Marbella Travel Guide
The very name evokes images of romantic days under the sun and the sea, set against the spectacular backdrop of the Sierra Blanca Mountains. Marbella sits 25 miles southwest of Malaga, right at the heart of the Costa del Sol, which is renowned for being one of Spain’s major tourism areas. Marbella is among the most important destinations on the Costa del Sol. Marbella’s coastline stretches for miles upon miles – sandy beaches and coves beckon you to have a good time in their warm embrace.
At Marbella, old meets new, traditions blend harmoniously with modern culture and comforts. Prepare to be dazzled by ritzy houses, huge yachts parked in swanky marinas, brand name stores, stylish restaurants and bars. But even with all the amenities and facilities customarily found in a top-rate resort, Marbella has maintained its old town ambience. It has, by some measure, escaped the ungainly effects of concrete development that is suffered by some of its neighbors.
It is a dazzling, cosmopolitan jewel of the Costa del Sol. It can certainly give the famed Monte Carlo a run for its money! Indeed, this is where the crème de la crème have the time of their lives. Are you thinking, then, that Marbella may be too rich for your blood? That it may be too chi-chi for your taste? We hope not! Marbella is rich – rich in history, adventure and relaxation.
In Marbella, there is something for everybody. There is so much to do and see that you will not have time to get bored. Historical Marbella Visit traditional Marbella at the Old Quarter district. Here, around the Plaza de los Naranjos, you can see quite a number of imposing structures and buildings. In this part of town, you get a distinct feel of how Marbella lived in the past centuries.
When visiting Marbella, be sure to see the Plaza de Toros (Marbella’s site for the not so politically correct sport of bullfighting). Then, there is the Basilica Vega del Mar, which is the site of many archaeological excavations. In fact, this Basilica is made up of a 4th century church’s ancient ruins. Marbella has a lot of archeological gems. Aside from the Basilica Vega del Mar, there are quite a number of historic remains and ruins, such as the Marbella vaults and the Villa Romana de Rio Verde.
Relaxing Marbella Marbella is paradise! With its 16 miles of coastline and near-perfect weather, who would not want to go to the beach and soak up the sun? Then there is the “Golden Mile”, which is the playground of the rich and the famous. Take a walk along the Paseo Maritimo – the renowned Marbella boardwalk that spans the Marbella beachfront and provides you with exceptional views of the coast. And, mmmmm, take a bite of the sumptuous and delectable food offerings. Your stomach will truly be one “happy place”.
Marbella also has a long list of parks, gardens and leisure areas. These delightfully mix beauty with leisure. Each place has a unique contribution to make. Adventurous Marbella As if these weren’t enough, Marbella also offers something for the adventurous spirit. It is paradise for sports lovers and those who want to learn more about their sport. Marbella has a lot of sports clubs that will teach you a wide variety of sports – lawn tennis, horseback riding and other equestrian sports, wind surfing, sailing an a whole lot more. Marbella’s surrounding areas also lends itself to mountain climbing, hiking, and biking activities.
The Golden MileWest of the parks and the marble piazza with its sculptures by Salvador Dali you come to a beachside part of town marked by luxurious modern apartment buildings of medium height that are sometimes called the ‘hanging gardens’ due to the intense greenery of their rooftop gardens. Follow the main Avenida Ricardo Soriano past the conference centre and the iconic copper Pirolí tower, and you’ve entered the famous Golden Mile of Marbella.
This road, which connects Marbella and the marina of Puerto Banús, cuts like a palm-lined artery through what is perhaps the best address in Marbella – and one of the best along the Mediterranean. It is here that you will find the famous Marbella Club Hotel and the Puente Romano, with its renowned tennis centre, but also fine dining restaurants, the Ralli contemporary art museum and exclusive luxury villa zones extending along the shore and inland amid intense greenery.
On the seaside are stylish beach clubs overlooking yachts moored just offshore, while the area is also home to glamorous nightclubs such as Suite and Olivia Valere, where international celebrities are regularly spotted rubbing shoulders with the locals.
Puerto BanúsLeaving these privileged enclaves of grand villas and mansions behind you come to Puerto Banús, the famous playground of Marbella. Centred around a charming marina where mega yachts look out over bistros, trendy cafés and designer stores, Puerto Banús offers an array of nightlife, beaches and shopping with the emphasis on opulent hedonism.
Besides a great many luxury shops you will find small malls and a grand El Corte Inglés department store with just about every product and service you could imagine. For those who have tired themselves out shopping there are beach clubs, spas and also a very cosmopolitan choice of restaurants to choose from as you look out over the yachts, fast cars and even famous faces.
The distinct areas that make up Marbella add to its charm whilst offering a great choice of settings, activities and experiences.
Over the years Marbella has changed with the times, developing into a small but vibrant cosmopolitan city whose beautiful setting and privileged climate endow it with a relaxed, outdoor way of life that makes it one of Europe’s favoured retreats.
Marbella townKnown above all for its beachside promenade, beaches, yacht harbour and broad leafy avenues lined with restaurants, boutiques and lively tapas bars, Marbella’s downtown area also includes a charming historic quarter characterised by a maze of pedestrian cobbled streets and intimate little squares.
Strolling around its pretty Andalusian houses and old churches this small but compact quarter exudes a very different atmosphere. Were it not for the elegant galleries, eateries and pretty fashion and craft shops, you might actually forget about the beaches and marinas less than a kilometre away.
