What does Marbella bring to mind? Cheap package holidays, sunburnt tourists, tacky souvenirs? Yes, Marbella does have all of those – but there is so much more to this exquisite Andalucía resort that those negative clichés would suggest. Marbella manages to combine beautiful beaches and a sophisticated ‘Old Quarter’ with glitzy nightlife in a way that continues to attract European aristocracy as well as many international celebrities. So, book yourself into one of the many Marbella hotels and check out its altogether more stylish side.
The Old Quarter
Marbella’s grand ‘Old Quarter’, is centered on ‘Los Naranjos Plaza’ or the ‘Plaza of the Orange Trees’ and dates from the 15th Century. Built in triumph by the Christian conquerors that seized the city from its Arab invaders, it is a reminder of the city’s former significance as a strategic port situated between Europe and North Africa.
The Old Quarter is a perfect place to wander on a hot afternoon, its cobbled streets and white-walled buildings shaded by orange trees. In pride of place is the ‘Ayuntamiento’ or City Hall, easily recognized by the sundial at the corner of the building. Inside you’ll find some beautiful wall and ceiling murals. Nearby is the ‘Casa del Corregidor’ or Magistrate’s House and, adjoining that, the ‘Capilla de Santiago Apóstol’ or Chapel of St James the Apostle.
Avenida del Mar
Avenida del Mar, close to the city center, is an outdoor area with an impressive range of sculptures by Eduardo Soriano and Spain’s most famous surrealist artist Salvador Dali. There are also fountains and benches on which to relax and enjoy beautiful views of the nearby sea.
If contemporary art is your thing, you might want to take the 30-minute drive from Marbella to Malaga, which is home two of the best museums in the world; the ‘Picasso’, and the ‘Thyssen’. The Picasso, unsurprisingly, houses some of Pablo Picasso’s most famous works of art. The Thyssen Museum is named after Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza who has donated much of her personal art collection to the city for display, including works by Titian, Van Dyck, Chagall and many other leading artists.
One of Europe’s most celebrated and glamorous leisure ports, Puerto Banús, tends to divide opinion. Some people love its unashamed glitz; others find the huge yachts and expensive cars overwhelmingly ostentatious. There’s no doubt though that it’s one of the best places in the world to sit in a café and do a bit of ‘people-watching’, albeit over a cup of overpriced coffee, or you could even book a VIP tour.
If you’re looking for an oasis of calm away from the bling of the beach, you don’t need to walk far. Constitution Park, with a variety of beautiful seasonal flowers and plants, is close to the seafront and is a favorite with locals and visitors alike. It has a children’s area, an outdoor auditorium and a small astronomic observatory. It hosts many festivals, fiestas and concerts in the summer.
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