Marbella is one of the jewels in the Costa del Sol’s crown. Originally founded by the Romans, it was then invaded by the Moors and eventually re-claimed in the early 1400’s by the Catholic King and Queen who set about building the town of Marbella. Many of the buildings in the old town date from this period with plazas, churches, and houses still in use today.
The 1950s was when Marbella was firmly put on the map with the area becoming the playground of the international jet-set, with many a movie star or pop star staying in the now infamous Marbella Club. The area also brought along a wealth of Arab sheikhs and royalty who have built fabulous estates and palaces along what is known as The Golden Mile.
Unfortunately the 1980s saw a bit of a slump in the grandeur that is Marbella, with a lot of growth in and around the suburbs that generally led to the area getting a bad name. This was sorted out from the early 90s however when Mayor Jesus Gil took over and despite the political mud-slinging he really set about to re-generate the area. He cleaned up the streets of unsavoury characters, and set about restoring Marbella to its former glory. He built parks and paseos, planted trees and gardens and generally brought interest back into the area.
Last Minute Marbella Holidays – Things to Do
As you drive through the centre of Marbella town on Avenida Ricardo Soriano, don’t be put off by the facades of the shops, commercial centres and hotels that line the street. Behind these to the rear is the wonderfully ancient Old Town and the fore the lovely Paseo Marítimo (promenade) and beaches.
The Old Town is a treasure, with its maze of lanes and alleyways; it still conjures up days gone by. The centre of The Old Town is Plaza de Los Naranjos or Orange Square. A beautiful and tranquil plaza lined with orange trees, that when they bear fruit look magnificent. It is said that Seville oranges, when harvested are then made into local marmalade. They are picked in February, and there is no science to it!! A team of men set about with ladders and sticks and shake and batter the oranges off the branches!! Quite a spectacle in itself! Within a month or two of harvest, the blossom is blooming for the next years’ crop.
Plaza de Los Naranjos also houses the Ayuntamiento de Marbella, or Townhall. It is where civil marriages take place and also the centre of attraction for the fetes and ferias of Marbella. The building itself dates back to the 16th Century, with other similar facades still remaining in the square. The fountain opposite, along with the chapel date back to the 17th Century and are still quite magnificent. To the right of the Ayuntamiento is the Tourist Office. They offer free street maps so you can navigate your way around the rabbit warren of alleyways of the Old Town. They also offer a ‘Tapas Trail’ a guide to the best tapas restaurants in the area.
The main restaurants in Plaza de Los Naranjos are very appealing, but do take time to wander off into the lanes, as there are many fantastic bistros and bars that offer a more authentic choice. Similar the boutiques and shops around the Old Town offer a great many choices at great prices…especially the shoes and bags!!
There are many bars and clubs in and around Marbella, as well as motels and hotels, from 2 star pensions, to 5 star hotels!! Again the tourist office has information on all that is available.
As well as being a busy commercial business and shopping area, there are lots of things to do in Marbella. Get to know your way around by taking a horse and carriage trip around the streets, these set off from La Almeda Park and is a great way to see the area. At the far end of the Paseo Maritino near the lighthouse, there is a small train which travels through the local streets.
La Almeda Park area has a beautiful fountain and trees with steps leading to The Avenida de Mar with its impressive row of Dali sculptures that lead you down to the Marina and beaches.
This area is still massively popular in summer time, bringing a lot of northern Spanish down for their vacations. Parking can be a problem so the best advice is to use the public car parks, as despite the Spanish knack of abandoning their vehicles when parking, yours is likely to get towed away!! If in doubt…..don’t!!! The Paseo Maritimo is lined with stalls selling the usual beachside ‘fayre’ and a wonderful mix of reaturants, with fresh seafood high on the list.
The Puerto Deportivo or marina has a jaw dropping selection of boats and ships…the wealthy still love to ‘play’ in Marbella, as well as a good selection of bars and restaraunts catering for every nationality. The marina is also where Diving Marbella can be found.
Just call them on 952 902 304 for more information on their dives and courses.
Other than the beaches and relative water-sports available jet skiing, windsurfing, boat hire, fishing trips there are loads of activities available in Marbella.
Funny Beach is fun for all the family, with go-carts, trampolines, bumper boats, crazy golf, video arcade, pool kids rides and beach activities, banana boats, water skiing, jet skiing and more! They are open from 11.00am in the summer months and 4.00pm in the winter months and located at KM 184 on the N-340 coast road just east of Marbella.
Telephone 952 823 359 for more information.
To the back of Marbella about 10 minutes walk from the Old Town is the bus station that offers nationwide connections throughout Spain and beyond.
For timetable information call 952 764 400.
La Canada Shopping Mall is also located to the rear of Marbella (a quick taxi ride from the town centre) and is a great place for those in need of retail therapy!! With many well known shops and boutiques…it’s almost a day out in itself!! There is a huge hyper-market too for groceries, as well as a sports outlet, electronics outlet, DIY superstore, while-you-wait tyre repair garage.
Mealtimes can be spent in the restaurant area of La Canada with its amazing array of restaurants and bars and for those interested in family fun, why not go to the 10 pin bowling alley Megabowl open daily. There is a multi screen cinema with version original movies available in English.
Call 902 333 231 for further details.
La Canada also has a state-of-the-art gymnasium.
Within Marbella itself there are many artisan galleries as well as the more famous museums.
The Bonsai Musuem to the rear of the Old Town in Parque de la Represa houses a magnificent collection of miniature trees many of which date back 100’s of years. The museum is set in beautiful gardens with a central lake and is open daily from 10.00am (it is closed for siesta). For more information call 952 862 926.
The Contemporary Musem of Engravings or Museo Del Grabado Espanol Contempraneo is situated in the Old Town in Calle Hospital Bazan and is the largest museum of engravings in Europe, with many pieces originally donated from a private collection. The Museum is in the old town in Calle Hospital Bazan and is open from 10.00am daily. (Closed during siesta).
Call 952 825 035 for information.
To the west of the town centre is The Palacio de Congresso (trade fair centre) which houses all sorts of shows and exhibitions throughout the year.
Marbella street market is located at the Recinto Ferial ground just to the side of the Old Town and has stalls offering not only souvenirs, but local produce as well. The market is every Monday from 9.00am – 2.00pm.
Marbella’s ferias are splendid occasions and well worth taking part in if you find yourselves in the area when anything is going on. Semana Santa or Easter week has a week long itinery of procession and worship throughout the Old Town.
The main Feria in Marbella is held in the first fortnight of June and celebrates San Bernabe, the patron Saint of Marbella. Plaza de Los Naranjos is decked out in bunting and flags, and a lot of the alleyways are covered in streamers, there are ‘cassitas’ or street bars set up along the lanes and alleys and the whole town celebrates with dancing and drinking long into the night.
The night of San Juan is celebrated throughout the Costa del Sol on the 23rd June with the lighting of bonfires on the beaches.
Then of course there are the religious celebrations over the Christmas period.
Other useful information:
Tourist Office: Located in Orange Square: 952 822 818
Taxis: 952 823 535
Port Authority: 952 825 869
La Canada Shopping Centre: 952 866 134
Cinesa Cinema, La Canada: 902 333 231