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Comparing Where to Live in Spain: Alicante vs Malaga

This is Calpe in Malaga, Spain | Comparing Where to Live in Spain: Alicante vs Malaga
Beautiful Malaga Coastline | Living in Alicante vs Malaga

Deciding between Alicante vs Malaga for your Spanish residency can be quite a task, as both coastal cities offer an alluring Mediterranean lifestyle with distinct experiences. Alicante, with its ample avenues and a bustling atmosphere, could give you the feeling of living in a larger metropolis despite its smaller population compared to Malaga. The smaller city size doesn’t detract from its vibrancy, which is supported by a busy cultural and social scene.

Malaga, on the other hand, is a larger city with a rich historical legacy that includes being the birthplace of the famous artist Pablo Picasso. It’s renowned for its dynamic energy and exquisite blend of modern amenities and historical significance. The climate in Malaga is a strong draw, offering warm, sunny days that perfectly complement the golden beaches and inviting Mediterranean Sea.

When comparing costs of living, there is not a significant difference between these cities, though nuances do exist. You may find Alicante to be slightly less expensive, which could be a determining factor depending on your budget. Whether you’re an expat seeking a new adventure or simply looking for a change in scenery within Spain, both Alicante and Malaga promise their own unique Spanish charm to explore and embrace.

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Geographical Overview

The views of Alicante. Hard to choose between Alicante vs Malaga
The views of Alicante. Hard to choose between Alicante vs Malaga

Alicante and Malaga are two beautiful coastal cities that offer unique experiences by the Mediterranean Sea. Whether you prefer the gentle embrace of the Costa Blanca or the vibrant allure of the Costa del Sol, each location has its distinct geographical charm.

Climate and Weather

In Alicante, you’ll enjoy the mild winters and hot summers typical of the region. Expect the hottest months to hover around 26 degrees Celsius (78.8 °F), especially in August. Meanwhile, Malaga also boasts a Mediterranean climate with slightly warmer winters and very pleasant summers, thanks to its position on the Costa del Sol. Both cities benefit from the warm Mediterranean climate, but Malaga is known for its more temperate and less extreme seasonal differences compared to inland locations.

  • Alicante:
    • Hottest month: August, 26°C (78.8°F)
    • Coldest month: January, 12-18°C (53.6-64.4°F)
  • Malaga:
    • Milder winters
    • Temperature variation is less pronounced

Beaches and Coastline

Beach in Malaga Spain | Alicante vs Malaga Living in Spain
Beach in Malaga Spain | Alicante vs Malaga Living in Spain

The beaches of Alicante and Malaga are undoubtedly amongst the main attractions. In Alicante, the golden sands of beaches like Postiguet Beach accentuate the city’s vibrant atmosphere. Located on the southeastern coast of Spain, it lies on the Costa Blanca, celebrated for its vast stretches of white sandy beaches.

In contrast, Malaga’s beaches, including the famous La Malagueta, are set along the Costa del Sol and offer their own kind of paradise with warm sun and balmy Mediterranean waters. Whether you’re soaking up the sun or taking a leisurely stroll along the coastline, you’ll find that both Alicante and Malaga offer exuberant beach experiences, each with their own local character.

  • Alicante:
    • Postiguet Beach: Central and accessible with golden sand.
    • Costa Blanca: Known for white sands and clear waters.
  • Malaga:
    • La Malagueta: Popular beach near the city center.
    • Costa del Sol: Features an extensive coastline with various beaches.

Cultural and Historical Insights

When you explore Alicante and Malaga, you’ll encounter a rich tapestry of history and culture. Each city offers unique architectural marvels and a vibrant art scene rooted in centuries-old traditions.

Historical Landmarks

Alicante’s history stretches back to the Phoenicians and you can observe remnants of Roman presence in the old town, the “El Castell de Santa Bàrbara” being a prominent highlight that sits towering above the city. In contrast, Malaga’s Alcazaba is a well-preserved medieval fortress that showcases the area’s Islamic heritage, offering an astonishing insight into the city’s past.

  • Alicante:
    • Santa Bárbara Castle: Overlooking the city
    • Tabarca Island: With traces of pirates and an 18th-century fortified town
  • Malaga:
    • Alcazaba: An 11th-century Moorish citadel
    • Roman Theater: The remains of Malaga’s Roman roots, situated below the Alcazaba

Museums and Art

Step into Alicante’s museums and you’ll discover artifacts that trace the heritage of the Christians, the Moors, and other civilizations that have influenced the region. Malaga, the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, cherishes its artistic legacy through museums and galleries.

  • Alicante:
    • MARQ Archaeological Museum: Displaying local archaeological findings
  • Malaga:
    • Picasso Museum: Celebrating the work of the city’s most famous son
    • Centre Pompidou Málaga and Carmen Thyssen Museum: Offering a modern and classical look at art

Each city’s commitment to preserving and showcasing its history and culture is evident. Through their festivals, like Alicante’s Bonfires of Saint John and Malaga’s Holy Week, you further delve into the living heritage that continues to shape these vibrant cities.

