By Jennifer Leighfield • 08 June 2021 • 9:38
Where to go and what to see
YOU may think that Marbella is nothing more than more than beaches and yachts, but it also has many historical monuments and places of interest which are well worth checking out. Here we will introduce you to some of the sights you can enjoy.
Roman and Phoenician ruins: Rio Verde Roman Villa, Early Christian Church and Roman Baths in Guadalmina, Phoenician ruins of Rio Real
Arab ruins : the Castle walls, watch towers
Churches : Ermita del Santo Cristo de Veracruz, Iglesia de la Encarnacion (built on the site of the earlier mosque in the XVIIth century), Capillas San Juan de Dios, Ermita de Santiago (XVth century), Capilla del Santo Sepulcro, Iglesia de San Pedro Alcantara
Buildings: Casa del Corregidor, Casa Consistorial, Hospital Real, the Bullring, Trapiche de Guadaiza, Trapiche del Prado, Buenavista mine, Cortijo Miraflores, La Concepcion
Squares and parks: Plaza de los Naranjos, La Alameda, Plaza del Puente de Ronda, Plaza del Altamirano, Avenida del Mar
Museums: Engraving Museum, Ralli Museum, Cortijo Miraflores Museum
In the Guadalmina area you will find an impressive historical site.
Dating from the 2nd century, there is a building which housed the Roman baths. You can still see a central area and seven large rooms with high vaulted ceilings surrounding it.
It is a complex structure, which historians believe was created with the aim of making something unique and surprising to reflect the power of whoever ordered the work.
The building has stood up well to the passage of time and visitors can still admire the octagonal structure and the niches where the powerful citizens of ancient Roman times would have sat.
Free entry. Guided tours on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 9am to 11am.
Rio Verde Roman Villa
LOCATED near to Puerto Banus on the way out of Marbella, a visit to the Rio Verde Roman Villa will take you on a trip back in time.
The Roman villa, dating from the 2nd century, is the ideal place to admire the quality of the mosaics made in that era which are amongst some of the best conserved in the world.
They were first uncovered in the 1960s and what can be seen are an inner patio and several rooms around it. You will also be able to view images of some of the kitchen utensils used in Roman times and understand more about what people ate in those days.
Entrance is free and it is normally open to visit on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10.30am to 1.30pm.
Early Christian Church
LOCATED in San Pedro Alcantara, before you get to the Guadalmina area, there is an Early Christian church dating from the 5th century.
What can be seen there are the remains of the church and burial ground. You will observe the square layout of the church with three areas separated by pillars, the altars and the baptistery with several baptismal fonts, one of which combines a Greek cross with the shape of a fish and which would have been used to immerse people who were being baptised into the Christian faith. The surrounding burial ground would have been used between the 3rd and 7th centuries and held the remains of more than 200 people.
Free entry. Guided tours on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 11.15am to 2pm.
Historic city centre
THE Casa del Corregidor is an impressive building with Arab style construction which belonged to the Royal representative in the area and is a clear example of 16th century architecture.
Also in the city centre is the Hospital Real de la Misericordia, formerly known as San Juan de Dios Hospital and founded by the Catholic Monarchs.
In the same area they found the chapel of the same name, part of which was only discovered in the 20th century.
The Ermita de Santiago is Marbella’s oldest Christian Church, a former mosque which was consecrated in 1505. It is to one side of the Plaza de los Naranjos and the headquarters of the Cristo del Amor brotherhood.
Iglesia de la Encarnacion
THE Encarnacion Church is one of many former mosques which in the 16th century were turned into churches, in this case it was probably the largest and most important in the city.
The main entrance to the church in Rococo style from the late 18th century. Inside, it has an organ from 1975, the largest built in Spain in the past century.
Nearby is the Hospital Bazan, now the Engraving Museum, formerly known as Hospital de la Encarnacion, which is a Renaissance style building and remained open for three centuries.
It was founded by Alonso de Bazan who wrote in his testament in 1570 that his properties should be made into hospitals.
It was restored in 1989 to become the museum it is today.
Historic Calle Ancha
CALLE ANCHA was one of the most important streets in Marbella in the 19th century, as it was where the homes of the rich families were located.
