Marbella is situated in the Malaga province and in the Adalusia community. Marbella is known around the world as a place of luxury, fine dining and super yachts, it is the St. Tropez of Spain. A place for the rich, famous, and glamorous, to pop over to and play rounds of golf, sip glasses of Chablis in their Jacuzzis on the back of their super yachts and discuss the stock market in Hong Kong. But for me, Marbella is home. My dad, like a warm blooded mammal, is attracted to heat and so spends some of his time along the golden coast of Costa Del Sol, in Marbella.
Flying into Malaga, Marbella is approximately a 40 minute drive away from the airport (depending what car you drive) and to get a sense of where Marbella is, it is on the most southern tip of Spain, very near to Gilbratar. Always using Malaga as essentially, an entry and exit point, I have never explored the city, however I have been told, being the sixth largest city in Spain, it has many fantastic museums and parks to enjoy. Driving from Malaga to Marbella you pass the towns of Torremolinos; Benalmadena and Fuengirola, these names you may recognise from various television programs such as “Brits Abroad” or “A Place In The Sun”. Here you will find swarms of British people living on a diet throughout their entirety of their holiday of chips and staying in their all-inclusive resorts, (I’m not a fan of all inclusive to put it politely). As much as I stay clear of these places because of the influx of British people, I have to say, I have been to a few amusement parks around those areas. First is Tivoli World, situated in Benalmadena, which is a fun fair and amusement park, which opens late and stays open even later, which as a 12 year old, I did enjoy. In this same area, I recommend taking the cable car up to the top of the mountain where you can enjoy extensive views of the coast and going to the amusement park, Sea Life, where I got a kiss from a seal (and still remember its fishy breath from all those years ago.)
Like I said before, to me, Marbella is a second home because of the amount of times we have returned to that area of Spain. First, we went to an area near to Marbella called Mijhas, a beautiful Spanish town hidden in the mountains with white wash stone walls and pebbled squares. I remember the whinnying of donkeys, carpets being strewn over balcony’s to be rid of dust and old women and men sitting and squabbling with each other in the square. We use to dine in the town at the same restaurant where the 90 year old woman who owned the restaurant, would come out and welcome us with a familiar smile. We used to rent in summer, and sometimes winter, just below the old town and would risk dodgy bending and winding roads to get down the mountain for our weekly shop, much to our own childish amusement and my mother’s horror. It was beautiful to be surrounded by the noise of Cicadas and wake up to the view of the coast at your feet bringing a deep sense of calm. As kids, we could easily entertain ourselves for hours by the pool and it was a great escape for my parents away from hectic work environments. But soon, we saw more and more English menus crop up in the Mijhas town, more tour buses filled to the brim with snap happy tourists ascend their way up into the square and the appeal of this quiet, sleepy town to us had worn off.
Descending the mountain, we moved to Marbella where my dad has lived for the past 10 years. As I said before, many when they hear the name Marbella, think of celebrities and ridiculous cars. Yes, there are celebrities that venture quite frequently to the shores of Marbella, and yes there are a number of ridiculous cars, but for me its routine- not because I’m a snob in anyway, but because I’m used to it. When I bring my friends out in the summer, which I regularly do, they are in awe of the place, but I just shrug my shoulders and remark, “That’s Marbella.” Marbella town centre is nestled around the focus of the main beach and the golden mile (titled this because of the shops, restaurants and bars on this stretch, which if you don’t make enough money, are quickly turned over into something else). Along the beach you can rollerblade, cycle, walk and enjoy the incredible sandcastles that this one guy does all year round.
My recommendations for you in this area is to go to the chain tapas restaurant: La Taberna del Pintxo, it is an incredible tapas place where you pay the price for good quality, although it still is cheap and has an incredible variety, as well as being constantly filled with locals. After this, check out the bars nearby at the small port where each one varies in style, music and atmosphere. A must do is to visit the old town, to soak up the ambience of old style Spain catching a glimpse of real Marbella, have a drink in the Plaza del Naranja underneath many trees filled with blooming oranges, have snacks in a hidden bar up some ancient stairs, or pop into a leather shop and smell the musty hide of leather.
Although beaches in this area are nice, we always go to Estepona, Cabopino or Elveria for its much cleaner beaches, a great restaurant to eat at and sunbathe nearby is the Beach House Restaurant, (just thinking of their garlic aioli with bread makes my mouth water).
