Are you visiting southern Spain and wondering if it’s worth visiting Nerja on your upcoming trip? There are so many great and fun things to do in Nerja. In this guide we’ll cover the highlights and the main attractions of Nerja.
Once a quiet fishing village, Nerja transformed into a vibrant coastal town full of life. During the mid 20th century tourists started drifting to Nerja to seek a more tranquil alternative to the bustling cities of the Costa del Sol. Slowly the development of infrastructure started growing, which was further built out following the discovery of the Nerja Carves in 1959.
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Even though Nerja’s popularity has grown over the years as a well known tourist destination, it has also managed to maintain its quiet, original charm, escaping the building of the high-rise hotels and apartments which populate other major coastal towns, such as Benidorm on the Costa Blanca.
Is Nerja worth visiting?
Nerja is beautifully located right on the Costa del Sol with long, wide beaches, crystal clear Mediterranean water and stunning mountains in close proximity.
The town has also managed to preserve its historical character and cultural charm. Apart from a visit to the town centre, which alone is worth a day trip from Malaga or Granada, the nearby Nerja Caves and the white washed village of Frigiliana are some of the most amazing highlights to visit on the Costa del Sol.
Apart from that, Nerja is a very walkable town with a relaxed and laid back atmosphere but with lots of things to see and do. So, yes, Nerja is worth a visit, for a 1 day trip but also for a few days to spend more of your holiday exploring the region.
Best things to do in Nerja
Even though Nerja can be visited in a day, in order to visit all of the highlights which can include some water sports, we would recommend to consider spending at least 2 days.
So without further ado, here is a selection of the absolute best things to do in Nerja, what we would highly recommend doing:
Balcón de Europa
A visit to the ‘Balcón de Europa’ or Balcony of Europe is one of the highlights of a visit to Nerja. Perched on top of a seaside cliff, this circular viewpoint offers wonderful panoramic views over the Mediterranean sea, the cliffs and nearby beaches of Nerja. As it’s centrally located in the town centre, it will be hard to miss when visiting Nerja.
A seafront boardwalk lined with palm trees and surrounded by numerous restaurants, cafés, shops, ice cream parlours and benches will lead you to the round balcony where you will be treated to magnificent views of the rocky coastline of the Costa del Sol.
Legend has it that the Balcón de Europa owes its name to king Alfonso II who visited the area in 1885 to assess the damage after an earthquake. Enchanted by the panoramic views, he said that ‘this must be the balcony of Europe’. Now if this story is true or not, the fact still remains, it is a wonderful place and for sure one of the best things to do in Nerja. It’s a meeting place for locals and tourists alike wanting to marvel at the beautiful sunrise and sunset while listening to the street musicians playing and the water gently crashing against the rocks below.
Useful info: Keep in mind that this lovely viewpoint attracts many people so it can get crowded at times, especially in the evenings and weekends. During sunrise it will be remarkably more quite, which is great if you want to take photos without large crowds of people.
Explore the Nerja caves
Located just outside of town, one of the many best things to do in Nerja is a visit to the Nerja Caves. Discovered in 1959, the Nerja Caves are a series of limestone caverns stretching for nearly 5 kilometres (or 3 miles) underneath the Sierra Almijara mountains. The caves are truly breathtaking, with spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations giving the caverns a surreal, other-worldly appearance.
After your visit to the caves you have the opportunity to explore the surrounding outside area by taking a short but steep hike which will take you over all the chambers you’ve just visited. No, you can’t see them on this particular walk, but they are there, right under your feet. Yes, you can also take the short hike before you visit the caves. Just be aware of your time slot as they won’t let you in if you miss it. You can however stay as long as you like once inside.
As it’s one of the most prominent tourist attractions in the area it draws lots of visitors, pretty much everyday. So don’t miss out, making sure to book your tickets in advance online for your preferred date in order to avoid long waiting lines or that it is sold out, which it often is. For opening hours check the official website.
Tip: Read this complete guide for more practical information and tips about the Nerja Caves and surroundings.
More useful info: The caves can be visited with a free audio-guide and will take you at least 1 hour. The audio-guide can be downloaded via the free app onto your smartphone or tablet before hand, or on the free Wi-Fi at the cave entrance. However, if we remember correctly, there is also free Wi-Fi inside the caves. We also recommend to use headphones for the audio-guide.
You can get the app here:
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The caves are sadly not suitable for people with reduced mobility as there are lots of stairs to take. There is no flash-photography allowed inside.
Stroll the historical Old Town
To discover the historical centre of Nerja by strolling the cobblestone streets winding through the white washed buildings is one of the top things to do when in Nerja. It’s a typical Andalusian style town center with whitewashed buildings adorned with colourful and vibrant flower pots.
A charming, fairly compact Old Town with a network of narrow winding streets that prompt you to discover a wide variety of restaurants, bars, small boutiques, souvenir and local craft shops.
The laid back outdoor seating of the many restaurants and bars in the small streets invite you to indulge yourself in some scrumptious local Andalusian food, tapas and drinks.
Visit the Church of El Salvador
You’ll find the Church of El Salvador or Iglesia El Salvador nearby the Balcón de Europa, right in the heart of Nerja’s Old Town.
The church was first erected in 1505 but the existing structure dates from the end of the 17th century when it was built in the Baroque-neoclassical style. The church was further extended in the next century and was finally fully restored in 1997.
The exterior of the church is simple yet elegant with a bell tower rising above the entrance and a white washed facade. The interior features a beautiful altar and a single nave. It’s a popular church for wedding celebrations, both for locals and for tourists who either want to get married there or have their blessings.
