As one of Europe’s most famous holiday spots, Marbella needs no introduction. Its buzzing nightlife, A-list celebrities, fine golf courses and million-euro yachts are legendary. But behind the glitz and glamour, this resort in southern Spain offers the visitor a whole lot more.
Beyond the sandy beaches, sundowners and people-watching lies a world of interesting architecture, ancient history, world-class art and some seriously beautiful nature. In our round-up of the best things to do in Marbella, we visit the other side of the resort and discover some surprises.
Things to do in Marbella – admire the architecture
Marbella can trace its roots back to Phoenician times and since then, each era has left its mark on the resort’s architecture. From ancient to modern, prepare to feast your eyes on:
A Roman villa
Perhaps the first luxury villa on the Costa del Sol, the remains of the Roman nobleman’s home await you in Rio Verde, just outside Puerto Banús. Although there’s little left of the original mansion built in 200AD, the mosaics more than make up for it. Medusa’s head takes centre stage with dolphins, birds, cooking utensils and even some flipflops making up the rest of the floor.
Open Friday and weekend mornings. Find out more about the villa.
While you’re there – walk into Puerto Banús via the stunning wooden footbridge that spans Rio Verde River.
Gothic and Mudejar finery
Next, we leap forward to the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of Marbella’s finest civic and religious buildings date from this time and the best place to admire them is in the Old Town. You’ll find it to the north of the central Avenida de Ricardo Soriano.
Lose yourself in the alleyways and squares as you admire some truly fine buildings amongst the typically Andalusian flower-filled façades. Keep an eye open for these particular highlights:
The Town Hall – on Plaza de los Naranjos, the civic centre has an elegant façade with wrought-iron details with the jewel in the crown inside in the form of a magnificent wooden Mudejar ceiling.
Casa del Corregidor – one of the finest noble residences in the Old Town, this Renaissance mansion also flanks the Plaza de los Naranjos. Admire the carved stone features and balcony on the top floor.
Hospital Bazán – now home to the Museum of Spanish Engravings, this Gothic building has a beautiful façade with tower and a pretty patio in the Mudejar style.
Santo Cristo de la Veracruz Shrine – at the top of Calle Ancha (don’t miss the elegant mansions on this street), the 16th century chapel is one of the oldest in Marbella as well as one of the prettiest.
While you’re there – keep an eye open for the castle walls that once encircled most of the Old Town. See the largest stretch of them in Calle Juan Alameda in the east of the centre.
Fans of architecture are in for a real treat in Marbella where some of the world’s finest designers have left their signature. If you love beautiful buildings, make sure you include visiting the following places on your list of things to do in Marbella:
Puerto Banús – designed by Swiss architect Noldi Schreck who managed to build a mountain-style village at sea level and in doing so created what is now known as Mediterranean architecture. He used the nearby village of Casares as his inspiration.
Marbella Club – Schreck also had a hand in designing the Costa del Sol’s most iconic hotel. He brought Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe’s Californian dream to life with pan-tiled roofs, whitewashed façades, patios and exuberant gardens in Marbella Club.
Read more about Marbella Club Hotel.
La Virginia – this unique residential development combines mountain and Mediterranean with typically Andalusian touches in both its layout and architecture. Australian architect, Donald Gra,y designed it taking his inspiration from the Sierra Nevada mountain villages in the Alpujarras.
While you’re there – take a drive around any of the most luxurious residential areas in Marbella (e.g. Cascada de Camoján, Sierra Blanca or the Golden Mile) for a feast of modern villa architecture.
Discover the best architects in Marbella.
Things to do in Marbella – marvel at the art
While Marbella doesn’t quite match Malaga when it comes to art, the resort does offer visitors the chance to see some wonderful creations. Don’t miss the following:
Stroll past the collection of weird and wonderful creations on the central Avenida del Mar. All ten bronze sculptures stand very tall and give you an insight into the surrealist mind of Spain’s best-known 20th artist.
While you were exploring the Old Town, you will have passed the Hospital de Bazán, home to some of the finest contemporary engravings in Spain. Works by both Miró and Picasso feature as well as other genius artists.
If you like your art quirky, be sure to head for the Ralli Museum on the Golden Mile. The ten rooms come packed with surrealist art by Spanish and South American artists. And yes, Dalí takes centre stage here too.
While you’re there – visit the private art galleries along the Golden Mile such as Sekretza, Pedro Peña Art Gallery and the Alejandro Hermann Art Gallery.
Things to do in Marbella – discover nature
One of the best things about Marbella for nature lovers is how easy it is to get out into the countryside. And you have a choice of surroundings from dune-scapes to high mountains via woodlands and wetlands. When you visit, don’t miss the following natural hotspots in Marbella.
Walk the dunes
At the far eastern end of Marbella next to Cabopino lies one of the best-preserved dune areas on the Costa del Sol. Stroll through the Dunas de Artola on the wooden walkways that take you through the dunes via the sandy beach. This is particularly beautiful at sunset.
Climb La Concha
The highest peak in the Sierra Blanca mountains that back Marbella offers a challenging climb, although the panoramic views at the top are more than worth it. If you fancy something a little less strenuous but also with amazing vistas, hike one of the other trails such as this one.
Explore the woods
The foothills of Sierra Blanca are home to extensive pine and Mediterranean woodlands that are especially beautiful in spring and autumn. If you visit after a day of rain, you’ll also come across waterfalls – the Camoján cascade is particularly impressive.
Discover the wetlands
Visit the Lago de las Tortugas in Nueva Andalucia where you’ll find a long list of resident and migratory birds plus the turtles the lake is named after. Woods surround the lake also backed by mountains and their reflection in the water is one of the prettiest natural sights in Marbella.
While you’re there – try your hand at a touch of wakeboarding or waterskiing nearby. Or if you’d rather be in the water than on it, spend the day relaxing by the pool as you watch the boards.
Things to do in Marbella – make it your home
Getting round to doing all these activities in Marbella will take more than just a holiday so why not think about buying yourself a permanent base in the resort? For some inspiration, take a look at our list of properties in Marbella.
Or get in touch with our friendly team who will only too happy to help you find the home for you in Marbella.