Marbella embodies culture, leisure, and glamour; it is one of the most exclusive cities in the Mediterranean and the pride of the Costa del Sol. Twenty-eight kilometres of coastline, four sports marinas, fourteen golf courses, and an exceptional climate come together to create a destination that can’t be matched.
Visiting Marbella is a unique experience. From shopping in its luxurious boutiques to dining in its distinguished restaurants, having fun in its beach clubs, and doing any kind of sport, the possibilities are endless. If relaxation is your priority, the city has many health and beauty centres, as well as a wide and exclusive range of hotels in its three main centres: Marbella, San Pedro de Alcantara, and Nueva Andalucía-Puerto Banus.
NOT TO BE MISSED IN MARBELLA
The Plaza de los Naranjos: located in the heart of the old town and belonging to the end of the 15th century, it is one of the first Christian designs created after the Reconquest. It was built in accordance with the existing tradition in Spanish cities, but without arcades. Here, you can find the Casa del Corregidor, the Town Hall, and the Hermitage of Santiago.
You can also find the Capilla de San Juan de Dios and the Hermitage of Santo Cristo de la Vera Cruz, both from the 16th century, and the Iglesia de la Encarnación, dated the 17th to 18th century, close by. The latter has a basilica plan structure that consists of three naves and a front door, carved in Rococo-style ochre stone, a true masterpiece. Inside, you can find the Major Sun Organ, from 1975, which is considered to be one of the most important organs built in Spain in the 20th century.
The historical centre still preserves the remains of the city wall, which enclosed the city during the Muslim period, and the Moorish Castle. You can see Roman columns embedded into one of the towers, located in Calle Trinidad, which reveals that construction materials from even older buildings were being recycled and re-purposed to create a defence structure.
The Hospital Bazán, located in the vicinity, is home to the Contemporary Spanish Engraving Museum which exhibits works by Picasso, Miró, Tapies, and Chillida, among others.
An unmissable stop on the cultural tour through Marbella is the Cortijo Miraflores Cultural Centre. This manor was built in 1704 and was fitted with the appropriate facilities to install a sugar cane mill and an animal-drawn oil mill shortly after. The Oil Museum, the archaeological exhibition, the Municipal Archives’ historical collection, and different exhibition halls are also highlights of this manor. Behind the building, remains of ovens and a cave hermitage, dated between the 8th and 10th centuries, were discovered.
The Ralli Museum, dedicated to sharing contemporary Latin American and European art, and the Avenida del Mar, where you can view a collection of bronze sculptures by Bonvicini and designed by Salvador Dalí, are also worth a visit, this arterial road also connects the Marbella Seafront Promenade to the Paseo de La Alameda, designed in the 19th century and which could be called the “city’s historical green area”.
The archaeological sites, like the Basílica Paleocristiana de Vega del Mar in San Pedro de Alcantara, the remains of the Río Verde roman villa in Nueva Andalucía, Las Bóvedas Roman Baths in Guadalmina, or the six Beacon Towers located along the Marbellan coast are also worth visiting.
Visiting Marbella is a unique experience. From shopping in its luxurious boutiques to dining in its distinguished restaurants or having fun at their beach clubs, the possibilities are endless. But if the priority is relaxation, the city has twenty thalassotherapy centres and spas, alongside a first class selection of hotels in its three main centres: Marbella, San Pedro de Alcantara and Puerto Banus-Nueva Andalucía.
All of this has led to almost 4,000 Britons choosing Marbella as their place of residence.
NOT TO BE MISSED IN MARBELLA
Marbella is a destination that will not fail to surprise you. Even today its historical centre preserves the remaining fortress walls that surrounded the city in the Moorish period, and the Moorish castle. In one tower you can see built-in Roman capitals, revealing that even older construction materials were used to build the defensive enclosure.