It can be entered from Plaza del Puente de Ronda, which was one of the three entrances to the city when it was fortified.
Calle Ancha linked the city with the north area where the farms and mills were located.
Many of the houses can still be seen, with coats of arms, decorated façades and large balconies. One of them is Casa Correa from 1763.
Travelling north on Calle Ancha you will find the Santo Cristo church, built in the 16th century as part as the Franciscan Convent, it is one of the oldest churches in the city.
It has just one nave, a large choir and a Tuscan column which descends to the baptismal font.
MARBELLA has a rich industrial heritage and there are many buildings in the city which are proof of this.
El Cable – located 300 metres offshore, it is the remaining part of a loading dock built in 1957 from which iron from local mines was loaded onto ships. Used until 1970.
Buenavista Mine – A path leads from the Nagueles Park to the old mines from which minerals were extracted for local use and export.
La Concepcion ironworks – Founded in 1826, it was operational until 1884 when the metal industry moved to the North of Spain. Another foundry, El Angel, closed a few years earlier.
Cortijo Miraflores – now a cultural centre, oil museum and archaeological museum, it was built in 1706 as a country home and later housed a sugar mill and oil mill.
Guadaiza mill – built in 1827 as a sugar mill, it is now a cultural centre.
El Prado mill – Created around 1644, it was used as a sugar mill and then as a liqueur and wine factory until the 20th century.
There are 10 surreal bronze sculptures attributed to Salvador Dali located in the local Avenida del Mar, which links the old town and the seafront.
There is some controversy regarding whether or not they are the work of Dali, but despite this, they have become a famous local landmark and whoever made them, they are certainly worth a visit, and this is the chosen location for art and cultural events.
They were put in place in 1998 and at more than two metres tall and weighing between 200 and 400 kilos each, they are very impressive.
There is also a Dali sculpture on a roundabout in Puerto Banus; the Rhinoceros Dressed in Lace was created in 1956, weighs three tonnes and was donated to the local council in 2004 to mark his birth.
The Avenida del Mar was part of the Alameda Park and was the place where rich socialites took strolls and showed off their possessions.
Plaza de los Naranjos
IF you want a taste of the real Marbella, we suggest you visit the city centre and especially the most famous square in Marbella, the Plaza de los Naranjos (Orange Square) where we find the Ermita de Santiago and the City Hall. It has had several names since its creation and also housed the prison, several mansions, the Casa del Corregidor, etc
The orange trees were planted in 1941 to substitute palm trees, which in turn had replaced the chestnut trees originally planted.
The city hall is to the north with the newest part built in 1971 on the site of the old prison. The old part was originally built in 1572 and refurbished in 1779, including a clock which remains in place. There is also an iron balcony from 1632.
Marbella’s green lung
THE Alameda Park is the green lung of the city of Marbella.
Dating back to the 18th century, at one point it took up an area of 20,000m2 and has long been the pride of Marbella.
It was originally designed as one main walk with smaller areas on either side, but it has been reformed several times over the years.
There were six central round benches and the fountain which still remains in place. A figure of Christ, a cross and other items have been removed from the park, more flowerbeds have been put in place and now the original two walks to the sides have been made into streets.
The plants and trees include some rare and valuable species, as well as an extremely old ficus tree and pine trees.
The Golden Mile
THE Golden Mile of Marbella is the area from the west of Marbella city centre to Puerto Banus, in total five kilometres.
In such a small area, we can find some of the most exclusive and sought after properties in Europe.
Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe chose the area as the location for the Marbella Club Hotel which opened in the 1950s and was popular amongst aristocrats, celebrities and wealthy business owners.
The area has a long seafront promenade with some of the best beach clubs and restaurants in Marbella, and behind them, luxury villas and apartments on some of the most exclusive complexes and the famous Puente Romano Hotel, which owes its name to the authentic Roman bridge. On the other side of the road there are shopping centres and restaurants galore as well as large villas and mansions which cost millions.
MARBELLA bullring first opened on June 11, 1964, and the bullfighters were Pedro Martinez, Francisco Camino and Manuel Benitez (El Cordobes).
They fought bulls from the Antonio Martinez Elizondo farm.
The capacity of the bullring was 9,500 people and there were eight access gates.
