About this Marbella Area Guide
The Realista Marbella area guide provides an insight into one of the most famous resorts on the Costa del Sol. Below you’ll find information about different areas within Marbella, the weather in the resort and things to do. The guide also covers where to eat and where to shop in Marbella.
Where is Marbella?
Marbella is located at the western end of the Costa del Sol, between Fuengirola and Estepona. The resort faces directly south on to the Mediterranean and is backed by the impressive Sierra Blanca mountain range whose highest peak tops 1,200m.
What’s Marbella like?
Marbella is the best-known resort on the Costa del Sol and enjoys a reputation as one of the most glamourous holiday destinations in southern Europe. Discovered by the world’s jet set in the 1960s, Marbella stands for luxury and high-end experiences – not for nothing is some of Europe’s most expensive property located here plus prime golf courses and some of the world’s best beach clubs.
Marbella stretches for 27km along the coast and includes the following areas:
The eastern end of Marbella is home to popular developments such as Cabo Pino (an attractive marina), Las Chapas, Elviria, El Rosario, Los Monteros and Río Real. All are well-established with easy connections to Marbella centre and good amenities such as shops, banks and a wide choice of restaurants. Several excellent private schools such as English International College and Colegio Alborán are located on this side of Marbella where you’ll also find miles of sandy family-friendly beaches. The world-famous beach club Nikki Beach is here plus the 5-star Hotel Don Carlos and Hotel Los Monteros. Several of the best golf courses in Marbella are found here including Marbella Golf and Country Club, and Santa Clara Golf.
The centre of Marbella includes the historic Old Town with its Moorish castle, maze of narrow streets and alleyways, and several lovely churches. The central Alameda park connects the Old Town with the seafront promenade via the Avenida del Mar lined with lots of Dali sculptures. The seafront promenade – one of the most popular places in Marbella – runs from the Bajadilla marina in the east all the way to San Pedro in the west, around 15km in total.
The west of Marbella consists of attractive tree-lined boulevards flanked by some of the best apartments in Marbella centre. Amenities are excellent with a wide range of shops, sports facilities, health centres, banks and restaurants.
Marbella West/ Golden Mile
To the west of the Piruli tower and the Corte Inglés store lies the most exclusive area in Marbella, known as the Golden Mile for its succession of mansions and palace-like residences. Two of the most renowned hotels in Marbella – Marbella Club and Puente Romano, both 5-star GL and part of the Leading Hotels of the World – are also here. Michelin-starred chef Dani García runs two restaurants on the Golden Mile – Restaurante Dani García and BIBO.
Also to the west of Marbella centre are the exclusive developments of Sierra Blanca, renowned for its stunning Mediterranean and mountain views, La Virginia, home to some of the loveliest townhouse properties in Marbella and the Buchinger fasting clinic.
Numerous celebrities and royalty have homes in this area including the Saudi Royal Family (whose design is modelled on the White House), Baroness Thyssen, Simon Cowell and Lord Alan Sugar as well as several football personalities. Read more about this area in the Marbella Golden Mile area guide.
As one of the most popular places to visit in Marbella, Puerto Banús needs no introduction. Home to an attractive marina where some of the world’s largest private yachts and boats are moored, a long list of luxury boutiques – all the main designer and haute couture names have stores in Puerto Banús – plus lots of marina-front restaurants and bars, this is a place to see and be seen. Celebrity spotting comes into its own in high season when it’s easy to see plenty of famous faces wining and dining at Puerto Banús.
This is also one of the best places for nightclubs in Marbella. Several of the best beach clubs on the Costa del Sol are in Puerto Banús including Ocean Club, Funky Buddha and La Sala by the Sea. All offer night time clubbing as well as day time activities. Away from the beach you’ll also find a good choice of nightclubs as well as pubs.
Nueva Andalucía is situated to the west of Marbella and north of Puerto Banús. This popular development has an excellent choice of villa and townhouse properties, some of which enjoy front-line golf positions. Many homes here boast exceptional mountain and/or sea views.
