Marbella, says Nicholas Foulkes in The Times, is “my happy place”. An easy hour’s drive from Malaga, “this charmed few kilometres of Mediterranean littoral” offers top-notch celeb-spotting at the Marbella Club Hotel.
Places of note “Nearly all the things that people say are wrong with Marbella are indeed wrong with it,” says Foulkes. “But I am all for a bit of gaudiness…” In the old town, check out the boutiques and Plaza de los Naranjos, named after the orange trees that surround the central Renaissance fountain. There are 10 Dalí sculptures on Avenida del Mar, between the beach and Alameda Park. Stroll along Paseo Maritimo to hip Bounty Beach or chill on the sands at San Pedro de Alcántara, seven miles away. Head east along the coast to Castillo Sohail, a medieval fortress with spectacular views, and try canyoning in the Sierra de las Nieves mountain range.
Weather Almost always good, thanks to La Concha, the mountain that rises behind Marbella and creates a “benign microclimate”.
Famous faces Audrey Hepburn, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Laurence Olivier, Brigitte Bardot and Sean Connery all visited during Marbella’s 1960s heyday. You might bump into Rod Stewart or Tom Jones on the beach – and, of course, the cast of Towie.
To eat MC Beach, at the Marbella Club Hotel, has an Ibizan vibe and unbeatable salt-crust sea bass. Bougainvillea-covered Casanis, in the old town, offers fine French cooking. And you can still find restaurants where instead of a menu “they bring you the catch of the day in a bucket”.
1 To stay
The five-star Marbella Club Hotel has luxurious Mediterranean interiors, a spa, a gym, a music room, an art gallery, restaurants, pools, gardens, cookery classes and an outdoor cinema with beanbag seats. Doubles from €528 a night.
2 To rent
A few minutes’ walk from the Marbella Club Hotel, Puente Romano is a beach resort surrounded by waterfalls and gardens, with three villas sleeping six, eight or 10. It has pools, tennis courts, a spa and several restaurants. From €1,683 a night.
3 To Airbnb
This stylish one-bedroom apartment on the Golden Mile has a spacious living area, a patio with mountain views and access to a shared pool. It’s a half-hour walk to the beach. From £170 for two nights.
4 To buy
“Ultra-rich Europeans and Americans are battling to snag Marbella’s mega-mansions,” says the Telegraph. This contemporary home in Cascada de Camojan, a gated community in the hills above the Golden Mile, has seven ensuite bedrooms, a lift, a cinema room, a saltwater infinity pool and sea views. €6.95m.