Your Guide to Marbella
People already living in Marbella, or spending extended holiday periods in the popular resort destination, are happily aware of its many diverse attractions.
The climate is incomparable, international transport connections are excellent, solid business and professional opportunities are abound, the array of leisure activities is exceptional, and the services infrastructure is modern and all-encompassing.
In short, for those wanting to enjoy an impeccably contemporary lifestyle in a superb Mediterranean setting, Marbella has no rival.
This powerhouse of Spanish residential-tourism has maintained its status for decades as one of Europe’s – and indeed the world’s – most attractive destinations for people (individuals, couples and families) seeking a permanent haven in the sun, a buy-to-let holiday home or a lucrative property investment.
As a long-standing and well-established favourite among expatriates and regular tourists, it has also remained unaffected by the current global situation. It´s one of the key areas in Spain where property prices and buyer interest have not only been maintained but in many cases been reinvigorated.
Here, in this special updated guide, we showcase the main reasons why Marbella is the capital of cool, and the ultimate place to own property in Europe…
The geographical and spiritual hub of Marbella is its Old Town, highlighted by the iconic Plaza de Los Naranjos, that is “Orange Square”. Dating to the 15th century, the square is enveloped by classic Andalusian homes and historic buildings, with a Renaissance fountain as the centrepiece.
Another popular area full of bars, cafés and restaurants is the city’s marina area and lengthy promenade, or paseo maritimo, which marks the start of the Golden Mile – home to Marbella’s most elite residential areas. There are plenty of chic bars and restaurants in the bustling area between the historical centre and the paseo maritimo which are popular among food-savvy locals.
Just west you will find the incredibly elite area of Puerto Romano, containing luxurious boutiques and restaurants popular with the rich and famous including a fantastic Dani Garcia restaurant and various world-renowned hotels, spas and facilities. At the other end of the Golden Mile (a six kilometre long stretch) is the epicentre of Marbella glamour and glitz- Puerto Banús. With its luxury yachts, elegant restaurants, chic boutiques and chilled-out bars and cafés, Puerto Banus is the heart of lushness in Marbella.
Just inland of the city centre you will find the central residential estate of Nagüeles, and then set on the beach-side of La Concha mountain, the most prestigious areas of Sierra Blanca and Cascada de Camojan that boast luxurious villas on large plots with incredible 180 degree views of the Mediterranean in a semi-closed gated community- all at arm’s reach of the Marbella´s best beaches and historical centre.
Further west, on the boundaries of Estepona and Benahavís, San Pedro de Alcántara is a village in its own right, where the town centre is attractively delineated from the beachside area by a boulevard that becomes a buzzing social hub on evenings and weekends. More of a local Spanish town, it offers relaxed town lifestyle at a hop step from the extravagance of Marbella.
Heading inland from there is the stunning mountain village of Benahavís that is one of the richest villages in Spain, offering incredible villas with unbeatable views to the Mediterranean and the surrounding landscape. It is around here that you will find the highly sought-after residential golf communities of La Quinta, Los Arqueros, and the most exclusive gated community of La Zagaleta, where even some of the world´s most rich and famous have been denied access in the past.
East of Marbella, near the border with Mijas, Elviria is a laidback residential estate with a family-orientated commercial and hospitality areas, and just a short walk to some of Marbella’s finest beaches. Similar tones are felt though the neighbouring areas of Marbesa, and passing through El Rosario, Bahía de Marbella and Los Monteros on the way back to Marbella town centre. Cabopino, in Marbella´s far east, is a destination in its own right famous for its quiet sand dune beaches and rugged timber walking track through them, as well as a small marina.
Points of Interest
Marbella’s venerable history is marked by vestiges of the Roman, Arab and Christian eras. Many remain well-preserved in the town’s old quarter, such as an Arabic castle wall, the ancient roman bridge of Puente Romano, various chapels and the Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación church.
Guided visits can be organised to other fascinating archaeological remains including a Roman villa in Río Verde, the Vega del Mar paleochristian basilica and the Las Bóvedas Roman baths in San Pedro.
