Marbella has all the glitz and glamour you can handle, but we’re pretty sure you’ve heard enough of that! Besides being on the Costa del Sol, with a beautiful climate fit for kings and Queens, and besides all the resorts and holiday apartments, believe it or not, there is still plenty you might not know.
Marbella tends to get a “bad rap” because of a neighbouring “handmade” town called Puerto Banus. Let us assure you that Marbella is NOT Puerto Banus. Far too often, Marbella’s reputation as being the glitzy and inauthentic marina is a simple mistake. Marbella is and always has been a working Spanish city, with working class people that includes residential areas and breathtaking views.
In fact, Marbella is a melting pot of different cultures, and today has inhabitants from 137 different nationalities. Check out our list of things you probably didn’t know about Marbella, and let us know what you think!
Things you didn’t know about Marbella
1. Antonio Banderas, who lives in Los Monteros, was a soccer player until he broke his foot at the age of 14. This is where he then turned his talents to acting and became a famous movie star (not a bad alternative).
2. Marbella is famous for its micro-climate. This is a local atmospheric zone, where the climate differs from the surrounding area. When travelling from Malaga to Marbella or vice versa, as soon as one passes through the tunnel by Calahonda, an immediate climate change is apparent. If it is raining, for instance, in Benalmadena, it is likely that once you have passed the Calahonda landmark, it will be blazing sunshine.
3. Where else can you go to the beach in beautiful sunshine and eat a marvellous lunch outside on the beach and three hours away go to Sierra Nevada and ski?
4.´The Artist Formerly Known as Prince owned a house in El Paraiso Alto, that he bought as a gift for his wife Mayte Garcia. It’s near the Ritz Carlton Villa Padierna Hotel, recently put on the map following a visit from Michelle Obama. It has spectacular sea, mountain, valley and golf course views and is now on the market for $7.7 million.
5. In 2014 Brad and Angelina, as well as George Clooney were looking at houses in the hinterland of the Costa del Sol. Boris Becker and Eva Longoria both have houses where they spend considerable time. Wayne Rooney, Vladamir Putin and countless other celebs have bought houses in La Zagaleta, which is one of the most security-conscious communities in the world. They have their own police force!
6. After The Alhambra in Granada, the second most visited place in Spain is, Parque Comercial La Cañada shopping centre on the outskirts of Marbella.
7. The Marbella Club was founded in 1954 by Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe (Alfonso Maximiliano Victorio Eugenio Alexandro María Pablo de la Santísima Trinidad y Todos los Santos zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg – in full no less!), but it was his uncle Ricardo Soriano, Marquis of Ivanrey, who moved to Marbella and brought popularity into the club with his family and friends. He bought El Rodeo and this was the birth of tourism in the Costa del Sol.
8. If you drive slowly along the Golden Mile, you will discover on the right hand side, as you are heading towards Puerto Banus, a hidden tree with intricate carvings of a beautiful figure of a fisherman and a mermaid. It dates back many years, to Señor Perez, proprietor of the La Pesquera chain, originally commissioned it as a landmark for one of his establishments, which he planned to open, but the project was later shelved. Since then it has become a focal point for residents, but many visitors are still unaware of its presence. It is certainly worth a visit.
9. A large fin whale was beached on San Pedro beach and sadly died in February 2008, despite some 500 people, together with the local police, desperately trying to save its life, but to no avail. It was 50 feet long and native to the Southern Californian coast. It is now in the Museum of Madrid.
10. Marbella has an average of 320 days sunshine a year. However, before being known as the Costa del Sol, it was known as the Costa del Viento (The Windy Coast). It has now become one of the most favoured holiday destinations in the world and this year alone has had a record-breaking number of visitors. The hotel bookings have been at an all-time high, especially through the summer months. This is due to virtually no rainfall, the odd thunderstorm, unlike the UK which is experiencing diabolical and torrential weather, to put it mildly. ‘Pour’ dears!
11. For the last eighteen months, Marbella has seen an increase in property prices across the board and is now regarded, once again, as one of the top tourist destinations in Europe. In August 2014, Hello Magazine stated that ‘Marbella has been voted the top destination for celebrities and the jet set and is now being labelled as Spain’s Beverly Hills. In addition, J.S. Marcus of The Wall Street Journal, recently wrote that ‘The ritzy, sun-soaked Spanish coastal city of Marbella is beginning to resemble Southern California more than Southern Spain.’
12. The Marbella area has over 70 golf courses, including the world renowned Valderrama. Host to the 1997 Ryder Cup, the American Express World Gold Championships of 1998 and 1999 and many Volvo Masters tournaments; it has been labelled ‘The Costa del Golf’.
13. The Romans colonised Hispania in vigour during the time of Julius Caesar. Marbella at that time was called Salduba. When the Moors took it over in the 8th Century it was then re-named Marbil-la. Thereafter it became Marbella.
