If you are looking for things to do in Marbella to make the most of your beach vacation, you’ve come to the right place. We are rounding up the best beaches in Marbella as well as cultural experiences, and its top attractions. Are you ready to start planning your trip to the Mediterranean? Read on.
Things to do in Marbella, Spain
A glamorous town in Southern Spain, Marbella is the shining star of Costa del Sol. With long promenades lining its sandy beaches, beach bars, and charming old town, a trip to this beautiful Spanish City on the Mediterranean Sea is not to be missed.
We fell in love with the culture of the Old Town Marbella, our daily walks on the boardwalk, and sampling its delicious Spanish Cuisine. After spending a week in the tourist capital of Costa del Sol, we felt that we could move here. Plus, with real estate seeming to be quite reasonable, maybe we will! But for now, let’s take a look at all the exciting things to do in Marbella to help you plan your trip.
1. Stroll Through Marbella Old Town
Marbella Old Town is a beautiful place in the city to stroll through the streets while admiring the whitewashed buildings lining the charming cobblestone streets. Search for a cafe to enjoy a cocktail or shop for Andalucian-style dresses in one of the many storefronts. This is a place to sit back and relax, people watch and take in the Spanish vibes. Old town has plenty of restaurants with outdoor seating to eat tapas while soaking in the Spanish culture.
The Old Town of Marbella dates back to the 15th century and is a great destination to really take in the Andalusian atmosphere. White houses and historical buildings are decorated with colorful flowers creating picture-perfect photo opportunities. There are plenty of rooftop patios, boutique clothing stores, and historic buildings. This is the place to get lost for an afternoon as you wander through its narrow streets.
If you want a guided tour of the old town, this highly-rated walking tour takes you from Rocío fountain at Almeda Park through towards the beaches to see the status of Dali, the Seaport, and the Marina Promenade. It’s then into the old town to see the Town Hall and Mayor’s House, the Moorish Walls and Marbella Castle, and the churches and historical places in the Old Town.
2. Continue to Avenida Del Mar
Avenida del Mar is a lovely pedestrian street connecting Marbella Old Town to the beach. Palm trees line the path leading from Parque Alameda to Ave Duque de Ahumada. What makes this so unique is the line of statues designed by Salvador Dali. But, it is not only Dali Statues that line Avenida del Mar, there are other artists featured as well. Dali wasn’t a resident of Marbella, so we found it odd that he has such a prominent collection, but he did holiday here, so he must have fallen in love with this slice of paradise in Costa del Sol as we did.
3. Relax in Alameda Park
Just a short walk from Avenida del Mar is the picturesque Alameda Park. This quiet retreat is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the busy Marbella streets. This park dates back to the 18th century, and is located right in the heart of the city center and is quite small, but it is filled with shady palm trees and ferns transporting you from the hot sun.
When strolling the four paths inside Alameda Park, you’ll see the Parque Alameda fountain, and colorful ceramic benches strategically placed to relax in the shade. The benches are called azulejos and are all handpainted. There’s also a lovely carousel that is perfect for the kids.
4. Walk Marbella Promenade Every day
Our favorite thing to do in Marbella was to walk the Paseo Maritimo (Marbella Promenade) each morning. We would get a takeaway coffee and stroll the 7km long paved walkway at sunrise to avoid the crowds. Partway through our walk, the city would wake up and more people were out for a jog or bike ride to soak up the great atmosphere at this time of day.
We worked up an appetite each morning and stopped at one of the many restaurants for coffee and breakfast with gorgeous sea views. The boardwalk links the best beaches in Marbella from the Old Town in Puerto Deportivo de Marbella and Puerto Banús. It is easy to do as there are plenty of places to stop for coffee and water, the path is often lined with palm trees and it is wide and even with very little elevation gain.
5. Charter a Yacht for a Sunset Cruise from Puerto Banus
Marbella’s Puerto Banús is famous for its luxury yachts, fast cars, and luxurious hotels. Why not join the lifestyles of the rich and famous and book a sunset cruise up this idyllic coast of Costa del Sol? We hopped on a charter with Smart yachting to set sail from the Marbella marina in Peruto Banos where we went out for the ultimate sunset sail from Marbella Spain. This marina is filled with yachts and our 50-foot yacht barely competed with the other beauties parked in their slots.
