Marbella Holiday Guide
What is now the second largest city in the province of Málaga hosted its first few settlers in the Palaeolithic period, as is shown by the tools and weapons found at Coto Correa, in the area of Las Chapas, and in the Pecho Redondo cave (from the Neolithic period), in the southern foothills of the Sierra Blanca range. There is no trace of any other civilisation until late in the Carthaginian domination, of which there are the remains of what may have been a trading post at Río Verde, some five kilometres from Marbella.
Rome left notable evidence of its passage through these lands, such as the Río Verde villa, the Guadalmina bathhouses and various materials found in the historic district of the city. Some do not discard the possibility that the nucleus of present-day Marbella was founded by the. In any event the perimeter of the city, which was no doubt fortified, must have coincided with the present historic centre.
One of the most obvious trademarks of the past is the Alcazaba wall. Most popularly known as “The Castle”. This wall held inside it the first and most primitive city dwellers of Marbella, but as times went on and the population grew it did not take long for people to settle outside the walls, extending itself into what is known today as the old town. The geographical limits of the Arab medina can be perfectly seen by the passer by, as all areas dominated by Arabs have the typical, extraordinarily narrow streets, twisting and winding uphill, and narrow passageways. The centre of the town still portrays this Arab style, which at the same time provides the streets with shade from the hot sun in the summer.
Marbella’s town centre was significantly altered after the conquest of the Catholic Kings in the year 1.485. The towns original name of Marbiliya was changed to Marbella, and given the title of “Noble and Loyal City”. Firstly, in order to make an administrative centre for the town they had to build a central square, this was typical of the urbanistic planning of Castilla in those times therefore they had to demolish all the houses and streets in a certain area and leave an open space this area is know today as Plaza de los Naranjos “Orange Square”. Once the square was built and the streets surrounding the area were relayed it was time to build the governing building. The Town Hall, was constructed, which maintains today the same administrative functions. The right hand side of the façade has a series of commemorative plaques in honour of the conquering of the city, the bringing of water in 1632 and the posterior enlarging of the building in 1779. The Town Hall is a living monument to Marbella, dating back to 1568. Other emblematic buildings to be found such as the Chief Magistrates house, situated to the left of the Town Hall next to the Apostle Santiago’s Chapel, dates back to the year 1552. The house is unmistakable due to the archway on the upper floor. This archway, together with the stone façade that frames the door are authentic ancient Castilian works of art from the 16th century. The Chief Magistrate was also the owner of the Bazan Hospital, situated in the street with the same name, where the Museum for Contemporary Spanish Engravings is now situated, being the best museum in all of Spain for Contemporary Engravings.
The Church also prospered building the Ermita de Santiago- the Hermitage of Saint James- El Convento de la Trinidad- The Trinity Convent-. The San Juan de Dios hospital, and the church of Santo Cristo, to which the Bazan Hospital would be added later on. Marbella was well defended by a fortified wall which surrounded the city centre. To the North, its castle with its fortress, to the South, East and West its towers.
The whole of the city centre was formed of 44 narrow streets, one main square and 4 lesser ones. All of which, disregarding some minor variations, still exist today. These streets took their names from conquering people such as Mendoza or Buitrago, as well as from distinguished locals like Alderete, or from people or objects that were renowned for their spiritual faith or meaning: Remedios, Virgen de los Dolores, Trinidad (Trinity), Cruz (Cross), Caridad (Charity) Street, Gloria (Glory), or for simple references for the local folk such as Pasaje (Walkaway, lane) Panadería ( Bakery) Alamo (Papler), Viento (Wind) or the Los Caballeros (Knight Street) lined by many a fine mansion.
The Alameda Park has always been pride and joy of Marbella. This large green area, forming the lungs of the city, dates back to the 18th century and in its day spread over an extension of 20.000 m2. Its original design consisted of one main central walk and two lateral ones, six squares with stone benches and a fountain which still exists today. It has undergone many a changes over the years until it took on its present aspect. Some of the things which have disappeared were the niche which harboured the Christ of the Alameda, the Cross of the Mentidero and a pond. A variety of rubber plants can be seen in the park gardens of which a magnificent specimen, the Ficus Pandurata, really stands out. There are also some species of pine trees such the Pinus Pinae not to mention a large variety of other valuable botanical species.
