If a German prince hadn´t decided to buy some land in the obscure fishing village where his car broke down in 1946 it is likely that few people outside of Spain would have heard of the name Marbella. As it happens, he did, and soon began inviting his A-list celebrity friends to visit him there – think Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. The Finca in which he hosted them became the Marbella club in 1954, the first of many luxury hotels that would become synonymous with the city that grew up around it. To this day the lustre hasn´t worn off and Marbella remains a showcase for the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
Not everybody can afford to buy in Marbella but as a tourist destination it does have something for everybody, not matter your budget…
1. Old Town
One look at Marbella´s “old town” and it is easy to see why the Prince fell in love with the place. At its heart is the Orange Square, which takes its name from the orange trees that surround the pretty fountain in the middle. On three sides the square is fronted by architectural gems which grant the square its unique beauty: the hermitage, the town hall and old governor´s house, all dating back to the Baroque era and beyond. Sitting down to lunch or a coffee in Orange Square is the natural place to begin your sight-seeing trip to Marbella.
Having soaked up the history in Orange Square the next item on people´s agenda in Marbella is to hit the shops. There are several large shopping centres with high street brands like Zara, Mango, and H&M, but what Marbella is really famous for its it chic designer outlets. The likes of Versace and Gucci have their own stores here and many other high couture labels can be found in high end complexes. Window shopping along the “golden mile” is a tourist activity in itself.
On the south of Spain it is a given that you are not going to have to look far to find a beautiful beach and Marbella does not disappoint. From Nagueles beach which is uber popular due to its central location just off the golden mile, to Funny beach with its carnival attractions, and the diminutive Venus beach, there is a stretch of sand to suit every kind of visitor, be they young families, large groups, or singles looking for some sea-side seclusion.
For those interested in more cultural pursuits a trip to the Marbella Mosque is well worth the time. Unlike the mosque at Cordoba this building does not date back to Moorish times, it is a modern construction that harks back to the great mosques of old. It´s clean white lines, and gleaming courtyard planted with orange trees is the perfect blend of the modern with the traditional.
5. Parks and Gardens
Apart from all the material wealth on display Marbella also has a wealth of natural beauty to boast of. Parque de las Medranas in San Pedro de Alcantara is especially worth a visit as it offers the opportunity to water ski by cable which is a really fun way of taking in the surrounds. For a more central zone of relaxation try Alameda Park with its tropical plants and shady seating areas. Surrounded by cafés and restaurants it´s a popular place for locals to meet up and for tourist to enjoy a romantic horse and carriage ride.
Whether if you live in Spain or just come to visit, there are at least 5 traditional festivals you have to know and visit in Costa Blanca. Summer is high-season, so you will be able to find party and celebrations almost in every town of Alicante. As we cannot assist to all of them, here you have our 5 most favorite ones:
Las Hogueras June 20-25
Of all the feast days celebrated in Spain few burn as bright as Las Hogueras de San Juan (we have already spoken in depth about them here). Marking the culmination of the feast of St. John celebrating the summer equinox massive bonfires of wood and papier maché are constructed on the beaches of Alicante and fireworks erupt overhead. Traditionally celebrants would have jumped over the fire seven times but given that they now grow to several stories high it best advised to enjoy the show from a safe distance.
La Nit de L´Alba Aug 13
This festival originated as a ritual offering by the people of Elche to the Virgin Mary which involved the launching of a small rocket for each child in the family, but has in modern times developed into a thundering pyrotechnic display that takes place on the 13th of August each year. Throughout the city people let off their own fireworks, but the main event begins at 11:00pm and ends just before midnight when everything goes quiet, a white light is shone from the Santa Maria Basilica, and a traditional hymn is played.
Moros y Cristianos (From April on)
The long history of Arab, or Moorish, occupation of Spain has left a deep imprint on the culture of the country, from the Great Mosque of Cordoba, to the Alhambra in Granada and countless other traces to be found in the food, architecture, and language of modern Spain. Although this period was famous for its conviviencia, or peaceful coexistence, many wars were also fought, during the initial invasion and in the subsequent reconquista. These epic battles are re-enacted to this day in the form of the Moros Y Cristianos which are celebrated throughout Spain but nowhere more religiously than in the Alicante region. The most famous are the ones from Alcoy, Petrer and Elda.