It was a beautiful scene to take in the views of the coast of Southern Spain. We sailed along the coast sipping champagne and sampling tapas as we felt like millionaires for an evening of pampering and relaxation.
6. Kayaking Tour
If yachting isn’t your thing and you want a little more hands-on experience on the water, take a kayaking tour for beautiful views of the Marbella coast. Leaving Marbella marina, you’ll experience views of the Sierra Blanca mountain range and the waterfront hotels and restaurants on Marbella. Costa del Sol has blue flag beaches and the waters are clear, so take a dip in the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea while you are at it. Kayaking is one of our favorite ways to explore any coast.
7. Puerto Banús
After your cruise (or kayaking tour), spend some time in Puerto Banús to enjoy some fresh seafood. Puerto Banús is the place to be for nightlife in Marbella and as you walk the streets you’ll see ultra-chic twenty-somethings showing off their fast cars and designer shoes. Here you’ll find posh restaurants and bars where you’ll definitely want to put on your designer dress to head out for a night on the town.
8. Marbella Nightlife in Puerto Banus
The best nightlife in Marbella is in Puerto Banus plus a little further along from Puerto Banus is the Golden Mile area. These areas have plenty of nightclubs and bars. If you are looking for things to do in Marbella at night, a great idea is to start with a guided tour. This Nightlife walking tour starts at the famous Sinatra Bar in Puerto Banus and then go bar hopping to enjoy the VIP treatment at the best bars and clubs in Marbella. Entry fees are all covered and you’ll enjoy a night with a local guide and make new friends.
9. Plaza de los Naranjos (orange Square)
Taking its name from the orange trees that grow in the square, Plaza de Los Naranjos is the heartbeat of Marbella Old Town. Outdoor cafes with large umbrellas cover the plaza that is filled with restaurants. When looking for places to eat in Marbella, this is it! It is located in the center of the old town surrounded by traditional white Andalusian houses and shaded with orange trees. In the center of the plaza is a lovely Renaissance fountain. It’s difficult to see since so many tables, chairs, and umbrellas fill the square, but it is worth having a look.
10. Iglesia de la Encarnación
Continue your tour through Old Town to see Iglesia de la Encarnación (Church of our lady of Incarnation). Located just off of Plaza de Los Naranjos, Iglesia de la Encarnación is the center o the aptly named Plaza de la Iglesia. Also known as the Cathedral of Marbella, it dates back to the 17th century.
Built on a former mosque, the Iglesia de la Encarnacion is a mix of renaissance and baroque architecture that is quite interesting. It has kept some of the Muslim elements, such as the church’s tower was originally a minaret of the mosque. It is a working church and when we visited, a mass was going on, so we couldn’t go inside. We always try to be respectful of the local culture.
Where to Eat in Old Town
It may not be the first thought that comes to mind when planning dinner in Marbella, but Thaiessence was a place where we had a spectacular meal. Located in Old Town Marbella in Maison Artois boutique hotel, this restaurant fuses Peruvian-Thai cuisine with Andalucian ingredients. It has a cool atmosphere and there is a lovely rooftop bar.
11. Take a Wine Tour
Marbella Wine and bike tour is one of the best ways to explore the old town while immersing in Andalucian food and wine. Part food tour and cultural immersion, you’ll learn about Spanish history and culture as you cycle from Dali’s Sculptures in Avenida Del Mar through Alameda Park and the Old City while sampling tapas and Spanish wine or beer. (nonalcoholic drinks are available as well) Book your tour here.
12. Murallas del Castillo – Marbella Castle
As you pull yourself away from Marbella OId Town, you may stumble upon the Moorish castle and walls of the city. Dating back to the 10th century, the Marbella Castle is just outside the Old City. You cannot go inside the castle, but seeing the towers and old Moorish walls is a sight to see.
It is the most important remnant of Arabic architecture in Marbella. At one time, there were 10 towers, but today only two remain. The best portions of the remaining castle are along the south and east walls.
13. Iglesia del Santo Cristo de la Veracruz
Marbella is old and its old town is definitely ancient, therefore, it is filled with historic churches. Another church to visit in Marbella is the Iglesia del Santo Cristo de la Veracruz. The small chapel dates back to the 15th century and was expanded in the 18th century. It is a lovely church that was fully restored in 1992. It’s worth a stop when you are strolling through Barrio Alto.
