Travelers looking for reasons to visit Marbella will find a welcoming tourist infrastructure, significant history and cultural attractions.
Marbella is a wonderful and picturesque city in Spain located between Malaga and Gibraltar on the Costa del Sol. A former fishing village known for its amazing views of beaches and the Mediterranean Sea, Marbella has grown into a mid-sized cosmopolitan city known for the luxury lifestyle of the rich and famous. Travelers looking for reasons to visit Marbella will discover a welcoming tourist infrastructure, as well as significant history and cultural attractions.
History of MarbellaAlthough this region was inhabited by the Phoenicians as early as the 7th century, Marbella bears no trace of settlement. Carthaginian and Phoenician artefacts have been found, but larger scale archeological elements – bridge work, Ionic capitals, remains of residential villas and religious buildings – date to Roman times.
During the Middle Ages, the city was called Marballa by its Arab conquerers. The Caliphate of Cordoba walled its perimeter and built a citadel in consort with a series of coastal watchtowers in the 10th century. By the 15th century, the Castilian crown had received jurisdiction, and Marbella became a regional capital. Building projects were completed in accordance with Castilian urban style: plazas, churches, and commercial mills to process sugar grown in surrounding areas.
By the 19th century, a substantial mining trade saw development of iron ore processing and charcoal byproduct but economic crises beginning in the latter half of the century created a class divide in the population between the oligarchy and the workers. Politics in the early 20th century culminated in the Spanish Civil War’s violence against the religious clergy, and Fascist troops took control. Marbella was popular with influential Nazis and Franco-ist vacationers.
The Growth of Tourist Activities in Marbella
All this more recent history led to the city becoming famous as a hideout for the rich and famous. In the early 1940s, Spanish aristocrat Ricardo Soriano bought a country estate outside of Marbella and then built a holiday resort, which began the tourist industry. One of Soriano’s nephews subsequently built a 5-star resort in 1954, calling it the Marbella Club. It was marketed to European nobility, international movie stars, and corporate elites. Soon famous names and jet-setters flocked to vacation in discreet, casually luxurious circumstances at this and other high end resorts and hotels in Marbella such as Hotel Claude, the Puente Romano Beach Resort Marbella, the Villa Padierna Palace, or the Kempinski Bahia.
Visitors and residents of Marbella over the years have included Rothschilds, von Furstenburgs, bin Ladens, Princess Grace and Prince Ranier of Monaco, the Aga Khan, American fugitive Marc Rich, and entertainers such as Sean Connery, Julio Iglesias, Antonio Banderas, George Clooney, Audrey Hepburn and Joan Collins.There are many reasons to visit Marbella nowadays, whether you wish to indulge in the classic Andalusian experience or party with the rich and famous. Here are our top five main ones:
Visit Marbella for the Glorious Weather
Activities in Marbella, as you might expect, are geared with sun and sea in mind. With a recorded 320 days of sunshine along with average temperatures of 20 degrees C/68 degrees F, it is no wonder that Marbella is a favorite among the rich and famous. Marbella is surrounded by warm Mediterranean Sea and the Sierra Blanca, which provides its unique micro-weather. Winters in Marbella are very mild and bright, while summers are warm and dry.
Choose Your Beach: One of the First Things to Do in Marbella
Marbella is synonymous with its beaches. Heading to the beach from one’s yacht or resort is usually one of the first things to do in Marbella that visitors choose. From Cabopino (one of the few nudist beaches in Marbella) to Guadalmina, there are 30 Km of beaches to choose from. You can pick the wildest ones, such as Artola, or others which have more urban amenities, such as Playa de La Venus, at the center. Puerto Banus and San Pedro Alcantura beaches have won awards for water quality, safety and environmental management.
Getting Around in Marbella
Marbella mixes old world charm with new world expansion and for this particular reason it attracts large numbers of visitors. However, if you don’t have your own form of transport, you may notice the relative lack of public transportation. Private taxis tend to overcharge; hence it is advisable to use the services of a trustworthy transfer service such as KiwiTaxi which offers reliability and reasonable rates.
Most of the action in Marbella is located along a 4 mile strip from its western boundary to Puerto Banus. This artery is known as the Golden Mile where large residential villas are interspersed among prestigious hotels, restaurants and nightlife.
The San Pedro Alcantura area has the majority of vintage cultural attractions, including the Ingenio Cultural Centre which occupies a former sugar mill. Colonial buildings intermingle with early Christian and Roman structures here. To the east is Las Chapas, another district in which archeological excavations in the 1990s revealed Bronze Age artifacts from Phoenician, Iberian and Greek communities. Worthy of note here, also, is the modernist Residential Leisure City, a mixed use development of a couple hundred homes, community buildings, a church, parks, gardens and centers for health, sports and shopping.
The Food Scene in Marbella
Any list of things to do in Marbella, Spain would be remiss if it doesn’t include “indulge in spectacular gastronomy.” There are several Michelin starred and rated restaurants in Marbella which have led the way. Curated with finesse and precision, the food served in restaurants here is cutting edge. Restaurants such as Skima and Messina are well booked as early as 12 weeks in advance. Apart from ultra-fine dining, there are numerous restaurants and cafes that specialize in serving the best of locally-sourced Malagueño cuisine, which is heavily seafood based. As well, sophisticated palates will appreciate an internationally-influenced focus on fusion and nouvelle menus.
Cultural Reasons to Visit Marbella
Known as a party destination worldwide, Marbella attracts the majority of its visitors from Northern Europe, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Yacht and cruise ship passengers are drawn in by internationally-renowned nightclubs. The Marbella private party scene is popular with famous actors, pop stars, sports figures and corporate magnates from all over the world. Clubs in Marbella can open as late as just before midnight and the party goes on well into the morning. Alternatively, some of the best bars in Marbella are located in the Old Quarter, which has a low-key environment with historical ambience. Check out: Pangea, Funky Buddha, Glam, Aqwa Mist, and Mask for glitzy dance clubbing in Marbella. If you’re more into traditional bar-hopping in Marbella’s Old Quarter, try Bartolo, the Claddagh, El Palique, and the Tavern.
Cultural events such as art fairs and music, theatre and film festivals draw high season visitors from June to October in a combination of private and public event venues. Higher education is provided at two universities: the private Marbella University, and the public Marbella University International Centre (MUIC) which offers courses in English and Spanish language on media, business, and political subjects. Museum aficionados can revel in curated collections devoted to engraving (featuring surrealist artists such as Miro, Picasso and Dali, among others), botany, Latin American art, mechanical art and municipal archeology.
Even though Marbella isn’t necessarily as well-known as Madrid and Barcelona are with visitors to Spain, it’s a high quality, somewhat under the radar destination. Reasons to visit Marbella are plenty for travelers to Europe who appreciate sophisticated nightlife, luxury accommodations, and a cosmopolitan Mediterranean experience.