Marbella itself offers various historical and cultural sites. Dating back to the 16th century, the old Bazán Hospital in Marbella´s historical centre, with its Gothic-Mudejar imprint, is currently the Museum of Contemporary Spanish Engravings.
Opened in 2000, within the Coral Beach urbanisation between Marbella and Puerto Banús, the Ralli Museum contains one of the most important Latin American art collections in Europe. If historical sites are your interest, there are many nearby destinations to be explored.
For a tranquil moment of reflection and relaxation, between the Old Town and the seaside promenade is Alameda Park, popularly known as Marbella’s “historic green zone” – a verdant haven for generations of locals and visitors that connects the historic centre to the spacious and vibrant beachside promenade.
Places to Visit
Probably not ideal if your current state of fitness leaves a little to be desired, but one of the most popular and spectacular “pilgrimages” in Marbella is to the top of the 1,215-metre La Concha mountain peak that is the iconic image of the local skyline.
If you prefer to leave your trekking shoes behind, equally breathtaking views that require less strenuous exertion can be enjoyed from La Mairena – just a short drive up from Elviria.
There are numerous other wonderful nature walks in the mountain areas surrounding Marbella, including the Mirador de Juanar (lookout) in the neighbouring Ojén municipality, a comfortable one and a half kilometre hike from the El Refugio de Juanar hotel (or shorter tracks from the parking area). There are also lower key walks around the many reserved areas of Marbella, including Casada de Camojan and Montua, among others.
Within an hour you can find the historical centre of Málaga with a fantastic selection of archealogical sites, museums and retail zones. You will find the picturesque mountain village of Mijas Pueblo within 30 minutes from Marbella. If you are happy to drive an hour or two, you could also visit the Sierra de la Nieves (snowy) mountain range- declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1995 and added to Spain’s exclusive network of “National Parks” in 2021.
Owning a home in the Costa del Sol gives you instant access to endless culture, nature and history to explore. The famous Moorish influenced town of Granada and it´s ancient palace Alhambra, the stunning historical town that straddles a canyon of Ronda, as well as the ports of Tarifa and ocean beaches of Cadiz are all within a comfortable 2-hour drive. There are also plenty of national parks to explore within a 2-hour drive including Ardales, Grazalema, Alpujarras and Alcornocales. Then, if you are willing to drive a bit further you could also visit Sierra Nevada, the largest ski resort in the area, and Seville (the capital of Andalucía) with it´s intriguing history and range of museums.
Best Places to Eat/Drink
As to be expected in a city renowned for its air of sophistication, Marbella’s culinary options include three flagship Michelin-star restaurants: Skina (two stars) in the Old Town; Messina close to the city centre; and El Lago, overlooking a picturesque lake in the Elviria heights.
Marbella’s most famous chef, Dani García, who achieved three Michelin stars for his eponymous restaurant before relinquishing them to move in a new gastronomic direction, still oversees three top restaurants in Marbella: Leña, BiBo and Lobito de Mar- all situated around Puerto Romano and Santa Magarita, near the beach of Nagüeles.
Along its extended coastline, Marbella is also home to countless “chiringuitos”, translating as “beach bars” but in many cases quite elegant fine dining establishments in the most stunning beachside locations. Three popular haunts for Marbella’s high society are Victor’s Beach Bar (off the Golden Mile), Trocadero Arena (in the Río Real area on the eastern outskirts of Marbella) and La Cabane (within the five-star Los Monteros Golf & Spa Resort).
In addition to these stellar dining options, Marbella has an extensive and diverse array of restaurants offering traditional Spanish, classic international and creative fusion cuisine. Plus – as this is Spain – there is a welcoming bar or café on just about every corner.
Marbella has two dozen beaches extending along nearly 30 kilometres of coastline – several of which have been awarded highly-coveted “Blue Flag” status.
Apart from popular beach areas in the town centre such as La Fontanilla and Puerto Banús, the municipality is also home to “less urban” beach settings such as Artola, Caboino which is part of a protected dunes area, as well as Real de Zaragoza, Los Monteros in the east, and Playa de Nagüeles in the west.
