Malaga Or Marbella – Which Is Better To Visit And Live

The south coast of Spain offers that perfect summer weather we are looking for when it comes to taking a vacation and it has more beaches, nightlife, spas, resorts, golf, hotels and restaurants than we can get through in a lifetime.

The Costa del sol has a bit of something for everyone from waterparks for the kids, nightclubs and all night beach parties for the youngsters along with day trips, scenery, excursions and bountiful food options. 2 places that are going to be at the top of every bodies list of dream vacations are the town of Marbella and the city of Malaga which are not too far from each other. If you want all the benefits of a major city but also the beaches to relax on, Malaga may be better and if you want a more relaxed, laid back approach with more walks, restaurants and tourist hotspots, Marbella could be a perfect option.

In this article, we are going to dive a little deeper into the two places and compare them further to see what differentiates them.

First Impressions – Marbella

I’ve been coming to Marbella for over 10 years on holidays every year and even spent a month here working and living in January.

Marbella enjoys perfect weather year round, which is why it attracts so many tourists. There is a main street with a lot of shops that would have almost anything you need and there are supermarkets and restaurants in abundance around the main town area.

There is also an old town with some fantastic restaurants, an Irish pub and plenty of entertainment.

When you get down toward the sea, there is the golden mile which is an excellent walk that stretches all the way back to Puerto Banus and on this walkway there are tons of Million dollar homes, beaches, restaurants, bars, hotels and lounges where you can lie in the sun and soak up the good vibes.

First Impressions – Malaga

Malaga is not too far away from Marbella, maybe an hour bus ride but having visited Marbella 10 years in a row, I hadn’t visited the city of Malaga even once until I came here to work for a month in July as a full time blogger, making enough passive income to make a good living.

Coming here in July, you realize immediately that is very hot and that this is a large international city with an airport, shopping centres, bars, clubs, restaurants and everything else you could think of.

What sets Malaga apart from almost all other major European cities is the lush beaches and sea front area where you can eat and drink to your hearts content.



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For A Holiday – Marbella vs Malaga

There should be plenty to do in Marbella for a holiday and it has a much more laid back feeling where everybody has better English and you can find restaurants, bars, nightlife and accommodation to suit all tastes in Marbella.

With the Golden mile strip, you should get an excellent place to exercise and depending on your hotel, you should be able to lounge by the pool, read a book and soak up some sun during the day until you are ready to head out at night.

If you want a more busy holiday with more places to chose from, attractions like museums, stadiums and more day tours, Malaga can be a great holiday destination.

It has a distinctly more Spanish feeling to it and you won’t find the same levels of English although the port area is really a big selling point with a ton of bars and restaurants.

Because of the beautiful Golden Mile walk to Puerto Banus, levels of English and the Culture, we are going to say the winner for a visit is Marbella.

Winner For A Holiday – Marbella

To Work As A Digital Nomad – Marbella Vs Malaga

If you are looking for a professional job to make use of your degree, Malaga is going to be the winner hands down with companies like Oracle and Google located there and if you make all your money online and want a nice place to relocate where it is always sunny, I am going to say Malaga as well.

If you want to get  big house for a very decent price, I would say that you could look to other surrounding areas like Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Riviera Del Sol. If you want to make awesome Youtube videos for example.

But you can also find nice houses in Malaga.

For me, the better variety, more gym options, more cafes and co working places to set up shop, I would say that Malaga is the big winner for long term living.

Winner – Malaga

Accommodation – Marbella Vs Malaga

So, I lived in Marbella for a month in January and Malaga for around a month in July. While there are tons of hotels and Airbnb’s available for Marbella and plenty of luxury options too, you have to book early to avoid disappointment as it can get pretty busy in the summer.

Malaga has a plush accommodation market year round and you can always find a place to stay in the laid back, artisan feeling Spanish city.

The short term rentals are naturally going to get more expensive in the peak times but long terms rentals are cheaper and more readily available than Malaga.

If you want Luxury, go to Marbella, if you want economy and options, go with Malaga.

Winner – Malaga

Cost Of Living – Marbella Vs Malaga

Simply put, Malaga is cheaper than Marbella and it has more options. That doesn’t mean you cant find good deals in Marbella, like lunch and early bird menus and it also doesn’t mean that the lush seafront area in Malaga is going to be as cheap as you will find in the city centre.

If you shop around in Malaga you can usually find better deals but there is a nicer vibe and better feeling in a lot of the top restaurants in the old town of Marbella that are unmatched in Malaga but if it comes down to cost of living, especially long term, Malaga is the clear winner.

Winner – Malaga

Culture – Marbella Vs Malaga

Malaga is a lot more Spanish feeling in nature than Marbella, it has an artisan, laid back and friendly atmosphere but there is only so much a big city can differentiate itself in terms of culture from everywhere else.

Marbella is a melting pot of all the different cultures and nationalities and many expats have made their way to Marbella to start restaurants and pubs, while chasing their dream life in the sun.

The golden mile also provides people from all walks of life and you could find celebrities and mega stars walking alongside you on your way to Puerto Banus.

The old town in Marbella has a magical charm too and it is unmatched by Malaga city.

For a holidaying English Speaker, Marbella will easily win the culture war.

Winner – Marbella


Having taking a look at both spots, it should be clear than Marbella is excellent for those seeking affordable luxury and lying by the pool. It is a perfect spot for a sun holiday for almost anyone but if you want to live in the Costa Del Sol full time, find year round work or just like buzz and options of the larger city, Malaga will be you winner.

Overall Winner – Draw

If you are looking for more information on the Digital Nomad Lifestyle, check out our 10 Best Digital Nomad Cities Here,

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