Marbella is also well known for its fair held in honour of the Patron Saint of the city, Saint Bernabé, held in the week surrounding the 11th of June, it commemorates the conquest of the city by the Catholic Kings in the year 1485. During these days the residents and visitors enjoy all the enchantment an Andalusian charm. During the day time, the old town and the Alameda Park are an obliged meeting point (mostly wearing typical dress) who stroll around the streets, enjoying “tapas”, drinking, singing and dancing. Once night falls, the fun continues at the Fair Ground until early hours of the morning. The “casetas”, the “rides”, the concerts and many other offers that are available close each of the days that make up this traditional and picturesque fair.
Marbella has become the Nº 1 quality resort of the Costa del Sol. It has the highest per capita income in Europe and more Rolls Royce’s and Ferrari’s can be seen than in any other European city. Curiously, there’s been a massive return of Arabs to the area, especially since King Fahd of Saudi Arabia built a White House look-alike, complete with adjacent mosque, on the town’s outskirts.
For those wishing to rub shoulders with the rich and famous we have Puerto Banus, this is the place you want to be if you are looking for an exciting and extravagant destination. A haven for shopaholics, sun seekers and party lovers, Puerto Banus is a favourite hot spot on the Costa del Sol. Although it is not very big it does have a lot on offer. There is a very glamorous feel down at Puerto Banus Marina. Here you will find giant luxury yachts, dozens of designer boutiques, great restaurants, bars and discos not to mention countless Ferraris and Porsches parked outside the glitzy bars and restaurants. It may sound all a bit too posh, but the town is popular with all kinds of tourists. It is a fun place to be even if you are not the owner of a private boat!
This was the first marina-style yacht harbour to be built on the Costa del Sol. Some of the newer yacht harbours may be more intimate or more architecturally attractive, but none has been able to match Puerto Banús’s unique atmosphere and trendy aura, thanks to which Puerto Banús has been a household name internationally since it first opened nearly thirty years ago.
In 1963 José Banús Masdeu, who had accumulated a fortune as a real estate developer in Madrid, started building a new residential complex west of Marbella, called Nueva Andalucía. At that time Marbella was a fashionable and exclusive retreat for the rich and titled old families of Europe. The crowning achievement was, of course, Puerto Banús, a yacht harbour on a scale never seen before, with a Mediterranean-style village attached. It was officially opened in May 1970, and in August that year Banús organised a party to introduce the world to his baby. The event was an indication of the scale on which Don José operated. The 1,700 guests included the Aga Khan, film director Roman Polanski, Playboy owner Hugh Heffner, Doctor Christian Barnard (pioneer of the heart transplant), and Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco. Julio Iglesias was contracted to sing for the guests for the enormous (at the time) sum of 125,000 pesetas. In all the bash cost Banús eight million pesetas, which included hiring an army of 300 waiters from Seville and flying in 50 pounds of Beluga caviar.
Ever since, Puerto Banús has been an obligatory stop for visiting celebrities and aristocrats. The Saudi royal family and the Arab zillionaire Adnan Khassogi have been among those who regularly berthed their super-yachts here. The port has nine berths for the big yachts of over 150 feet, which pay up to 2000 euros a day during high season in berthing fees.
According to the port’s own estimates, some 36,000 people visit Puerto Banús daily during the August high season, with a total of 5 million visitors a year, and not all of them are yacht owners or film stars. Most are day trippers admiring the floating palaces berthed next to the port’s control tower or hoping to glimpse Bruce Willis, Antonio Banderas or Sting. Some even pretend to be millionaires for the day by renting a sports car, chartering a boat for a day’s tuna fishing, or spending some serious money in one of the port’s 95 fashion boutiques. After a morning’s shopping they can eat at some of the coast’s best restaurants, which include such well known names as Antonio, Taberna del Alabardero and La Dorada. In the evening the tradition is to head for Sinatra’s or Salduba, two bars strategically-located next to the port entrance, to meet friends, make new ones, and decide where to go to next. There’s plenty to choose from: in all, Puerto Banús keeps its visitors well fed, well fuelled and well entertained.
For those wishing to play golf, Marbella is surrounded by championship golf courses and driving ranges there are more than 20 courses just in the municipality of Marbella alone. There are few places in the world that can match the Costa del Sol as destination for golf tourism. The Costa del Golf (as affectionately known by golfers) is proving to be irresistible. Golf course owners are re-investing in their courses to improve their quality still further and there are no longer any weak links, each course offering its own kind of challenge on perfect fairways and greens. The demand is so great that many new courses are being developed and in the more popular courses rounds need to be booked months in advance.