When we first moved to Spain, Nerja was on my list of places to visit in Andalusia. I always put it on the back burner though thinking it would be similar to the beach towns we already frequent in Cádiz. On a whim, we finally decided to drive over to Nerja for the weekend and I’m so thankful we finally visited this charming seaside town.
Nerja is a unique beach town in Andalusia that is completely worth visiting. Not only are there nice beaches, but the town center has pedestrian pathways lined with restaurants and balconies. You’ll also see a fair amount of shops with straw hats, sunglasses and postcards spilling out on to the sidewalk.
While the neighboring town of Marbella is more of a resort destination with upscale hotels and an Orange Country SoCal vibe, I found Nerja to be more laid back. Our trip was relaxing and family friendly, but there is also a thriving nightlife scene (I can’t personally confirm though as I am fast asleep by 10pm with a baby in tow).
Nerja is worth visiting for its historical town center, beautiful beaches and ancient caves. Not to mention, one the most charming white villages in Andalusia is just a short drive away. In this guide to Nerja, Spain, I’ll share where to stay, the best things to do and where to eat along the way.
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Where to Stay in Nerja, Spain
I booked just a day in advance and was lucky to snag the last room available at the Hotel Balcón de Europa. With a central location, a nearby parking garage and a private beach, I can see why it is one of the most booked hotels in Nerja. While it isn’t the most luxurious or trendy hotel I’ve ever stayed at, it is clean with very friendly employees.
The Costa del Sol and Nerja specifically have been on the radar of British vacationers for years, so they are accommodating by offering a full English breakfast (which is quite the departure from the usual Andalusian breakfast of toast with jamón and tomato). With an airy breakfast room featuring floor-to-ceiling glass windows, you also can’t beat the view of the ocean. Check pricing and availability.
Parador de Nerja– Paradores are state-run properties in former castles, monasteries and more. Although the Nerja location isn’t in a former palace, it is a reliable brand with lovely ocean views. Check pricing and availability.
Things to do in Nerja, Spain
Go to the Beach
Nerja’s big draw is its beaches. There’s large beaches with chair and umbrella rentals, but also smaller swimming coves too.
I spent the afternoon at the beach of Hotel Balcón de Europa. The drinks at the beach bar were also extremely reasonable with a tinto de verano costing less than $5.
If you haven’t heard of tinto de verano, it is a mix of red wine and Fanta soda. It might seem unusual, but it is 100% delicious and the perfect drink to order on a hot day in Spain.
Down the coast, Playa de Burrina is the largest beach with several restaurants and bars along the sand. Playa Calahonda is also popular with an old fisherman’s house built into the cliff. Right in between is Playa Carabeillo which looked very calm in early morning.
Stroll through the Nerja town center
The main pedestrian street will guide you along its narrow path passing traditional houses, tapas bars and trinket shops. I also saw the largest monstera plant I’ve ever seen, complete with a typical Spanish facade.
Visit the Caves
The Fundacaión Cueva de Nerja (Cave Foundation) is located about 10 minutes from the town center. While the caves were only discovered in 1959, a variety of bones and shells suggest that they have been inhabited since 25,000 BC.
We didn’t have time to fit this in on a short weekend trip, but I think it would be a memorable experience. Find more information, opening times and rates.
There are several tours that cover both the caves and Frigiliana if you want to book a day trip in advance.
Just a short 15-minute drive from Nerja, you’ll find the charming white village of Frigiliana. It is one of the many pueblos blancos (or white towns) in Andalusia and is often called the most beautiful. While it is absolutely worth visiting while you are in Nerja, I have to admit that I prefer Vejer de la Frontera.
We had a drink and a bite to eat at The Garden Restaurant and strolled around the shops. Along the whitewashed buildings, steep stairways are lined with flowers in terracotta pots.
Be prepared to get your steps in and leave the stroller in the car. A parking lot is located right at the large roundabout on the foot of the town.
Enjoy the Food
Tapas bars and restaurants in Nerja are plentiful. Sevillano for a popular choice that boasts a rooftop bar. Ayo for a beachside restaurant known for cooking its paella outdoors in a massive pan over a wood-burning fire.
I don’t know if it was the wine or the fact that my baby was fast asleep in his stroller so we got to enjoy a dinner out, but I really liked Ristorante Paparazzi. Yes, it is right on the tourist strip of restaurants and I realize it isn’t authentic Spanish fare. However, I thought the food was decent and our server was friendly.
I would recommend skipping the cluster of ice cream shops near the Balcón de Europa. Walk just 5 minutes to Tramontana for quality ice cream and unusual flavors.
Take in Views from Balcón de Europa
The view point from the edge of Balcón de Europa is really special and not be missed. Further down the coast, you’ll also find Mirador del Bendito over looking Playa Carabeillo.