The Ultimate Travel Guide to Marbella, Spain
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(Marbella, Spain) There are vacation spots in the world that are all the rage today and out of fashion tomorrow. Marbella on Spain’s Costa del Sol is certainly not one of them. Ever since the 1950s, when Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe discovered Marbella’s pristine beaches, fishing village charms and nearly 3000 hours of sunshine per year and converted his private estate into the luxury resort known as Marbella Club, celebrities have flocked to Marbella and continue doing so to this day.
From movie stars to business executives to royalty, including King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, they all came to enjoy the very polished diamond the town had become. Many bought second or third homes and the needs and tastes of the rich are reflected in the springing up of more luxury hotels, first-class restaurants, and shopping malls, bars, nightclubs, and star-studded entertainment. However, Marbella’s surrounding areas towards the mountains to the north and the dunes near the beach have been protected and allow rare wildlife like the golden eagle, almond, olive and cherry trees to flourish and delight the visitor.
According to your taste, you can either choose to rub shoulders with the ‘beautiful people’ or lose yourself in quiet idyllic corners. Marbella’s popularity has survived scandals and even two mayors who ended up in prison and proved as stable as St. Tropez’.
In this Marbella Travel Guide blog, we listed helpful DIY Marbella travel tips and advice on how to get there, get around, itinerary, restaurants, best hotels, tour packages and more.
Best time to visit
Located about halfway between Malaga and the Strait of Gibraltar and protected by the Sierra Blanca mountain range to the north. Marbella has a Mediterranean climate with mild temperatures year around. People are known to swim in the sea on Christmas and New Year. The best time to visit is in spring to watch almond and cherry trees in full bloom or in the fall. Summers can be quite hot but, more importantly, overflow with tourists, local and international. Even the wide beaches get crowded and the prices are very high.
How to get there
The nearest international airport is Malaga. From there, direct buses leave on the hour for Marbella. The journey takes approx. 2 hours. You can also hire a car which may be useful for further excursions from Marbella or a taxi of which there are plenty available at the airport.
Marbella’s charming Old Town as well as the seafront promenade is best explored on foot. Frequent bus services connect the town center to other locations like Estepona or Torremolinos as well as to Puerto Banus.
Otherwise, there are taxi ranks or you can stop a taxi on the main street Calle Ricardo Soriano.
Places to stay
Accommodation in Marbella runs the full scale from 5 stars to affordable and B&Bs, so luckily there is room to be had for every budget.
Hotel Puent Romano
Located on Marbella’s so-called Golden Mile, the hotel is about 12km from the town center. As the name indicates, there are indeed the remains of an old Roman bridge, integrated into the ample grounds of the hotel. The gardens are beautiful and the hotel complex is arranged like a small Andalusian village.
Pools, tennis courts, spas, saunas, private beaches are only a few of the luxuries available to the visitor. High-speed wifi throughout, restaurants and bars round out the picture of this one of a kind hotel. It’s also kid and dog-friendly.
If you prefer to stay in the center of Marbella, but never far from a beach, there are two less expensive alternatives.
Hotel San Cristobal
Located in Avda. Ramon Y Cajal 3 has been around for a long time. Located just minutes away from Orange Square and the Avenida del Mar, it’s the most centric hotel in Marbella. Rooms are modern and comfortable and despite being in the center of town it’s quiet.
WiFi throughout the hotel and very friendly and helpful people at reception make for a great stay.
B&B Boutique Tribeca
If you want to stay right in the center of Marbella’s Old Town, the B&B Boutique Tribeca in Montenebros 5A is just for you.
The hotel feels more like a townhouse but the rooms are spacious and comfortable. Plenty of restaurants and bars are nearby as Orange Square, the center of Old Town is just a few steps away. WiFi throughout the hotel.
Best places to eat
There are two specialties typical for Marbella and indeed the Costa del Sol which are fish and seafood and paella.
For the best and freshest seafood (you choose a live lobster from the basin) as well as a very pleasant atmosphere, make a reservation at the popular Santiago in Duque de Ahumada 5.
In business for over 50 years and frequented by celebrities as well as knowledgeable locals Santiago’s service is not the fastest, but the food is excellent. Be aware though, that it’s also expensive.
Cheaper and with a great variety of the aforementioned typical dishes is the delightful Café de Ronda (official website) in Ramon Gomez de la Serna 23.
Modern and very light and airy this restaurant will make you want to come back.
Marbella’s most traditional Café and Patisserie which also serves full meals and the most delightful cakes is Goyo (official website) in Alonso de Bazan 3.
You can either have a sit-down meal inside or enjoy tapas, cakes or snacks on the sidewalk terrace outside. Take away service of all homemade meals is available too.
Language, currency etc.
Currency is the EURO and all major credit cards are accepted everywhere. Remember to bring ID, you will be asked to show it for purchases in department stores and some shops.
English is widely spoken, wifi is available throughout the town.
Things to do and see
If you visit in spring, just follow your nose and the scent of orange blossoms which will lead you to the heart of Marbella’s Old Town: Orange Square. Countless orange trees line the square in front of exquisite 16th-century buildings like the Town Hall and the Casa del Corregidor. Plenty of restaurants, bars, and cafes are also located in the square.
Wander through the small streets all leading to Orange Square, and admire well kept private townhouses and patios as well as exclusive boutiques.
Visit the baroque Church Iglesia de la Encarnacion and two small but interesting museums: The Engravings Museum and the Bonsai Museum.
Crossing the main street you find a lovely little botanical garden and park, La Alameda with ceramic benches, fountains and mosaic floors. Then head down towards the seafront along the Avenida del Mar, decorated with 10 huge sculptures by Dali and interspersed with fountains.
My favorite Sunday morning exercise is a walk along the beach from Marbella to Puerto Banus. With the sea on the left, the much-improved footpath leads you past such famous landmarks like Marbella Club and Puente Romano, crossing a bridge over the Rio Verde and ending at the luxury marina of Puerto Banus. Marvel at the super yachts anchored there as well as Ferraris and other sports cars before walking around the houses bordering the port.
If you don’t want to walk, you can also take a boat trip from the port of Marbella to Puerto Banus.
Much worth exploring are surrounding areas like the protected nature reserve of the Dunes of Artola but for this, you need a car.
An adventure of a different kind is a day trip to Gibraltar. A bus runs in the morning from the Central Bus station in Marbella and returns in the evening. It ends in La Linea, the border town on the Spanish side and then…you walk cross the airport runway into Gibraltar. Nowhere else in the world can you get that close to airplanes landing or taking off. It’s a thrill. Don’t forget your passport!
Bearing in mind, that the municipality of Marbella features no less than 24 beaches, all of the blue flag, you can spend plenty of time with dolce far niente.
Best places to shop
There is no shortage of luxury boutiques in Puerto Banus, on the Golden Mile and in Marbella itself. A huge branch of the Spanish department store El Corte Ingles is to be found in Puerto Banus and another big shopping mall, La Cañada, in Marbella. A bus takes you directly there.
Once you have set foot in Marbella and experienced its unique atmosphere you will understand why the siren song of this place never fades.
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