Marbella – St. Tropez of the Costa del Sol

Sandwiched between Malaga and Gibraltar beneath the Sierra Blanca is Marbella, one of the largest and most important beach resorts of the Costa del Sol. It’s an excellent spot for watersports and golf. It’s a favorite destination and home for the rich and famous, and has been compared to St. Tropez. Though the landscaping here is almost as perfect as that of a royal park, you’ll also find a very simple and ancient side to Marbella. In the old part of town, you’ll find the Orange Square, with the 16th century town hall and tourist office.

In Orange Square, you’ll find old buildings, art galleries and little shops, bars and restaurants. The colors are vibrant for most of the year, tropical plants and native trees against white buildings and a dark blue sky.

Off the square is a maze of alleyways lined with homes and shops decorated with flowers. You’ll find restaurants of all types here, from bars to fine restaurants, from the most authentic Spanish seafood to an American hamburger.

History of Marbella
Archaeological excavations have been made throughout the mountains, uncovering human habitation from the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras as well as remains of Phoenician and Carthaginian settlements near Rio Real. When the Muslims conquered the area, they built a castle in the city, and closed everything in walls. In 1485, the Spanish conquered the city.

What to Do
See the Castle
In the historic center of town, Marbella Castle is one of the few preserved from the Muslim years of Spain. The fortified city Marbella covered an area of 90,000 square meters, and you can still trace the lines of the back streets and see the remains of some of the walls.

Bonsai museum
Marbella has a unique bonsai museum with a forest of delicate miniature trees, many of them a century or more old. It also holds one of the best wild olive collections in the world, where they form a beautiful central display interspersed with water, bonsai, and rock sculptures. While some of the bonsai are Japanese varieties, many are native to Marbella, like the Pinsapo Pine.

Celebrity Spotting
Many celebrities and members of the wealthiest families in the world have chosen Marbella as a home or second home because of its excellent location and beautiful beaches.

At La Alameda park, you can hire a horse and carriage, or take a stroll along to Avenida del Mar. The promenade is lined with excellent restaurants and bars and free of touristy trappings.

In Puerto Banus, just west of town, you’ll find yachts filling the harbor (including some you can rent or pay passage on). Shop, or at least dream, at some of the most exclusive stores in the world. Or visit the casino, the marine observatory, the large cinema (with films in original language), or the numerous alfresco bars, piano bars, and discos that are open until dawn.

Marbella’s Beaches
With miles of beaches, Marbella is a sun-worshiper’s dream. The Playa de la Bajadilla and Playa de Fontanilla are located centrally and are very attractive beaches, if a bit crowded. You can also find unique beaches like Guadalmina, with Roman baths located nearby as well as all the regular beach amenities. Linda Vista Beach also has an archaeological site: the paleochristian basilica Vega del Mar.

But you can also find beaches that are just beaches: San Pedro (which is especially child-friendly), Cortijo Blanco, Nueva Andalucia, Puerto Banus, Rio Verde, and many others. Rio Verde also has Roman ruins, and several local beaches have camping facilities as well as hotels located on them.

You’ll also find Funny Beach, which is filled with trampolines, go-karts, minimotorbikes, and other playful attractions for family fun.

Map of Marbella in Spain