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Best Sights of Marbella
Marbella is a city with a population of about 300,000 that is 60 kilometers west of Malaga. The official census shows that the population is 140,000, but this is an undercount because many of the foreigners who live in Marbella never register their residency in the official registry, the empadronamiento. Its area is 114 square kilometers, and the city has 24 kilometers of beach. Its climate is one of the best in Europe, with cooler summers and warmer winters than the rest of the province of Malaga. Marbella has a huge mountain in the background called La Concha that protects it from cold winds from the north in winter and warm winds from the north in summer. The mountain creates the best microclimate in the Costa del Sol. The average annual temperature is 18C, and there are only 35 rainy days in the year.
Only 24% of the residents of Marbella were born in the city. The majority came out of their own choice. Most of the Spanish who are in the service sector speak English, so a foreigner in Marbella really never really has to learn Spanish.
The priciest real estate in Spain is found in Madrid’s Calle Serrano, the shopping street, where Madrid’s richest people live. The second priciest real estate is found in Marbella, because it has lured many rich people from all over the world to settle here. Many have come to visit and have been seduced by its climate and beauty. Marbella has many luxury housing developments where the rich have bought houses and apartments. Just west of downtown Marbella starts the “Golden Mile”, which runs all the way to Puerto Banus. This area has the priciest real estate in the city, especially the area adjacent to the beach.
It is said that after London, there are more Rolls Royce cars registered in Marbella than any other city in the world. This is an indication of the affluent society that lives in Marbella.
Who are the rich people who live in Marbella? There is a large international community composed of businessmen and Europeans who have titles. There are many Arab princes who have mansions. At the beginning of the First Gulf War, many rich Arabs were vacationing in Marbella and were saved from the invasion by Iraq. There is also a large contingent of Spanish people who are prominent in the arts and there are the old rich from Spain and other European countries, many who have titles. Most of these people nowadays are very discreet and do not display their wealth ostentatiously, for reasons of security.
Marbella is a year round resort and many of the rich live in Marbella all year. There are other glitzy resorts in Spain that make news during summer with celebrity visitors, but these resorts really shut down during the off season. Celebrities used to visit Marbella in the past, but Marbella is more sedate now and the current residents prefer it that way. Parties are held in private residences instead of in restaurants. There are many free magazines that are given away in Marbella for example “Essential Marbella” which has the largest circulation. The magazines are bilingual in English and Spanish and real estate companies advertise heavily in the magazines. At the back of the magazine are pictures of parties and one can get an idea of the people who reside permanently in the city. One also gets an idea of the houses that the rich occupy.
The very famous actor from Malaga Antonio Banderas owns a house beside the beach in the Los Monteros development. He and his wife Melanie Griffith come whenever they have time. Sean Connery used to live in Marbella until he had a disagreement with the local press. He then moved to the Bahamas, but is reported to live in New York City now.
Obviously not all the people who live in Marbella are rich. The majority are middle class Spanish who work in the service industries. These Spanish account for 72% of the population, and the foreigners account for 23% of the population. There could be more foreigners, but they never register.
The visitor will notice that there are no vagabonds, street beggars, street musicians, street performers, or itinerant salespeople who spread their wares on the sidewalk. These people are not allowed in Marbella. In other Spanish cities many of these people are pests who love to bother tourists. There is a strong police presence downtown to keep these people out of the city and to provide security to visitors and residents, which is appreciated by everyone.
a. Marbella Casco Antiguo
The old town is a very clean white town in the middle of Marbella, with beautiful stores and many good restaurants. The center is the Orange Square, the Patio de los Naranjos, where the town hall is also located.
b. Plaza de los Naranjos
The Orange Square is the center of Marbella and is one of the most beautiful plazas in the Costa del Sol. It was constructed a few years after 1485 by King Ferdinand, who wanted to copy a Castilian plaza. The plaza has the City Hall and was ordered built by the mayor Juan de Pisa in 1568. The facade has balconies with wrought iron, where the city officers observed festivities in the plaza. Inside there are Mudejar touches and painted frescos, and also the coat of arms of Marbella and Felipe II.
