Nerja and the Balcony of Europe


We take a day trip to Nerja, the picture-postcard town on the eastern border of the Malaga province, known for its stunning promenade, incredible caves and crystal-clear waters.

View from Balcony of Europe in Nerja

Article by Victoria Wood

Nerja sits just 45 minutes east along the coast from Málaga so it’s not surprising it is often overshadowed by its culture-packed neighbouring city. However, Nerja has so much to offer that it would be a crying shame to pass it by without a visit.

The following are must-see or do activities, landmarks and attractions in the beautiful seaside town of Nerja.

The once sleepy fishing village of Nerja has developed gradually into a charming Mediterranean town filled with whitewashed Spanish houses, historical sites, boutique shops, traditional restaurants and the most stunning landscape of mountainous backdrops, golden sandy beaches and rugged cliffs, caves and coves.

The Nerja caves
The Nerja caves date back to the Bronze Age

There is plenty of natural beauty to be explored – the Nerja caves are one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. These vast underground caverns date back to the Bronze Age having housed neanderthal civilisations and all their secrets. You can pass through multiple chambers featuring incredible rock formations and remains from past cave-dwellers. The biggest column in the world is also famously within the Nerja caves standing at an unbelievable 32 metres.

Having worked up an appetite on your cave crawling adventure, how about a traditional Spanish lunch at the famous Playa de Burriana, one of the regions top beaches. And after lunch a stroll along the ‘paseo’ or boardwalk that lines the beach and is peppered with bars, cafes, and plenty of atmosphere.

For a quieter afternoon at the beach, avoid the crowds and head a few kilometres out of the main town to the beautiful Maro beach or La Caleta de Maro. Here you will be pleasantly surprised to find beautiful rock formations giving way to natural waterfalls framing the vibrant blue waters.

Hike up to El Cielo
Hike up to El Cielo for the best views around

If it is a mountain trail you’re looking for, Nerja can offer you this in the form of a hike up the El Cielo – this is no walk in the park and reserved for keen hikers, but the view at the top of the highest coastal mountain sitting at 1,500m is jaw-dropping.

If you’re craving yet more nature and adventure, you can take a hike up the Rio Chillar. You will need some water walking shoes for this excursion as the river can reach knee-deep height and has a rocky bed. The hike is simply stunning as you traverse up-river through the Sierras de Tejeda and the Alhama Natural Park, stopping along the way to dip into some deep natural lagoon-like pools to cool off. Tours are available should you not feel comfortable making the trek alone.

Rio Chillar near Nerja
Enjoy a magical walk up the Rio Chillar

For a few hours of seeing the sights at their most raw, take a kayak or paddleboard from Playa Burriana and take to the water. Follow the coastline and dip in and out of coves, caves, narrow gorges, waterfalls, and private, hidden beaches only accessible from the sea. Again, tours are on offer if you’re not feeling brave enough to venture out alone.

Balcon de Europa, Nerja
The famous Balcon de Europa (Balcony of Europe)

For those of you seeking solid ground and some historical landmarks, or some simple strolling, head to the Balcon de Europa, the focal point of Nerja. Named by King Alfonso XII in the late 1800s as the balcony of Europe, this sight, he claimed was the best view in the continent. There is always something happening here whether it is a festival, concert, street artists, performers or musicians, or just people wandering up and down soaking up the sights and smells and dipping in and out of the countless restaurants; the views and vibes are the best in town.

Monument to King of Spain Alfonso XII on the Balcon de Europa
Monument to King of Spain Alfonso XII on the Balcon de Europa

One of Nerja’s most famous landmarks comes in the form of an aqueduct. This historical site named the Acueducto del Aguila (Eagle Aqueduct) sits just outside the town itself. It was built in the 1800s at the height of the industrial revolution and is still fully functional to this day.

Aqueduct near Nerja
The impressive aqueduct sits just outside the town

The historic centre of Nerja is strewn with churches, cathedrals, old cobbled narrow streets, and plenty of historic buildings. Take a wander through the old town and immerse yourself in the nurturing cultural feel of Spain. Be sure to aim for the 17th century church of El Salvador and the 16th century Nuestra Señora de las Angustias Hermitage.

Church of El Salvador, Nerja
The 17th century church of El Salvador

If you’re staying late and your feet aren’t exhausted from all the action of the day, make your way to Tutti Fruitti Plaza and the hub of Nerja’s nightlife. Cocktails, dancing, and music spilling out onto the streets until the small hours make this plaza the centre of the party.

ceiling of the 16th century hermitage
The beautiful ceiling of the 16th century hermitage

Taking a day trip to Nerja from Marbella is well worth the effort to experience the natural and historic beauty on offer here. The trip, by car is around 1 hour and 20 minutes of coastal Mediterranean-lined roads or between 2-3 hours by bus and train.

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