The Nerja museum is located in the city centre of Nerja. It’s an interactive museum with audiovisual elements covering the history of the region of Nerja, as well as the archeological finds from the Nerja Caves.
Tip: Buy the single entry tickets for the museum directly on their website But if you already have a ticket for the Nerja Caves the entrance for this museum is already included.
Playa de Burriana
Burriana Beach or ‘Playa de Burriana’ is one of the largest and most popular beaches in Nerja. It is located on the eastern side of the town centre, about a 15 minute walk from the Balcón de Europa. A sandy beach with lots of space for sun bathing, beach games and walks along the watershore.
Burriana beach has a lovely promenade lined with numerous restaurants, bars and shops. It even has all the other necessary facilities, like toilets, showers, playgrounds for kids as well as lifeguards. Great for a fun and relaxing day on the beach with the whole family.
Its crystal blue water is inviting not only for swimming but also for a wide variety of water sport activities like kayak, SUP and snorkelling.
Mirador de Burriana
At the eastern tip of the beach, behind the restaurant Rsolmere, a narrow gravel path leads you to the Mirador de Burriana. It’s a bit of a steep climb, but the view is amazing.
Useful info: Just a warning that this is not an official viewpoint but rather a rocky cliff to overlook the Playa de Burriana and beyond. Just be VERY careful with the steep cliffs and don’t go too near. We enjoyed our short walk to this viewpoint and therefore thought it was worth mentioning.
Watersport activities – Kayak or Paddleboard
Further along the coast from Burriana beach towards the village of Maro the landscape changes into rocky cliffs. This is where there are plenty of caves and small hidden beaches to discover that are only accessible via the sea.
What is nicer on a calm, sunny day than to take a kayak, paddleboard (SUP) or to hop in a boat and to explore this spectacular coastline? Start your day from Burriana beach where the kayaks and boards are for rent and start discovering!
If you prefer to join a guided tour, it’s best to book in advance to be sure not to miss out on this great opportunity. There are various tours to choose from, each taking you on a wonderful adventure.
This amazing tour takes you for a 4 hour boat tour to the Maro cliffs and waterfall, with paddleboarding and snorkelling as included activities.
Mirador del Bendito
The ‘Mirador Del Bendito’ is another viewpoint that is worthwhile to visit. A short walk from the town centre via Calle Carabeo will lead you to this viewpoint, or a walk up the stairs from the Carabeillo beach or ‘Playa de Carabeillo’.
It’s a great place to sit and relax, to enjoy the views of the Mediterranean sea, to see the sun setting and to watch the world go slowly by. It’s how we generally look at deadlines. We love the swooshing noise they make as they go flying by.
Tip: Go down the stairs for an easy access to the beach below. It will lead you straight to Carabeillo beach, which is a prolongation of Burriana beach, but less crowded.
Playa la Torrecilla
Playa la Torrecilla is a medium sized sandy beach at the western side of Nerja. It’s a well maintained and popular beach with amenities like sun loungers and toilets as well as a a small beach promenade with a few restaurants and bars. A great beach to relax and to wander around this side of town and a good base to stay to discover Nerja.
One of the few highlights to visit at Playa la Torrecilla are the lovely rainbow steps, a colourful concrete stairway painted in all the colours of the rainbow.
Then at the western side of the beach you can watch the sunset at the Mirador de Torrecilla, a small viewpoint on top of a rocky outcrop. It’s much smaller than the Balcón de Europa and much less crowded but it still has wonderful views.
But don’t miss out on a visit to the ‘Parque Plaza de los Cangrejos’ at the eastern side of the beach, a charming square with numerous (tourist) restaurants.
Fuente de Europa
The ‘Fuente de Europa’ or Fountain of Europe is a sculpture that was inaugurated in 2002 and built as a landmark and testimony to the union of the European countries. It’s made up of 16 different stones donated by each country that belonged to the European Union, at the time of construction. The base of the sculpture is built with stones collected from each of the provinces of Andalusia.
The fountain was initially located in the ‘Parque Verano Azul’ but was moved and can now be visited at the ‘Plaza Cangrejos’ at Torrecilla beach.
Useful info: It’s a good 15 minute walk from the Balcon de Europa to the Fuente de Europa, in the direction of Torrecilla beach. It’s worth the walk to explore that side of Nerja along with Torrecilla beach and its attractions.
Eat grilled fish in a chiringuito
A ‘chiringuito’ is a bar or restaurant at the beach. They are a common sight at the various beaches in Nerja. One of the most typical local foods to eat at a chiringuito is grilled fish or sardine skewers (espetos de sardinas).
Espetos de sardinas is definitely one of the many types of Spanish foods you have to try when visiting Spain, and more specifically, the southern Spanish coast.
This grilled fish is prepared by slow cooking them over an open wood or charcoal fire, sometimes even in a boat filled with sand, as seen in the image above. During peak season or any weekend for that matter it will be difficult to find an open seat in one of the many chiringuitos, so making a booking in advance is highly recommended.
Visit the Eagle Aqueduct
The ‘Acueducto del Aguila’ or Eagle Aqueduct is located just outside of Nerja on the way to the Nerja Caves. It was built in the 1800’s to provide water to the nearby sugar factory. You can visit it by either walking from town or when driving to Maro or the Nerja Caves.
Useful info: There is a small parking on the N-340 from which you can walk to the active road bridge to view the aqueduct from a distance.