Marbella, Costa del Sol

From Cabopino in the east till Guadalmina in the west, the Marbella coastline is about 26 kilometres long with sunny beaches where you can enjoy traditional fish and seafood favourites like sardines on a spit, fried fish and the incomparable paella in the typical chiringuitos (beach restaurants). There are also two large parks in Marbella which provide some welcome shade to spend some time with a book. Casinos, clubs and just about every sporting activity under the sun, few places can match Marbella for world class tennis, sailing and golf. There are also three pleasure craft harbours in Cabopino, Marbella centre and Puerto Banus.

Marbella’s motto is “A Way of Life” and, certainly, this luxurious resort town seems to have it all and is, once again, rising to the fore as a favourite location for the rich and famous, as Spain’s answer to St Tropez.

Puerto Banus, just west of the old town of Marbella is hard to beat. This is the place to be pampered yacht side and watch the world go by or window shop at one of several of the world renowned fashion houses and boutiques. Over the years the port has grown considerably and has its own casino, several commercial shopping centres and a multi cinema. The nightlife is buzzing, with alfresco bars, piano clubs and discos which are open from dusk till dawn there is something to do for everyone.

But Marbella has a down to earth side as well, tranquillity which can best be appreciated by walking through the streets in the old part of town. One of the nicest places is “The Orange Square’ which is located just off the main street and is also home to the 16th century town hall and tourist office.

The Orange Square, or “La Plaza de los Naranjos”, as it is called in Spanish because of the numerous orange trees all over the square, expect to meet with stately buildings, small shops, art galleries, bars and bistros. Depending on the time of year, the colours here can be vibrant, with the trees and exotic tropical plants set against a backdrop a deep blue sky or a sweat scent of the orange blossom in spring.

Surrounding the Orange Square there are narrow streets where homes and shops intermingle to create the atmosphere of a small village, rather than a cosmopolitan town. There are numerous excellent restaurants to choose from, ranging from those specialising in the predictably pricey exclusive cordon bleu to the gritty individuality of a backstreet Spanish bar where the Serrano ham is gently cured by tobacco smoke and the tapas are both tasty and filling.

Back towards the coast is the La Alameda park where you can book your personal horse and carriage to travel in style or, if you prefer, stroll on towards the sea along the Avenida del Mar. This is arguably one of the most delightful promenades on the costa, flanked by classy restaurants and bars.

The extensive promenade is ideal to experience and join the Spanish in the traditional “paseo”. Flanked by pavement cafes, restaurants, this promenade is one of the most attractive on the Costa del Sol and has the added advantage of being within minutes of the centre of town.

The magnificent mountain known as “La Concha” (the shell) is part of the Sierra de las Nieves, a range that extends across the skyline to the village of Ojén. Take the road to Ojén and turn left into the beautiful park called Juanar, where the mountainside is covered in pine trees, pinsapos, walnut and olive trees, as well as wild orchids – and some wild animals, including Hispanic wild goats, eagles and Royal owls. At one of its highest points stands “El Mirador” where you can look down on one of the most spectacular views of Marbella and its surroundings.

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