Carnival – February/March, depending on the date of Easter
Carnival is a festival most almost synonymous with South America, and in Europe with the masquerade balls of Venice, but Spain also has a strong tradition of celebrating this winter festival, and in Alicante it is celebrated in style. The high point of the festivities is reached on the Saturday night when thousands of revellers take to the city´s main Rambla in elaborate fancy dress to let loose and make merry.
Els Enfarinats Dec 28
What is it about living on the Costa Blanca that makes people want to throw food at each other? In Valencia they have the Tomatina, the tomato throwing festival, and in Ibi near Alicante they have the enfarinats where flour bombs and eggs become the projectile of choice. Maybe it´s best not to ask as you will probably just end up with egg on your face. It all has something to do with staging a mock coup d’état where flour wielding revolutionaries take over the city and…but there´s no point in overthinking it – just join in with glorious messy madness of it all.
Today’s post is especially aimed at you, foodies all over the world 😉 Costa del Sol is no exception to Spaniards’ love of good food and the so-called sobremesa (table talk). Read on to find out more on the gastronomic delights Costa del Sol offers.
When it comes to Málaga’s gastronomy , tradition, innovation and a pinch of international flavour, all merge together. When thinking about Andalusian dishes the first ones that comes to our mind are probably the wold-famous gazpacho, a cold soup made of tomato, cucumber, pepper, garlic, bread, olive oil, salt and vinegar, and the pescaíto frito, deep-dried fish. However, Costa del Sol is a truly melting pot and this multiculturalism is reflected in its cuisine, hence the great number of international dishes which are served up at local restaurants. Baklavas, a Moroccan sweet pastry, is easily found all along the coast and the British Carrot Cake can be considered to be a traditional cake of Western Costa del Sol.
Sit down on any of the terraces of the local restaurants set along the coastline and enjoy the tasty tapas while taking a cooling sip of any of the local wines. Tapas are an excellent option to sample the variety and high quality of Costa del Sol’s cuisine. They are small portions of food which can be eaten any time of day. The idea is to order different tapas and share them with your partner, family or friends. The so-called chiringuitos are beach bars set along the seafront promenade or even on the beach itself. They serve up pescaíto frito and other savoury fish dishes as well as a wide range of cooling drinks. Enjoy a piece of crunchy fish spiced up with a scent of salty air.
If you really want to soak up Spanish culture, a visit to local markets is a must. You will find different stalls offering an exquisite selection of fresh meat and fish, colourful fruits and vegetables and crusty and delicious bakery and pastry products. Grab some stuff here and there, and dare to cook some of the local dishes listed down below.
Here you have a selection of 5 regional dishes. All of them are based on traditional recipes using fresh ingredients and offer a unique punch of flavour. They will make you want to lick your fingers!
Espeto de Sardinas: sardine skewers which are grilled in the salt air in a sand-filled boat on the beach. They are simply yummy! Here is how to do it at home.
You will need:
Sardines to be grilled must be super fresh and we recommend cooking them outdoors. Leave them whole and sprinkle them with a pinch of coarse salt. Heat the grill, add some olive oil and cook the sardines until roasted. Serve hot. Perfect for BBQ’s with friends J
Berenjenas fritas con miel de caña: fried eggplant with cane honey.
Slice the eggplants, cover them with milk, add a pinch of salt and let soak for 1 hour. Drain and cover the slices with flour, shake to remove the excess and fry them in a deep pan with olive oil. Drain on paper towels. Drizzle with honey and serve hot. Watch out! They are highly addictive.
Ensalada de pulpo: a refreshing octopus salad perfect for the hottest days of summer. You will need:
A medium-sized octopus
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
Dip the octopus into a pot filled with boiling water for 5 seconds, repeat this 4 times. Let the octopus cook for 45 minutes. When done, place it on a plate or board to cool. Chop the vegetables into cubes and the octopus into slices and mix them all in a bowl. Dress with olive oil, vinegar and season with sea salt.
Jibias con garbanzos: cuttlefish stew with chickpeas. A delicious strew with an unmistakable sea flavour.
