Your guide to a glamorous hen do in the Costa Del Sol
Unlike a lot of the Costa del Sol, Marbella has always taken care of itself. Now it’s the resort every other resort wants to be: sleek, modern and glamorous but with a heart of traditional Andalusian charm and prettiness that you just can’t fake. The beaches are beautiful and well-kept. Promenades go on for miles lined with palm trees and lush, exotic plants. Clean is Marbella’s default position. And pristine white is the predominant colour on everything from architecture to bikinis – works with a tan and says ‘rich’, even if you’re not. Big enough to be interesting but just the right size for exploring, it’s easy to see why Marbella’s the star of Spain’s most famous coastline.
Marbella at a glance:
- Marbella has 27km of coast divided into 24 different beaches
- The town’s just 56km from Malaga Airport
- Marbella is in Andalusia, one of the loveliest and most historic Spanish regions
- Marbella lies against the backdrop of the dramatic Sierra Blanca where you’ll find some of Spain’s prettiest Pueblo Blanca (white villages)
- Puerto Banus in Marbella is one of the most exclusive yacht marinas in Europe
Things not to miss:
Neuva Andalusia Market
If you need a break from designer shopping, head for the Costa del Sol’s biggest flea market next to Puerto Banus bullring, every Saturday from 9am to 2pm.
Playa Nueva Andalusia
Apart from the Marina, it’s this string of gorgeous, white beaches that score Puerto Banus top marks in the celebrity glamour stakes. Go for champagne beach bars, luxurious sun loungers, miles of flawless sand and plenty of opportunities to see and be seen.
Wine and Tapas Bike Tours
A non-strenuous way to try two of Marbella’s specialities, fantastic tapas and wonderful wine, and you get to explore the town centre at your own pace too.
Feria San Bernabé
Not to be confused with a Fiesta, Feria are usually week long celebrations, amazingly colourful, exotic and authentic experiences – even in shiny Marbella. Feria San Bernabé is centred around San Bernabé’s Day on 11 June.
Marbella Town - a luxury walk along the prom
The bit between the fabulous Paseo Maritimo promenade and the long, broad, expensive Avenue Ricardo Soriano is Marbella Town for most visitors. Luxurious hotels, stunning villas, stately palm trees, beach views, tapas bars and cool chiringuitos make Paseo Maritimo one of the most strolled places in Marbella – it goes all the way to Puerto Banus. And if you get tired of just aimlessly wandering, enjoying the sun and snacking, head up to Avenue Ricardo Soriano for some of the Costa del Sol’s most seriously expensive shopping. This is where you’ll find designer stores with impossibly chic assistants and hefty price tags – but, it’s still Spain so nobody minds if you just look.
Marbella Old Town - oozing quaint Andalusian charm
If you have a picture in your mind of a quaint Andalusian town, Marbella’s Casco Antiguo probably ticks every box. From the graceful and very traditional Plaza de los Naranjos to the tiny cobbled streets, pavement restaurants, hidden away bars and cafés and charming local shops, this delightful part of Marbella is one of the main reasons the town is much-loved by Spanish visitors. A favourite place to eat on summer evenings before hitting Puerto Banus, the atmosphere’s friendly and a lot of the restaurants and tapas bars are reasonably priced and nicely authentic.
Puerto Banus - purpose-built for glamour
It’s not really Marbella, but for most visitors Puerto Banus is what Marbella is all about. Purpose built sometime in the 60s to give St Tropez and the like a run for their money, Puerto Banus is glamorous, expensive and very glossy. And even if you didn’t sail in on a super-yacht, the champagne beach bars, shiny shops and cool clubs let you into the fantasy for a bit. That’s the real beauty of Puerto Banus, almost everyone here is visiting from somewhere and they’re all looking to have a great time, play hard and let tomorrow take care of itself. So if hedonism with a side order of glitz, a touch of celebrity spotting and plenty of party is your thing, it’s here – particularly on the port’s legendary ‘second line’.
Best cocktail bars in Marbella:
The Champagne Room
Sleek, decadent and very popular with Marbella ‘society’, The Champagne Room recreates the atmosphere of an exclusive 60s cocktail lounge but it stays open late and lets you dance.
Flexible and fun are the key ingredients at Lemmon. One of Marbella’s longest running late-night bars, it has an amazing outdoor terrace, two bars and a dancefloor that all makes it perfect for a girls’ night out – but good for a quiet drink too.
This iconic bar has been about in Puerto Banus since 1977. The name might be a throwback but the bar isn’t. Always busy and right on the marina so a favourite pre-club bar for the Puerto Banus ‘set’ to see and be seen.