Living Essentials

When choosing between Alicante and Malaga, it’s the small day-to-day details that can make all the difference to your living experience. Consider the essentials like housing options, the overall cost of living, and what each city offers in terms of food and dining.

Housing and Accommodation

In Alicante, you can find a variety of housing options, from modern apartments to traditional villas. The city boasts well-connected public transport, making it easy for you to commute even if you live outside the city center. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is approximately 600€, while outside the center it’s around 450€. Malaga, on the other hand, offers similar accommodation choices with a slight increase in price. Expect to pay closer to 650€ for a central apartment and about 500€ on the outskirts. Both cities present ample parking and are serviced by their respective airports, ensuring great connectivity.

Cost of Living Comparison | Living in Alicante vs Malaga

This is shot in Malaga, Spain. Spain has some of the best coastal regions in all of Europe.
This is shot in Malaga, Spain. Spain has some of the best coastal regions in all of Europe.

When it comes to comparing the cost of living, your expenses in Malaga could be marginally higher than in Alicante. Using a cost of living index, such as Numbeo, can offer a detailed comparison. For example:

  • Monthly utilities (including electricity, water, heating, and garbage) might cost around 100€ in Alicante, while in Malaga, the price hovers around 110€.
  • Transportation options like public buses and taxis have comparable costs, with a slight variation depending on the distance and specific area.
  • Grocery prices are similar as well, but you might notice some variations in clothing and personal items.

Food and Dining

Both Alicante and Malaga are havens for food lovers. Here’s what you can expect:

Arroz a banda (rice dish with fish)Porra Antequerana (thick tomato soup)
Arroz con costra (rice with a crust of eggs and sausage)Ensalada Malagueña (potato salad with orange and cod)
Vibrant tapas barsFresh seafood options
Selection of Spanish cheesesIconic sweet wine and local dishes

In Alicante, you’ll enjoy the traditional flavors of Valencian cuisine with dishes like paella taking center stage. Malaga, rich in coastal fare, offers unique tastes like the fried fish “pescaíto frito”. Both cities boast excellent restaurants and markets where you can buy high-quality groceries for home-cooked meals.

Leisure and Entertainment

Both Alicante and Málaga offer a vibrant array of leisure and entertainment options that cater to a variety of interests, whether you’re a fan of lively nightlife, festive cultural events, or active sports and outdoor exploration.

Nightlife and Social Scene

In Alicante, the nightlife buzzes with a unique vibrancy, especially in the area known as El Barrio, which is the heart of the city’s social scene. Here, you’re surrounded by numerous tapas bars and clubs where you can enjoy local wine and energetic atmospheres.

Málaga, with its own spirited nightlife, boasts trendy spots in the artsy Soho district. You’ll find a mix of traditional taverns and contemporary bars offering a blend of entertainment and delicious tapas, perfect for socializing with friends.

Festivals and Events

Festivals are a highlight of cultural life in both cities. Alicante celebrates the famous Hogueras de San Juan, a festival marking the start of summer with beautiful bonfires and fireworks. Málaga isn’t far behind, with events like the annual Malaga Film Festival that brings the flair of cinema to the streets.

In addition, both cities observe traditional Spanish holidays and local festivals that reflect their rich cultural tapestry, offering you a chance to immerse yourself in spectacular parades and celebrations.

Sports and Outdoor Activities

Alicante and Málaga are both havens for sports enthusiasts and lovers of the outdoors. In Alicante, you can enjoy a variety of water sports on its pristine beaches, go fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, or explore the scenic hiking trails nearby.

Alternatively, Málaga offers a wide selection of activities, from spending a leisurely day on one of its many beaches to heading to the nearby Sierra Nevada for a day of skiing. The area is also famed for its golf courses, providing plenty of options for you to stay active and entertained.

Transportation and Connectivity

When choosing to live in Alicante or Malaga, understanding your options for getting around and out of the city is crucial. Both cities offer robust public transport systems and good airport connections, but there are some differences to consider.

Public and Private Transport

In Alicante, you have access to a network of buses and trams that make navigating the city straightforward. Buses cover extensive routes, while the tram, known as TRAM Metropolitano de Alicante, connects you with key areas, including some suburban zones. If you’re driving a car, you’ll find that parking can be a challenge in the city center, although there are numerous parking lots and some street parking available. Taxis are plentiful and can be hailed on the street or booked via various apps.

Malaga also boasts an efficient public transport system with an extensive bus network and a metro line serving the most important areas of the city. If you prefer to drive, Malaga offers more options for parking compared to Alicante, including street parking and public parking buildings. Taxis in Malaga are easily accessible, and just like in Alicante, you can use apps to book them, which offers added convenience.

Airport Access and Destinations

The Alicante-Elche Airport (ALC) serves both domestic and international destinations, which means you can easily travel to other parts of Spain or different countries. It’s well-connected to the city by buses, taxis, and even car rental services for your convenience.

Malaga’s Costa del Sol Airport (AGP) is one of the busiest airports in Spain, providing a significant number of international flights. Similar to Alicante, there are regular buses and trains that connect the airport to the city center, in addition to taxis and car rentals. The airport also has a plethora of services and a higher frequency of flights, which may be beneficial if you travel often.

