Area guide to Marbella – Costa del Sol
Marbella is a city and a municipality on the Costa del Sol. It is in Málaga province, which is turn is part of the autonomous community of Andalucía. The Mediterranean coastal city is located approximately midway on the coast between Málaga city and Gibraltar and has a population of around 141,463 (2018). This makes it the second largest city in the province as well as being one of the most important tourist destinations on the Costa del Sol.
Marbella as a municipality covers a number of highly desirable residential areas; some of them are built communities, such as Nueva Andalucía, Elvíria and Guadalmina, whilst others are based on existing towns, San Pedro de Alcántara and the internationally famous Puerto Banús being the two main ones. Marbella is also a cultural centre with a number of important performance spaces, and is also home to a number of top private and public hospitals, as well as the highest number of international schools on the Costa del Sol.
Although Marbella is primarily associated with modern tourism, the city has a history that can be traced back to Palaeolithic and Neolithic times. It has been settled by Phoenicians and Carthaginians, and later the Romans. There is plenty of visible evidence of the Roman settlement, including the remains of a bridge at the Puente Romano hotel on the Golden Mile and within the Casco Antiguo (Old Town) one of the most attractive places in Marbella. Andalucía’s heritage was for centuries dominated by Moorish culture, and you will find its legacy all around you. Even the name ‘Marbella’ is thought to come from the Arabic ‘Marbal-la’.
Marbella has several important landmarks. The Casco Antiguo (Old Town) sits within the original city walls with the Plaza de Los Naranjos at its centre. The Golden Mile, which is much longer than a mile, is a modern landmark and home to some of Marbella’s most prestigious properties, as well as the summer palace of Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd, the Puente Romano hotel and the famous Marbella Club hotel. Perhaps Marbella’s most outstanding landmark is La Concha mountain, which towers over the city and is part of the Sierra Blanca range.
La Concha and the surrounding mountain range are the reason that Marbella enjoys a very pleasant micro-climate, with an average annual temperature above 18 °C (64 °F). Like most of the Costa del Sol, it also enjoys around 320 days of sunshine per year.
With so much sunshine, Marbella has plenty to offer in the way of sport. It is home to some of the top golf courses on the coast, including those that make up ‘Golf Valley’ in Nueva Andalucía. There are several tennis clubs and academies, including the Manolo Santana club, founded by the player who once ranked as a world No.1. Padel, which is a Spanish racquets sport, is also popular with all communities, and there is also horse riding, water sports and a rugby club.
Marbella is not served by rail transport, but it is a hub for buses connecting Málaga city and the airport with coastal towns, as well as Sevilla, Granada, Algeciras and Ronda. Buses to Madrid and Barcelona are also available here. Both local taxis and the private services Uber and Cabify are available here, and there is easy access to the A-7 motorway. The nearest airport is Málaga International, which is approximately a 40-minute drive from Marbella.
The Costa del Sol Hospital is the main public hospital for the coast and is located to the east of Marbella city. Within Marbella city there are several private hospitals and clinics that are popular with the expat community, as well as Spaniards. There are plenty of specialists for specific conditions and expats can register to use the public health service. British expats will also find a Specsavers branch in Marbella.
Marbella has several private international schools, including the following: British School Marbella, English International College, Aloha College, Laude International College, Swans International School and St. Georges School. These all teach in English. La Latina is a bilingual Spanish and English school, and there is a Colegio Alemán (German) as well as Colegio Alborán (Spanish). Expat residents can access the Spanish public school system by registering at their local town hall.
Places of Interest
The winding, cobbled streets of the Old Town are home to some of the city’s best restaurants, as well as cafés, bars and an array of boutiques selling everything from Panama hats to designer shoes.
As might be expected there are plenty of beaches in Marbella; around 23 to be exact, and seven of them have the coveted Blue Flag for excellence. The beaches are contained with a distance of about 20 km, with Bounty Beach being one of the closest to Marbella city. Cabopino beach is one of the most stunning, as is Playa Real de Zaragoza. Most beaches have chiringuitos for refreshments and there are some upmarket beach clubs, including the internationally famous Nikki Beach.
From tapas bars to three-star Michelin restaurants, Marbella has it all. The Puente Romano Beach Resort and Spa has become a fine dining hub and as well as boasting more than one Dani García restaurant – a Marbella born chef with three Michelin stars –and a Nobu restaurant. In the Old Town, Messina and Skina both have Michelin stars, and El Lago near Elvíria has also won the same award. But, you don’t have to ‘go Michelin’ in Marbella; there is truly something for everyone, ranging from burgers to Indian, Chinese, Lebanese, Japanese, Peruvian and more.
Marbella is awash with shops. From high street brands that you will find in London and Madrid to local boutiques, there is something for every budget. There is also the large shopping mall, La Cañada, to the north of the city, and a Corte Inglés department store in Puerto Banús. You will also find brands such as Prada, Armani, and Jimmy Choo frontline at Puerto Banús marina.