The Best things to do and see in Marbella, Spain

Marbella walk path by the beach with palms along it

Marbella, a gem in the southern part of Spain, is a city and municipality in the province of Málaga, within the autonomous community of Andalusia. The city is laying by the Mediterranean Sea, right between Málaga and the Strait of Gibraltar, and set against the backdrop of the Sierra Blanca foothills. The city spans an area of 117 square kilometres (45 sq mi), with coastal highways serving as its main arteries. As of 2018, Marbella was home to 141,463 people.

The city’s history is rich and dates back to around 1600 BC when it was seized by the Romans and named Salduba, translating to Salt City. Archaeological evidence suggests that the area might have been inhabited since the Paleolithic and Phoenician times. During the Islamic period, Marbella evolved into a fortified city with a castle and robust walls that had three gateways: “del Mar”, “de Ronda”, and “de Malaga”.

Marbella is a significant tourist hub on the Costa del Sol and attracts international tourists for most parts of the year, primarily due to its pleasant climate and robust tourist infrastructure. The city boasts a rich archaeological heritage, houses several museums and performance spaces, and hosts a variety of events from reggae concerts to opera performances as part of its cultural calendar.

What to see in Marbella?

Old Town (Casco Antiguo)

Immerse yourself in Marbella’s rich history by wandering through the enchanting Old Town, known locally as Casco Antiguo. The narrow, meandering streets are paved with a mosaic of red tiles and crazy paving, offering a charming contrast to the city’s opulent beach resorts. As you explore, you’ll be transported through centuries of diverse and colourful heritage.

Don’t miss the impressive remains of the Moorish city walls, originally erected for protection against intruders. A highlight of this area is the Plaza de los Naranjos, a picturesque square full of vibrant orange trees and home to the Town Hall.

Experience Marbella’s Historic Heart: Orange Square

Tucked within Marbella’s Old Town, Orange Square is a captivating blend of history and charm. Named for the vibrant grove of orange trees at its centre, this town square has become a cherished dining spot and a window into Marbella’s earliest architecture. Dating back to 1485, it embodies the classic Spanish Christian design, with whitewashed buildings and significant landmarks like the town hall, governor’s residence, and a chapel.

Marbella Orange square
Orange Square in Marbella

As you wander, you’ll come across the 16th-century governor’s house balcony and explore the ornate Town Hall, a testament to Marbella’s past. The Baroque grandeur of the Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation, housing a magnificent 5,000-pipe organ, offers a glimpse into the city’s religious heritage. Nearby, the Santiago Hermitage stands as Marbella’s oldest Christian parish, with a selection of neo-Baroque sculptures. Beyond its historical significance, the Orange Square is a culinary haven, offering gourmet delights and the refreshing shade of its iconic orange trees. From tapas dinners to quick bites, the array of eateries cater to every palate, making it an essential stop in Marbella’s historic heart.

Relax on one of the Marbella’s diverse beaches

Marbella, resting on Spain’s Costa del Sol, is also famous for its beautiful beaches that offer a mix of calm and fun. There are more than 20 beaches here, each with its own unique charm. Whether you prefer the lively Cable Beach or the quiet Cabopino and Artola Beaches with their sand dunes and pine trees, there’s a beach for everyone.

Relaxing on these beaches is a treat. The sand is soft, and the sea is clear. Many beaches have chairs and umbrellas you can rent for a comfy day in the sun. Some even have beach bars for snacks and drinks without leaving the beach. Whether you want to read a book or take a leisurely walk by the water, Marbella’s beaches are the perfect setting.

Port Banus and nearby beach

Puerto Banús, also known as Port Banús, is a fancy marina in Marbella, Spain. It was built in 1970 and is now famous worldwide. The marina is filled with super-yachts, and there are also posh shops and bars around. Nearby, you’ll find three different beaches, each with its own special vibe. So, whether you’re into lively or calm shores, Puerto Banús has something for everyone.

King Abdul Aziz Mosque (Marbella Mosque)

A testament to Marbella’s cultural diversity, the King Abdul Aziz Mosque, also known as Marbella Mosque, stands as a symbol of Islamic faith. Financed by Saudi Arabia and named after their inaugural monarch, this mosque is a modern architectural wonder with a nod to Andalusian influence. Constructed in 1981, it holds the distinction of being one of the first Spanish mosques built in contemporary times. Housing over 800 worshippers, it encompasses a library, the imam’s residence, and serene gardens.

