The city itself has a long history, being settled by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC. Later on came the Romans and Moors, who have left traces in the city. The Moors called the city Marbil-la, probably derived from an earlier Iberian name. Much of the current old town dates from the 15th and 16th centuries, when Marbella had once again become part of Spain. Later on the city was a center of iron mining industry.
Some of the first hotels were built in the 1920s, but the Spanish Civil War brought the development to a stop. After WW2, Marbella emerged as a popular destination for Europe's rich and famous. Soon the affluent beach suburb of Puerto Banús (handled in its own article) sprung up about 7 km west of Marbella. Eventually, the city also became a getaway for "royals" of organized crime and in their footsteps petty criminals and drug users, which in the early 1990s gave Marbella a bad reputation. Nowadays, however, the city is clean and safe and according to a 2008 study boasts the highest life quality in all of Andalusia. The city is also full of both domestic and international visitors, most of them from the British Isles.
The climate type is Mediterranean, unsurprisingly. Marbella's location between the ocean in the south and the Sierra Blanca range in the north gives the city a pleasant microclimate. With about 320 sunshine days a year, it's no surprise that many telecommuters, retirees and other expats (especially from the northern half of Europe) have made Marbella and other destinations on Costa del Sol their second home. December and January have somewhat more rain than the rest of the year, though.
Tourist informationTourist offices are located at the Plaza de los Naranjos (in the corner of the city hall) and Paseo Maritímo.
Malaga Airport (AGP), 45km to the east, is the nearest major airport. It's the major airport of Costa del Sol and serviced by most European carriers both regular, budget and charter. From there, your options are bus (one way €6.15 as of May 2015), taxi or rental car. If you're coming from the UK you can alternatively fly in to Gibraltar, although this entails a 1.5 hour drive.
The main coast road (N340, now known as the A7) connects the major towns along the whole southern coast and Marbella is approx 30 minutes drive along the N340 from the provincial capital, Malaga. If you are prepared to pay the toll fee (around 4-6 Euros depending upon season) you can take the new AP-7 road which runs parallel to the N340, but with less traffic and higher speed limits means you will reach your destination more quickly. Several parking houses are available both in Marbella and in Puerto Banus. It is also possible to hire a car from a variety of companies, such as Nizacars or Marbesol.
From Malaga Airport, buy a bus ticket from the vendor facing the exit of the arrivals hall. In May 2015 a one way ticket costs either €6,15 or €8,30 depending on the comfort level of the bus. Buses to Marbella are operated by Avanzabus. The buses will arrive every hour or two on the road behind the vendor. Make sure to be there on time, since the bus leaves exactly on time, or even a minute before. Be aware that drivers don't sell tickets, you need to have bought one at the station or online. The buses are modern and air conditioned. Make sure to sit on the left side of the bus if you want to see the beautiful coastal view. When riding back to the airport you'll get a much better view sitting on the right. Without traffic (there really shouldn't be any, since the bus takes the toll road), the ride should take around 40 min.
Also, there are buses from all other major cities and towns along Costa del Sol, plus other larger cities in Andalusia. Although cheap, the buses can run to their own timetable (!) and are often very busy in summer.
By trainThere is a train service between Fuengirola and Malaga, which is to be extended to run further down the coast to Marbella. Until then, you must take some other form of transportation the last part from Fuengirola. Malaga is reachable by the AVE rapid train from some other major cities in Spain such as Seville, Córdoba or Madrid.
Other companies specialised in private transfers (private taxi) are Autosol Private Transfer and Holiday-Transfer.co.uk. A transfer from Malaga Airport to Marbella] will quote €66.50 with Autosol. Holiday-Transfer will quote only €58. Bookingtaxi charges €59.00 and up for transfers from Malaga Aiport to any hotel in Marbella.
By boatMarbella has two yacht harbors.