The plaza also has the Casa del Corregidor, a palace which dates from 1552. The style is Renaissance and there is a facade made of stone. Another building in the plaza is the Ermita de Santiago (Hermitage of St. James) that was built at the end of the 15th century, and predates the plaza. It is very simple and has only one nave. This chapel is used by the Cofradia del Santisimo Cristo del Amor and has a statue of San Juan Evnagelista, which is paraded on the streets during Holy Week.
c. Church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnacion
The Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation was founded by the Catholic Kings a few years after 1485, when the Catholic Kings conquered the city from the Moors. The church was remodeled in 1617 and later in 1756 the facade was constructed, thought to be a design by Antonio Ramos. During the Spanish Civil War, the church suffered a lot of destruction. The church has the basilical ground plan with three naves that are separated by arches which rest on pillars. The naves are topped by vaults, but there is a cupola where the arms meet. The facade is beautiful, with a Rococo design and made of red stone. The doorway is flanked by Corinthian columns. There is a tall bell tower that has arches in the top two floors and this is topped with polychromed ceramic tile. All the altars and statues are modern. The main altar dates from 1940 and shows the image of San Bernabe, the patron saint of Marbella. There is a significant organ in the church.
d. Marbella Paseo Maritimo
This beautifully landscaped walkway is beside the beach and is filled with many good restaurants. There are at least 40 restaurants here, beside a quiet beach.
e. Avenida del Mar in Marbella
The Avenida del Mar is a beautiful walkway from downtown Marbella to the Paseo Maritimo. It has fountains, benches, yellow marble floors and a wonderful view of the sea. What calls attention are the ten bronze sculptures by Salvador Dali, the surrealist master. A former mayor decided to have the city purchase the sculptures when the little park was being redeveloped.
Among the sculptures are those of Perseo, Mercurio, Trajano a Caballo, Gala Gradiva, Caballo con Jinete Tropezando, Elefante Cosmico, Don Quixote Sentado, Hombre Sobre Delfin, Gala Asomada a la Ventana, and Mujer Desnuda Subiendo La Escalera. Residents and visitors to Marbella can enjoy this art on the street in a beautiful setting.
There is another Dali sculpture in Marbella at the Cristamar roundabout entrance to Puerto Banus. It is a huge statue of a rhino and is known as the Rinoceronte Vestido Con Puntillas (the rhino dressed in lace), and was donated to the city in 2004 by a businessman to celebrate the centenary of Dali's birth.
f. Puerto Banus in Marbella
Puerto Banus is located 6 km away from downtown Marbella. It was developed by Jose Banus, who had bought a large estate in Nueva Andalucia to build a marina. He hired two architects, Noldi Schreck from Switzerland, and Marcos Sainz from Mexico. They decided to build a typical Andalusian fishing village along the marina. The combination of beauty and functionality made this marina famous around the world when it was inaugurated in May,1970, and the jet set flocked to it because of its originality and beauty. There are 915 docking posts for berths ranging from 8 to 50 meters, and two beaches on either side of the marina. One can see some of the most impressive yachts in the world in the marina, many owned by the king and princes of Saudi Arabia.
Puerto Banus has many hotels, but is more famous for the stores that are in the development. It has a very large shopping center and many international boutiques by famous designers. Many of the stores are the most luxurious in Spain, with many jewelry stores. There are many restaurants along the marina and in the shopping center. The apartment buildings around the marina have beautiful architecture, such as the Benabola Building. The marina is also famous for its nightlife, with many bars and famous discotheques. It is estimated that Puerto Banus gets 4,400,000 visitors a year. Prominent people from all over the world have visited this development and entertainment center, among them kings, queens, and movie stars. Puerto Banus is considered one of the premier Mediterranean resorts.
g. Marbella Beaches
Marbella has 27 kilometers of beaches with 24 different beaches. Some of these are Guadalmina Beach, Linda Vista Beach, San Pedro de Alcantara Beach, Nueva Andalucia Beach, Puerto Banus Beach, Rio Verde Beach, El Ancon Beach, Nagueles Beach, Casa Blanca Beach, La Fontanilla Beach, El Faro Beach, La Venus Beach, La Bajadilla Beach, El Cable Beach, El Pinillo Beach, Los Monteros Beach, Alicate Beach, Real de Zaragoza Beach, La Vibora Beach, Las Chapas Beach, Las Cañas Beach, Artola Beach, and Calahonda Beach.
h. National ParksThere are two national parks in Andalusia: Doñana and Sierra Nevada