Marbella is known as a glamorous resort town and is a favourite location with the rich and famous, boosted by foreign residents who are seduced by the lifestyle. But there's plenty for ordinary folk to see and enjoy too in southern Spain's answer to St Tropez
The old town with its narrow cobbled streets and flower-filled plazas is packed with delightful shops and art galleries selling pretty clothes and accessories, and handmade wares. One of the prettiest spots is the fabled orange tree-filled ” Plaza de los Naranjos”, which is located just off the main street and is home to the 16th-century Marbella town hall and tourist office, where you can pick up a detailed map and other visitor information.
Marbella's history stretches back to Roman times.
In terms of eating out, Marbella's gastronomic scene is second to none, with everything from vegetarian and vegan cafes, to beachfront chiringuitos, and Michelin starred restaurant including Spanish cooking star Dani Garcia's - a feast for foodies.
And of course the beaches are second to none - most visitors come to Marbella to enjoy the sun, sea and sand, which has been drawing expatriate communities since the 1950s when Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe fell in love with the place and built a beachfront house, drawing all the starriest Hollywood celebs.
If your visit inspires you to consider living in Marbella, have a look at the districs aroud that make this such a charming place to live or perhaps visit on an excurscion and decide afterwards.
Marbella has an incredibly diverse history, which can be traced back to thousands of years BC.
Human remains have been discovered from the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages on the Sierra Blanca mountains, and Phoenician and Punic settlements existed in Rio Real, Marbella during the 7th Century BC.
As many a local historian will tell you, the Romans made a major mark on local landscapes, with some incredible buildings and relics still standing. Rio Verde Roman Villa, the Guadalmina Thermal Baths and a host of fascinating monuments in the Old Town of Marbella can still be seen today.
The Vega del Mar Basilica dates back to Visigoth times in Marbella, and is one of only two in Spain. The first writing and texts about Marbella were not found until the Middle Ages when the first Muslims travelled through Andalucia.
Marbella during the Middle Ages relied solely on agriculture, fishing and livestock, and became famous for the production of sweet wine in the 18th Century. As British traveller, Francis Carter stated around this time: "The Marbella wine is very good, drier and tastier that the Malaga wine and with a certain Madeira taste to it. I am sure that if it were well prepared it would be very well appreciated in England, bringing the price up and stimulating the inhabitants to take more care of their vineyards".
The first industrial estates in Marbella were built in the 19th Century, around the same time as the Sierra Blanca Mines became so famous. Marbella became a modern industrialised town, and grew in importance in the mid-19th Century.
In the early 1950´s, the population of Marbella was less than 1,000, increasing to an over 140,744 people in 2016, thanks largely to a massive increase in tourism.
Marbella was known as Marbil-la when the Muslims ran the town at the beginning of the 6th Century. A fortress and a defensive wall was built to protect the settlement from attack by the Christians, although it eventually fell to the Catholic Monarchs in 1485, when King Fernando received the keys from the defeated calif, Mohamed Abuenza. The town then became known as Marbella.
The countryside surrounding Marbella started to be used for agricultural production from the 16th Century, and new houses were planned and built. The process was slower than expected, and by the end of the 18th Century, fewer than 800 houses existed in the whole of Marbella.
New roads were built in the 19th Century, which saw Marbella expand much more quickly and bridges linked major residential centres. As a result of this, more industries were attracted to Marbella and some of the first blast furnaces in Europe were built in the town. One iron foundry alone employed over 1,000 people.
Near the end of the 19th Century, Marbella received mains electricity, and although plans were first submitted for a modern new fishing port around the same time, the port was not finished until the mid 1950´s.
Marbella came into its own during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), but the vast majority of tourists did not start to arrive until the mid-1950´s, when influential visitors, such as Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe, constructed the Marbella Club Hotel.
Within 20 years Marbella had evolved into an international tourist resort, thanks to its incredible climate. Northern Europeans in particular came to Marbella to lap up the sunshine and enjoy the beaches, the bars, the clubs and the restaurants. Here you will find a vast range of tourist facilities plus new parks and roads during the 1990´s, and Marbella and Puerto Banus became famous worldwide.
Still famous as the haunts of the rich and famous, Puerto Banus and Marbella are more accessible and affordable than previously, and with the introduction of budget airlines, travellers from all over Europe can enjoy a cheap holiday in the sun.
Accommodation in Marbella includes stunning villas, apartment and hotels accommodation ranging from five star luxury hotels to basic budget hostels.
Puerto Banus is just 3km from the centre of Marbella, and if you fancy a stroll, you can enjoy a walk down the beachfront from one resort to another.
During the 1950´s and 60´s celebrities and stars of TV, cinema and theatre flocked to Marbella and bought luxury holiday homes and upmarket accommodation. Along with the celebrities came the jet set, and luxury yachts are still moored in Puerto Banus and Marbella Marina today, much to the delight of tourists who sit and watch the world go by in the water side cafés.
Marbella is home to some of the top restaurants in southern Spain, and whether you want to dine in luxury under the stars at the Puente Romano Hotel, dance the night away at Aqwa Mist or chill out at the Ocean Beach Club, you will find something to suit all tastes and budgets. If you are visiting Marbella with the family, take your time to explore the old town, enjoy delicious tapas, home made pizzas, and some of the best Spanish fish dishes in Andalucia. Other kid-friendly places to eat include TGI´s in Puerto Banus, the Hard Rock Café and Route 66.
There is so much to do in Puerto Banus and Marbella and whether you are visiting solo, with the family or with a group of friends, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to bars, restaurants and leisure activities, plus a wonderful choice of beaches and historical places to visit.
Whether you want to play golf at one of Marbella´s many superb courses, soak up the sun on the beach, boogie the night away at a beach club or go hiking, walking or jogging, you will find plenty of opportunity in Marbella and Puerto Banus. The Marbella coastline stretches for 25 km, and the most expensive properties are situated on the Golden Mile between Marbella and Puerto Banus.
You can enjoy sports, shopping, bar hopping, restaurants, night clubs, swimming, water sports, sunbathing and much more in this special part of Europe, and although Marbella and Puerto Banus are no stranger to the celebrity crowd, the resort is easily accessible on most budget airlines from major cities in Norway, the UK and in northern Europe. Flight time from Malaga to London is just over 2 hours, and Marbella enjoys an average of 320 days of sunshine each year.
Hailed as the California of Europe, the resorts of Puerto Banus and Marbella attract fun seekers from all over the world, and the nearby port of Algeciras is just a ferry ride away from Morocco. Day trips can be arranged from local travel agents.
(Source : with permission from T. Stormyr)