Costa del Sol…just the name makes you want to hop on a plane and go there! I’ve had the opportunity to visit Spain several times, even lived in Madrid for a short while when I was very young. However, I had never truly ventured into the Costa del Sol. My husband and I have visited Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada and Nerja, but we had never stayed at any of the beach towns in Andalucía before. This past summer we finally decided to visit Marbella, and we were not disappointed!
Marbella is typically associated with millionaire beach mansions, crowded beaches and celebrity sightings. My Marbella experience was quite different…a maze of typically Andalusian streets with palatial facades, intricate wrought-iron balconies and a series of shrines and chapels, especially the old town (Casco Antiguo). Marbella’s old white washed streets and cobbled squares are among the most beautiful on Spain’s Costa del Sol. You can spend hours just wandering through the little pedestrian streets, full of boutique shops, cafes, and gorgeous buildings with balconies full of beautiful, colorful potted plants. It’s definitely an area suited for long strolls, and as always, do not forget your camera!
We stayed at the Marriott Marbella Beach Resort, and I highly recommend this hotel, especially if you’re traveling with kids. The rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable, we actually had a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment, with a large balcony. The outdoor area is beautiful, with several restaurants, and a very large pool with slides. Our daughter made several friends during our stay, and we all enjoyed all of the amenities throughout the property. The resort is about a 15 minute drive into the old town, but we had a rental car and there are various parking garages in town. The resort also provides a shuttle into the old town various times a day.
At the heart of the old town is Plaza de los Naranjos, very picturesque, and full of shops and restaurants. We got caught up in the liveliness of the plaza and decided to have dinner there one night. Big mistake…as with most main squares in these towns, the food was not great, and the service even worse. Marbella does have a great selection of diverse amazing restaurants, but make sure you do your research, and stay away from all the tourist traps. The cosmopolitan nature of Marbella means you will encounter people from all parts of the world. Dinner at Stuzzikini, a little Italian restaurant, was amazing with great food and very friendly owners. They actually came by our table and chatted with us, telling us all about their family business! We also had another great meal at Tempora Restaurante, right around the corner.
In Marbella, as with most European cities we have visited, residents praise the quality of life. One afternoon, I was shopping in a little jewelry store with my daughter, just as the famous “siesta” was about to start. The store owner was practically rushing me, because he had to close up for his 4 hour rest, and then proceeded to tell me that Europeans were not like Americans in that they work to live, not live to work (not the first time I have been told this in Europe). I realized at that moment, that these are some of the reasons why we travel abroad. We like to experience the differences in cultures, and in Spain, that includes getting your shopping done in the morning, as they will close the town down between the hours of 1-5PM! So, we happily headed back to our hotel and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon by the gorgeous pool area. Later that evening we returned to town for some more strolling and dinner.
While staying in Marbella, it is also very easy to take day trips to the other nearby towns of Torremolinos, Mijas, Fuengirola, Benalmádena, Puerto Banús, and of course, Málaga, which has the nearest international airport.
Here are some more pictures of our Marbella trip. Have you been to Marbella? I’d love to hear what you enjoyed most…