Our Guide To Marbella"Marbella is always a good idea."
Unfairly dismissed by many as the epitome of the Costa del Sol’s less attractive aspects, the delightful seaside town of Marbella is once again making a comeback as a thriving resort with eternal appeal.
We love taking clients here for a couple of days - the boutique hotels are wonderful, the food and wine superb and it makes a perfect base to explore the entire coastal area with its charming villages and surprising beaches.
The Old Town of Marbella, where our chosen hotel partners are located, is a delightful traditional village with pedestrianised streets, squares and flower-filled plazas, and wonderful boutiques, galleries, restaurants and artisan shops. One of our favourite olive oil shops is tucked in behind the orange tree-filled main square. There is so much more to Marbella than meets the eye, and if clients ask us, “Is it worth going to Marbella?” Our reply is, “Marbella is always a good idea.”
A relaxing few days in Marbella makes for a great break in the middle of a hectic travel schedule, enjoy a tapas tour while you’re there – or even as a main base to explore the entire region. Plus you have the more flexible option of a fully-serviced luxury villa rental rather than a hotel stay, through our partners theluxuryvillacollection.com – ideal for families.
Places to StayA Few of Our Favourite Luxury & Boutique Hotels in Marbella
Hotel ClaudeVisit website
This independent, family-run luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Marbella Old Town offers authentic Spanish hospitality. The 17th-century building has been beautifully restored – all materials are of the highest quality, as is the furniture, linen and all aspects of decor. With only nine tastefully-decorated rooms, the service is genuinely personal, meeting all your demands and more. We have been using this hotel for years and it is a firm favourite with our clients. The rooftop terrace offers a tranquil haven away from the beach throngs and busy shopping streets – which is why it’s ideal as a base. A sanctuary of peace and rest, but just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle – perfect!
Address: Calle San Francisco, 5, 29601 Marbella, Malaga; 952 90 08 40
La Villa MarbellaVisit website
This establishment is known for its superbly-appointed accommodations and its original approach to travellers’ needs. Although the main building has typical hotel rooms, the hotel’s concept is to offer seven properties scattered throughout the Old Town as independent options. Staying at these apartments means guests still enjoy the hotel’s services, but also an authentic “living experience” – they can feel part of the local lifestyle and culture. This works particularly well for small parties and families who might enjoy the freedom of movement that an apartment (or several apartments) allows.
Address: Calle Príncipe, 10, 29601 Marbella, Malaga, Spain: 952 766 220
The Marbella Club HotelVisit website
The original Marbella luxury hotel never fails to impress, with its old-school service, enormous rooms and extensive grounds stretching all the way down to the beach. Built by Prince Alfonso Von Hohenlohe, considered the founder of modern-day celeb-magnet Marbella, this private club has welcomed the likes of European royalty and international celebrities for decades. Marbella´s jet-set reputation began in the 1950s within these hallowed walls, and even today, a stay here is a timeless experience of privilege and indulgence. A private villa in the grounds costs a staggering €30,000 a night, but the hotel does offer accommodation fit for mere mortals as well
Address: Av. Bulevar Príncipe Alfonso de Hohenlohe, s/n, 29602 Marbella, Malaga, Spain; 952 82 22 11
Gran Meliá Don PepeVisit website
This might not be an obvious choice, as it’s a far cry from the independent, boutique style of hotel that we normally choose for our clients, but Gran Melia’s beachfront property is such an excellent all-rounder that it´s difficult to resist. The hotel’s facilities are second to none, with three swimming pools, tennis courts, watersports and a spa. Guest rooms are generously proportioned and those on the higher floors have unparalleled views over the Marbella coastline, but this hotel’s main attraction is its fine dining. The famous T-Bone Grill Restaurant specialises in Basque grilled meat and is worth staying in for, rather than venturing into nearby Marbella Old Town – though you need to book a table.
Mature landscaped gardens enclose this stellar establishment, lending it isolated peace and quiet, so the Meliá group can be proud of its luxury five-star hotel, one of the most unique and appealing in its collection.
