Marbella is wrongly thought to be either one of the concrete nightmares of the Costa del Sol, or as a really expensive place to visit.
In fact, Marbella is a great destination to take a holiday, or even to live and work there. It has a big Spanish population, a stunning old town, lots of culture, fantastic cuisine and wonderful year-round weather. There are loads of things to keep you busy all year round, whether you come as a family, a couple, or a group.
Here are top ten things to do that will help you enjoy your holiday to the full:
1. A Day at the Beach
No matter what time of year you visit Marbella, a trip to the beach is a must. The Costa del Sol boasts kilometres of sandy beaches, one of the very best of which can be found a 10 minute drive to the east of Marbella in the Cabopino area. All along these beaches are lovely beach bars, known as chiringuitos serving drinks and typical Mediterranean cuisine, right on the sand. The beaches and the sea all along the coast are clean and safe for swimming.
2. Paseo Marítimo
Stretching alongside the beach is the paved Paseo Marítimo – or beachside promenade. No holiday on the coast would be complete without walking along the promenade, taking in the views, soaking up the ambience and especially to enjoy one of the Coast’s spectacular sunsets. The promenade has now been joined up entirely with a spectacular wooden boardwalk to enjoy a longer stroll from Marbella all the way to Puerto Banus and even further towards San Pedro. To feel like a local, head to the paseo on a Sunday when all the Spanish come out in their Sunday best to stroll and chat.
3. Marbella’s Old Town
Marbella’s historic and picturesque Old Town, or casco antiguo is a hidden gem which most tourists don’t manage to discover. It can be found near the centre of town just up from the Avenida Ricardo Soriano – the main street which runs through Marbella – and opposite La Alameda park.
With its picturesque, ancient architecture and maze of narrow cobbled streets full of boutique shops, funky art galleries, bars and eateries, the Old Town is almost like a separate village within Marbella.
At the centre is Orange Square, a beautiful and typically Andalucian square full of orange trees and tropical plants which is a must-see for any holiday, and where you can sit quietly in one of the many traditional cafes enjoying a coffee or a glass of wine, and watch the world go by.
The Old Town buzzes with activity and there are plenty of interesting nooks and crannies to explore. Good restaurants are also in plentiful supply, serving everything from expensive gourmet food to authentic backstreet Spanish tapas and there are innumerable bars which are busy into the early hours of the morning.
4. La Alameda Park
South of Marbella’s Old Town, on the other side of the main road, you’ll find Parque La Alameda. This small park boasts a magnificent large central fountain decorated in traditional Andalucian tiles (a great photo opportunity!), huge tropical plants and decorated benches. This park is popular amongst locals and tourists alike as a tranquil place to take a break.
5. Avenida del Mar
Surrealist art lovers (or, indeed, all art lovers) can find an impressive collection of original sculptures by Salvador Dali in the Avenida del Mar, displayed in the open air in the very heart of Marbella. Head due south of the Old Town, go through La Alameda Park towards the beach and you’ll find a wide pedestrianised avenue with plenty of welcoming benches to rest your weary feet and admire the fantastic sculptures.
6. Parque de la Constitución
Just up from the beach near the centre of the town is La Parque de La Constitución, a true oasis of calm in this bustling modern city. It’s a great plance to visit, with beautiful trees, colourful flowers, a children’s park, an astronomic observatory, a cafeteria and a 600 capacity open-air auditorium which hosts opera, theatre productions, concerts and other cultural events.
Marbella is perfect for shopaholics! The high street is full of clothes shops and the old town’s winding streets are packed with boutiques and small shops selling unusual gifts, toys, clothes, shoes and accessories.
For designer labels and the flagship El Corte Ingles department store, head to nearby Puerto Banus. Banus has incredible shops such as Versace, Robert Cavelli, Louis Vuitton, Emporio Armani and La Perla all overlooking the impressive marina, as well as an upmarket shopping complex with top quality high street brand stores, art galleries, coffee shops, and a host of restaurants and bars.
If you want more affordable brands all under one roof then the La Cañada complex is a great place to go. It houses nearly three hundred shopping outlets, bars, coffee shops, restaurants and a cinema. La Cañada is situated immediately north of Marbella, just a short bus or taxi journey from the centre.
Although the Costa del Sol is not known for its culture, there are actually a number of theatres, art galleries and museums in the Marbella area as well as a packed cultural programme of concerts, dance, jazz and theatre during the summer months.
In Marbella, the Black Box Theatre offers plays in Spanish and English; the unusual Bonsai Museum features one of Europe’s most important collections of Bonsai Trees; and the Museum of Spanish Contemporary Engravings exhibits works by Picasso, Miró, Tapies, Chillida and several other important Spanish artists. The best art gallery close to Marbella is the Sammer Gallery, Puerto Banús, which is one of the largest modern art galleries in Spain.
The iconic Starlite Festival is celebrated in Marbella during mid July to end of August. Growing in popularity and size year after year, the festival hosts concerts by some of the biggest names in music as well as fashion shows, art exhibitions, cinema premieres and a charity gala. Starlite is celebrated north of Marbella in a unique open air amphitheatre with 60 metre high walls where you can enjoy spectacular and intimate performances all under the stars.
For yet more culture, a day-trip to Malaga town and a visit to the Picasso Museum is a must!
9. Family Fun
here is just so much to keep the kids entertained in Marbella. A day at Funny Beach is perfect for those who love amusement, speed and adrenaline. There is a go-karting track, trampolines, video games, electric bikes and cars, a pool, children’s rides, as well as a restaurant serving kiddie-friendly fare and a bar. All on the beachfront!
For active children try Aventura Amazonia in the Elviria area just a 10 minute drive east of Marbella, this tree top high ropes course is great fun for Adults and Children alike. Fly through the trees on the zip wires and complete the obstacle course. There is also a cafe bar and easy parking. Or head to San Pedro, located just west of Marbella, to Costa Jump, a huge indoor trampoline park.
To explore the town of Marbella without the leg-work, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride to take in the sights, a popular choice with the kids. Or for older children try the Segway tours.
If you are happy going a little further afield, Fuengirola’s Miramar centre just a 15 minute drive from Marbella, offers a huge shopping complex as well as a cinema showing English films. Also in Fuengirola, you can find a water park and the popular Bioparc Zoo. The Tivoli World Amusement Park (Benalmadena), Crocodile Park (Torremolinos) and the Selwo safari park (Estepona) are all within a half an hour’s drive of the city and guarantee of a boredom-free holiday.
For more teenage fun, there are many good organisations on the Coast who offer such adventures as scuba diving, quad-biking, jeep safaris in the National Parks, mountain treks on horse-back, canyoning in the region’s gorges, and paint balling.
10. Eating Out
One of the many pleasures of a visit to Marbella is the fantastic food. No visit would be complete without enjoying some traditional tapas, an excellent way to sample some of the local Spanish fare. Or to enjoy the catch of the day, seafood and paella head to one of the many chiringuitos on the beach. Venture into the winding streets of the old town to find quaint restaurants serving Mediterranean and traditional cuisine or head to the promenade for an international selection. Marbella has a wide selection of restaurants to suit all budgets and tastes.