Nueva Andalucía has excellent amenities including a small shopping centre at Centro Plaza (next to the bull ring) that hosts one of the most popular markets on the Costa del Sol on Saturdays. Aloha College, one of the largest international schools in Marbella, is here.
Sporting facilities are excellent – Golf Valley includes five golf courses in and near Nueva Andalucía, some of which such as La Quinta and Las Brisas rank among the best on the Costa del Sol. The renowned Manolo Santana Tennis Academy is located here too.
San Pedro de Alcántara
Known as San Pedro for short, this is a small town to the west of Marbella. The town has plenty of amenities with a wide range of shops and restaurants, good sports facilities, health centres and several schools including Laude San Pedro International College.
San Pedro has an attractive seafront promenade and two popular parks. The Boulevard, located in the centre of the town has children’s playparks and a small theatre, while the Parque de los Tres Jardines to the north has botanical gardens combining sub-tropical, Mediterranean and Arabic gardens.
Several sought-after developments are found in San Pedro. These include the high-end Guadalmina and Linda Vista, both to the west of the resort.
How big is it?
Marbella is one of the largest resorts on the Costa del Sol, both in terms of population and size.
What’s the population of Marbella?
Around 140,000 people live in Marbella according to official records, although the real population is much higher.
How many foreigners live in Marbella?
Nearly 34,000 foreigners have made Marbella their home. The biggest group is British, followed by Germans and Russians.
What’s the weather like in Marbella?
Like the rest of the Costa del Sol, the weather in Marbella combines sunny days with warm temperatures. Expect a minimum of 320 days of sunshine a year, pleasant winter temperatures and temperate heat in the summer.
How do I get to Marbella?
Getting to Marbella couldn’t be easier. Two highways (the A-7 and AP-7 toll) connect the resort with Malaga to the east and Estepona to the west. A good bus service runs between Malaga Airport and Marbella (journey time 35 minutes), and frequent buses provide services to Estepona and Fuengirola.
How far is it to Malaga Airport from Marbella?
The distance between Malaga Airport and Marbella is 48km. Allow for a 30-minute drive.
Puerto Banus and San Pedro are slightly further (58km and 61km respectively) and it takes around 45 minutes to get there from the airport by car.
How far is it to Gibraltar Airport from Marbella?
Gibraltar Airport is a good alternative for flights from the Costa del Sol to the UK. It’s 77km away, just under an hour by car but allow extra time for crossing the border between Spain and Gibraltar.
How far is it to Malaga from Marbella?
Malaga is 60km away – a 45-minute drive or 1 hour bus journey.
What are the main attractions in Marbella?
There are lots of attractions in Marbella. Top of the list are the beaches (see below), closely followed by sightseeing and enjoying the resort’s cultural and gastronomic scene. Marbella has several museums of note as well as some interesting monuments. Not to mention the long list of outdoor activities, in and out of the water. Marbella is also within easy reach of other attractions on the Costa del Sol such as Selwo Aventura safari park in nearby Estepona and Fuengirola Zoo.
What are the beaches like in Marbella?
There’s a total of 23 beaches in Marbella, stretching along the resort’s 27km of coastline from San Pedro in the west to Cabo Pino in the east. In 2016, the resort had six beaches with blue-flag status, although almost all beaches have good facilities and easy parking, and lifeguard services between Easter and the end of September.
Perhaps the best thing about Marbella beaches is the choice. There really is something for everyone along the coast. Choose from family-friendly sands in Elviria with shallow bathing and lots of beach bars and restaurants; beach-fun activities at Funny Beach (just outside Marbella to the east) or on the beach at Puente Romano on the Golden Mile; party time at Ocean Club in Puerto Banús and Nikki Beach; peace and quiet on the Marbella beaches located between Puente Romano and Puerto Banús; and sophistication at the beach clubs located at hotels in Marbella such as Puente Romano, Marbella Club and Los Monteros. If you want to go au naturel, Cabo Pino has a designated nudist beach.
And if the 23 beaches aren’t enough for you, there are plenty others within easy reach. Estepona has some of the quietest beaches on the Costa del Sol and slightly further west is Tarifa with some of the best kitesurfing beaches in Europe.
