Despite Marbella’s reputation as a playground for the rich and wannabe famous, it’s still possible to bag a budget break.
Just a few miles east of the superyachts, designer boutiques and expensive restaurants of the city’s marina, Puerto Banus, you’ll find history and culture aplenty in the charming, medieval Old Town.
Here, narrow, cobbled lanes with traditional whitewashed buildings decked with bougainvillea tumble on to ancient squares. There’s an array of tapas bars, restaurants and shops selling everything from olive oil to handmade chocolates . . .
Despite Marbella’s reputation as a playground for the rich and wannabe famous, it’s still possible to bag a budget break
Where to stay
Hotel San Cristobal
This 96-room hotel is well situated in a central location facing Alameda Park — a peaceful space brimming with lush vegetation — and backing on to the Old Town. Book online for a free upgrade to a recently renovated premium room with king-size bed, modern bathroom and plenty of storage space. B&B doubles from £51, hotelsancristobal.com.
La Villa Marbella, Old Town
This small, Asian-inspired boutique hotel is in the heart of the Old Town. The 14 rooms are sleek, minimalist and modern, decorated in calming, neutral tones. From the terrace, guests can enjoy beautiful views of the Sierra Blanca mountains. B&B doubles from £76, lavillamarbella.com.
Within walking distance of the beautiful and bustling Plaza de los Naranjos (Orange Square), this modern, 56-room aparthotel offers recently refurbished double bedrooms, studios and apartments that all have terraces. Although it’s technically only a three-star hotel, it has a rooftop terrace, a pool and a coffee shop. B&B doubles from £72, studios from £79, apartments from £97, marbellainn.com.
Aparthotel Puerto Azul
Not only is this in a great beachfront location, close to bars and restaurants and just a short walk from the Old Town, the studios and apartments here are spacious, fresh and modern, and come with balconies and well-equipped kitchens. Studios from £52, apartments from £61, puertoazul.net.
What to see and do
People-watch in the plaza
Plaza de los Naranjos is the hub of the Old Town and an ideal place to soak up the atmosphere and people-watch
With its aromatic orange trees and open-air cafe bars and restaurants serving everything from traditional tapas and paella to fish and steak, Plaza de los Naranjos is the hub of the Old Town and an ideal place to soak up the atmosphere and people-watch — day or night.
While you’re in the Old Town, take a peek at the Town Hall, the Old Governor’s House and the church of Ermita de Santiago, which all date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Just a short walk away is the baroque Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation, which has a stunning rococo-style stone doorway.
Don’t miss the sculpture of St Barnabas, patron saint of Marbella, and the impressive pipe organ inside. Nearby you’ll find the remains of The Alcazaba, once an impressive Moorish fortress, and its walls.
Escape the hustle and bustle
With its marble walkways, elegant 18th-century Virgen del Rocio fountain, tropical plants and shady pine trees, Alameda Park offers an oasis of calm. Take a seat on one of the quaint Andalusian-tiled benches.
With its marble walkways, elegant 18th-century Virgen del Rocio fountain (above), tropical plants and shady pine trees, Alameda Park offers an oasis of calm
Spot some surrealism
Cross the road from Alameda Park and head down the Avenida del Mar, where you can take in the ten quirky bronze statues created by surrealist artist Salvador Dali. Depicting everything from mythological figures to Don Quixote, they’re set against a backdrop of palm trees, colourful floral displays and low hedges.
To see more of Dali’s work, visit the Museum of Contemporary Spanish Engravings (mgec.es) housed in the old Hospital Bazan in the Old Town. Cast an eye over the works of Goya, Picasso and Miro while you’re there.
Walk the Golden Mile
The Avenida del Mar joins the Paseo Maritimo (promenade), which takes you along the Golden Mile from Marbella to Puerto Banus. It’s actually nearly five miles and takes about one-and-a-half hours to walk — or longer if you stop for refreshments at one of the many tapas bars by the beach. Catch a bus back (andalucia.com), or the Fly Blue Catamaran (£8 one way, flyblue.com) and admire panoramic views of the spectacular coastline and Sierra Blanca mountains.
Where to eat
Breakfast like the locals with some traditional churros — choux-type pastries fried in oil and served with a cup of warm chocolate sauce for dunking. A large churro with a pot of chocolate sauce is enough for two to share and costs £11. Accompany this delicious sweet treat with a coffee or a freshly squeezed fruit juice or smoothie. Address: Calle Valdes 1, Plaza de los Naranjos.
Breakfast like the locals with some traditional churros — choux-type pastries fried in oil and served with a cup of warm chocolate sauce for dunking (stock image)
La Bodega Del Mar
Situated on the seafront, you can sit back and enjoy the view as you tuck into tasty tapas, including Spanish omelette, pan con tomate (lightly toasted bread with tomatoes), manchego cheese, Iberian cured ham and plump, juicy olives, each dish costing £2 to £4. Enjoy with a glass of wine for £2.30, labodegadelmar.com.
One of several cafe bars in the Old Town where you can enjoy six tapas dishes for €10 (around £8.50). Choose from plates such as warm spicy chorizo, sticky chicken wings, tasty meatballs, serrano ham and prawns with garlic and chilli. If you still have room, indulge in a slice of carrot cake or sachertorte for £3, cortescafe.com.
Sample some sardine espetos (skewered fish cooked over a barbecue) for £7.70 and take in the wonderful sea views at this beach bar. Other options include salads and sharing platters with bread and cheeses or Iberian cured ham, soleomarbella.com.
EasyJet has returns from Gatwick to Malaga from £44 (easyjet.com). The Avanza bus to Marbella takes one hour 15 minutes and costs £5.25 (avanzabus.com).