Astral Cocktail Bar
You can’t miss Astral, it’s the only bar on Puerto Banus Marina built like a pirate ship – oh, yes. Speciality of the decks are delicious fruit-based cocktails and the best place to drink them is in the garden leading down to the beach.
Tropical gardens, fabulous views and lux atmosphere, Guey Skybar in Marbella is fantastic for food but even better just to chill out on the terrace under the clear night sky and try a few interesting cocktails or dip into the bar’s vintage wine and champagne cellar.
Best clubs in Marbella:
For an authentic Puerto Banus luxury beach club experience, Sala Beach works every which way. Relax by the pool, snack on fusion food and order cocktails from your lounger or go VIP for the rockpool jacuzzi, champagne bar and exotic spa treatments.
Beach club, restaurant and nightclub, Nikki Beach is one of the most exclusive and expensive clubs in Marbella. But if you like luxurious loungers, lush tropical gardens, exotic cocktails served by the pool and relaxed night-time clubbing then this is the perfect treat.
Ocean Club Marbella
One of Europe’s largest beach clubs and a unique club concept, Ocean is a Marbella must – at least once. With designer shopping, a luxury spa, four bars, a vast swimming pool and an even bigger club, Ocean does everything and just about everyone loves it – there’s even a chill-out zone.
The Puerto Banus super-club makes Ibiza-style claims to superstar DJs and super-smart guests. But the real pull here is the VIP glam this part of the world does so well. With a 1,500 capacity it’s pretty big and you can go ‘ordinary’ and just club or upgrade to VIP and have a Marbella moment.
One of the busiest nightclubs in Puerto Banus and right on the legendary ‘second line’, Seven brilliantly mixes up chic and exclusive with amazing sounds, guest DJs and a fantastic, friendly atmosphere.
Food: eat like a local:
Marbella has some of Andalusia’s best restaurants and the variety of food is astounding. Try tapas for sharing or as best-in-class bar snacks. Fish and seafood feature heavily on traditional menus and the local fried fish is simple and totally delicious. And, you have to try the area’s world famous sherries – unexpectedly fantastic.
Right in the heart of Marbella Old Town this friendly tapas restaurant has all the traditional favourites and plenty of contemporary twists. Fun place to hang out in one of the prettiest parts of town.
If you want to mix up your tapas experience try the Basque variety, Pintxos. Purists will tell you these legendary ‘snacks’ should only be eaten at the bar with a glass of chilled wine. But these Pintxos are created by Basques and served in Marbella (not San Sebastien) so you can have a table, but only if you arrive early.
Great views and authentic Italian cooking make Infuschia one of the most popular places to eat in Puerto Banus. A great space for groups and it’s right next door to Tibu for after-dinner clubbing.
Salt & Pepper
Simple name and a simple idea: fresh, healthy, delicious food. Best place in Puerto Banus for breakfast (or just a tall, skinny latte) and they do a great take on the famous ‘Full English’.
Fast and fantastic, just the way the best pizzas should be. This is the Puerto Banus go-to for good value when nothing else but a fresh baked pizza will do.
Best time to visit:
Obviously high summer is the best time to visit Marbella. It’s the South of Spain and the weather is hot and sunny, of course. Downside is, crowded beaches and less room at the bar but if you’re hitting the resort to party plenty, summer’s definitely the time to go. Spring’s cooler weather-wise and the beautiful beaches are quieter, but the atmosphere (especially in Puerto Banus) isn’t as lively so if you’re visiting in spring that’s the time to explore the mountains and the adorable Andalusian villages.
Best view of the city:
If you need an excuse to visit the Old Town apart from its sheer charm, climb up into the bell tower of the Santa Maria de la Encarnacion for beautiful, clear panoramic views of the coast and mountains. The church itself is lovely too.
Considering there’s a stunning promenade stretching from Marbella to Puerto Banus (known as ‘The Golden Mile’) and plenty of other long, beautiful avenues to explore, it goes without saying that walking is the best way to get about. But, the local bus services are excellent, go almost everywhere and if you buy a rechargeable Travelcard they’re good value. Taxis are expensive and charge extra on Saturday.
This is one of the most exclusive places to live in Spain, so it’s not a surprise to find it’s well-policed and good security is a priority. But don’t be too lulled. Pick-pocketing and bag snatching still happen so be careful, especially on public transport and crowded places.
Nice to Meet You = mucho gusto
What’s your name? = cómo se llama usted?
I’m Sorry = lo siento
How Much Does It Cost? = cuánto cuesto?
Cheers! = salud!