24 hours in Marbella
WALKING DAY AND NIGHT
“The time is just 7 am, when we, after an early powerwalk, turns of the 28 km long beach and walks up towards the old Marbella, Casco Antiguo. A cafe cortado in Plaza de los Naranjos, orange square, is a good way to start the day. Here one can enjoy the cool of the orange trees and admire the facade of the 1500’s palace Casa Consistorial which today serves as Marbella town hall. Each full and half-hour roar of the old clock in the grand Iglesia de la Encarnación and recalls of a bygone era. But Marbella is older than that. With the region’s strategic location, as a hub between Europe and Africa, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic ocean, Marbella has a turbulent history in the background.
The most dramatic was perhaps when 12 000 Berber troops landed in Gibraltar and a period of 800 years of Muslim rule began. The Muslims renamed the small fishing village and gave it the name Marbi-la. And this has given its name to the christian marbella. There is also a legend that says that the name Marbella was created by the Spanish queen, Isabella of Castile, which, when she saw the beautiful village between the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, exclaimed “Que tan bella March” (What a beautiful sea).
It’s now time to break up from Plaza de los Naranjos, we just have one day to explore the area. We walk through the winding mazes, whitewashed houses and flower-filled balconys, down to the main road. A wonderful excursion into the lush green mountains is now waiting, the car steers towards the village of Istan.
The first stop we do is just outside Marbella, at the Museo del Bonsai, which is regarded as the world’s foremost bonsai collection outside of Japan. For those who are interested in small trees, this is probably an little gem.
On our way up the mountain, we pass something of the most spectacular, besides the stunning natural scenery of course, the now deceased king of Saudi Arabia’s vacation home, which is a copy of the White House, only bigger! The building is hidden on a hill surrounded by pine trees and high barriers to entry, so it is difficult to see what really lies behind it. But the familiar is saying that there is an exact replica of the Oval Room, only bigger!
On an adjacent hillside, across the road, lies Marbella modern mosque, Mezquita del Rey Abdulaziz Al Saud.
During our tortuous journey to Istán we pass even the Swedish jetset queen and royal family member Gunilla von Bismarck’s “mansion” which is nestled among the lemon, orange and avocado trees.
We stop at the small parking lot outside Istán and starts our 1,5 miles long hike. The water bottles that we brought are empty. The experienced hikers know that you will pass a number of wells with the very freshest and clearest water. After the walk, in the high and clear air, a lunch is waiting to be served at the Argentinian restaurant Entre Sierras. Do not forget to order the mandarinsorben, from a self-harvested fruit, for dessert!
Our friends chose to eat their lunch on the promenade, and we do promise that this is not just tourist traps. Select Garum with the red umberellas. Both the service as well as the food is perfect, and this is where the lovely beer, in the stylish designer bottle, Alhambra, is perfect.
But the “night owls” are looking for a little culture as well and choose to visit the Museo del Grabado Español Contemporáneo. The museum is located in a renovated hospital building and has paintings by Picasso, Miró, Tapie and other famous Spanish artists.
After this cultural excursion, it’s time to go to Puerto Banus. This is where we will shop new shoes, clothing and accessories from the major fashion houses. The shops are located on the narrow streets near the harbor, where you can barely talk about boats, rather, the vessels. Cafes, bars and restaurants are close and here you can actually spend a whole day just watching people – without getting bored a single second.
The mountain climbers are ready with the outing, and now goes back down the winding mountain road. Several golf clubs are nearby and the whole Costa del Sol is also one big golfing paradise.
Only in Andalusia are some 50 golf clubs, most of which are of top quality, which also can be seen on the green fee charge.
On the way to Marbella, we also pass the prestigious tennis club Manolo Santana Club de Tenis at Puente Romano Hotel which Bjorn Borg in fact inaugurated.
