What to do in Marbella

Marbella – a beautiful town on the Costa del Sol within the Málaga region of Spain, just a 40-minute drive from Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport. Famous for its unique fusion of the natural beauty of the Mediterranean, framed by the mountains on the north, modern international amenities and Andalusian heritage, Marbella is one of Europe´s most popular residential tourism destinations. Let´s delve into the myriad of activities that make Marbella a cherished destination.

Marbella, located an hour west of Málaga capital, is a large coastal town celebrated for its natural beauty, traditional culture and glamorous international lifestyle, offers a myriad of activities to suit all tastes. Whether you’re visiting in the balmy summer or the mild winter, there are a wealth of activities that you can enjoy in and around Marbella. 

Puerto Banus from sea, with La Concha mountain, Marbella

1. Enjoy 1. Sunny Beach Lifestyle and Chiringuitos

With over 300 sunny days a year, Marbella’s unique micro-climate, created by its position between La Concha mountain and the Mediterranean Sea, is perfect for beach lovers all year round. Spend your days soaking up the sun all day long—the south-facing orientation means you have sun until very late in the afternoon, as well as enjoy gorgeous sunsets. 

Whatever your style, you will find the perfect place to enjoy the sparkling Mediterranean sea along one of Marbella´s beautiful beaches. Relax in of the very many chic beach clubs spread along the coast, dine in a relaxed chiringuito, or sip margaritas into the sunset. Many chiringuitos and beach clubs in Marbella offer a combination of gourmet dining and live DJ sets all afternoon and well into the evening.  

2. Walk Around the Old Town

Marbella’s old town, or „Casco Antiguo,“ offers immaculate narrow streets and historic squares adorned with orange trees, such as the central Plaza de los Naranjos where you will find al fresco dining, manicured gardens, fountains and the main town hall offices.  From there beautiful winding narrow streets take you through picturesque patios, hanging plants and typical potted geranians that frame boutique shops, galleries, tapas bars and restaurants- showcasing the best of Andalusian culture.  

Enjoy tapas or fine dining in one of the squares, shop handcrafted sweets or  designer fashion or explore boutique art galleries such as the contemporary Gallery Art Wanson or the enchanting Museo del Grabado Español Contemporáneo, which hosts a significant collection of modern Spanish engravings. The Mercado Central offers an intimiate fresh market experience. Just a couple of minutes-walk up from the paseo maritimo and beach, the town centre of Marbella is one of the most beautiful in Europe and definitely worth a good wander. 

Plaza Naranjos, central town plaza in Marbella

3. Music and Nightlife

With its steady flow of international visitors and residents, Marbella’s reputation of vibrant nightlife options is well deserved. Whether it be in the old town, or zones such as Puente Romano, Marbella Club, Plage La Casani, Nikki Beach, Puerto Banus and many other areas, Marbellas offers a diverse range of venues to enjoy a night out. You will also find various locales that offer traditional Flamenco shows for you to sit back and feel the typical Andalusian expression.

4. Designer Shopping

Puerto Banus is not only famous for its luxurious yachts but also for its high-end shopping. Stroll along Calle Ribera, where designer boutiques like Gucci, Versace, and Tom Ford offer the latest fashions. El Corte Inglés, also located in Puerto Banus, is the largest department store group in Spain and provides a wide range of high-quality goods from electronics to designer wear. 

Located above Marbella just off the A7, the local shopping mall La Cañada also offers an excellent array of top international brands, combined with more budget options. You can easily pass the day away wandering around the famous and not so famous stores, enjoying of the bar, restaurants and the sea gimpsles throughout this decent size shopping centre. 

Thanks to it´s steady flow of visitors, you will also find designer markets and retail around every locale around Marbella, culminating in the beautiful old town mentioned above. Wherever you are staying in Marbella, you won´t have to look far to find fulfil your shopping desires.

Couple walking along river in pine forest like around Istan

5. Enjoy nature hikes

Due to its proximity to the mountains, it is easy to access various picturesque sea-view nature trails from Marbella. For the most adventurous, the hiking trails of Juanar and the Concha mountain around 20 minutes up from Marbella and the A7, offer exhilarating treks with rewarding sea views over Marbella and beyond to Gibraltar and North Africa. Another must-visit spot for nature lovers around Marbella are the various hiking trails around the Benahavís mountains and Guadalmina River. These trails range from moderate to challenging and are a must for nature lovers that can be enjoyed throughout the year.  

One of the beautiful things about Marbella is that is is easy to find untouched pockets of nature just off the main route. You will also find smaller walking trails to explore in different suburbs around Marbella, for example around Casacada de Camojan, Montua, Elviria and La Mairena – most offering little river routes and waterfalls to enjoy. A bit of research or exploring will likely find you a gorgeous little nature route not far from your base in Marbella. 

6. Water Adventure Activities

Marbella’s calm Mediterranean coastline is ideal for water sports throughout the year. Funny Beach offers go-karting and jet skis, while the Marbella Yacht Club provides sailing classes. For a more laid-back experience, stand-up paddleboarding and kayak tours are available from many places along Marbella´s beaches, perfect for enjoying the calm waters of the Mediterranean. 