Address: Calle José Meliá, s/n, 29602 Marbella, Malaga, Spain: 902 14 44 40
The Town HouseVisit website
Location, location, location. Tucked away in the heart of the old town, in the corner of a delightful square, this nine-bedroom hotel offers a warm welcome in a homely and well-designed boutique hotel. The accommodation is very comfortable without being luxurious, and the roof terrace is an added bonus for sun-seekers. The staff will do their utmost to make your stay as comfortable as possible, and are ready to offer advice and ideas so you can to make the most of your stay. A little secret that would make the perfect base for a family trip or a special occasion with friends, is the house that they rent just next door – superbly designed by a local architect and stylishly decorated. The bathrooms are a real treat, especially the rooftop tub room.
Address: Calle Alderete, 7, 29601 Marbella, Malaga, Spain; 34 952 90 17 91
RestaurantsBest Places to Eat in Marbella
Paellas y MásVisit website
This venture turned into a main player in the Marbella restaurant scene within months of opening. It’s one of our al-time favourites. The owners found this venue and hired the excellent designer Paco Peña to convert the space into an original and versatile dining area. He more than fulfilled his brief. This restaurant offers a true dining experience with delicious food, great service and impressive wines from around Spain. The zoning and the spacing is perfect so you don’t have to earwig the neighbouring table’s conversation – ideal for either a date or a business lunch. Thumbs up from TOMA for this all-round winning restaurant. Our foodie tours clients love it.
Address: Calle Hermanos Salom, 3, 29601 Marbella, Malaga, Spain; 952 82 25 11
Another of our firm favourites as, again, it offers the complete dining experience. The style of the restaurant is relaxed and yet there is always a sense of occasion. Guests are encouraged to enjoy an aperitif on a comfy sofa before taking their places at the table. Your first decision will be to choose between the various homemade breads made with olive oils from the area. Then to the food…which is expertly prepared and served with style. Try the succulent baby goat or the mouth-watering Iberian pork curry, or choose between the fish dishes. The menu is not extensive but you can be assured that the food is the freshest and of the highest quality. Oh… and we almost forgot: be sure to leave room for the incredible desserts.
Address: Av. Severo Ochoa, 12, 29603 Marbella, Malaga, Spain; 679 77 00 62
“Fresh is best” is the motto of the Zozoi team, who serve up healthy salads, fresh fish dishes, succulent steaks and great pizzas and pastas with aplomb every day. There are three very distinct dining areas: the inside bistro, the garden terrace and the front courtyard. The service is friendly and professional, so whether for an informal lunch or a formal dinner, this venue is sure to be a winner. We recommend Zozoi to our clients a great deal and not once has a client returned disappointed. It’s a sure bet for a delicious and memorable meal in the heart of the Old Town.
Address: Plaza Altamirano, 1, 29601 Marbella, Malaga, Spain: 952 85 88 68
Things to doWhat to Do in Marbella
Hike La Concha
If you fancy some physical activity that will reward you with some of the most incredible views in Europe, then we challenge you to hike La Concha mountain. The peak of La Concha, behind Marbella, sits at just over 900 metres above sea level and reaching the summit is an exhilarating experience – you can see over the Strait of Gibraltar to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
The hike is not an easy one, as the terrain is tricky in places and you need a head for heights. However the route is well-marked and as long as you have good overall fitness, are used to hiking, and prepare yourself sufficiently, you shouldn’t have any problems. Weather permitting (you have to choose your day carefully and make sure there is no low cloud that could cover the peak), you can complete the hike there and back in just over six hours. The easiest starting point is a lovely country hotel on the Ojén road behind La Cañada called El Refugio de Juanar.
Stroll the Seafront to Puerto Banus
A pleasant way to spend a day in the area is to take a one-way stroll from Marbella to Puerto Banús, where you can enjoy a delicious lunch before catching the catamaran back (or vice versa). The seafront walkway, recently restored, is a safe and beautiful path stretching for several km. The section between Marbella and Puerto Banus is about 6km and should take you about 1.5 hours. There are plenty of cafes where you can stop for a breather and some refreshment if you need to. At the end of the promenade, a brand new pedestrian bridge takes you into the port, where you can reward your efforts with a lovely meal as you gaze across the marina. A fabulous, healthy day out!
A catamaran leaves Puerto Banus hourly from 11.00 to 20.00 (Fly-blue.com).
A well-kept secret in Marbella is the Bonsai Museum, just a short 10-minute stroll from the Old Town. One of the most impressive bonsai museums in Europe, it gives wonderful insight into the flora and rare species which are autochthonous to the area, like the protected Pinsapo fir tree in the Serranía de Ronda. The museum also houses one of the world’s most important collections of the wild olive trees. The visit makes for a visually impressive experience as every tree is a work of art – perfect for lovers of nature and anyone with green fingers.
