If a German prince hadn’t decided to buy a plot of land in the obscure fishing village where his car broke down in 1946, it’s likely that few people outside Spain would have heard of the name Marbella. But he did, and soon began inviting celebrity friends to visit him there (Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn…).
The estate where he hosted them became the Marbella Club in 1954, the first of many luxury hotels that would become a symbol of the town that grew up around it. To this day, the glitter has not faded and Marbella continues to showcase the lifestyle of the rich and famous.
If you want to feel like one of them, here’s what to see in Marbella.
1. The old town
One look at Marbella’s “old town” and it’s easy to understand why Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg fell in love with this place. At its heart is the Plaza de los Naranjos, which gets its name from the orange trees surrounding the beautiful central fountain. Its construction dates back to none other than the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, and it is bounded by three architectural gems that make it uniquely beautiful: the hermitage, the town hall and the old governor’s house, all from the Baroque period. Sitting down for lunch or a coffee in the Plaza de los Naranjos is the best way to start a visit to Marbella.
The Hotel Fuerte Marbella is another iconic building in the city. It was one of the first hotels in the area, and the first on the coast of Malaga to install a lift. A real oasis of relaxation with views of the sea. And, still on the subject of ancient constructions, don’t miss the Chapel of San Juan de Dios. It also dates back to the time of the Catholic Monarchs, and its coffered ceiling and geometric decoration is highly appreciated by the locals.
Continue with the church of La Encarnación, the image of the Virgen de los Dolores on the balcony, the Moorish wall (declared an Asset of Cultural Interest and the only Muslim vestige of the city) and Montenebro street, a beautiful example of the most traditional Andalusia.
2. Shopping in Marbella
After immersing yourself in the history of Marbella’s Orange Square, it’s time to hit the shops. But not just any shops…
Shopping centres in Marbella
Marbella is alive all year round. And in the summer months, the number of visitors multiplies. For this reason, there is a wide range of shops on offer. Starting with the shopping centers, such as La Cañada, the largest and the one with the greatest variety of shops of all kinds (clothes, accessories, decoration, sports…) and activities (cinemas, bowling alley, cafés…).
Centro Plaza is located along the promenade, and in Puerto Banús you will find Marina Banús and Costa Marbella. Everything you need for your day to day life and to treat yourself.
Luxury shops in Marbella
If there is one thing that stands out about Marbella’s shops, it is the number of luxury shops per square metre. If you are looking to stand out with designer clothes and accessories or haute couture, this is the place to be.
Marbella’s luxury shops range from well-known brands, such as Versace and Gucci, to even more exclusive ones, such as Maison Vacheron Constantin, the best high-end watch shop in Marbella. How about a watch with 46 round-cut diamonds? Strolling around Marbella’s golden mile and browsing the shop windows is a plan in itself.
3. Beaches and nature
In southern Spain, chances are you won’t have to look far to find a beautiful beach, and Marbella certainly delivers. From Nagueles beach, very popular for its great location, right next to the golden mile, to Funny beach, offering multiple activities such as flyboarding, parasailing, wakeboarding, jetskiing, paddlesurfing… And the tiny Venus beach, very close to the port of Marbella, well liked by the locals and ideal for families.
But there is much more to Marbella’s natural surroundings than beaches. For example, Las Medranas park in San Pedro de Alcántara is well worth a visit, featuring four reservoirs surrounded by greenery. Don’t leave without trying the cable water-skiing! For a breath of fresh air, take a hike in the Sierra Blanca, the mountain that protects Marbella and offers breathtaking views of the coastline. And just five minutes from Marbella is the Sierra de las Nieves Nature Reserve, declared a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco for its beautiful forests of Spanish firs.
4. Puerto Banús and nautical life
When deciding what to see in Marbella, the seaside is a must. What would Marbella be without its sea? Here, salt water is essential and life revolves around the Mediterranean Sea. There is a reason why Marbella’s marina, the well-known Puerto Banús, is one of the liveliest and most sought-after places in town.
More than 4 million people visit Puerto Banús every year. There must be a reason, right? Whether or not you are lucky enough to have one of the mega yachts moored in the harbour, a stroll along the promenade is a unique experience, and you will come across people from all walks of life. Puerto Banús is the fifth most expensive port in Europe, and there is glamour in every corner.
For those who don’t want to miss out on the nautical life, there are plenty of options. From renting a sailboat to spend the day at sea, or even a boat trip with massages and beauty treatments included! But our favourite thing to do is to go on a boat trip to see wild dolphins.
The best of the Mediterranean Diet and Malaga (and international) gastronomy is in Marbella. As a result of the large influx of visitors from all over Spain and the world, the variety of dishes and types of cuisine is endless.
Visit the most fashionable restaurants in town so you don’t miss out on the latest trends. For dining with sea views, try Marbella Club or Soleo. For more traditional cuisine with an avant-garde touch, try Lobito de Mar or La Milla. And for exotic flavours, go to Ta-kumi or Manuka Alanda.
Or treat yourself to the most premium dishes at any of the three Michelin-starred restaurants in Marbella.
- El Lago building alone is a wonderful place to find peace and quiet overlooking the lake. The cuisine of chef Fernando Villasclaras has achieved a Michelin star, respecting Andalusian tradition and using local products with a slow food philosophy. And in his cellar there are more than 300 wine varieties!
- With two Michelin stars, Skina is the work of chef Mario Cachinero. Located in the old town, his cuisine is based on traditional Andalusian recipes. Wild fish, premium oils from Jaén, unique meats… the ajoblanco with mackerel and coriander is a must.
- As the Michelin critics say, Messina is a true reflection of the dream of Argentinian chef Mauricio Giovanini, who goes beyond his Argentinian roots and draws from European, Latin American and Mediterranean cuisine, with special regard to Lebanese recipes. The Lebanese white prawn tartare is the best example.
Now you know what to see in Marbella. And, as you can see, it is a captivating place. Can you imagine living in this place full of light and Mediterranean life? At Sonneil, we make it easy for you.