Andalusian Cuisine and Tapas

Culinary enthusiasts will delight in Marbella’s diverse dining scene, featuring an array of Andalusian specialities and international fare.

tapas on a plate in a restaurant in marbella
Tapas, a popular Andalusian dish

Explore a plethora of restaurants, each offering its own unique twist on delectable tapas. Among the noteworthy establishments are ARCO TAPAS BAR, Bistro Paloma, El Banco, La Bodega del Mar, and El Patio De Mariscal, promising a culinary adventure that’s sure to tantalize your taste buds.

Book a Sailing & Dolphin watching experience

For those seeking an unforgettable experience in Marbella, embarking on a sailing and dolphin-watching excursion is a must. The clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea present a unique opportunity to witness these graceful creatures in their natural habitat. Setting off from Puerto Banús, several reputable companies offer sailing trips that promise not only mesmerizing views of Marbella’s picturesque coastline and majestic mountains but also the chance to engage in water activities like snorkelling and stand-up paddleboarding.

Whether you’re an avid nature enthusiast or simply in search of a remarkable escapade, sailing and dolphin watching in Marbella promises to leave ever-lasting memories of this holiday.

You can book a tour here.

Have a go at plenty of other seaside and water activities

Marbella invites adventure seekers to an array of other seaside and water activities. From exhilarating jet ski rides to leisurely paddleboarding and boat excursions, there’s an activity to suit every taste. For those seeking a more traditional maritime experience, the inviting sea itself offers a refreshing venue for swimming or catching waves on a foam board.

Take a trip to El Caminito del Rey (extreme, not for everyone)

Caminito del Rey – “The King’s Little Path.” Constructed in the early 20th century, this remarkable walkway served as a vital link for workers at Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls hydroelectric plants, aiding in material transport and channel maintenance. Carved by the Guadalhorce River, the path is a mere 10 meters wide at points, plunging an astonishing 700 meters into the abyss. After extensive renovations, it reopened in 2015, reclaiming its title as a thrilling adventure for both adrenaline-seekers and nature lovers.

Accessed from Ardales or Álora, this engineering feat boasts steel-reinforced concrete pathways supported by stanchions anchored daringly into the rock face. Despite its reputation as the “world’s most dangerous walkway,” El Caminito del Rey draws visitors with its captivating history and unparalleled vistas. Venture forth and be prepared to be captivated by Spain’s most awe-inspiring natural wonder.

You can book the trip on GetYourGuide, for example.

Is Marbella suitable for families?

Yes, Marbella is indeed a good spot to take your family on holiday.

Especially, for families with older kids, Marbella has a treasure trove of attractions. Puerto Banus, with its glamorous marina and an array of upscale dining and shopping options, is a must-visit spot, especially appealing to teenagers. Beyond the glitz, the city offers a plethora of family-friendly activities.

family on holidays

You can explore the rich history of the Old Town, have fun in the beauty of pristine beaches, enjoy an amazing selection of local dining, or set sail for dolphin-watching adventures. Whether you’re planning a vacation or thinking of moving for a longer time, Marbella secures a delightful and accommodating environment for families of all sizes.

Is Marbella expensive?

Marbella, on Spain’s sunny coast, is known for luxury resorts and fancy shops. This makes it seem expensive, but the cost depends on your choices. You can find budget-friendly places to stay and eat. Some even say prices for food and drinks are like or lower than in parts of the UK. With planning, you can enjoy Marbella without overspending. For two people, a day’s expenses can range from 70 to 90 euros.

Is Marbella safe at night?

Marbella is generally considered a safe place, especially in well-frequented areas. However, like any city, it’s smart to stay aware of your surroundings and be cautious. If you’re on your own, it’s best to avoid walking alone in quiet, dimly lit spots late at night. Also, keep an eye out in busy places like nightclubs where pickpocketing can happen.

Overall, Marbella has a low crime rate compared to other cities in Europe. While there has been a small rise in incidents in recent years, it’s important to note that Marbella is still a beloved and secure destination for tourists.


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