Near to this area of Marbella is the famous Nikki beach, and whatever you have heard about Nikki Beach, it’s probably true. Unfortunately, when Marbella and Costa Del Sol were much classier and glamorous a few years ago, Nikki Beach had a much more prestigious title and the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming with nicer clientèle. On a recent visit with a friend, just like the rest of Marbella, and especially within the summer months, people were jostling to flaunt their wealth, or supposed wealth, to act snooty and superior. Gone are the days of happy Arabs pouring champagne over everyone’s heads for entertainment, now it is full of 25 year olds showing off their “no carbs before marbs” physique and eyeing you up when you decide to dance on the dance floor rather than just sway your hips. (Please note I am in my early 20s and so I am not being ageist but merely pointing out the facts). However, Nikki beach is fantastic for seeing jazz musicians mix with house music who dance on tables and hired dancers in skimpy outfits, so, if you want to ogle at these people whilst spending 15 euros for a beer, this is the place.
I prefer Puro Beach, the much calmer and more beautiful pool side beach resort that does have live music, but has the panache that Nikki Beach use to have- plus the white sangria jugs are a bargain! With seats starting from 25 euros, it is not cheap, but neither is Nikki Beach, besides where else in the world will you recline on a white sofa with light white curtains, watch waiters serving Dom Pergion and atmospheric music being played in the background?
As I pointed out before, Marbella used to be, a much nicer place. Yes it was obviously still touristy, but there was a neighbourly air to the place. Now people keep to themselves, inside their blacked out windows of their 4×4, and more crime is happening, “Costa Del Crime” is its new title. Only once have I been subject to violence, which was when I asked someone if there was space in that area to sit down, and he answered me by throwing his shot glass near me, which then landed on the table shattered and cut my leg. A friend I was with at the time stood up for me, which then meant we were all quickly asked to leave. But this sort of thing is trivial to what could happen and has happened to many in Marbella. So although this area does seem like a whirlwind of wealth and extravagance, make sure you look behind this glossy veneer.
A tourist must see the main attraction of Marbella, Puerto Banus. A port famous for its super yachts, expensive shops and ridiculous cars, here you can browse and add to your wish list, whilst also a few steps towards the main square, you can buy from high street brands and from a summer market full of little goodies and gems to please everyone. Sitting at one of its many restaurants, watch tourists amble past staring at the prestige, or dressed up to the nines to spend a night out on the town, whilst shiny Ferraris and Lamborghini’s speed past arrogantly.
Recently, for my mums birthday, I drove a golf buggy around the port much to the amusement of walkers and annoyance of cars, and I highly recommend to do so as it is quick and handy to see the area, as well as affordable (and also so much fun! Now I have driven a manual car in the UK, an automatic in Aus, a quad bike, elephant and jeep in Thailand, a scooter in Vietnam and a golf buggy in Spain!)
The port is lined with bars as well and hidden behind this forefront of glamour is a backstreet that resembles Malia or Magaluf. Here are also a number of clubs and bars, however many do not ID punters which leads to many youngsters whom look like they are 12 to go clubbing (I should know, I used to go when I was 16). My favourite restaurant in Puerto Banus is Los Bandidos, and my favourite bars on the front are: Sinatras, Joys Live and Babilonia, bars behind: Pink, Seven, and Linekars. Clubs wise, there are so many clubs in Marbella its ridiculous, obviously most of them are expensive, so factor that in (and the earliest time you should EVER show up to a club is 1am, normally my friends and I pre drink in Puerto Banus then head to the clubs). Ones I have tried which have either shut down or are awful: are Glam and Dreamers. Others I have been to and enjoyed are: Olivia Valere (popular with the predominately Spanish crowd, which takes the shape of a Moroccan house with many areas some dedicated to sushi, others dedicated to dancing), Aqua mist, Tibu and Moma 56. I’ve heard Sleek, Pangea and Funky Buddha are great ones too.
Other restaurants that are great to dine at in Marbella are Casamono, Villa Tiberia and Da Brunos. If you manage to steer yourself away from the many restaurants, beaches and drinking establishments, make sure you take a trip to Nerja. Nerja is a beautiful town that has houses stacked like dominoes all in white (which would remind anyone of Greece) unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of this beautiful place. And if you ever do decide to venture to this area of Spain, don’t hesitate to contact me- I am here 3 to 4 times a year so you never know, I might be able to give you a tour!