In October 1977, it held the first bullfight which was broadcast on colour TV via satellite to Mexico and other countries of South America.
In 1999, it was purchased by a Dutch company which was interested in using it for concerts and other events.
In December 2019, Marbella council began rehabilitation work to make it into an area to hold cultural activities.
THE Represa Gardens and bridge are located on the old riverbed, which was covered in 1968.
In the eighties and nineties, the area was improved to make a park and gardens with a lake, rocks and trees.
The bridge is called Puente del Sagrado Corazon although it is known locally as Puente de los Tirantes.
It was home to the Bonsai Museum although it closed in 2018 and a library has been created in the building which formerly housed the museum which is due to open soon.
The Represa park is popular with locals and visitors alike as a place to have a stroll and chill out.
MARBELLA has approximately 30 kilometres of coastline with some amazing beaches.
Several of them have been awarded the Blue Flag by the Foundation for Environmental Education. They are awarded for meeting environmental, educational, safety and accessibility standards. Here are some of the most popular beaches:
Playa del Alicate – thick, soft sand, deep water. Sun beds and umbrellas, water sports, showers and toilets.
Bounty Beach / El Cable – fine, soft sand. Sun beds, showers, toilets. Popular with local youths.
Playa de Nagueles – popular with families for the shallow water, well-equipped and surrounded by the city’s luxury hotels and restaurants.
Playa de Levante (Puerto Banus) – fine sand and very calm, shallow waters. Well-equipped.
Playa de la Fontanilla – located near the city centre, popular with tourists and locals. Toilets, showers, sun beds.
Artola sand dunes
THE Cabopino area of Marbella is home to a spectacular natural area: the Artola sand dunes.
Ideal for a run in the morning, a stroll at sunset or a peaceful day at the beach surrounded by natural beauty, they are a rare site in such a built-up area.
They were declared a natural monument by the Junta de Andalucia in 2001 and cover an area of 19.22 hectares.
Plants which grow in the area have adapted to survive the strong sunlight and lack of water as well as the constant wind, and include sea daffodils, juniper bushes and European beachgrass.
It has a Roman defence tower, Torre Ladrones, and is close to the nudist beach.
Luxury in Puerto Banus
PUERTO BANUS is one of the best-known and most important ports in the world.
Located in the Nueva Andalucia area of Marbella, it was opened in 1970 and is considered one of the top places to visit on the Costa del Sol.
The inauguration was attended by the Prince of Spain at the time, Juan Carlos and his wife Sofia, Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly, the Aga Khan, Roman Polanski and Hugh Hefner amongst many others, and the entertainment was provided by a young Julio Iglesias.
It covers an area of 15 hectares and has mooring for more than 900 yachts of up to 50 metres long. The price per day to moor a ship in Puerto Banus is reported at more than €2,000.
The streets of Puerto Banus have housed exclusive fashion boutiques including Louis Vuitton, Dior, Gucci, Versace, Bvlgari, Dolce & Gabbana and Spain’s own department store, El Corte Inglés, as well as a variety of luxury hotels.
Marbella’s other ports
WHILE Puerto Banus is certainly the most famous, it isn’t the only port in Marbella.
There is the Marbella Marina, which is popular with locals and has a variety of bars and restaurants. It is near the beach and is used for sailing lessons and competitions, regattas and other events. Known as La Bajadilla, there are two levels, the upper level where the bars and restaurants are located which is used for many events and shows, and the lower level, which has the sailing club and nautical facilities.
As well as this marina, Marbella, formerly a fishing village, still maintains this tradition and has a small fishing port at the same location.
There are other marinas, including Cabopino, on the border between Marbella and Mijas, which has 169 moorings and the Virgen del Carmen marina in Marbella with 377.
To find out more about the history of Marbella, we recommend you read this article, and if you want to learn some fun facts about the city, click here.
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Jennifer Leighfield, born in Salisbury, UK; resident in Malaga, Spain since 1989. Degree in Translation and Interpreting in Spanish, French and English from Malaga University (2005), specialising in Crime, Forensic Medicine and Genetics.
Published translations include three books by Richard Handscombe. Worked with Euro Weekly News since November 2006. Well-travelled throughout Spain and the rest of the world, fan of Harry Potter and most things ‘geek’.
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