Partly ensconced within impressive medieval walls, this part of Marbella is home to pretty churches set upon quiet squares, the Museum of Contemporary Spanish Engraving and a great many tapas bars and sunny terraces in which to enjoy Mediterranean style café society.
San Pedro AlcántaraIf Puerto Banús is where Marbella comes to play then the lively little town of San Pedro is where people come for a gentle stroll or to absorb the Andalusian atmosphere. The shops, restaurants and cafés may be less exclusive, but together they produce a very authentically Spanish street scene that reflects the varied nature of the greater Marbella area.
Extending outwards from Marbella and San Pedro are the green, low-density residential zones where many residents from Northern Europe have settled in private villas, charming townhouses and luxurious apartment complexes. While urbanisations of the latter are typically low-rise and set within beautiful gardens with their own swimming pools, many of the luxury villas look out over the golf courses that are such a feature of life on the Costa del Sol.
East MarbellaThe final part of the wonderfully diverse elements that make up Marbella is its eastern region, which extends from Rio Real and Los Monteros near the town’s edge all along the coast, passing the leafy suburban areas of El Rosario, Elviria, Las Chapas, Cabopino and Calahonda en route.
From Rio Real, centred upon one of the prettiest golf courses in the area, to the trendy beach clubs of the Hotel Los Monteros and Nikki Beach at the Hotel Don Carlos, this eastern area is marked by open undulating land that follows the seaward flow of golf courses to what are the best beaches in this part of the Costa del Sol.
Chiringuito beach bars and fish restaurants enjoy wonderful views from amid sandy dunes back across the bay to Marbella. A little further along the coast is the pretty little marina of Cabopino, a rather intimate and picturesque version of Puerto Banús, where the atmosphere is above all summery and languid.
Well-serviced with shops, restaurants and racket clubs, this area is just five minutes removed from Marbella’s town centre yet has an ambience of its own.
Besides the sailing, water sports and boat excursions on offer at the marinas of Marbella, Puerto Banús and Cabopino, this region’s other great sporting asset is its many first-class golf courses. From the championship courses of the Golf Valley, a luxurious residential area just north of Puerto Banús, the green arteries of fairways extend in all directions.
The beaches on the New Golden Mile, between San Pedro and Estepona, draw crowds watching surfers and kite-surfers from the comfort of beach bars, while others opt for pampering in the luxury spas of resort hotels.
Just a short drive down the coast is Selwo Park, a large safari park that covers several valleys and makes the most of the best climate in Europe as it recreates the eco systems of Africa, the Americas and Asia in an open natural setting.
Venture a little further inland and you come to the foothills of the mighty coastal mountain ranges, where soaring peaks, forested hills and green valleys with waterfalls and rock pools attract hikers, mountain bikers, nature lovers and riders from equestrian centres such as the Escuela de Arte Ecuestre Costa del Sol.
While some come to admire the natural scenery or to spot deer or birds of prey hovering overhead, others like the canyoning, mountain climbing or forest trails available in the countryside or at Aventura Amazonia, a popular adventure park in Elviria.
Whatever activity you choose, be it active, cultural, sport, nightlife, shopping, fine dining or sheer relaxation and pampering, Marbella has the perfect spot in which to indulge your interests in the finest climate in Europe.
The gourmet scene in Marbella is truly international; here you can enjoy almost any cuisine your heart desires within a 20 minute radius, from family owned “Chiringuitos” serving the day’s fresh catch on the beach to Michelin-starred establishments offering modern creative menus with carefully selected wines.
For an authentic Spanish feast you can head to the beaches East of Marbella where you will find charming seafront restaurants reached by dirt tracks. Here you can eat like a King, with plates piled high with “Pescaito Frito” washed down with a cool Tinto del Verano.
Alongside these you can also find more chic and upmarket sea front restaurants and beach clubs with an International-Mediterranan selection to tempt you on a hot summers day.
In the Marbella old town you will find tiny tapas bars and boutique restaurants tucked down narrow cobbled streets.
These range from traditional tapas to the Michelin-star gem Skina where you can enjoy an Andalucian tasting menu complete with wines to enhance each course. Puerto Banus is home to a flamboyant choice of restaurants, from pizza and pasta, to Greek, Asian and mouthwatering seafood.
The price tag may sometimes be written on account of the destination, but with such a stunning backdrop as the most luxurious marina in Spain we think it’s more than worth it!.
No matter what your taste or budget, Marbella will be sure to hit the spot. Here you can find the best of the Spanish high street fashion alongside labels like Versace, Gucci, Escada and Cartier.
The main high street through the centre of Marbella is home to the likes of Zara, Cortefiel and Mango, as good a high street fashion selection as you will find anywhere in the world. You can also find many familiar brands all under one roof in the fantastic indoor shopping mall, La Cañada, located on the A7 just on the outskirts of Marbella to the East of the town.
Then if you take just a tiny detour off into the back streets of the old town, or between the main street and the beach, you will come across unique little boutiques, art galleries, jewelry stores and interior design inspiration where you can pick up a souvenir or two to take back home.
For designer labels then Puerto Banus is home to names like Chloe, Missoni, Versace, Tom Ford, Hermes, Dior, Jimmy Choo, Burberry and many more, and you can also find a couple of high-street labels here too.