14. Take a Cycling Tour
A Bike Tour of Marbella is a great way to explore Marbella. Take a ride to historical sites along the cycling paths as you enjoy the Andalusian sun. Starting at the Bay of Marbella, you’ll see the works of Dali in Avenida del Mar before moving on to Alameda Park and into the Old City. Cycle through the narrow alleys until you reach Plaza Santo Cristo. But you’ll then get out of town to visit the traditional fishing village of Barrio de Los Pescador.
15. Join Marbella Food Tours
There is no doubt that Spanish food is some of the best in the world, and a Marbella Food Tour is one of the best ways to immerse in its culture. We never know what to order off a menu when visiting a country for the first time, so a food tour offers an introduction to the best food in the area. This food tour takes you on a culinary journey through local food including tasting Pescaito Frito which is a mix of different types of fish including anchovies, calamari, and shrimp), Salmorejo casero, the Andalusian version of gazpacho and more.
16. Roman Villa
Marbella may have once been ruled by the Moors, but it also has a Roman history. The Roman Villa is 5 km from the city center between the Old City and Puerto Banus. The ancient archaeological site dates back to the 1st century AD. The Roman Villa was once part of the Great Roman empire. While there isn’t a lot left to see today, its black-and-white mosaic tiles are well preserved and are famous because of their unique design.
17. Beaches of Marbella
There is no doubt that Marbella is a beach lovers’ paradise. Even though we have it on the list as number 15, enjoying the beaches of Marbella is definitely number 1. Our job is to give you ideas for things to do in Marbella, outside the beaches. But trust me, you’ll be spending most of your time on the beach!
Marbella has seven blue flag beaches which are awarded to beaches with superb quality waters that are dedicated to environmental management and have services and amenities. For a beach vacation, you will find some of the best beaches in Europe in Marbella.
Its waterfront is filled with beach clubs, restaurants on the beach, and cabanas. Many are within walking distance of one another. Beaches stretch east and west from the city center, so depending on where you are staying, you may find yourself at one beach more than another. A few of the best beaches in Marbella are.
- Playa de la Fontanilla – Playa de la Fontanilla is the most popular beach in Marbella located close to the city center. You’ll find cabanas and lounge chairs for rent and plenty of restaurants and amenities. If you are looking for some fun activities on the beach, there are plenty of water sports to be had.
- Bounty Beach is a long stretch of golden sand with beach chairs for rent, water sports, and restaurants. The snack bar of the same name is located on this beach which has a hip vibe playing good music and hosting festivals.
- Cabopino Beach is a 1.5 km stretch of sandy beach near Puerto de Capobino. There are protected sand dunes and there is a nudist area on this beach.
- Other beaches in Marbella that are highly recommended are Playa Real de Zaragoza, Playa Alicate, Guadalmina beach, Linda Vista.
18. Shopping in Marbella
One of my favorite things to do in Marbella was to browse the shops for Andalusian fashion. Throughout the old town, there are plenty of shops to pick up Andalusian fashion. You can even pick up a Flamenco dress and join in one of the festivals that happen regularly within the city.
19. Golfing in Marbella is popular
Marbella is a popular place for golfing with some of the best golf courses in the world dotting the landscape. We saw many a party at the Malaga airport carting their golf clubs to tackle the many golf courses in Costa del Sol. We don’t really gold ourselves, but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didnt’ tell you about Golfing in Marbella.
20. Museo del Grabado Español Contemporáneo
While you are strolling through the old town, check out the Museum of Spanish Contemporary Engravings. It is the only museum in Spain preserving contemporary Spanish graphic art from the 20th and 21st century.
21. Bonsai Museum is Closed
We were looking forward to visiting the Bonsai Museum when visiting Marbella, but sadly, the Bonsai Museum closed in 2018. They are looking for a new location and hopefully, they find one by the time you visit Marbella. The Bonsai Museum of Marbella housed the best collection of Bonsai Trees in Europe and the best collection of Olive trees in the world!
