The Top Things to See and Do in Marbella

The cobbled streets of Marbella Old Town, Spain, await for enchanting strolls
The cobbled streets of Marbella Old Town, Spain, await for enchanting strolls | © Stefano Valeri / Alamy
Photo of Mark Nayler
18 June 2021

Beyond its great nightlife and proliferation of British pubs and cafes, Marbella on the Costa del Sol in Spain also has plenty of quiet corners to enjoy. Here’s our pick of things to do in Marbella.

The jewel in the crown of the Costa del Sol, Marbella is also one of the most popular holiday destinations in Spain. Yes, there are lively nightclubs and bars, but you’ll also find pristine beaches to explore and a historic Old Town, as well as world-renowned art galleries. Here are our top picks for the best things to see and do in this seaside city.

Relax on Playa de San Pedro de Alcántara

Natural Feature
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Horses on exercise in the cooler late afternoon air at San Pedro de Alcantara beach Costa del Sol Marbella Spain
Courtesy of Ian Shaw / Alamy

For a more relaxed beach experience than is often possible on the crowded sands of Marbella itself, head to San Pedro de Alcántara, a low-key town 11km (7m) to the west. Its Blue Flag beach is over 1km (0.6mi) long and 35m (115ft) wide and backs onto a palm-shaded promenade lined with chiringuitos (bars serving tapas) and fish restaurants. In between the bars and the sand is a cycling and walking track known as the Senda Litoral de Málaga, which connects with Marbella to the east and Estepona to the west.

Explore Marbella Old Town

Architectural Landmark
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Marbella Malaga Province Costa del Sol Spain Outdoor cafes in Plaza de los Naranjos
© Ken Welsh / Alamy

Leaving the seafront behind, walk through the Alameda Park, and cross the road, heading north. The architecture around you changes instantly, with flower-covered, whitewashed houses replacing concrete hotels and apartment blocks. This is Marbella’s Casco Historico (Old Town) – a compact area of shaded squares, cobbled lanes and centuries-old buildings. Key attractions include boutique clothing and shoe stores, Plaza de los Naranjos and the 16th-century St Mary’s Church (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación).

Cruise from Marbella to Puerto Banús

Natural Feature
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© lisako66 / Shutterstock
Fly Blue operates a six-vessel fleet of yachts and catamarans that cruise between Marbella and Puerto Banús several times a day. Key sights on the half-hour journey include La Concha, the shell-shaped mountain behind Marbella, and the King of Saudi Arabia’s palatial summer residence, which can only be seen from the sea. Once moored in Puerto Banús, hop off for drinks or lunch, or remain on board to take advantage of the sunbathing decks and bar service.

Go back in time at Castillo Sohail

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark
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Castillo Sohail. Fuengirola, Malaga, Spain
© Mario Galati / Alamy

Located on a hilltop just outside Fuengirola, a 25-minute drive east of Marbella, the Castillo Sohail is a Medieval fortress constructed on the site of Roman and Phoenician ruins. As well as being one of the major historical attractions in Costa del Sol, it’s also the venue for events such as the Medieval Market in September – a colourful week of falconry displays, archery, juggling and even some “dragon hunting” – and an Oktoberfest-inspired beer festival, usually held at the end of August.

Go canyoning on the Guadalmina River

Natural Feature
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Water Adventure sport, Angosturas Guadalmina river. HYJRCC
© Jerónimo Alba / Alamy

Canyoning excursions are a great way to explore the Sierra de las Nieves, a protected mountain range covered in forests, caves and ravines just behind Marbella. Guided outings of varying durations and difficulty levels start from and finish in Benahavís (a 25-minute drive inland from Marbella) and feature cliff jumping, waterfall abseiling, river wading, rappelling and natural water sliding. You’ll need to bring closed-toe shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, a towel and some dry clothes to change into.

See sculptures by Salvador Dalí on the Avenida del Mar

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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COSTA DEL SOL, SPAIN - CIRCA MAI, 2019: Salvador Dali sculptures on the Avenida del Mar of Marbella. The Costa del Sol in Andalusia, Spain
© Val Thoermer / Alamy

It may seem unlikely, but the Avenida del Mar – a marble-paved boulevard running from the Alameda Park to the promenade between plain 1970s apartment blocks – also serves as an open-air gallery. Scattered along its length are five bronze sculptures by Salvador Dalí, portraying his wife (in two of the works), the Roman god Mercury, the Greek hero Perseus and a Trojan warrior on horseback. The final piece before the promenade is a tribute to free speech by Madridleño artist Eduardo Soriano.

Eat tapas at Bar El Estrecho

Bar, Restaurant, Spanish, Tapas
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Malaga style salad. Image shot 06/2018. Exact date unknown.
© Zoonar GmbH / Alamy

Squeeze down Calle San Lázaro in Marbella’s Old Town, and you’ll soon reach the aptly named Narrow Bar. In a long, thin saloon, or standing around barrels out in the equally narrow alley, sample classic regional tapas such as ensalada malagueña (a summery salad with cod, olives and oranges), boquerones (anchovies), calamares (deep-fried squid) and carrillada (pork cheek braised in a red wine sauce). Best accompanied with manzanilla (dry sherry) or cañas (small draft beers).

Go clubbing at La Suite

Nightclub, Cocktails
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La Suite is a high-end nightclub in the Puente Romano Beach Resort, about halfway between Marbella and Puerto Banús. Chill out in a New York-style interior bounded by Roman walls, soak up the beats, and keep the deluxe copas (cocktails) coming. Be warned: even by Marbella standards, this is an expensive night out, but it’s worth the extra layout for a one-off experience. And, if La Suite lives up to the promise on its website, you won’t remember a minute of it.

Browse the Saturday Street Market in Puerto Banús

Market, Spanish
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Puerto Banus Street Market, Marbella, Spain
© JosephWGallagher / Alamy
Located 8km (5m) west of Marbella, Puerto Banús is a port community packed with designer shops, immigrants (mainly from the UK) and gleaming yachts. Every Saturday morning, the main boulevard running down from the disused bullring to the waterfront hosts one of the largest flea markets in Costa del Sol, where you can barter for everything, from antiques and vintage clothing to fruit and spices. It’s essential to arrive early, especially during summer, when most stores start packing up at about 1pm.

Get surreal at Ralli Museum

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Museo-Rallii Marbella | Courtesy of Museo Rallii Marbella
Situated on the Golden Mile promenade, the Ralli Museum houses one of the most important collections of Latin American art in Europe. The permanent exhibits explore varieties of surrealism and graphic and figurative art in contemporary Latin America and feature pieces by Mexican sculptors Geradro Quiroz and Mario Aguirre Roa. Alongside these, another fixed exhibit looks at surrealism as interpreted by European artists such as Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon.
These recommendations were updated on June 18, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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