An unmissable stop on the cultural route through the city is Cortijo Miraflores centre of culture. This 1704 mansion was a sugar cane press and mill. Today it houses the Museo del Aceite, rooms for temporary exhibitions, a library and a municipal art gallery. Behind the building, remnants of ovens and a rupestrian chapel from between the eighth and tenth centuries were found.
Also worth a visit is the Colección Municipal Arqueológica and the Museo Ralli, dedicated to the promotion of European and Latin American contemporary art. Furthermore, in the Avenida del Mar you can admire a collection of bronze sculptures by Salvador Dalí. This artery connects Marbella Marina with the Paseo de La Alameda, designed in the nineteenth century.
In the Plaza de los Naranjos, designed after the Christian conquest of Marbella, you have a view of the Hermitage of Santiago, the Town Hall and the Casa del Corregidor, built between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They are in the heart historic centre of the town, with its white houses and balconies bedecked with flowers.
Near the square are the Capilla of San Juan de Dios and the sixteenth century Hermitage of Santo Cristo de la Vera Cruz, and the seventeenth century Iglesia de la Encarnación. The latter consists of three naves and its front door, carved in Rococo-style ochre stone; it is truly wonderful.
The Hospital Bazán, located in the vicinity, houses the headquarters of the Museo del Grabado Español Contemporáneo, with works by Picasso, Miró, Tapies or Chillida.
Marbella has interesting archaeological sites, like the Basílica Paleocristiana de Vega del Mar, in San Pedro de Alcántara. The remnants of the Roman town of Río Verde or those of the hot springs near Guadalmina also have some historical interest.
HOW TO GET TO MARBELLA FROM MALAGA
There are different ways to get to Marbella from Malaga city: you can reach the city by the highway Autovía del Mediterráneo A-7 (old national road N-340), as well as by the highway Autopista de la Costa del Sol AP-7, which is quicker with an estimated travel time of about 45 minutes, depending on traffic.
In terms of public transport, there is a comprehensive bus service with the option to take a direct bus from Malaga bus station, which takes approximately 45 minutes.
If you arrive in Malaga via plane or train, there is a direct bus service that connects the Pablo Ruiz Picasso Terminal at Malaga Airport and the Malaga María Zambrano railway station to Marbella bus station.
With twenty-eight kilometres of coastline, Marbella is a great paradise for those who love the beach and sun. The most popular beaches are El cable,La Fontanilla, Puerto Banus and El Faro. Cabopino Beach is another highlight, with its nudist area, sheltered by the Artola Dunes. In this enclave, which is declared a Natural Monument, stands the Torre de los Ladrones (Thieves Tower).
Hiking and adventure activity enthusiasts can visit the Sierra Blanca, the mountainside on which the city sits. Another recommended tourist hotspot is the nearby Sierra de las Nieves National Park which lies outside of the city.
Marbella has two leisure areas, El Pinar de Nagüeles and the Vigil de Quiñones Forest Park, and some fantastic green areas, like the Arroyo de la Represa Park. You can also find the Parque de la Constitución close to the seafront promenade. This park has an amphitheatre where musical shows and theatre plays are performed during the summer period.
Marbella’s Golfing Valley brings together some of the best courses in Europe. The prestige of its clubs, the versatility of its facilities, and the pleasant weather make it an unrivalled area for practising this sport and organising top-level events.
Marbella also brings together four sports marinas with almost 1,800 mooring points in total. The most iconic of these is Puerto Banus with its impressive yachts and exclusive boutiques. There are excellent restaurants and lively bars and clubs alongside the nautical and shopping activities.
You can also practise other sporting activities in this city on the Costa del Sol, like scuba diving, horse riding, paddle, or tennis. There is Andalusia’s largest eco park where the more adventurous people can take part in high ropes activities: Aventura Amazonia Marbella.
Marbella also has a casino and some of the best beach clubs on the coast. You can enjoy music, food, and champagne by the sea in these sophisticated temples of fun. Themed parties, reserved for the most demanding clients, are a highlight.