14. Peter Viertel, the famous scriptwriter, lived in Los Menteros until his death in 2007, 19 days after the death of his beautiful wife of 47 years, Deborah Kerr. His scripts include African Queen, White Hunter Black Heart and Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun All Rises. He was responsible for introducing surfing to Europe, particularly in Saint-Tropez.
15. The famous American bullfighter John Fulton Short had an art gallery in Plaza Naranja. He mixed bulls’ blood into his paint! His patrons included Pope John Paul II and the former King of Spain, Juan Carlos I.
16. Residents of Marbella are known as Marbellis or Marbellies, according to the Diccionario de la Lengua Española.
17. The southern Spanish accent, familiar to all of us who live on the Costa del Sol, derives from the Moors, giving it that guttural Arabic sound. This was continued, after the Moors left Spain, by the Gypsies, who, with heavy Moroccan influence kept the sound which is still very noticeable.
18. This coastal area attracts vistors of more nationalities than any other European destination. July alone saw a record 161,543 foreign visitors and national tourism is also very strong.
19. The first mode of transport in Marbella was donkeys from the Sierra Blanca to Marbella port. Rudi or Rudolf, Graf von Schönburg-Glauchau-Waldenburg, a distant relative of the founder Alfonso Hohenlohe, who had a major influence on the Marbella Club, took frequent advantage of his four-legged friends. At that time, there were no restaurants in the Marbella area therefore it was necessary to bring the hill to Muhammad, as everyone lived at the Marbella Club on a full-board basis. He said in an interview; “At that time, cars barely existed. One day I counted 39 cars in one day passing by. However there were about 600 donkeys that were used as transport. Once our guests arrived, they were allocated their chosen mount; then on arrival at our chosen location, we gave them sangria, which I have to confess was enforced with Grand Marnier.”
20. The site of the Starlight Festival sits on the first mines that produced carbon, used by the Basques, prior to the arrival of Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe and the introduction of tourism. After more than 30 years without use, the quarry of Nagüeles, returned with a renewed purpose to utility on 13 July, of 2012. George Benson opened the stage of Starlite with great success. Julio Iglesias who is also another celebrity who has a significant estate in Elviria, together with his son Enrique, have supported Starlight and perform most years. This year is no exception.
21. The migratory Flamingoes leave our shores in the autumn to soak up the warmer sunshine in East Africa and return in the spring when the weather becomes more temperate here in Spain. However, fortunate residents who live within the vicinity of San Pedro, will frequently see these glorious birds flock to the River Guadaiza, situated between Puerto Banus and San Pedro beach, where they feed on small fish, snakes and amphibians such as frogs and newts.
22. Stingrays and blue sharks (Prionace glauca) frequent the Marbella coastline. The blue sharks known as Tintorera are a favoured dish of many seafront restaurants. Now being banned because of a sharp decline in sharks. Quite rightly as well as they are vital to our seas.
23. The historical festival of San Juan is celebrated throughout Spain. Marbella shines throughout celebrating the summer solstice, the shortest night of the year. Residents and visitors follow the life-long tradition of running backwards into the sea, throwing away their hand-written wishes and dreams for the following year, followed by jumping over a bonfire three times, where their problems, they feel, are burned away. According to San Juan’s night participants, they will be cleansed and purified. According to how many sangrias etc. have been consumed, it makes for one of the funnier festivals also.
24. Marbella is twinned with worldwide cities including Nevers and Cabourg in France, Doha, Qatar, Punta del Este in Uruguay and Miami Beach. The latter being the most appropriate as according to countless reviews on Trip Advisor Marbella is often compared to Miami, Florida.
25. Fifteen thousand years ago, the sea level here was 100 meters lower than now. A very good illustration of this is to be seen in caves inhabited and dating to the Neanderthals, found on the east side of Gibraltar, which are between 50 to 80 meters above the current sea level.
26. ´The man in the mountain´, as legend will have it, can be seen lying down on top of La Concha, the mountain that towers over Marbella. This giant rock formation is said to be the bringer of good luck if you can see it and if so, the mountain welcomes you as a true friend of Andalucía.
27. The sea is warm in the winter, which is why you see so many people swimming at that time and cold in the summer, due to a local current that hugs the coast from El Faro to just after the Carrefour in Estepona. The Sirocco, starting as a dry and dusty wind, on the northern coast of Africa, brings storms to the Mediterranean Sea, cool wet weather to Europe, and marks the end of summer in Spain.
28. The oldest hotel in Marbella is La Fuerte. The same family has owned this hotel since the early 1950’s. When they arrived there was no electricity and no gas, food was brought in from local vendors for guests to buy.
29. Guadalmina is the oldest urbanization on the Costa del Sol with the oldest golf course known to all golfers as the Grand Daddy of the golfing fraternity. The Royal Guadalmina Golf Club is still used by the former King Juan Carlos.
30. Famous racing driver, former Formula 1 World Champion James Hunt, had a nightclub in the 70’s & 80’s called Oscar’s. He owned a house in Guadalmina for many years.