By footDowntown is fairly compact and you can get around by foot fairly easily if you are moderately fit, just remember to drink water regularly if visiting in the summer when daytime temperatures above +30°C are the rule rather than the exception. Also sidewalks are often very narrow.
By busThe city operates a network of seven local bus lines. Here is information concerning routes, schedules and fares. The Spanish version of the site has an additional route map for each line using Google Maps. Single tickets cost €1.18 when purchased from the driver.
By carA car is probably an option if you want to go somewhere further out — west, east or inland. If you want to rent a car, all the major car hire firms are represented, but the best value will probably come from local firms. Small car for around €80-90 a week in off season.
By taxiIf travelling any distance agree the fare in advance. Official rates should be displayed inside any licensed taxi. Phone 952 823 835
Plaza de los NaranjosThe square lined by the city hall, orange trees, restaurants and bars is the lively heart of the old town. Built after the Christian reconquest of the city, it is an example of renaissance architecture
Parque de AlamedaA nice little park in the middle of the city with a beautiful benches and a fountain decorated with painted tiles. Buy an ice cream, sit down and watch locals and tourists.
Avenida del MarFrom the park, the pedestrian street Avenida del Mar leads down to the Mediterranean. Along it you can see ten statues by the famous Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí.
Nuestra Señora de la EncarnacionMarbella's baroque cathedral, from 1618 and colorful on the inside.
Ermita de SantiagoA former mosque, this building next to the main square is nowadays a small church — the oldest one in Marbella.
Capilla del Santo SepulcroIt was built in 1994 on the site of a former hospital. The throne inside it depicting Christ is much older and is carried around Marbella on Good Friday.
Capilla de San Juan de DiosA 16th-century chapel that also has functioned as hospital and a home for foundlings.
Virgen de los DoloresA statue of Holy Mary looking out from a window over the eponymous alley.
Moorish wallsPart of a former fortress, these are in a quite good shape for having been standing there for centuries.
Parque de la RepresaA quite long and narrow park, just east of the old town. The park was constructed in the 1980s on a former riverbed, and a road bridge goes across it. The park also housed a Bonsai Museum but this permanently closed in December 2018.
Paseo MaritimoThe beach promenade, 6 km in length with palm trees, restaurants, bars and of course the Mediterranean.
address: Calle Hospital de BazánInterested in contemporary Spanish art? Then this museum is something for you.
- Sunbathing and swimming on the sand beaches along the seafront or at a pool, is undoubtedly Marbella's biggest draw for much of the year. Beware of getting sunburnt, though!
phone: +34 682173225address: Puerto deportivo MarbellaThe activity takes place at Puerto Deportivo of Marbella and consists of 12 minutes of flying over the sea, at a height of over 70 meters. The company offers you a lifejacket, harness and other equipment needed. Then a boat will pull you across the water until you take off and during your flight. Then you're brought back to land.
LandA major vacation destination, Marbella has facilities for a range of sports, especially golf and padel tennis. The latter is a mixture of tennis and squash invented in Mexico and widespread in the Spanish-speaking world.
- Golf - If you love golf then Marbella and the surrounding area has spectacular golf courses that have been designed by the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Peter Alliss and Clive Clark. There are more than 40 quality courses to be played throughout the Costa del Sol making it a perfect destination for the golf enthusiast. Also, the courses are frequently the venues for major international golf competitions, which means you'll get to see real golf pros playing. See also: Spain section of main Golf article
address: Urbanizacion Guadalmina AltaOne of the largest and best golf courses in Europe with a 45-hole course.
- If you like hiking, it's possible to hike up to the summit of La Concha — the 1215 m high mountain that can be seen from everywhere in the city. The summit is about 6 km northwest of the old town as the crow flies, but the main hiking trails start from the northern side of the mountain. They are located near the villages of Ojén (longer trail) and Istan (shorter but steeper trail). The walk is not very difficult, though if you do it in summer you'll need sunscreen and plenty of water.