The two most deeply rooted celebrations in this city on the Costa del Sol are the celebrations in honour of San Bernabé de Marbella in June and the Feria de San Pedro de Alcántara in October. Tradition, culture, and folklore come together at these events which have a distinct Andalusian feel.
The Semana Santa is another highlight with processions of the nine brotherhoods through the streets of Marbella and the Pilgrimage to the Cross of Juanar where fervour and fun go hand in hand.
There are lots of events in Marbella’s calendar. Throughout the year, the city serves as the backdrop for all kinds of events, and one of the highlights is Starlite, one of the most important festivals in Spain. Its programme includes concerts, film premiers, exhibitions, fashion shows, and a charity gala that is attended by many celebrities.
Other important events include the Marbella Contemporary Art Fair, the Marbella International Film Festival, and the famous solidarity street markets that are held at different times throughout the year.
Although Marbella is known for its haute cuisine restaurants, the "pescaíto frito” (fried fish) is the most traditional dish in local cuisine. Gazpacho and ajoblanco are also culinary highlights.
In Marbella, you can go for tapas in the historical centre or have a meal at a beach club or beach bar next to the sea. For more refined palates, the best alternative are the gourmet restaurants.
Marbella has witnessed human settlement since the dawn of time, as attested by the Palaeolithic tools found in Coto Correa and the Neolithic evidence unearthed in Cueva de Pecho Redondo. The archaeological sites of Río Real and Río Verde show that the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians were here too.
The Romans left a more permanent mark: a well-preserved villa in San Pedro Alcántara (first or second century AD) with remarkable mosaics and the baths near Guadalmina (third century AD).
As a matter of fact, Marbella could have been founded by the Romans. Some scholars believe it to be Salduba, the town in the Iberian Peninsula mentioned by Pliny and Ptolemy. Others conflate it with Cilniana, the village in the Antonine Itinerary.
The fourth-century Palaeo-Christian Basilica in San Pedro Alcántara is considered to be one of the most remarkable Visigothic monuments in Spain. It stands next to an ancient burial site. Many of the items unearthed on the site are now on display at the National Museum of Archaeology.
In times of Islamic Spain, Marbella was under the control of several dynasties. The Arabs built the castle and enclosed the village within walls to protect the population from exterior attacks. With time, Marbella became the capital of a huge area also comprising Ojén, Almáchar, Istán, Benahavís and Cortes.
Islamic Marbella surrendered to the troops led by King Ferdinand the Catholic on 11 June 1485. The defeat was followed by dramatic transformation in urban planning: part of the medina was gone, a central square was developed and linked to the Mediterranean Sea by a road.
After the Reconquista, Marbella was directly dependent on the Catholic Monarchs, who were in charge of appointing the governor. A prominent man in town was Alonso de Bazán, warden of the castle and alderman of the City Hall. The old hospital now housing the Museum of Spanish Contemporary Engravings was named after him (sixteenth century).
The local economy was based on agriculture, fishing, trade and mining (ores in Sierra Blanca). The nineteenth-century laws protecting mining activities led to the establishment of furnaces to take advantage of the iron found in the mines. As a result, Málaga Province climbed to second most industrialised province in the country.
At the turn of the century, Marbella"s economic and social model was difficult to uphold: the mines went into foreign hands, the industrial fabric was torn apart, large pieces of land belonged to a few families. In the mid-twentieth century, Marbella emerged as a fancy tourist resort, attracting noblemen and entrepreneurs like José Banús, Ricardo Soriano or Alfonso de Hohenlohe. They were the men behind the early development of tourism infrastructure.
The first thing that comes to mind when we think about local food in Marbella is fresh fish and seafood, with fried fish (pescaíto frito) being the most traditional local dish.
Marbella offers a range of culinary experiences, from tapas in the historic centre to eating in a beach club or beach bar at the water’s edge. And for the most refined palates, there are plenty of gourmet restaurants to whet your appetite.
- Coastal area
- Picturesque place
- Inhabitants (+50,000)