The town itself is overlooked by the Sierra Blanca mountain range and gives Marbella a micro-climate meaning it’s kept cooler in the summer and a bit warmer in the winters. The town was founded about 1600 BC by the Romans. The Muslims arrived in the area about 500AD and gave it its name Marbil-la. They built a fortress and a defensive wall to protect themselves from the Christians and their impact on the design of the town is still there to be seen in the Old Town. In the 16th Century the Christians finally managed to recapture Marbella and it started to grow slowly by developing the surrounding farmland for agricultural production. The San Luis fort was built in 1725 to defend itself from Mediterranean pirates. The town grew more rapidly in the 19th century and agriculture was the mainstay of the economy. In 1950 the port was completed. It was not until the 1940’s after Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe invested in hotels and apartment complexes that tourists started to come here in large numbers. It attracted the rich and famous who flocked to the town. So in the last 60 years Marbella has grown from a small fishing and farming village to one of the foremost international tourist resorts in the world.
Marbella though is not just a tourist attraction, it’s a true Spanish town. The locals are friendly and helpful, particularly if you make an effort to speak a little bit of Spanish. As I said the Old Town (Ciudad Vieja) is my favourite place, I love to wander around the narrow streets looking at the houses, shops and looking for little tapas bars where mostly the locals only go. These are the places where you get the best food and the best prices. But there are also very good restaurants around Orange Square and the surrounding streets.
Some of my personal favourites:
- The Orange Tree just off Orange Square, it has wonderful food and very friendly service and it is owned by an Irish woman and her husband. They change their menu regularly and their early bird menu is good value.
- Restaurante Messina. We were introduced to this gem by our neighbour and it’s just that, a real gem, one of the best restaurants in Marbella. The food is truly outstanding and the attention to detail and presentation is amazing. A bit pricey but no-where as expensive as Dublin for anything similar, can’t wait to get back!
- For Tapas our favour bars are: La Venencia’s and La Taberna Del Pinxto on Av Miguel Cano. In the Old Town is El Estrecho an award winning Tapas bar.
There is plenty of shops in the town itself and I like Baileys men’s clothes shop. Just up the road is the really large mall La Canada which all my girls love as it has all the big shops and there are plenty of shops like FNAC that I can enjoy. On a Monday there is a large market. Normally I don’t like markets but the one in Marbella is just big enough to have plenty in it but not so big that you can’t get around it.
I just love to walk around the town, at any time of the day or night, and take in the atmosphere, to browse the shops or stop for a drink and to get a good meal. In fact if I had the chance I think I would love a place right in the middle of the Old Town. Just thinking about it makes me want to be there.