Both cities are well-covered, ensuring that no matter your preference for transport, you’ll have the connections you need to move around the city or travel further afield.

Expat and Community Life

The port in Alicante | Malaga vs Alicante
The port in Alicante | Malaga vs Alicante

Alicante and Malaga offer vibrant and welcoming communities for expats, providing a blend of cultural experiences, friendly atmospheres, and ample opportunities for family-friendly living.

Expat Communities

In Alicante, your experience as an expat revolves around the rich blend of old and new. You have the chance to immerse yourself in local traditions while also connecting with a diverse population of international residents. The city’s smaller size does not compromise its cosmopolitan feel, often making it easier to form close-knit relationships within the expat community.

Malaga, being a larger city, boasts a lively and varied expat scene attracting digital nomads, young professionals, and families alike. It’s known for its cultural diversity and dynamic social environment. You’ll find numerous expat groups and meetups that cater to different interests, ranging from language exchanges to outdoor activities, ensuring that integrating into the local community is both enjoyable and straightforward.

Family-Friendly Living

When you consider Malaga for your family, you’ll find a plethora of activities that cater to a family-oriented lifestyle. Beautiful beaches, parks, and a range of schools make it an ideal place for raising children. Housing options vary from city apartments to suburban villas, accommodating different family needs and sizes.

Moving to Alicante offers your family a friendly environment with plenty of opportunities for education and leisure. The accommodation in Alicante is diverse, with options suitable for families of all kinds. You’ll enjoy access to quality schools and engaging activities that are family-friendly. Plus, the warm community will support you in establishing a comfortable home away from home.

  • Educational Facilities: Renowned international and local schools.
  • Accommodation: Affordable housing ranging from vibrant city flats to peaceful coastal homes.
  • Recreational Activities: Community events, kids’ clubs, and cultural excursions for all ages.

Pros and Cons of Living in Alicante vs Malaga


  • Cost of Living: Generally affordable, with housing options less expensive than in larger Spanish cities. Your budget may stretch further here than in Malaga.
  • Weather: Enjoy mild winters and warm summers as part of the Costa Blanca region, making it a pleasant place to live year-round.
  • Beaches: Boasts beautiful beaches, like Postiguet Beach, inviting a relaxed lifestyle and a variety of water-based activities.
  • Nightlife: Offers a lively nightlife that is generally more localized and less tourist-centric compared to Malaga.
  • Food: Your culinary experience will be rich with local Valencian dishes and the opportunity to indulge in famous rice dishes.


  • Cost of Living: Slightly higher, especially in more touristy areas. You might find housing prices and overall expenses to be a bit steeper.
  • Weather: As part of the sunny Costa del Sol, it’s known for its pleasant climate with higher summer temperatures ideal for sun-seekers.
  • Beaches: Malaga provides access to a series of well-maintained beaches, perfect for both relaxation and socializing.
  • Nightlife: Features a vibrant nightlife teeming with bars and clubs, often fueled by the international tourist crowd.
  • Food: The city is a food lover’s haven, boasting a mix of traditional Andalusian fare and innovative culinary experiences.

Both cities offer efficient public transport systems, with buses and trains for your convenience. While Alicante might be quieter, Malaga often buzzes with festivals and cultural events. When it comes to beaches, Alicante’s are less crowded, but Malaga provides a more polished beachfront. Your choice ultimately depends on what balance of tranquility and excitement suits your lifestyle best.

Frequently Asked Questions on Comparing Alicante vs Malaga for Living in Spain

In exploring the distinctions between Alicante and Malaga, you’ll find valuable insights that can sway your decision on where to settle. The following tackles some of the most pressing questions you might have.

What are the differences in living costs between Alicante and Malaga?

In Alicante, the living costs tend to be slightly lower than in Malaga. Rent and day-to-day expenses might burden your wallet less in Alicante, granting a more affordable Mediterranean lifestyle.

How do the winter climates compare in Alicante and Malaga?

Winters in Alicante are generally mild, with temperatures rarely dropping below 10°C. Malaga offers a similar winter climate; both cities boast over 300 days of sunshine each year.

Which has the more favorable tax systems for residents, Alicante or Malaga?

The tax systems in Alicante and Malaga are largely the same, as they are both in Spain and follow national tax regulations. Your financial situation would be similarly impacted in either city.

In terms of expat communities, how do Alicante and Malaga differ?

Alicante has a growing international community, welcoming expats with its cozier city feel and busy airport links. Malaga’s expat community is vibrant and well-established, providing a melting pot of cultures and events all year round.

What can one expect in terms of lifestyle and culture when choosing between living in Alicante or Malaga?

Alicante offers a balance of a relaxed beach lifestyle with cultural offerings such as museums and the historic Santa Bárbara Castle. Malaga, the birthplace of Picasso, is rich in cultural experiences with its museums, theaters, and gastronomic scenes.

Are there any significant differences in the weather patterns between Alicante and Malaga throughout the year?

Both cities enjoy a Mediterranean climate, with warm summers and mild winters. However, Malaga can experience slightly warmer year-round temperatures due to its location on the Costa del Sol, closer to Africa.

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