The well-known Spanish holiday destination of Marbella lies 50km south-west of Malaga International Airport on the Costa del Sol. Its fame grew during the 1970s when a growing number of celebrities were attracted there by the jet set lifestyle. One of the earliest residents of international fame was James Bond himself, Sean Connery, who made Marbella his home when he wasn’t filming. Strictly speaking it was never Marbella itself which was key to the area’s reputation as a millionaire’s playground but the exclusive yacht marina of Puerto Banús which lies some 6km beyond Marbella to the west. The road connecting the resort with the marina is popularly referred to as the ‘golden mile’ due to the abundance of luxurious properties which were located there. Most famous of these is the Palace of King Fahd which was built in the 1980s for the Saudi King who had been visiting Marbella since the 1970s. This extravagant holiday home, known as the Nahda complex, was built as a near replica of the White House.
Whilst Puerto Banús maintains an air of exclusivity, the age of mass tourism put Marbella on the map as an attractive destination for mainstream tourism. Today there are more than two million annual visitors to Marbella alone thanks to its highly developed tourist infrastructure which caters for all budgets. The luxury hotels and exclusive villas remain whilst a wide range of budget options are available allowing all-comers to enjoy the lovely climate, wonderful beaches, excellent restaurants and a selection of world-class golf courses.
Plaza de los Naranjos: For many first time visitors the Orange Square which lies in the centre of the Old Town is one of the highlights of their visit. This square dates back to the 16th century and is home to some historic buildings including the impressive Ayuntamiento de Marbella (the town hall). Great place to sit at one of the terrace bars and relax amongst the orange trees.
Beaches: The coastline of the municipality of Marbella contains many beaches of varying quality. The town itself has three main beaches (La Venus, El Faro and La Fontanilla) which are popular amongst visitors but aren’t nearly as nice as others which lie outside the main urban area such as those around Cabopino which is a 15 minute drive to the east. Blue Flag beaches also lie to the west at Puerto Banús and San Pedro de Alcántara.
Restaurants: Marbella caters to every taste where restaurants are concerned with something to satisfy every palate. Along the Paseo Marítimo alone there are more than 50 restaurants available. Of these the Restaurante La Barca (Paseo Maritimo, 15) is perhaps the best known thanks to its excellent fish menu and excellent paella. Dinner at one of the many restaurants surrounding the marina at Puerto Banús is also highly recommended.
Golf Courses: More than 30 golf courses lie within easy reach of Marbella in this part of Spain which is often referred to as the ‘Costa del Golf’. Amongst the most best known and most prestigious are Valderrama, Sotogrande, Las Brisas and San Roque. The nearest course to the town centre is the Marbella Golf and Country Club which is just 5km to the east.
Festivals: Marbella is at its busiest during the peak European holiday season thanks to its general tourism facilities. Hotel occupancy rates often reach record levels during international festivals such as the Film Festival in June, the Reggae Festival in July and the Opera Festival in August. Local festivities include ‘La Feria de San Bernabé’ in June when residents honour their patron saint. Throughout the summer there are all kinds of local fiestas along the coast.
Popular Excursions: Pretty much every agency in town will be offering day excursions to multiple destinations which are easily accessible from Marbella. The full day trip into the mountains to visit the typical Andalucian town of Ronda (63km) is a great day out. Visits to the Rock of Gibraltar (80km) are always popular whilst longer trips to the great Moorish cities of Seville, Granada and Cordoba are highly recommended though a little tiring due to the journey times involved.
Getting to Marbella
The centre of Marbella lies 50km south-east of Malaga Airport which takes just 40 minutes by road provided you take the AP-7 toll road which by-passes the resorts of Torremolinos, Benalmadena and Fuengirola on the way. Numerous options are available for getting from the airport to Marbella:
Taxi: There are countless taxis outside the arrivals terminal which will typically charge around 90 Euros for a one-way transfer to Marbella.
Express Bus: Far better value is the Express Airport Bus which departs from right outside the arrivals terminal and doesn’t take much longer than a taxi provided you get the direct (no-stops) service.
Private Transfer: A very popular and highly recommended option is to book an airport transfer with Shuttledirect who offer shared shuttle transfers and private car transfers at very reasonable rates. They can cater for any group size.
Please note that whilst there is a train service which serves Terminal T4 at the airport, it only goes as far as Fuengirola which is almost 30km short of Marbella so really isn’t an option. Whilst there are plans for the railway to eventually reach Marbella this option won’t be available anytime soon.
Where to Stay in Marbella
Whilst there’s a vast selection of accommodation on offer in Marbella to suit every pocket, here are some perennial favourites situated on the famous Golden Mile. All three of them are rated 5-stars:
Puente Romano Beach Resort & Spa: Now with a very grand new name, the Puente Romano is part of the ‘Leading Hotels of the World’ group. It has long been recognised as one of Marbella’s top hotels and continues to live up to that reputation. Great choice for couples.
Gran Melia Don Pepe: Another option with first class facilities but perhaps without the feeling of exclusivity offered by the previous hotel. Nevertheless it’s a fine choice which would be well suited to family holidays.
Hotel Marbella Club: Superb facilities with its own private beach and lovely gardens. Particularly well suited to couples but also popular with families.