Address: Avenida del Doctor Maiz Viñal – Parque Arroyo de la Represa, 29600, Marbella, Malaga, Spain; 952 862 926
Nueva Andalucia Saturday Street Market
As street markets go, this is one of our favourites. The setting is hard to beat, taking in Puerto Banus bullring, where the antiques stalls are located. It’s a social affair, with many people simply heading in for a coffee with friends on Saturday morning, and they sit alongside the hardcore shoppers. Fresh flowers, clothes, antiques, fruit and veg, handicrafts and art all abound in this open-air bonanza. We can’t think of a better way to spend your Saturday morning.
Day Trips from Marbella
San Pedro de Alcántara
The fate of this small Spanish seaside town seemed sealed by the inconvenience of the busy and dangerous N-340 coast road passing right through the middle of it, cutting the town into two parts (beach and inland) and limiting its appeal. Then the Marbella local authorities decided to start a major “Big Dig” project and bury the road. Their decision, and the five-year completion of the highly successful urban plan, has returned the life-blood to this town. Endless nose-to-tail traffic has now been replaced by San Pedro Boulevard – a pleasant, spacious park with amphitheatre, playgrounds, cycle lanes (cycle and Segway hire are available), café and restaurant, all designed with aplomb and originality – a project that firmly places San Pedro back on the visitor’s map.
The town now enjoys a revitalized centre with several great restaurants, a pedestrianized shopping area and an impressive main square, complete with a prominent church and an array of local children playing football on the plaza. You can also stroll down from the Boulevard to the sea, along a palm-lined avenue that leads you to one of the most delightful seafronts of the whole coastline.
Albeit somewhat touristy, given its proximity to the coast, a visit to this little white village still makes for an authentic experience. Its location high, on the skirts of the Sierra de Mijas, means that you enjoy superb views from nearly all of its labyrinthine corners and stairways. It’s surprisingly easy to step off the tourist trail and discover the truly Spanish parts of the village. Restaurants are good and varied, and many have gardens and terraces where the views can be soaked up over a leisurely outdoor meal. Don’t miss the botanical gardens, which can be found behind the bullring at the top of the hill.
Where is Marbella?
Marbella is located on the Costa del Sol, close to the famous marina, Puerto Banús. The most elegant resort on the south coast of Spain, Marbella boasts a number of luxury hotels, superb golf courses, a thriving restaurant scene and renowned nightlife. With an international population reaching close to 150,000 people, the glamorous town is less than an hour from Malaga airport and just over an hour from Gibraltar. Marbella enjoys one of the best climates in Europe, with over 300 days of sunshine a year and a contemporary cultural scene that appeals to all tastes.
- From Madrid: 5 hours on the A-4
- From Seville: 3 hours on the A-92
- From Malaga: 1 hour on the Mediterranean Highway A-7 or the Toll Road AP-7
- From Gibraltar: 1 hour on the N-340 or the AP-7
For information on buses, go to: Avanzabus.com
- 27 km from the regional Fuengirola to Malaga service
- 57 km from the National Rail Service at Malaga María Zambrano Station, with AVE (high-speed) connections to Madrid, Seville, Antequera and Cordoba, and normal trains to the rest of Andalucia and beyond.
For all information and ticket sales, go to: Renfe.com
Malaga International Airport is now the third-busiest airport in Spain and receives an ever-growing number of international flights throughout the year. In the summer season there is even a direct flight to the USA. Many low-cost airlines are well established within the airport and visitors have a wide choice of routes, carriers and timetables in order to plan their visit.
When to Go & Climate
Marbella enjoys one of the best climates in Europe, shielded from the blistering summer heat of inland Andalucia by the mountain range behind it; La Sierra Blanca, otherwise known as La Concha. This protects the coastal area from the northern elements, creating a Mediterranean micro-climate, and treating the local population to more than 300 sunny days a year when they can enjoy outdoor living.
With mild winters and less than 50 rainy days a year, namely in December, January and March/April, Marbella enjoys a truly privileged meteorological situation – a huge part of its overall appeal.
Marbella Tourist Information
There is one tourist office in Marbella on Plaza de los Naranjos, next door to the Town Hall (Ayuntamiento).
Address: Plaza de los Naranjos, 1 Marbella 29601, Malaga, Spain; 952 823 550; Marbellaexclusive.com