EventsSave for the winter, there are several festivities and processions going on each month in and around Marbella, most of them religious.
- Easter week: During the Santa Semana, processions are a common sight in the city.
- May: Pilgrimage to Cruz de Juanar
- June: La Fiera, a week-long party in the old town to honor San Bernabé who is the city's patron saint.
- July: The festival of Virgen del Carmen
- August: Pilgrimage to the Virgin Mother
- October: The fair and festival to honor the parton of nearby San Pedro Alcantara
- November: Día del Tostón, a day celebrated by roasting chestnuts
Between the patron saint festivals in June and October, also several smaller fairs take place, the Feria y Fiestas de Nueva Andalucía, Las Chapas and El Ángel. In addition each neigborhood of Marbella has their own "day" sometime during the year.
- Don Quijote Spanish school in Marbella is a great school where you can take 4-6 hours of courses a day. All courses including beginner courses are taught entirely in Spanish.
For bargains, check out the weekly markets. One is held in the Albarizas neighborhood, east of the old town each Monday morning. Other markets take place on Fridays in San Pedro de Alcántara on Thursdays and Puerto Banús. Though, here it's more likely than not that brand products for sale are fake.
La CañadaA shopping mall with about 150 shops with many European name brands. Located right off exit 185.
Che Oléphone: +34 952 85 77 33address: C/ Valdés 3Clothing.
Even as all major cuisines are represented on the Marbellan restaurant scene, most (also) offer Spanish and Andalusian dishes — especially paella in all thinkable varieties. Also, unlike lesser touristed parts of Spain, restaurants open for dinner already at 18:00, even with some special offers for early diners. Tapas are available all day.
address: Avenida Miguel Cano 7Basque style tapas.
Venenciaaddress: Av. Miguel Cano 15Outdoor and indoor seating. This is a popular tapas bar where you can try gambas pil pil (fried shrimps and garlic served with bread), patatas bravas (roasted potatoes with spicy sauce), pimientos fritos (fried paprika with sea salt). Dishes cost €4-8. Fast and attentive service.
Los CanoA nice restaurant next to the sea with pleasant ambiance, good service and delicious fish. Dishes to try are boquerones fritos, lenguado a la planche, dorade al sal and rodaballo al horno.
address: C/ Virgen del Pilar 14Popular restaurant open all day, specializing in tapas..
phone: +34 951 21 69 92address: Plaza de los Naranjos 6One of the restaurants at Plaza de los Naranjos, so the outdoor seating is great for people-watching too. Fish, meat, seafood, and of course paella on the menu. One Wikivoyager found the secreto iberico (barbecued ham with baked potato) particularly delicious.
phone: +34 952 77 00 64address: C/ Remedios 5Specializing in Andalusian cuisine with a lot of different paellas on the menu. Indoor and outdoor seating, like most places in the old town.
phone: +34 663 34 44 44address: Bulevar del Príncipe Alfonso von Hohenlohe s/n, edificio Marbella ForumBreakfast Monday to Saturday. Dinner service from Tuesday till Saturday. Set menu at €19 per person. Friendly international personnel. Excellent place for a casual and fun mornings and evenings with your friends.
address: Av. de la Puerta del MarMediterranean food and sushi, to that a large selection of wine and beer available.
address: C/ Ortiz del Molinillo 14Italian restaurant.
phone: +34 952 76 84 15address: Paseo Alfonso Cañas NoguerasInternational cuisine, with a Mediterranean touch, as well as a sun deck with free loungers.
phone: +34 951 56 28 87address: Avenida Duque de Ahumada
phone: +34 952 770 078address: Paseo Marítimo 5A good fish restaurant with beautiful decor.
address: Bulevar Principe Alfonso von HohenloheInternationally awarded restaurant of the eponymous upscale hotel.
phone: +34 695 30 00 00address: Bulevar del Príncipe Alfonso de Hohenlohe s/n, Edificio Marbella Forum
La Nottephone: +34 952 777 625address: 0.1 km N - Cno. la Cruz, S/N
address: Avenida del Mar 3Night club.
address: Plaza de los OlivosClub and entertainment venue.
address: C/ de San Lázaro 12Tapas bar.
