Spain’s answer to St Tropez or Monte Carlo, Marbella is a magnet for the rich and famous – but there are enough affordable hotels and even campsites to cater for the budget-concious. Stroll along the posh port area of Puerto Banus, gawp at the sleek yachts, or browse the Old Town with its cobbled maze of chic designer boutiques, cafes and restaurants.
Wander down the palm-fringed seafront promenade (Paseo Maritimo) and cool off by Marbella’s fountains and trees before heading off for a round of golf or set of tennis.
Getting there/around Marbella
Most international visitors arrive at Malaga airport. The other major airport in the region is Seville. Marbella is about 30 miles from Malaga airport.
Buses are recommended and coach services along the coastal road offer wonderful views. By train you would travel to Fuengirola, and then take a bus to Marbella.
Hiring a car is easy – to get to Marbella from the airport take the N340, towards Cadiz. Use the toll road nearer Marbella for faster journey times. If you’re feeling flush, take a taxi but check fares in advance to avoid rip-offs.
Beaches in Marbella
This scenic stretch of coastline has been dubbed The Golden Mile, because of its glorious sandy beaches – many with Blue Flag status denoting their cleanliness and facilities.
Lined with luxury hotels and cosmopolitan restaurants, Marbella’s beaches extend for about 15 miles and are some of the finest on the Costa del Sol. The most popular is the Playa de Venus and the Playa de la Fontanilla is more secluded, with its sandy man-made beach protected by jetties.
Many beaches are very crowded in summer so arrive early to bag a sun lounger. You’ll also find activities such as windsurfing, jet skiing and pedalos as well as chiringuitos (beach restaurants).
San Pedro de Alcantara has a swimming pool, paddle tennis court and free children’s playing are. Try Playa de Casablanca, Calahonda or Pinillo beaches for a quieter option, while nudists can hang out at Artola beach.
Sightseeing in Marbella
The Old Town of Marbella (Casco Antiguo) is a photogenic maze of cobbled narrow streets, whitewashed houses, many decked with flowers. At the centre, you will find the Plaza de los Naranjos, named after its array of orange trees, and packed with popular but pricy cafes and bars.
The buildings illustrate Marbella’s Moorish, Christian and Roman past, such as the Iglesia de la Encarnacion and remains of Moorish fortress above it.Other historic buildings are the Chapel of Santiago, the town hall, and the old governor’s house.
There are two main museums – Museo Bonsai, featuring a miniature trees collection; and the museum of Spanish contemporary prints, which includes works by Picasso, Dali and Miro.
La Alameda park is another place to escape the heat, with its array of plants and fountains, while in the summer evenings you can enjoy a concert in the amphitheatre in Parque de la Constitucion. At the glam, glitzy port area of Puerto Banus, you can spot the yachts andmaybe even some stars.
Family attractions in Marbella
There are plenty of child friendly activities and parks in and around Marbella. Again, the locals are night owls so you’ll see kids up late too.
Funny Beach Karting has go-karts, mini bikes, jet skis and a small children’s play area. At the Sea Life Centre near the marina in Benalmadena youngsters can feed stingrays, watch sea horses and walk under a glass tunnel with sharks swimming above their heads.
Tivoli World theme park at Arroyo de la Miel in Benalmadena has rides, restaurants, computerised fountains, flamenco shows and outdoor theatre and Parque Acuatico in Mijas is a water-themed adventure playground, offering water slides, pools, mini-golf and sunbathing areas.
Marbella has tourist train, which offers a 20-minute ride for families to see the sights of the town. Camelot Park in Puerto Banus has areas for kids up to five, and up to 12, with castles, bowling, minigolf and karaoke. La Canada shopping centre has a bowling alley with Sky Sports on the big screen.
Further afield, Torremolinos boasts Aqualand, said to be the largest waterpark in Europe, with huge rides and slides for older kids, plus at a toddler area among its many attractions.
Day trips in Marbella
Several of Spain’s most scenic resorts and finest historic cities – like Granada, Cordoba, Cadiz and Seville – are an hour or so away by car.
There are a range of zoos and wildlife parks – animals from around the world – like flamingos, monkeys, elephants, giraffes, tigers, lions, bison and zebras – can be seen at Selwo, Estepona. More animals can be seen at Fuengirola zoo, and Torremolinos has a crocodile park.
Another popular day trip is the historic village of Mijas with its tiny square bullring, one of the few in Nice, France.