Upmarket Marbella adds some bling to the Costa del Sol. The resort, with its famous yacht marina (at Puerto Banus), late-night bars, expensive shops and spectacular golf courses attracts the rich and famous.
There are 24 different beaches stretching some 27km of coastline in the municipality of Marbella. Avenida del Mar is the main seafront promenade, and the most popular tourist beaches are La Fontanilla, Casa Blanca, Nagueles, El Faro, La Venus, La Bajadilla and, of course, Puerto Banus.
Marbella's old town is charming with traditional shops, cafes and galleries. Orange Square is the city's administrative centre, surrounded by the town hall, the old governor's house and the Chapel (Hermitage) of Santiago and dotted with brightly coloured flowers and orange trees.
Marbella doesn't have its own airport. For cheap flights to Marbella, look to Malaga Airport, about 25km away. The list of airlines offering cheap flights to Malaga reads like a Who's Who of the airline industry. British Airways, Flyglobespan, easyJet, bmibaby, Jet2 and Thomsonfly all offer Malaga flights.
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Backed by the Sierra Blanca mountains and faced with the sea, Marbella has a temperate micro-climate that tends to be mild year-round. Summer temperatures reach the high 20s (Celsius) and winters cool down to the teens.November through March is the rainy season, but Marbella averages less than 50 days of rain per year. For the rest of the year there is very little rainfall, and the area boasts more than 300 sunny days a year.
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The coast is mobbed from June to October. Rates are high, attractions are hard to get into, and reservations need to be made in advance.
National Day is October 12 when the Spanish are also on holiday.
During the autumn and winter there are fewer tourists. Malaga flights are cheaper, there is plenty to do, and the weather is still good. However, many restaurants close while their owners go on vacation around October 15.
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For getting around Marbella, most visitors prefer to drive. Motor scooters are also popular, and helmets are required. Taxis are available for when you prefer to be driven.
The tourist train offers a guided ride through Marbella, starting at El Faro Street. The fare is inexpensive and children under five ride free.
Walking is a pleasure in Marbella, especially along the Patio de los Naranjos and the cobblestone streets of the Old Town. A favourite tourist activity is a walk along the beach, regardless of the time of year.
Heading out to explore the Costa del Sol presents several transport options. Trains and buses are plentiful. There are taxis, but they are harder to find during certain times of day, such as when everyone is heading back to the hotel from the beach. During the peak season you may also have to wait for a taxi. Bicycles are available for rent, but are not allowed on the main highways.
Driving is straightforward, except during the peak tourist season when traffic can be quite heavy, especially on Sunday evenings and national holidays. Be especially careful when driving the Costa del Sol’s main highway: it averages more than 100 fatalities a year.
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- The Old Town is charming with fine buildings, churches, small shops, cafes, restaurants and galleries. The heart of the Old Town is Orange Square or La Plaza de los Naranjos.
- Puerto Banus is where the beautiful people shop and sunbathe. Watch out for the yachts. Other notable beaches are Puente Romano, La Fontanilla, Playa del Faro, Venus and El Pinillo.
- Marbella is a golfer’s heaven with courses designed by top golfers including Seve Ballasteros. There are more than 40 quality courses throughout the Costa del Sol.
- The Bonsai Tree Museum in Parque Arroyo de la Represa has more than 300 specimens from 40 species.
- Relics from Roman days: Las Bovesas, the Roman baths, in Guadalmina, date back to the 3rd century. They can be toured on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at midday. Near Rio Verde beach are the remains of a Hispano-Roman villa from the 1st century. Known as the Rio Verde Roman Villa, there are wonderful mosaics.
- Museum of Spanish Contemporary Engravings in the 16th-century Bazan Hospital building boasts etchings and lithographs by Dali, Miro, Picasso and Tapies.
- Andalucians know how to party. Some of the most popular festivals are the Fair and Fiesta of Saint Bernabe held in mid-June (Saint Bernabe is the patron saint of Marbella); Feast of the Virgen del Carmen in July, which features a seafaring procession; and Romeria of the Juanar Cross in May, an annual pilgrimage to the Cruz de Juanar.
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