Where to Stay in Marbella
NH Hotel Marbella
Outdoor pool and gym, el fresco restaurant, and pool bar. This was a great hotel for ambiance and modern rooms, but we found it to be a little far from the Old City. It was about a 15-minute walk from the beach. Check details on TripAdvisor
Hotel Don Pepe Gran Meliá
Flagship luxury hotel in Marbella, Spain. It is located directly on the beach with a large pool, fitness center, restaurant and bars. It has a fantastic ambiance and is highly recommended. We only had drinks here, but would definitely stay here if we visit again. It was a bit of a hike from the Old Town, but with being on a great beach and the boardwalk, it has everything you could need. See availability and rates on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Hotel Monarque El Rodeo
It was a great budget hotel in Marbella that is close to the old town and the beach. We were walking distance from most of the top Marbella attractions. Good budget hotel in the old town close to Alameda Park and beaches. All-inclusive and partial board rates with buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner. See availability on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Oasis by Don Carlos
If you are looking for a luxury hotel in Marbella, the Oasis by Don Carlos is a luxury wellness resort. There are rooms, suites, and apartments. It has indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, saunas, and a spa. See more details on TripAdvisor or book at Booking.com
Day Trips from Marbella
When visiting Marbella, there are plenty of day trips to be had across the coast of Costa del Sol. With its central location, you can be to many of the top attractions along the coast in an hour. These are a few of our recommendations.
22. Andalusian Horse and Flamenco Show
No trip to Southern Spain would be complete without watching Andalusian horses in action. Skilled equestrians mount their beautiful white horses as they perform an equestrian ballet. Dressed in traditional Andalusian costumes, the horse and rider prance around a talented flamenco dancer who seems to put the horse in a trance. Horse and riders perform to the beat of the music as the colorful display of flamenco unfold in the round arena before your eyes.
We were on a press trip for this experience, so I must admit, I really have no idea where we saw our show, but you can book this show
23. White Village – Setenil de las Bodegas
We rented a car when visiting Marbella, but you can easily book day tours from Marbella to see some of the best places in Costa del Sol. This highly-rated tour takes you villages of Ardales and Cuevas del Becerro before continuing on to Setenil de las Bodegas. Setenil de las Bodegas is the original white village in the area and is considered the most beautiful. This tour allows you to explore both Ronda and Setenil de las Bodegas and you’ll also see the famous unique bridge over the El Tajo gorge and the oldest bullring in Spain.
The British territory of Gibraltar is just a 90-minute drive from Marbella and is an amazing day trip. YOu can see a lot of the highlights in one day if you want a break from the beaches, or you can spend a night or two in this interesting country off the tip of Southern Spain. Read all about our trip to The Rock of Gibraltar – Everything You Need to Know Plus Where to Stay
25. Caminito Del Rey
An exciting day trip from Marbella is the Caminito del Rey Day Trip. Located km from Marbella this was once one of the most dangerous hikes in Europe.
Today it is safe and exciting, This day tour takes you along a path clinging to the side of a cliff dangling 100 meters (330 feet) above the reservoir below. You’ll walk 5 kilometers along this elevated walkway to enjoy some of the most beautiful views in Andalusia.
How to Get to Marbella
We flew into Malaga Airport ( Málaga–Costa del Sol Airport – AGP) from Canada and hired a driver to take us to Marbella. You can take the direct airport bus to Marbella Bus Station. It Malaga Costa del Sol Airport is the fourth busiest airport in Spain and it is modern with all the conveniences you could want.
We also transferred to the airport after visiting Marbella and rented a car from here to travel around Costa del Sol.
Marbella is easy to drive to with good highways and easy navigation. When going to Marbella, just follow the A-7. If roads are really busy and you don’t mind spending the money, take the toll road AP-7. When we navigate in a new town, we just follow Google Maps and turn off toll roads so we can take the scenic and more affordable routes. You can rent a car or compare rates through RentalCars.com
Final Ideas for Things to do in Marbella
When visiting Marbella, a great way to really get a feel for local life is to take a tour with a local! The best way to start any trip is to take a tour to get your bearings, get a feel for the culture and to be introduced to the top attractions. Book this guided tour, to see Marbella is like a local. Being guided by a local is our favorite way to enjoy any city and the people of Marbella have a lust for life that is contagious. This tour is customizable, as you will join a local guide who has a passion for the city. You’ll get insider tips on the best restaurants, best beaches, and hidden gems to visit in Marbella. Check it out here.