One of the major tourist centers on Costa del Sol, in and around Marbella you have plenty of accommodation to choose among from simple hostels to luxurious resorts.
phone: +34 952 773 578address: Calle Aduar 7, Old TownProbably the cheapest beds in Old Town. Also has triples and quads.
address: Calle Isaac Peral 16Shared bathrooms, roof terrace, no breakfast. Bar with pool table.
phone: +34 952 771 491address: Calle Trapiche 2Youth hostel
address: C/Aucha 21
phone: +34 952 90 90 00address: Paseo Marítimo de Benabola 29660 Puerto Banús, MarbellaThe hotel with pool, spa, gym and golf course.
phone: +34 952 899 600address: Boulevar Ppe. Alfonso Von HohenloheThe hotel contains 199 rooms, a spa, a gym and an outdoor pool. Family location.
phone: +34 952 86 15 00address: Calle El Fuerte s/nA beachfront four star hotel in Marbella, 5 minutes walking from the town centre.
phone: +34 95 276 84 00address: Avda. Severo Ochoa 8This trendy Marbella hotel boasts an enviable location and it is the only one recommended for adults, on the beach front and five minutes’ walk from the city’s historical centre.
phone: +34 952 82 54 87address: C/ Jacinto Benavente 6Small and well-functioning hotel near the old town, the main shopping drag and Playa Venus. At the outside it looks a bit shabby, but the rooms and the lobby seems to have been refurbished lately. Free Wi-Fi and TV, bathroom, A/C and fridge in the rooms. Rooms also have balconies.
phone: +34 679 568 746address: Avda. Antonio Belón 2
phone: +34 952 822 211address: CN340, km 180
address: Bulevar del Príncipe Alfonso von Hohenlohe
address: C/ José Meliá, s/n
For Professional Massage and Reflexology services Holistic Stone in Nueva Andalucia near Puerto Banus may be able to help you.
For Home/Hotel Visits and treatments in Nueva Andalucia.
phone: +34 952 12 62 79address: Marbella MálagaThe beach has exceptional surroundings including the third-century AD Roman ruins known as Las Bóvedas located within a protected archaeological site. This beach has been blueflagged since 1992.
- Puerto Banús - is the famous yacht marina, lined with popular bars and restaurants, and a veritable posers' paradise. Plenty of late night bars and the odd celebrity are to be found here, but don't forget your wallet, it's not cheap! Some 7 km west along the beach.
- Head up to Refugio de Juanar near Ojen, about 5 km inland. You can hike in the woods and up to the summit of La Concha for great views over the region.
- Other cities and towns on Costa del Sol can easily be visited as a daytrip by bus or rental car. In addition to sights and services you can expect from beach resorts, most also offer interesting architecture dating back to Roman times, museums and typical Andalusian landscapes. Also the picturesque inland town of Ronda can be worth considering.
- If visiting during the winter months, Marbella is a good base to visit the famous Spanish Ski resort of Sierra Nevada, 1.5 hours away by car
- Gibraltar - visit the historical British Colony, climb the famous rock and see the mischievous Barbary Apes. NB You will need your passport as the Spanish Guardia operate a full border control.
- You can actually make a daytrip to Africa. Take an early bus to Algeciras, and one of the frequent fast ferries to Ceuta and head back in the afternoon. On the other hand, Morocco and back is probably not feasible in one day, as it will involve multiple changes of transportation and times at the borders. There are however companies offering day-length tours to Tangier for about €80 per person.
- If you want to make a longer side trip and are interested in history, culture and architecture, why not head to Sotogrande, Córdoba, Seville or Granada, accessible by direct bus? Southwards you can explore more of Morocco.