Marbella is well known for its vibrant nightlife, glitzy beach bars, and glitzy discos. However, Marbella has a tranquil, softer side including a charming historic city center, loads of local culture, and a swanky shopping scene. Keep reading to discover the ultimate Marbella city guide Read our guide for how to get the most out of 24 hours in Marbella.
The Casco Antiguo, or old quarter of Marbella is the cities hidden gem oddly enough. When people talk about Marbella, they rarely mention the city’s historic city center. This section of the city is filled with tiny crisscrossing cobbled stone streets, picturesque whit buildings, and too many little restaurants and bars to count. The houses are usually decorated with colorful flowers and every so often you will find a small square with a water fountain, to help cool the locals down. It easy to get lost exploring the old quarter, which is exactly what you want. One of the old quarter’s main attractions is the Plaza de Los Naranjos typical Andalusian square filled with orange trees that fill the air with their sweet scent, surrounded by bars and restaurants.
One of the best experiences you can have in all of Marbella is taking a long stroll through the old quarter, finding a little square you like, and sitting down to enjoy a cold beer and letting the chilled air from the fountain cool you down as the sunsets.
In this part of Marbella, you will also find countless little shops down each of the narrow streets. Jewelry, leather goods, clothes, etc. you name it. These shops are small and charming and it’s hard to avoid going in and poking around, so if you don’t enjoy window shopping, best find a nearby bar where you can sit and wait. Also, note that the local shop owners can be very persuasive and cunning so keep your guard up if you aren’t looking to spend a wad of cash.
Avenida Antonio Belón
Located again in the historic city center of Marbella, Avenida Antonio Belón is probably your best bet for delicious and authentic Andalusian cuisine. You will find bustling taverns and bars that specialize in homemade Andalusian style tapas. You can’t go wrong but one of the best eatery you will find is Bar Guerola.
This is also a great area if you are looking for an affordable bite to eat in the city since at most you will be spending 20€ per person.
Another one of Marbella’s more charming attractions is the odd Bonsai Museum. Located just north of the historic center in the Represa Park, this museum has the largest collection of wild olive trees and an amazing collection of miniature trees and shrubs. This is one of those places you have to experience in person to properly understand. Definitely worth a visit.
Marina and beaches
One of Marbella’s main attractions is, of course, it’s amazing beaches, the problem is that “the cat is out of the bag”, visitors flock to Marbella in the summer months and things can get crowded and touristy quick. This being said it would be a crime not to take a walk on the beach, watching the sunset and stopping at a chiringuito (beach side bar) for a drink.
Playa de la Fontanilla (see map below) is Marbella’s largest beach but it can get very crowded. Your best bet is to head west down the beach. The beach gets less crowded and the Chiriguitos get better. El Barrio de Los Pescadores is the best area you are going to find. The beach is beautiful and pristine and feels more secluded, the perfect place to relax and disconnect.
If you are visiting Marbella in the offseason and the beach is no-so-inviting there is still plenty to do down by the water. The Paseo Marítimo spans the length of the city along the coast. Here you will find El Parque de la Constitución or constitution park, a collection Salvador Dali sculptures on the Avenida del Mar and many opportunities to enjoy the breath-taking views of the coast from which Gibraltar is clearly visible as is Africa on a clear day.