The Old & the New in Marbella, Spain
Lying on the coast of Spain near popular Malaga is Marbella, one of the most stylish and popular resort towns along the glamorous Mediterranean coast. Marbella has developed a reputation as a glitzy and hedonistic hotspot, where the vino flows freely and the dance floors are crowded until the sun comes up at dawn.
In many ways, Marbella is your quintessential Mediterranean destination, with gorgeous beaches crowded with gorgeous people, fine dining and cosmopolitan bars and nightclubs. Its “golden mile” is simply brimming with stylish and modern tourist offerings from skyscraper hotels to Michelin-starred restaurants.
There is another fascinating side to Marbella, however. The city has an incredibly rich history, as can be seen from the 10th Century walls that surround the city. Away from the crowds, the beautiful Old Town gives visitors a feel for the Marbella of hundreds of years ago, and has undeniable charm. This juxtaposition makes Marbella an intriguing, diverse and interesting tourist destination. Here’s our favorite things to do in “old” Marbella, and “new” Marbella.
Although it has never been proven, many historians believe that Marbella was founded by the Phoenicians almost 1,500 years ago. Although it is not clear how the city began, what we do know is that it has been inhabited and influenced by many of history’s great civilizations, having been under Roman and Islamic rule. In fact, it is thought that the name ‘Marbella’ comes from the Arabic name Marbal-la.
While today, Marbella is a glamorous metropolitan city (more on that soon), there are still many places to discover its beautiful history. Most are centerd around Casco Antiguo (Old Town), so it is easy to spend a day exploring and discovering the sights on foot.
There is the 15th Century town hall, which features beautiful Renaissance style architecture, the Mayor’s House, and the Chapel of Santiago, believed to be the oldest religious structure in the city. These buildings are intriguing due to their mix of different architectural styles and features.
Although there are numerous beautiful sights, half of the fun of Marbella’s Old Town is simply wandering around its narrow, cobbled streets and soaking in the atmosphere. You will surely feel like you’ve gone back in history as you leave the towering high rises behind in favour of tiny laneways and humble cafes and restaurants, serving delicious coffee and ice-cold sangria.
One of the best places to stop and enjoy the atmosphere and dining is at Plaza de los Naranjos - “orange square”, where you can soak in the old town’s charms in the shade of the orange trees.
For decades, Marbella has had the reputation of being a playground for the rich and famous, with celebrities such as Antonio Banderas and Kylie Jenner vacationing in the city. It is an elegant, luxurious destination, with most of the main attractions centred around the “Golden Mile” strip.
Here, you will find a plethora of modern bars, restaurants and shops to enjoy. The waterfront boasts many of the best restaurants in the city, and even anywhere in Andalusia. Many of the restaurants have been awarded one or more famed Michelin stars, including charming Messina or the innovative Dani Garcia.
After dinner, the city really begins to come alive with many glitzy nightclubs and bars where visitors can sip cocktails and dance the night away in venues beloved by international celebrities. The clubs are diverse and varied, with all kind of music and décor on offer. They range from laidback lounges such as Living Room in Nueva Andalucia, to thumping party hotspots such as Tibu.
Following a night of dancing, a day of frolicking at the beach and sweating out any lingering hangover is a must. Luckily, the city has dozens of gorgeous beaches within easy reach. There’s too many to list them all, but some particular favorites of visitors include hip Bounty Beach or glamorous Nikki Beach.
Finally, you’ll probably want to purchase some souvenirs of your trip to ‘new’ Marbella – and there’s plenty of choice. Puerto Banus is the place to go if you have some cash to splash, with a range of boutiques from designers such as Jimmy Choo. If your budget is a little more modest, try La Cañada Shopping Centre with over 150 different shops across a range of price points.
There’s no point comparing old and new Marbella, because both equally have their own charms. While some may say that new Marbella lacks some of the soul and charm of the Old Town, it’s impossible not to have a good time along the ritzy Golden Mile. Best of all – there's no reason to compare, as you can enjoy both on your holiday to Marbella.
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