1 or 2 cuttlefish
1 green pepper
1 head of garlic
Put the chickpeas to soak the night before. Chop the cuttlefish into squares. Put the chickpeas, the cuttlefish, the potato, the roasted head of garlic, 1 onion, the bay leaves and the tomato into a steam pressure pot. Season with salt and blak pepper and add water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 40 minutes. Chop the onion and green pepper into cubes. Fry the minced vegetables in a frying pan drizzled with olive oil and let it cook for a few minutes. When cooked, sprinkle with paprika, add the sofrito into the pot and stir. Serve hot.
Roscos de vino: wine ring cookies for those who have a sweet tooth. Eat just one
Pre-heat oven to 180ºC. Add sesame seeds and lemon rind onto a frying pan and heat for 1 minute, set aside. Mix all dry ingredients + seeds and lemon rind in a bowl. Slowly add the oil, wine and liqueur and mix gently. Take out a small amount of dough and roll out on a floured board. Cut pieces out of the dough and form a ring/ doughnut shape. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool and toss the icing sugar to coat the tops. ¡Qué aproveche!
Costa del Sol is also known as Costa del Golf and there is a good reason for that. There are ca. 60 golf courses located along this sought-after stretch of coastline, of which 4 are ranked in the Top 10 in Europe: Valderrama Golf Club, San Roque Golf Club, La Reserva and Los Naranjos. These golf courses have been designed by renowned names such as Severiano Ballesteros, Robert Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Dave Thomas. But let me tell you that it is not only the high quality of the golf courses themselves what attracts golfers from all around the world to this area.
The unrivalled climate Costa del Sol offers with over 320 days of sunshine a year and low rainfall makes it perfect to fully enjoy a round of golf anytime without being worry about the weather 😉 On top of that, the courses are surrounded by stunning natural landscapes which are a treat for the senses. You can even benefit from jaw-dropping views overlooking the deep-blue Mediterranean Sea. Picture yourself in this paradise-like setting playing a round of golf with the sun shining bright and the sea breeze blowing gently to soothe the heat on the hottest days. So, do not think it twice, pack your golf clubs and discover Costa del Sol. Here is a list of some of the golf courses you will find along Costa del Sol.
Alcaidesa Golf: It offers 2 golf courses Links (designed by Peter Allis and Clive Clark, Alcaidesa’s flagship since 1992) and Heathland (designed by Dave Thomas and opened in 2007), putting green, golf lessons, buggies, clubhouse and restaurant. It is located close to San Roque, La Linea and Gibraltar. A spectacular setting boating views of the Mediterranean Sea and Gibraltar.
Aloha Marbella Golf Course: This course designed by Javier Arana and opened in 1975 is to be found in Nueva Andalucía. It offers spectacular views of La Concha Mountain and the Mediterranean Sea. This 18–hole golf course is considered to be one of the most beautiful and outstanding ones in Spain.
Atalaya New and Old Course: 2 magnificent 18-hole golf courses with superb views of the Sea. This course situated in Estepona is with no doubt an oasis of peacefulness dotted with trees and beautiful Mediterranean flora.
Baviera Golf: an even course known for its wide greens. Designed by José María Cañizares, 5 European PGA Tours and 2 World Championship, this superb golf course offers a wide range of facilities and lovely views over the Mediterranean Sea.
Cabopino Golf Marbella: located midway between Marbella and Mijas Costa, opposite Cabopino Port boasting breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding pine forest. An 18-hole golf course equipped with several facilities such as driving range, pro-shop, clubhouse, putting green, golf academy, lessons, hotel and restaurant.
El Higueral Golf: it is a 9-hole, par-36 golf resort on the slopes of the foothills in Benahavís. Nestled in a stunning natural lanscape offering views which will leave you breathless.
Finca Cortesín: it is one of the longest courses in Europe (almost 7,000metres!). This 18-hole course is equipped with a great array of facilities including spa, a sport club and one of the best hotels in Europe. Finca Cortesín is an eco-friendly golf course where both flora and fauna are absolutely respected.
Flamingos Resort Estepona: a 18-hole golf course beautifully designed by Antonio García Garrido with spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea, Gibraltar and Africa. It is home to Villa Padierna Hotel which become very famous back in 2010 when it was chosen by Michelle Obama and her youngest daughter to spend their summer holiday.
Guadalmina Golf Marbella/ Real Golf de Guadalmina: it consists of two 18-hole golf courses and a 9-hole course. It was awarded Royal Appointment by King Juan Carlos I in 2008. The facilities include 40 bay grass driving range, locker room, cafeteria, pro shop, sauna, swimming pool, tennis courts, paddle tennis court and practice bunker.
