The Marbella Arch
The history of the town goes back to Palaeolithic times, as we can see from archaeological remains found in the area. Then the Romans came and settled, leaving clear evidence of their presence in the area, especially in the Las Bóvedas area and the Villa of Río Verde, with its exceptional mosaics.
In Marbella too is one of the most interesting Visigoth remains in the country, the basilica of Vega del Mar, which the Moors called the "well lived in, " and there built a fortress that has survived the passage of time. The urban centre they built on the spot is now Marbella's Old Town, with aristocratic buildings like the Hospital Bazán and convents that hold a permanent place in the history books of this nation: from one of them the ransom of Christian prisoners, among them Cervantes, was negotiated.
In modern times, Marbella has been a mining town and an agricultural centre before becoming what it is today. It was the capital of the iron industry in this country in the 19th century, with three plants in La Finca de La Concepción and three in the El Ángel area, belonging to the Heredia and Ejiró families. A full 75 percent of all the iron produced in Spain came from the El Peñoncillo works at that time, but it closed down in 1931.
Competition from Northern Spain sank the industry in the south when coke replaced vegetable fuel in the production process. But Marbella was also a pioneer in agriculture in Andalucía, with the Marqués del Duero farm and, on a lesser scale, the El Ángel farm making an industry of what had previously been a subsistence activity. At the end of the 19th century, the aristocrat Manuel Gutiérrez de la Concha designed what is now San Pedro Alcántara, the biggest farming entity built in this country, covering 10, 000 hectares of land.
The economy of the town suffered badly both before and after the Civil War, and did not begin to recover until the early 1940s, when Ricardo Soriano, the Marquis of Ivanrey, set up in the hotel and restaurant business at La Venta and Albergues del Rodeo. He had a new idea about how hotels should look, influenced by the American bungalow hotel, and applied it here.
The result was a group of very comfortable, rustic-style housing units around a central social and administrative building, and the idea caught on. He was well connected socially, and began to attract the rich and famous to this area. Hotels were built, the first being the El Fuerte, followed by the San Nicolás, the Guadalmina, the Salduba and the emblematic Los Monteros and Don Pepe.
José Banús, a rich businessman, then built a huge tourism complex that became Puerto Banús, with hotels like the Hotel del Golf and the Andalucía Plaza, along with golf courses, a bullring, discotheques and a pleasure port. With the arrival of holidaymakers like Prince Rainier and princess Grace of Monaco, Puerto Banús became the prime pleasure port of Southern Europe.
Marbella grew and grew, attracting big money in property investment and tourism infrastructure. New pleasure ports were built and new golf courses laid down, new hotels and restaurants continued to spring up around the municipality, and through it all Marbella maintained its reputation for excellence. It continues to be one of the classiest tourist destinations in Southern Europe.
Ferias and fiestas in Marbella
Although the advent of tourism to the town has created new festivals, tradition still holds firm in Marbella's festive calendar. The festival of the town's patron saint, San Bernabé, takes place in July and October. The June festival lasts almost a week and includes bullfighting, music and dancing. The Romería in the pinewoods at Guadalpín takes place in June too, with another Romería to the Cruz de Juanar in May.
Gastronomy in Marbella
Apart from the extraordinary range of cuisine available in this cosmopolitan place, the traditional food here is fried fish. Popular too among the locals is the gazpacho and ajoblanco soup and the traditional paella, especially plentiful in summer.
Attractions and activities in Marbella
Plaza de los Naranjos
This square, named after the orange trees that grow there, was built in 1504 on the orders of the first Christian governor of the town. Roman remains have been discovered in its sub-soil. The fountain in the square dates from 1604, and nearby we can see the hermitage of Nuestro Señor Santiago, the first Christian church in the town, dating from the end of the 15th century. Old Town Hall
This was built in 1572, its exterior having a wide balcony with wrought-iron railing and a splendid Mudejar-style entrance with coat-of-arms and inscriptions, one of which tells of the water brought to the public fountains in 1632. There are fresco paintings in the inside of a religious theme. The Casa del Corregidor, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries and with a stone facade, is also in this square.
Marbella has more pleasure ports than any other municipality in the province of Malaga. Here some of the biggest luxury yachts in the world can dock, and the ports themselves have become luxury shopping and restaurant areas.
Cabopino has one of the best beaches on the Costa del Sol, with fine, clean sand in a fairly sheltered bay. In this area too is a nudist beach. Church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación
This church was built in the 18th century on the foundations of an earlier 16th century church. Its interior is divided into three naves separated by semicircular arches. Of particular interest outside are the reddish stone entrance and the tower in four sections, dominating the surrounding area with its ceramic tiled roof in the shape of a pyramid. Inside are some valuable paintings and religious jewellery. The old Moorish walls of the 9th century Moorish fortress are just outside, one of the well-preserved fortress towers being situated across the square from the church.
Where to sleep in Marbella
Hotel El Fuerte(4*) Marbella
Phone 952 861 500
Gran Melia Don Pepe(5*). C/José Meliá.Marbella
Phone 952 770 300
Los Monteros(5*). Carretera de Cádiz, Km, 187.Marbella
Phone 952 771 700
Puente Romano(5*). Carretera de Cádiz, Km 177.Marbella
Phone 952 820 900
Coral Beach(4*). Carretera de Cádiz, Km 176. Marbella
Phone 952 824 500
Hotel don Miguel(3*). Camino del Trapiche.Marbella
Phone 952 772 800
Hostal Miguel Sabio Romero. Avda. Manilva (Sabinillas) Marbella
Phone 952 890 745
Eating out in Marbella
Restaurante del Casino, Marbella. Beneath the Andalucía Plaza Hotel. Marbella. Phone 952 814 000
Bona Dea, Marbella. Phone 952 816 044
Restaurante Santiago, Paseo marítimo, 5.Marbella.
Phone 952 770 078
Restaurante Cipriano, Playas del Duque. Puerto Banús.
Phone 952 811 077
Restaurante Casa de la Era, Ctra. de Ojén, Marbella.
Phone 952 770 625
Villa Tiberio, Ctra. de Cádiz, Km. 178, 5 Marbella.
Phone 952 771 799
Restaurante Placido, Avda.Miguel de Cervantes, 62.Marbella.
Phone 952 818 935
Restaurante La Meridiana, Camino de la Cruz.Marbella.
Phone 952 776 190
Marbella Patio, C/Virgen de los Dolores, 4.Marbella.
Phone 952 775 429
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