Marbella (“mar-bay-ya”) is a city and municipality on Spain’s south coast. It is part of the province of Málaga in the autonomous community of Andalusia, on the Costa del Sol. It is the headquarters of the Association of Municipalities of the region and is also the head of the judicial district that bears its name.
Marbella covers an area of 114.3 km2 (44.1 sq mi) and has a population of 138,679 (2014).
The city sits in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountain range which has three peaks; La Concha, at 1,215m above sea level, Juanar Cross, (within the municipality of Ojen) at 1,178m above sea level, and Mount Lastonar, the highest at 1,270m.
It is these mountains that contribute to the “micro-climate” often associated with the area. The average annual temperature is 18 °C (64 °F) with an average of 2,900 hours of sunshine. This is, in part, thanks to the mountains which shield the coast from the cold air of the North and also trap warm air moving North from Africa.
Today, Marbella is a busy, bustling city attracting millions of tourists year after year but it wasn’t always like that. Just after the Second World War Marbella had only around 900 inhabitants until the Marquis of Ivanrey, Ricardo Soriano, arrived. In 1943 he acquired a country estate called El Rodeo and built a resort there, thus beginning the development of the cities tourism business. Interestingly, today the main road through Marbella is named after him – Avenida Ricardo Soriano.
The Golden Mile
Known as the Golden Mile, the main drag through the city is actually four miles long (6.4 km) stretching from western edge of Marbella to Puerto Banus. It is known to house some of the most exclusive and expensive properties and estates in Marbella, including the Palace of King Fahd, known locally as “The White House” thanks to its resemblance to the US Presidents main residence.
You will also find some of the best hotels along this road including the Melia Don Pepe, the Hotel Marbella Club and the Puente Romano Hotel.
There is also a “New Golden Mile” which runs between San Pedro del Alcantara and Estepona but this is not an official name, mainly used by real-estate agents for marketing purposes.
Probably the most famous town in Marbella is Puerto Banus – the playground of the rich and famous. Here you will find a port filled with luxury yachts, streets lined with designer brands, roads lined with luxury sports cars and limousines, and tourists in huge numbers. Again, it wasn’t always like that. “The Port”, as the locals refer to it, didn’t appear until the late 1960’s when Prince Alfonso hired a Beverly Hills architect who, with the help of the Banus family (personal friends of dictator Francisco Franco) turned the port into a high-end tourist hot-spot.
Due to its popularity with tourists and its fantastic weather, traditional Spanish food, great beaches, great people and unrivalled nightlife, Marbella rarely struggles. It’s many discotheques and bars thrive throughout the summer and most remain open through winter when the locals “reclaim” their town from the tourists.
Marbella has many business centres many of which are full with foreign companies, started by expats, and serving all industries.
One of the main businesses in Marbella is real-estate. The coastal city is a magnet for many property investors and also for those wanting a holiday-home in the sun. Many private properties are rented out to holiday makers and are regularly fully booked.
There is also a booming long-term rental business in and around Marbella. Many people believe that the holiday-rental market does not help the city as there are a lot of owners who do not declare their income, or they are not tax registered in Spain and their income never touches a Spanish bank. On the other hand, in January 2016 international tourists spent 3,712 million euros in Spain and 15.4% of that was spent in Andalucía. Without the many holiday makers the city would be a completely different place.
As with the rest of Europe, Marbella’s property market took a hit in 2007/2008 thanks to the global financial meltdown. It took a few years before buyer confidence returned and the market began to grow once more. It is better now, not back to 100% of what it was, but prices are on the up and property sales numbers are climbing, and the cranes are returning as development increases.
If you want to buy a property in Marbella you should expect prices slightly above the national average. The same can be said about rental property.
Read more about Spanish property prices.
The main airport for access to Marbella is Málaga, around 40 minutes’ drive from Marbella centre. You can also fly into Gibraltar airport. This is slightly further away at around one hours drive. You may however, be delayed while crossing the border into Spain.
Marbella has a great bus service. There are bus-stops every few hundred yards (it seems) and buses are regular and timely. They are also cheap. You can get a bus from Puerto Banus to Marbella for around €1.
The road network around Marbella is great. With one main central road (N340) you can get from one end of the city to the other with ease with access to other towns and urbanisations also being relatively simple with many junctions.
There is no rail link to Marbella. Various administrations have discussed the requirements for a rail line in the city and many times it has been “given the green light” but as yet you will not see a train in Marbella. Fuengirola, around 30 minutes from Marbella, is the closest railway.
As you can imagine, a busy, coastal Spanish town is sure to be a gastronomical delight, and it is!
You can eat pretty much any cuisine you desire and at any price range.
Traditional Spanish Tapas is usually very good and very cheap. Originally, tapas were provided free with drinks as a tool for stopping flies getting into your drink. These days, you will pay for them (in most places) but they are worth it. You can get a tapa of Spanish meatballs or pulpo (octopus) for one euro. Most tapas will only set you back a euro or two.
Of course, being on the Mediterranean coast there is a myriad of fresh fish served practically everywhere. None better than Sardines which you will find being barbequed all along the beaches of Marbella. You can smell them all day long throughout the summer and they are beautiful! So fresh and tasty… nothing like you get from the supermarket!
So… come to Marbella! You’ll love it. You can eat fine food and dance the night away. You can sunbathe in the morning and ski in the afternoon. You can swim, bodyboard, dive, or sail. There is so much to do and so much to see, why are you not already here?