Tips for sightseeing around Marbella

Worth seeing in the town of ​​Marbella

With around 138,000 inhabitants, Marbella is an ideal size to combine an almost village-like idyll in the town centre with a cosmopolitan and metropolitan flair. Above the „Avenida Ramón y Cajal“ thoroughfare the white village which was once Marbella can still be found today in the picturesque „Casco Antiguo“, or old town. The area is bounded by the partly-preserved city walls which the Moors built around their „medina“ (inner city) in the 9th century.

Old Town of Marbella

Old Town of Marbella

All roads lead, sooner or later, to the show piece of Marbella the „Plaza de los Naranjos“, named for the many bitter-orange trees which blossom during the spring and give off their beguiling fragrance „Azahar“. The secluded plaza is framed by historic buildings dating back to the 16th century when the Christians once more took command in „Al-Andaluz“. The first Christian house of worship, a small chapel called „Ermita de Santiago“ was built in the late 15th century and later the „Casa del Corregidor“ („House of the Bailiff“) and the elegant „Casa Consistorial“ („Town Hall“) were added to the growing collection of Renaissance buildings.

Further to the west the main church of the town, the Iglesia de Nuestra Sra. de la Encarnación „(Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation „) is unmistakable. Its construction began in 1618 and various Baroque side altars make it well worth viewing., This is possible from 8am – 10pm on weekdays and from 9.30am – 10pm on Sundays. Friends of classical music should enquire about the concerts by renowned orchestras occasionally held inside the church. The „Ermita“ („Hermitage“) „Santo Cristo de la Vera Cruz“ from the late 15th century, not particularly art-historically important but very picturesque, embellishes the square of the same name in the north of the old town. Its bell tower, decorated with typically Andalusien “azulejos“ (glazed tiles), has become one of the city’s most popular photo motifs with its blue and white play of colours.

For night owls, the traditional flamenco restaurant „Tablao Flamenco Ana María“, diagonally opposite the hermitage, opens every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 pm with the raw vocals and rhythmic stamping of the dancers expressing the soul of Andalusia.

Picturesque alleyways in the old town

Picturesque alleyways in the old town

In contrast to, for example, Granada there is no longer much to see of Moorish art and architecture in Marbella. Apart from the aforementioned town walls, only the „Castillo“ (castle), which today is mainly taken up by housing and a school imparts an idea of ​​the importance of Marbella in the middle ages. Not far away the Renaissance palace “Palacio de Bazán“, once used as a hospital, attracts art lovers with its “Museo del Grabado Espanol Contemporaneo“ with its impressive collection of print graphics. The entrance fee is very moderate and works of renowned Spanish artists such as Goya, Picasso, Dalí or Miró can be admired here with lithographs, woodcuts and etchings.

Along the promenade „Avenida del Mar“ around a dozen bronze sculptures from the famous Catalonian surrealist Salvador Dali can be viewed free of charge while strolling to the beach.

Those interested in exotic plants can, also free of charge, visit the small park „Parque de la Constitución“ in the district above the town beach. The absolute eye-catcher there is undoubtedly the silk-floss tree from Argentina, with its orchid-like pink flowers. The „Museo del Bonsai“ in the northern part of the city has, of course, specialized in much smaller trees and for 4 € entry fee presents a representative cross-section of this Japanese horticultural art.

Attractions in the area surrounding Marbella

Yachts in the port of Marbella

Yachts in the port of Marbella

A popular excursion from Marbella is to the marina of Puerto Banús, just 5 kilometers away and named after its creator, José Banús. Inaugurated in 1970, the very standardized installation developed into a very extensive and equally exclusive marina with a capacity of almost 1000 vessels. The exorbitantly high mooring charges correspond to both the size of the luxury yachts moored here as well as the price level of the accompanying prestigious cars. Numerous onlookers are transformed into hobby-paparazzi and lurk with camera ready to film the jet setters for whom Marbella is still famous.

On the way from Marbella to Puerto Banús in the Urbanización Coral Beach is a small museum, the „Museo Ralli“, certainly worth a closer look. The curator has specialized in less well-known contemporary Latin-American art, but also famous names of the European “modern classics“ like Joan Miró, Salvador DalÍ, Marc Chagall and Giorgio de Chirico are represented. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm and is free of charge.