The heat in the summer months tend to be intense in the afternoon, and during those hours the sea herons. There are different ways to engage bathing in Marbella. Perhaps the most common is to go down to the beach and rent a sunbed. Another way is to check into a beach club. There are several to choose from but Nikki Beach and Ocean Club is perhaps the best known. At both places there is a pool and you get a towel of your own. The lunches are excellent and Nikki Beach has this year invested in crude culture trend and serves sushi. At both beaches you can also rent your own ”champagne bed”.
We, however, predict that this year’s hottest will be Trocadero. At the Trocadero, the atmosphere is wonderfully relaxed, some choose to rest in the sun while others go for long lunches. Everything is super fresh and the service friendly, it is a chiringuito.
Even more relaxed and a bit more secret is a place named Victors. Victors is located shortly downstream of the super luxury Hotel Puente Romano, which is a little sister to the prestigious Marbella Club. At Victors you’ll find the celebrities who just dont want to be seen, and perhaps are most interesting because of that.
For us, dinner herons. In Spain, dinner is usually not served until 10 pm, but as the tourists populate Marbella, it soon full at restaurants already at 8 o’clock. For those who want luxury and good food, the choice is easy. You’ll choose the one star Guide Michelin restaurant named Skina in the old town. Everything from service to food is delicious. The mood at Skina is playful and entrance cource, the “mandatory” appetizers, offers a fun surprise. Remember to book a table, because at the Skina it is really crowded.
Even the guys who were on the mountain hiking has become hungry and they decide for a genuine tapas restaurant. Here there are many choices, el Estrecho La Venencia, and Taberna del Pintxos are some good choices. At Taberna del Pintxos staff goes around and offers tapas from a drum. The payment is then calculated by putting the sticks together (so use them for God’s sake not for anything else).
Finally we have arrived to the Marbella Club. This was where it all started – almost. We are back in the glamorous 1950s, when Prince Alfonso von Hohenloe happened to get a puncture on his Rolls Roys just outside the small fishing village, Marbella. Prince Alfonso was, during the tire change (yes, it was not he who changed the tire), so charmed by the place that he right there and then bought a piece of land and built himself a palace. When the palace was ready he invited the most famous upper-class families, such as Rothschild and Bismarck, and the circus started.
In 1954 Prince Alfonso opened up the gates to the Hotel Marbella Club, and it quickly became one of the world’s most luxurious hotel, which it is still ranked as today. Despite the extravagance and luxury, at the Marbella Club they work really hard on maintaining a relaxed and familiar atmosphere. Among other things, Alfonso prohibited the use of blazers at dinner table because it was considered to snobbish and not “the Marbella Way”.
Some other good restaurants are Zozoi, Casanis, Altamirano and La Musa. All of them are classic Mediterranean restaurants of good quality.
After dinner, it’s time to test the bars in Casco Antigo. Here are the bars close to eachother and the choice is yours. We choose to turn down and walk towards the music and Ana Maria Flamenco Club.
Ana Maria is the local flamenco bar, which in all cases for a relatively inexperienced analysts, feels very, very real. It’s hot, fiery and sweaty. The guitars patters and shoes clatters. It is cramped and crowded in the room, most visitors are Spanish, and only a few tourists can be seen. Every day at 23:30 pm the flamenco starts with Don Chatos in the lead.
When the ghost hour has passed the old part of Marbella closes down, and tis is when the other part of Marbella comes to life. Mountain hiking and flamenco have left their marks at the gang that started the morning with Nike shoes and power walk on the promenade, runs now along the quaint, old alleys towards room number 7 at The Townhouse. But first it will be a quiet cava and a last look over the Mediterranean Sea.
And see, sitting there we meet the neighbors from room number nine. They have just changed their Jimmy Choo shoes to today’s new purchases from Puerto Banus. They are walking towards Olivia Valere – yes, it is Marbella’s hottest nightclub.
It is at Olivia Valere celebrities like Madonna, Rod Stewart, Spanish Crown Prince Felipe and Letizia are sliding at the early morning hours. But at that moment the time has passed 7 am and we walk slowly home along the promenade, with the shoes in our hands, towards the Town House and the Orange Square.
On the square, we start or stop…
24 hours in Marbella have flown away – and still, there is so much more to see and do.