Marbella: city guide. Glamour, beauty and swanky boutiques in this stylish Spanish city

 
Why go

Anyone looking for a glamorous location with guaranteed sunshine and the chance to spot a celebrity to two, need look no further than Marbella.

Situated in the heart of Costa del Sol and nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Blanca mountains, Marbella is regarded as Spain’s answer to Monte Carlo. Adventure, entertainment, luxury shopping, fine dining, an enviable climate and stylish beach life attracts thousands of people to this cosmopolitan Mediterranean hotspot every year.

Just steps away from sports cars and swanky boutiques is the elegant Old Town and pretty mountain villages with quiet piazzas and white-washed houses are less than an hour away by car.

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What to do
marbella orange square flickr John Cullen 620
Restaurant life in Orange Square

Take advantage of the perfect climate and top up your tan on the beach. Authentic chiringuitos (beach bars) are dotted along the sand so you can stop and watch the world go by whilst enjoying a café con leche (white coffee) and churros (Spanish doughnuts).

Marbella Old Town is centred around the ‘Plaza de los Naranjos’ (Orange Square) and is a breath of fresh air. The narrow cobbled streets are perfect for whiling away the hours, shopping, browsing work from local artists and sipping sangria in the shade whilst eating delicious tapas.

Marbella Puerto Banus at night flickr Kai Friis 620
Puerto Banus at night

Travel six miles west of Marbella and you hit Puerto Banus, the most sophisticated port in Spain. More like a Parisian catwalk than a busy marina, Banus is home to beautiful people wearing designer bikinis sunning themselves on super-yachts.

Where to stay
The Marbella Club Hotel 620
The Marbella Club

Some of the most decadent hotels in Europe can be found on these shores with the renowned, opulent Marbella Club leading the way with its first class accommodation, facilities and service. If luxury is on your radar, the Puente Romano Beach Resort sprawls along the coastline line offering panoramic ocean views from the swimming pools and bars.

The Hotel Claude, a 17th-century townhouse once home to Napoleon III’s wife, is a special, but low-key hotel with a pretty roof terrace that looks down over the bustling streets below. There are a number of smaller boutique hotels and B&Bs that offer a more traditional stay and for those who want to live like a celebrity for just for a few nights, many of the rental villas are out of this world.

Where to eat

There are hundreds of places to eat in Marbella with new ones popping up all the time. Read the reviews but the ones that are bursting at the seams with locals tend to be the real winners. From seafood at chiringuitos on the beach and stuffed mushrooms at tapas bars, to steaming pans of paella on Orange Square and langoustines in the swanky waterfront restaurants, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out in Marbella.

Tierr Aranda in the Old Town is a tapas winner and the best prawns pil pil can be found at Trianas near Cabopino, where jugs of chilled rose sangria are served with a side order of waves crashing on the beach and glorious sunsets.

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Getting around

Once in Marbella you can do most things by foot. Given that car parking is at a premium, if you do venture out of the town, either hire a car for the day or opt for a taxi but remember to agree the price before starting the journey.

When to go

Marbella enjoys an average of 320 days of sunshine a year. If you want to escape the crazy crowds and hottest days, visit before July or after September. During summer months it can get a little heavy on hen dos and the like, but there are more than enough quieter areas and bars to escape to.

Three things we like
  1. Between Easter and the end September you can take a ferry from Marbella Marina to Puerto Banus. During the mini cruise sit back, relax on the upper deck and enjoy a glass of chilled champagne as you take in the stunning golden coastline.
  2. Close to the Old Town is La Alameda Park where a stunning Salvador Dali sculpture exhibition is set against a backdrop of exotic plants and tress.
  3. One little-known delight in Marbella is the ‘Museo del Bonsai’(Bonsai Museum). Home to some of the largest collections of bonsais in Europe and best olive trees in the world, this is a little piece of paradise.
Something we don’t

In the heat of summer jellyfish can invade the sea and beaches so be vigilant because they have a nasty sting.

Don’t miss

For a real taste of Spanish life head to one of the bustling street markets in Marbella Town (Monday) or Puerto Banus (Saturday) where you can pick up fresh local fruit and vegetables, spices, clothes, antiques and handmade gifts.

Get out Marbella for a day and head up the mountain road to the traditional town of Rhonda. With dazzling white houses, shops selling local arts and crafts and stunning views of the Mediterranean, this gem is not to be missed.

Nikki Beach Marbella 620
The glitzy Nikki Beach
High50 insider tips
  • Some shops in Marbella close between 2pm and 4.30pm Monday to Friday whilst staff take a siesta.
  • Yes it is flashy and a little pricey but Nikki Beach oozes the glitz and glamour that is Marbella, so even if you go for a glass of champagne and sushi, go.
  • Spanish wines are outstanding so don’t feel you have to order the most expensive bottle on the list because very often the house wine is totally spot on
 Travelling with family?

With outstanding beaches, wall-to-wall sunshine, water parks, playgrounds, museums and a warm welcome for children, Marbella is a winning destination for all the family.

Need to know
  • The flight from London to Malaga is just under three hours and Marbella is less than an hour from Malaga Airport.
  • Euros are the local currency.
  • Local time is GMT + 1.
  • European-style two-pin plugs are standard.