What is there to do in Marbella?
Apart from going to the beach, Marbella has plenty to offer. The resort’s museums – the Museum of Engraving, the Bonsai Museum and the Ralli Museum – are all worth a visit as are the Roman ruins. These include the Roman Villa in Puerto Banús with its stunning mosaics and the Roman Basilica in San Pedro.
A must-see is Marbella Old Town where you can see traditional Andalusian architecture in the pretty squares and narrow streets that have hardly changed in centuries. Highlights in the Old Town include Orange Square with the fine Town Hall and the Moorish castle walls. There are lots of bars and restaurants in Marbella Old Town as well as a great choice of boutiques and specialist shops. Don’t miss the traditional toyshops and the olive oil store where you can taste before you buy. Outside the Old Town, things to see in Marbella include the Dali sculptures in Avenida del Mar, which showcase the Catalan’s surrealist style.
Year-round sunshine plus some stunning scenery make Marbella an exceptional location for outdoor activities. Some of the best golf courses on the Costa del Sol are within easy reach – take your pick from 15 on your doorstep with many others just slightly further away. There are good tennis and paddle tennis facilities. Water sports fans are in for a treat with sailing, kayaks, stand-up paddle and fishing available. For water sports with an adrenalin rush, try your hand at flyboarding or water skiing on the Mediterranean or the natural lake at Las Medranas.
There’s also great walking and hiking in Marbella. The Sierra Blanca mountain range that forms a backdrop to the resort offers lots of walking routes to suit all ages and abilities. Climbing and abseiling are also available. Several companies organise horse riding and mountain biking in the Marbella mountains.
What cultural activities are there in Marbella?
Marbella has a year-round cultural calendar that offers the best of Spanish culture together with international events organised by the resort’s foreign residents. In the summer, one of the largest of events in Marbella is the Starlite Festival, a month of concerts performed by the world’s biggest names in music. Marbella Theatre also puts on shows and plays throughout the year. In August, Marbella holds its annual Art Fair when art galleries from around the world exhibit work by renowned international artists.
Marbella is also known for its fairs and festivities. The main celebrations take place in June for San Bernabé, the patron saint of Marbella when week-long festivities include a pilgrimage, fireworks, concerts and fairground rides. In October, it’s the San Pedro fair. Other events in Marbella include Christmas when there are lights and carol concerts plus the annual Three Kings Parade through the centre of the city.
What about eating out in Marbella?
You’re literally spoilt for choice – the wide range of restaurants in Marbella cater for all tastes in gastronomy and all wallets. If you’re keen on tapas, you’ll also find an excellent choice particularly in the Old Town. Look out for the Tapas Trail taking in the best in creative bites held every autumn.
The resort has one of the highest concentrations of Michelin stars in Europe – a total of four restaurants in Marbella boast this culinary accolade: Restaurante Dani García, Skina, El Lago and Messina. There are also several other excellent restaurants as well as lots of good beach restaurants serving fresh fish and seafood including grilled sardines.
If you fancy dining with an international flavour, there’s a huge choice from international bistro-type restaurants such as Becketts and The Orange Tree to cuisine-specific eateries such as Thai, Indian, Argentinian and Italian restaurants.
What’s a typical local dish?
One of the most typical dishes in Marbella is grilled sardines (espeto de sardinas). Chargrilled over an open fire at beach restaurants, the sardines are cooked to perfection and eaten with roasted pepper salad.
How about shopping in Marbella?
Marbella is probably the best resort for shopping on the Costa del Sol. In the city centre you’ll find high street brands plus lots of small specialist shops and boutiques. There’s also a fresh food market. La Cañada shopping centre is one of the largest in southern Spain and offers a wide range of shops including FNAC, Apple, Guess, Habitat and Marks & Spencers. Alcampo hypermarket and the DIY store Leroy Merlin are also located here.
If you’re looking for luxury items, Puerto Banús is the place to visit. Here you’ll find world-class designer boutiques such as Carolina Herrera, Louis Vuitton and Versace as well as the large Corte Inglés department store.