La Duquesa: a hilly course nestled between the mountain and the Mediterranean Sea. A beautiful blend of design and nature created by Robert Trent Jones. It features: putting green, pitching green, driving range, pro-shop, restaurant, cafe, Jacuzzi, sauna, indoor swimming pool, and tennis court.
La Quinta Golf Marbella: a fantastic golf course right in the heart of the Golf Valley and 5 minute drive from Marbella and Puerto Banús. It is considered to be one of the best and finest golf courses on Costa del Sol. It hosts the Benahavís Senior Masters every October. It offers: 27 holes, putting greens, hotel, golf academy, bar-cafe, restaurant, spa and gym.
La Resina Golf & Country Club: a 9-hole, par 3 and 4 golf course located in Estepona. Its lanscaped semi-tropical gardens with lakes and ancient olive trees makes it one of the most outstading courses on Costa del Sol.
Los Arqueros Golf Marbella: a challenging par-71, 18-hole course designed by Severiano Ballesteros. This excellent golf course merges with the exceptional natural environment and offers lovely views of the sea.
Los Naranjos Marbella: this course designed by Robert Trent Jones is one of the best golf courses in Spain. The courses set amidst orange groves was indeed voted Course of the Year in both 2005 and 2008. Los Naranjos has been the host of several mayor competitions since the opening in 1977.
Río Real Golf: a fantastic 18-hole par 72 course spread over an undulating terrain sloping gently towards the sea. It is set in a valley with a river crossing the course. Río Real Golf is regarded as one of the best golf courses in Marbella. It is equipped with hotel, club house, bar, tennis/paddle court and driving range.
Santa María Golf Elviria: it runs through 2 valleys and offers fantastic views of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a very popular golf course situated midway between Fuengirola and Marbella. Facilities include: restaurant, pro-shop, tennis court, bowling, golf academy (inc driving range), clubhouse and putting green.
Torrequebrada Golf Benalmádena: a masterpiece considered to be one of the most beautiful golf courses on Costa del Sol. The course constructed in the late 70’s is located in a resort 3km inland from Benalmádena Costa.
Valle Romano Golf Resort Estepona: it is the newest course on Costa del Sol. An 18-hole golf course inaugurated in 2010 and constructed to meet the highest quality standards used by the United States Golf Association. Designed by Cabell B. Robinson, one of the best golf course designers in the world who also created Valderrama and Santana Golf. A spectacular setting where sport, nature and peace merge. It is open 365 days of the year!
Alicante province has 218km of coastline made up of some of the most beautiful beaches and coves you could imagine. The region receives the largest number of Blue Flags each year for the great quality of the water, sand and the wide range of facilities offered. In fact, Costa Blanca is worldwide known for featuring the best beaches in the Mediterranean. Now that we are immersed in the hot months of summer and a heat wave hits the country with temperatures shooting up to over 40 degrees Celsius, what could be better than having a cooling dip in the wonderful deep-blue waters of the Costa Blanca? What follows is a selection of the most amazing coves.
Granadella Cove in Jávea A rocky and pebble cove surrounded by a unique natural landscape. Its crystal-clear waters and sea grass beds make it a paradise for scuba diving and snorkelling enthusiasts. There is a fantastic hiking route which begins from the gorge leading onto Granadella Cove.
La Caleta, Villajoyosa A small pebbly beach bathed by calm waters. It stands out for the transparency of its waters and its location. It is nestled between cliffs away from the buzz of the city. It is a perfect option for those who are not very keen on crowded beaches.
Tabarca Island Beach A small idyllic beach situated on Tabarca Island. A sandy-pebbly beach known for its rich sea beds and its protected marine reserve. Its mesmerizing turquoise water will amaze you.
Moraig Cove, Benitachel A gravel beach with crystal-clear water nestled between the Morro Falquí cliff and Moraig fault. A craggy shoreline silhouetting an outstanding landscape. It is home to Cova dels Arcs and a tremendous marine and underwater ecosystem which makes it perfect for scuba diving.
El Racó Cove, Calpe El Racó Cove is situated at the foothills of El Peñón de Ifach, the Rock of Ifach, an outstanding natural reserve bathed by the Mediterranean Sea. There is an underwater path with signs and information panels on the seabed.