Marbella would not normally be associated with Roman or early Christian art, but the city has hidden treasures to offer even in this respect. In the urbanization „Linda Vista Playa“, south of San Pedro de Alcántara are the unexpected ruins of an early-Christian basilica from the 6th century erected by the Visigoths on the foundations of a Roman fishing village. Immediately noticeable here are the remarkable dimensions of the baptismal font, due to the fact that it was customary at that time to completely submerge the person to be baptized who was very probably already fully grown. Next to the church the relics of a Christian burial ground have also been documented.

On the route between Puerto Banús and Marbella in the urbanization “Rio Verde“ a Roman villa from the 1st century was discovered which, with 5 rooms and a courtyard, must have had opulent proportions. Like in other places in Andalusia, the archaeologists were able to uncover here artfully designed floor mosaics like the serpent-head of a Medusa. Long remaining a mystery to archaeologists were the vaults of Las Bovedas “ dating from the 3rd century and situated on the beach near the golf club Guadalmina in the area of ​​San Pedro de Alcántara. It is now assumed that these are remnants of Roman baths. Due to the fact that these archaeological sites are not easy to find and can only be accessed by authorized persons it is recommended to use the services of an official guide, offered by the Tourist Information.

Day trips from Marbella

The „white villages route“ was created by resourceful tourism strategists in the neighboring province of Cádiz to the west of Marbella but there are also, of course, white villages in the area around ​​Marbella perfect for a pleasant stroll. Casares, for example, still a very original village, is located only half an hour’s drive away from Marbella above Estepona. Like a field of snow the buildings stretch from a mountain slope to a firmer spur of rock and distant views of the western part of the Costa del Sol are guaranteed. Within the walled centre of the village the 13th century Castillo Àrabe castle, the Iglesia de la Encarnación parish church and the Ermita de Veracruz chapel stand out. A further 15-minutes drive inland the very pretty village of Gaucín stands on what seems to be a panorama terrace surrounded by a grand mountain landscape from where, on clear days, even the rock of Gibraltar can be seen in the distance. There is also, of course, the ruins of a Moorish castle which should not be missed and which is called „Castillo de Aguila“ („Castle of the Eagle“), as it sits like an eagle’s nest on a 150 metre-high rock.

Marbella Strand

Extensive beaches perfect for an excursion

The possibly most beautiful „pueblo blanco“ of Andalusia is a small town with a population of around 37,000 – Ronda, famous for its spectacular ravine and which can be reached from Marbella over a winding but well-developed road in 45 minutes. Spread for some reason over two sides of a nearly 100 metre-deep ravine, the astonished visitor strolls along time and again looking down into a yawning chasm at the bottom of which a small river, the Rio Guadalevín, burbles along. On one side of the ravine the old town of Ronda – „La Ciudad“ – which was originally founded by the Arabs spreads out with its whitewashed houses and narrow winding streets, still radiating an oriental flair. On the opposite side is the newer town of „El Mercadillo“, definitely worth a visit and housing the oldest bullfighting arena in the world. The first „corrida“ took place here 230 years ago but anyone wanting to see the ancient ritual between matador and bull in this baroque building will have to go to Ronda in early September during the „Feria de Pedro Romero“. Bullfights only take place on the festive day of probably the most famous torero of all time and entry fees are correspondingly hefty. Both parts of the town are connected by the „Puente Nuevo“, the „New Bridge“, which despite its name is not much younger than the arena. The bridge, reminiscent of a Roman aqueduct, crosses the ravine „El Tajo“ at a height of almost 90 metres and is probably the most photographed monument in the small town.

A visit to the British crown colony of Gibraltar is like visiting a different world. The peninsula, rising to a dramatic height of 426 metres out of the Mediterranean can be reached from Marbella in half an hour and is a curiosity which is certainly worth visiting. Inhabited by around 30,000 people Gibraltar city awaits with Victorian buildings and fortifications but the biggest attraction is, of course, the Upper Rock nature reserve which can be reached by cable car or explored with an organized minibus tour. Once there a walk through the siege tunnels, hewn into the rock in the late 18 th century, is recommended. History is ever-present on Gibraltar. There is also no lack of natural caves in the shell and limestone rock and the stalactite cave „St. Michael’s Cave „, although very touristic, is very impressive due to its dimensions. Most visitors, of course, do not want to miss the famous „Apes Den“ rock not far from the centre station of the cable car. The macaque apes, originally brought by the Berbers from the High Atlas, are considered to be the hairy guardians of the British crown and it is said that as long as they live Gibraltar will remain British. A British army sergeant has the job of ensuring that the situation remains so, and so the Gibraltar monkeys are doing very well.

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