For those seeking a more “Champagne” experience, Marbella offers several über-cool beach clubs, the most popular including Nikki Beach in Elviria (which re-opens each new summer season with its famous “White Party”), La Sala by the Sea and Ocean Club (along the promenade near Puerto Banús), Opium Beach Club (just east of the town centre) and Beach Club Estrella del Mar (near the currently closed Don Carlos Resort & Spa, that is also in Elviria).
Boating enthusiasts will find a seventh maritime heaven in Marbella. Berthed throughout the year at the Puerto Banús marina are some of the most magnificent super-yachts sailing on the high seas. Their owners – including billionaire tycoons and Middle East royalty – use the renowned Marbella port as one of their key stop-over destinations, and locals can enjoy a coffee or glass of wine in one of the quayside bars while admiring their nautical splendour.
On the other eastern side of Marbella, Cabopino marina is smaller and less grand, but also home to an impressive fleet of yachts bobbing in front of a line of inviting al fresco restaurant terraces.
Sport & Leisure
Marbella has more golf courses than any other municipality in Spain. These include Las Brisas, which has hosted two World Cups, the first in 1973 when Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller won for the United States.
Three other courses that, together with Las Brisas, comprise Nueva Andalucía’s “Golf Valley” – Guadalmina, Aloha, Los Naranjos, Los Arqueros and La Quinta – have also been the venues for many top men’s and women’s European Tour events over the decades.
Novak Djokovic is the most prominent of many global stars who use Puente Romano’s world-class tennis amenities for practice. The Serbian also owns property in Marbella and spends extended periods in the area holidaying with his family.
At one time almost exclusively played by South Americans and Spaniards, pádel (or paddle tennis) is rapidly gaining popularity among Marbella’s foreign community, with hundreds of courts dotted around the municipality, in both sports clubs and private residential estates- most locals enjoy regular spots of paddle.
Other sports well catered for include horse-riding, sailing, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, scuba diving, horse-riding, cycling, walking, football, lawn bowls and even rugby. Being so international, the Costa del Sol offers the best of world culture and sports.
Marbella’s history as a fishing village and its more recent popularity as a major Mediterranean seaside resort mean that locals and visitors can enjoy just about any watersport or nautical activity.
These range from parasailing and jet-skiing to scuba diving, paddle-surfing, paddle boating, canoeing, kayaking, wind-surfing, and dolphin watching. Most activities are just available from the beach- there is no need to pre-book or go looking. There is also a Cableski & Wake-Board Centre in San Pedro de Alcántara.
Marbella takes “retail therapy” to a new level, although one where you might need a hefty balance on your credit card. Boutiques offering the world’s most exclusive brands – in fashion, jewellery and state-of-the-art home entertainment – are prominently located along the Puerto Banús marina frontline, as well as in Marbella’s “High Street” (Ricardo Soriano Avenue).
More modest boutiques and many international brands can also be found in the sprawling La Cañada commercial centre, as well as numerous cafés and restaurants where you can catch your breath and have a revitalising drink before returning to the shopping fray, while overlooking Marbella and the Mediterranean.
Health & Wellness
“Health Tourism” has become increasingly popular in recent years, and Marbella is recognised as offering the finest, and most extensive, wellness facilities in Andalucía.
All the town’s top hotels have cutting-edge spas and treatment services, many of which are open to non-guests. Las Dunas (on the way to Estepona) is a specialist wellness getaway hotel, while clinics such as the Buchinger Wilhelmi offer more specific programs including therapeutic fasting. There are plenty of therapeutic spa circuits throughout the coast including in Puente Romano Spa, Vincci in Elviria and the prestigous Marbella Club Hotel, among many others. There are also exotic Hamman baths in Benalmadena and Málaga.
Marbella is also a popular destination for both residents and visitors wanting to arrange a touch of cosmetic surgery, followed (of course) by a pleasant and relaxing convalescence period in the area.
Marbella in a Nutshell
Marbella offers an incredible variety of quality lifestyle choices. Whether it high end retail, luxury spas, sports or enjoying nature´s best- it´s all right around the corner here in Marbella. Add to that, the wonderful weather, the famous micro-climate, the diverse mixture of international cultural influences and rich history, and you have yourself one of the best residential tourism destinations in the Europe.