Marbella today is the result of a very, very rich people that first began to frequent this town west of Málaga in the 1960s. The jet set could not have chosen a prettier setting on the Costa del Sol: a once sleepy, white-washed port village at the foot of the leafy Sierra Blanca mountains used by Phoenician, Greek, Roman and Arab merchants before the Christians – now a template for beachside decadence and high-class frivolity, a place to be seen and spend, spend, spend. In the surrounding area are more golf courses and amusement parks than anywhere else in Spain and in the harbors are yachts so plush that P-Diddy might consider upgrading. The bright white Marbella arch over the western entrance to the town is nothing if not symbolic of the fantasy land on the other side, an elite netherworld that is colorful and unique – one of the few places in Spain that retains no modesty whatsoever.
Sightseeing in Marbella
Marbella’s Casco Antiguo
The colorful Plaza de Los Naranjos is vintage Marbella, shaded by fragrant orange trees and surrounded by the 16th-century town hall and the 17th-century house of the magistrate, both whitewashed and tiled like the rest of the old Moorish town. You can dine in the open air of the plaza, shop the numerous boutiques in the area or roam the pretty white streets, San Cristobal and Virgen de Los Dolores, that flow with bougainvilleas and ferns. The town’s unassuming main church, the 16th-century Iglesia Mayor de La Encarnación, is a block off the plaza. Behind it is a tower and remains of a ninth-century Moorish fortress.
The Museo del Grabado Español Contemporáneo occupies the 16th-century Palacio Bazán, once a charity hospital. It houses a collection of engravings by Dalí, Miró, Tápies and Picasso, as well as other contemporary graphic art.
To the south of the plaza is the Parque de la Alamada, Marbella’s oldest urban park. It is bright and colorful when in bloom and full of panacea and ficus trees. The evening paseo or stroll is popular here. A few blocks northeast of the plaza the Museo del Bonsai is in another of Marbella’s parks, the Parque Arroyo de la Represa. This recently inaugurated private museum is devoted to the bonsai tree.
Marbella's Beaches and Ports
Marbella owes its reputation to the ritzy Puerta Banús, west of the city center. This is the enclave of the rich and famous; they moor their yachts and decked-out sailboats in the 1,000-berth marina and, after a day of sunning on the beaches, mingle in linen pants and sport coats in the waterfront bars, or chiringuitos. Five-star restaurants, lavish little shops and a casino make for other entertainment. West and east of the marina, the sandy areas become decidedly less pompous. Puerta Banús can be reached by the municipal bus, which has a stop on the Avda Ricardo Soriano.
In all, the Marbella coastline covers 26 km (16 miles) from Guadalmina to Cabopino in the east. The latter features the Puerto de Cabopino, another crowded yacht harbor that is somewhat relieved by the harbor nearest town, the Puerto de Deportivo Marbella.
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