is quieter and at a much slower pace than what you will find in Malaga. However, Cadiz is acknowledged as the birthplace of flamenco. So if this interests you, then Cadiz is the place for you to explore dance taverns and learn the steps for yourself.
Cadiz vs Malaga: Accommodation
Malaga is one of the largest cities in Andalucia and therefore offers more options when it comes to accommodation. Cadiz, being less commercialized and more traditional, has a limited choice of hotels and apartments. Based on results from booking.com, it is clear Malaga has a bigger range:
- Cadiz – 845 properties in total, 245 of which are of 9+ rating
- Malaga – 2,882 properties in total, 788 of which are of 9+ rating
The hotels in Cadiz are luxurious and fantastically located. You can be within walking distance of the beautiful beaches and historical Old Town from where you choose to stay. However, budget options are limited in this town.
On the other hand, Malaga offers luxury and budget, family-orientated and romantic breaks. This city really does a better job of accommodating every type of traveler.
Cadiz vs Malaga: Things to do
Whether you are planning one week in Malaga or a week in Cadiz, having an assortment of things to do can make your trip even better. The beaches at both destinations offer a variety of water sports to join in with. Take to the waves and give surfing a go in Cadiz or try paragliding and banana boat rides in Malaga.
Both Cadiz and Malaga are great for day trips as well. Granada and Córdoba are two popular options for a day out to see more of Spain from Malaga and can be reached easily by train or bus. Beach hopping across the Costa del Sol is also a popular thing to do when staying in Malaga. From Cadiz, you can reach Tarifa which is a couple of hours south and offers fantastic whale watching opportunities.
Shopping is another good thing to do in both places. As you can imagine, Malaga has far more variety than Cadiz with bigger shopping malls within reach of the city. You can find well-known brands as well as local and independent boutiques within the city center.
Cadiz vs Malaga: Price
As far as European standards go, both Cadiz and Malaga are affordable cities to visit and some of the cheapest places in Spain. Generally, a week in Cadiz for one person will cost around €853 while a week in Malaga for one person costs approximately €740.
There is more choice available in Malaga for hotels, food, and bars, so these costs are more competitive and are often cheaper than the more exclusive Cadiz.
|€122||Average cost /day||€106|
|€24||Taxis and public transport||€25|
Cadiz vs Malaga: The verdict
It’s a close competition when you put Cadiz up against Malaga. Both offer a charming experience of Andalucia and a true taste of Spain. However, Malaga just about wins this time around. The diversity of hotels and restaurants paired with ease of accessibility makes it a great place to spend your Western Europe vacation. Visit Malaga if you want good nightlife and day trip opportunities.
However, if you want a more raw experience of Spain, with a trip off the beaten track, then Cadiz should be your choice. The urban beaches of this port city are mesmerizing and the authenticity of culture oozes everywhere you look.