Tío Ximo Cove, Benidorm Tío Ximo Cove has nothing to do with the crowded beaches stretching along Benidorm coastline. Its clear water makes it perfect to practice snorkelling. You will fall in love!
El Portet, Moraira This small beach with transparent water is an ideal spot for diving and kayaking. It is situated in an exceptional setting between sea and mountain.
El Mascarat Cove, Poble Mascarat Gorgeous hidden cove next to Poble Mascarat Beach. It can only be accessed by boat and offers an amazing landscape. Ideal for intrepid explorers and snorkelling enthusiasts.
Las Calas, Torrevieja Las Calas is a rocky area on Torrevieja coastline. The coastal erosion has shaped these lovely coves which are perfect to lay back and enjoy the sea. Its rich marine ecosystem and clam water make it a perfect zone for snorkelling lovers.
Cantalar Cove, Cabo de las Huertas El Cabo de las Huertas is made up of different coves. The most outstanding one is Cantalar Cove, a small sandy-rocky cove close to Camino del Faro. Enjoy a quiet stroll beside the sea with the sea as a backdrop picture.
As every year, Alicante celebrates the coming of the summer with the Bonfires of Saint John, Hogueras de San Juan. This festival lasts for 5 days, from 20th to 24th June. It brings hundreds of people into the street willing to enjoy music, food, firecrackers and the most important thing… fire!
During these days, the city comes to a full stop. Streets are filled with party and joy and fireworks light up the sky. People gather together at the so-called barracas (large tents in the streets with tables, chairs and a dance floor) to eat out, have cooling sip, sample the typical figs and coca am tonyina (a pastry with tuna, onion and pine nuts) and dance both day and night.
In the beginning of June, different events take place such as the Ninot and Children’s Ninot Exhibition, the Paella Contest, the Opening Ceremony, the Ninot Parade and the nightly mascletàs (firecracker displays) which take place at 00:00 every night from 13th June to 18th June. The daily mascletàs take place at Luceros Square every day at 14:00 from 18th June to 24th June. These mascletàs are displayed by a different firework company each day.
The Bonfires officially start with La Plantà (the set up) on 20th June. Colossal monuments made of papier-mâché, wood and different flammable materials are set up in the streets as well as the above-mentioned barracas. These monuments, which are known as Hogueras, satirically depict Spanish society and caricatures of politicians and celebrities. The Hogueras are entered in the Monument Competition which is the most important contest in Bonfire-of-Saint-John events. Works of ephemeral art which will be burnt and destroyed in a bonfire called La Cremà (the burning) held at midnight on 24th June, St John’s Night. It starts with fireworks in the shape of a spectacular palm tree on Santa Bárbara Castle. From that moment on, the Alicante’s 90 Hogueras go up in flames one by one. It is the highest point of this festival and marks the end of it.
HOGUERAS WILL BE BURNT IN “La cremà”
The Beauty of the Fire, Bellea del Foc, is the queen of the festival and presides over each institutional act together with the 6 Ladies of the Fire, Damas del Foc and the mayor. She is chosen from among the candidates presented by each Bonfire committee to be the visible face of the Hogueras.
On the days following the Cremà, a Firework Display Competition is held over El Postiguet Beach from 25th June to 29th June. A spectacular display of colours and fire attracting hundreds of people.
Its origin dates back to ancient times, when farmers would harvest the crops on the longest day of the year and would light purifying bonfires around which they danced to burn curses and evils away.
This agricultural ritual soon spread to large towns. However, this tradition of letting off fireworks and setting up bonfires was forbidden in 1822. The townspeople simply ignored the law and continued celebrating the Hogueras. The so-called Ninots (statues) were born in the streets among music, dances and games. The extravagant Ninots are satirical statues depicting the bizarre behaviour and defects of some neighbours in a fun way.
But it was not until 1928 when the festivity was officially accepted and formally constituted. The City Hall considered the festival to be a major tourist attraction and the best way for locals to continue enjoying their traditions.
The festival has developed a great deal during the last years and new elements have been added such as the barracas and the Beauty of the Fire, the queen of the festival, in 1932. Bonfires of Saint John have been granted the status of a Festival of International Tourist Interest