There are also parque acuaticos that pop up on the beaches in the summer months, where will you find inflatable slides and obstacle courses in the sea, for example in Fuengirola, Elviria, Rio Reale and Puerto Banus. A walk along a local beach will probably find you one, and most definitely some places where you can hire a kayak paddle board or even kite surf. 

From one of the ports, either in Puerto Banus or Marbella, you will also find many boat hire or trip options, including sailing, dolphin, whale watching among others. Whatever you are interested in, search it online, or take a stroll down one of the ports and see what is on offer. 

Kayaking at the beach, popular in Marbella

7. Inland Adventure Activities 

Explore the rugged Andalusian landscape by taking a guided off-road buggy tour with Adventure Buggy Marbella or experience the thrill of canyoning in nearby gorges, canyons or rivers. Many located around Benahavís and Istán, and in the Sierra de las Nieves National Park that is about 30 minutes north of Marbella, these activities provide an adrenaline rush while showcasing the natural beauty of the region. You can also go rock climbing, mountain biking, 4×4 adventures or cave exploring in this beautiful national park. Marbella is also home to several equestrian centres.

If you are willing to go further afield, the Sierra del Grazalema and Ardales National Park also offer adventure activities and ancient caves, around 80 minutes‘ drive from Marbella. The latter, affectionately known as El Chorro, is home to the famous Caminito del Rey canyon walk that requires tickets to be purchased in advance, sometimes with tickets sold out months beforehand. You can also practice water sports or explore the national park on foot, and spend the day eating at the charming on-site restaurant.

8. Explore nearby towns

Another fantastic thing about Marbella and southern Spain is the many pretty villages within easy driving distance. You should expect these times to be longer in summer months, when the coastal road can get congested.

One of the most beautiful towns to visit is Ronda, about an hour from Marbella. Ronda is an impressive old town built around a deep canyon, which is the feature of the town square and the linear park next to it. Ronda also boasts Spain’s oldest bullring offers excellent restaurants and is famous for its well-priced stores, especially for cork and leather accessories, making it well worth a day trip from Marbella.

For a shorter excursion, you can venture to the white village of Ojen, just a 10-minute drive from Marbella, known for its traditional Moorish architecture and local aniseed liqueur. Mijas, another charming village about 35 minutes drive away, offers stunning sea views, charming dining options, and donkey rides through its cobblestone streets. The more relaxed beach towns of Fuengirola, La Cala de Mijas and Estepona are also less than 20 minutes away.

For longer trips, you can find the beautiful and historic coastal city of Cadiz, the gateway to Africa, within an hour and a half’s drive, and its famous ocean beaches of Bolonia. To the east, you should not miss a visit to the vibrant capital of Malaga, which also offers a wide variety of history, culture and entertainment, about a 60-minute drive from Marbella, and the small coastal town of Nerja, another 30 minutes beyond Malaga. If you are willing to go even further afield, you can visit Seville, the capital of Andalusia, about 2.5 minutes northwest of Marbella, which is home to several historic palaces and a charming Jewish quarter. About 1.5 hours away, you can also find the Moorish-influenced inland city of Granada, home to the famous historic Alhambra palace, a must-see in the area. Granada is also the home region of Sierra Nevada, the local ski fields reached about 2.5 hours drive from Marbella.

Ojen, white village in Andalusia, near Marbella

9. Local museums in Marbella

Located in the centre of Marbella, the Museum of Contemporary Spanish Engravings houses an important collection of modern Spanish prints, while the Ralli Museum in Marbella houses one of the most important collections of Latin American art in Europe, including works by Dali and Chagall. If you go a little further afield to Estepona, you will also find the Prehistoric Necropolis of Corominas, the Mirador del Carmen, the Paleontological Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the Prado Gallery and Arte by Leyton, all of which are well worth a visit.

10. Golf in Marbella, Benahavís and the Costa del Sol

If you are a golf lover, we are definitely saving the best for last because the Marbella area is sometimes referred to as the Costa del Golf and Nueva Andalucía as the Golf Valley. Whether it is Magna, Aloha, Las Brisas, Los Naranjos, Cabopino, Santa María, Río Real, Greenlife, La Quinta, Marbella Golf Club, El Paraíso, Real Golf Club de Guadalmina, the Marbella area offers a wide variety of golf courses for all tastes and locations. No wonder it is a major destination for golfers coming from all over the world.

Beachside Guadalmina Golf course next to Mediterranean sea, Marbella

Come to Marbella

If you are visiting Marbella there will be no shortage of things and places to enjoy in and around this famous town- any time of the year. If you are you are thinking of visiting Marbella and would like help finding a luxury vacation rental or luxury real estate in Marbella, MPDunne & Hamptons International are expert real estate agents who offer the best properties in Marbella and Benahavís, with personalised service and a deep understanding of the property market.

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