12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Marbella
Marbella's picture-postcard beauty is almost too polished to be true. This tidy and fashionable town stands out among the seaside resorts of the Costa del Sol. Palm-trimmed promenades, posh beach clubs, and exclusive golf courses cater to an upscale clientele. Yet everyone will enjoy the sandy beaches and the quaint historic center (Casco Antiguo). Historic Marbella is an enchanting old Moorish town full of charming whitewashed houses, cobblestone streets, and shady trees. Many of the old buildings are adorned with ironwork balconies and dripping with vibrant bougainvillea. The Plaza de los Naranjos blossoms with fragrant orange trees in springtime, reminiscent of the Moors' homeland in North Africa. It's worth exploring Marbella's town squares, historic landmarks, art museums, and boutiques, to balance time spent sunbathing and relaxing at the beach.
See also: Where to Stay in Marbella
1 Plaza de los Naranjos
In Marbella's charming Old Town (Casco Antiguo), the Plaza de los Naranjos was built after the Christian Reconquest in the area that was a center of urban life. This beautiful town square has become the heart of Marbella, where locals and tourists socialize and relax. A group of orange trees is planted in the middle of the square, like a small orchard, and during springtime, the fragrance is heavenly. The plaza is lined with restaurants that have outdoor seating arranged in the middle of the square under the shady trees. Two important historic landmarks are found on the Plaza de los Naranjos. The town hall, also called the Consistorial House, was built in 1572 and enhanced in the 17th century. With its balconied facade, the building exemplifies Spanish style architecture. The oldest parish church in Marbella, the 16th-century Ermita de Santiago (Santiago Hermitage) also stands on the Plaza de los Naranjos. This small, simple whitewashed church possesses a noteworthy contemporary sculpture of Saint James the Apostle. A nearby attraction for gourmands is the Michelin-starred Skina Restaurant, a few blocks away from Plaza de los Naranjos at 12 Calle Aduar.
2 Spanish Contemporary Engravings Museum
This renowned art museum is another top attraction in Marbella's Old Town. The museum occupies the Bazán Hospital, an elegant Renaissance Gothic-Mudéjar building founded in the 16th century and registered as a protected historic monument. The only museum of its kind in Spain, the Spanish Contemporary Engravings Museum is devoted to the preservation and exhibition of contemporary engravings and Spanish graphic artwork from the 20th and 21st century. The museum has an extensive collection of more than 4,000 art works. Artists represented in the permanent collection include Goya, Picasso, Miró, and Dalí. Temporary exhibitions, organized in coordination with other major museums in Spain, are held frequently at the museum.
Address: Calle Hospital Bazán
3 Stylish Beaches
Marbella's name means "Beautiful Sea," and the town lives up to this moniker with fine sandy beaches. Several excellent choices are within a short walk of the historic center of Marbella. All the public beaches have restroom facilities and lifeguards on duty during summer. The Playa Fontanilla is the closest beach to the city center of Marbella, just a short walk from the Old Town. This popular beach extends for 1,000 meters and has a promenade with restaurants and shops. The Playa Real de Zaragoza is a favorite beach known for its chiringuito (snack bars) and trendy restaurants. Close to Puerto Banús, the Playa de Alicante is a long stretch of sandy shore with beachside restaurants; beach chair and parasol rentals are also available. The beaches of Marbella continue past Puerto Banús for several kilometers; in this area, the Guadalmina beach, Linda Vista beach, and San Pedro Alcántara are ideal for families. These sandy beaches are rated as "Blue Flag" beaches because of their calm, safe waters, ideal for wading and swimming.
4 Puerto Banús and its Waterfront Restaurants
About 10 kilometers from the Old Town, Puerto Banús is the most famous and fashionable marina in Marbella. This glitzy scene is where the jet-setting crowd comes to see and be seen. Stylish restaurants and upscale boutiques line the waterfront. The restaurants have outdoor terraces for the perfect seaside ambience; diners savor the delicious cuisine while watching luxury yachts bob up and down in the harbor. With 915 berths for yachts and other boats, Puerto Banús is considered the best yacht marina in Spain. The marina also offers nautical services and water sports facilities. The beaches around Puerto Banús are equally chic, with beach clubs, sunbathing rentals, and seafront restaurants.
Address: Puerto José Banús, Muelle de Honor, Marbella
5 Plaza de Altamirano
Tucked away in a quiet corner of the Casco Antiguo, the Plaza de Altamirano captures the historic ambience of the Old Town. This lovely cobblestone square is filled with leafy palm trees and old-fashioned street lamps. The quaint old buildings feature classic ironwork balconies and are trimmed with climbing plants and blossoming purple bougainvillea. Tourists will enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants with courtyard or outdoor terrace seating. An interesting tourist attraction on the square is the Archeological Collection housed in the Department of Culture's central office, a renovated 16th-century building. The collection includes archeological discoveries found in the Marbella city center and its surroundings such as at the Alcazaba, Roman Baths, Río Verde's Roman Villa, and the Vega del Mar Paleochristian Basilica.
6 Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación
The Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación (Church of the Incarnation) is the most important church in Marbella's Old Town. Built in the 16th-century by the Catholic Monarchs, the church stands on the site of the former Mosque of Marbella. It was common practice in 16th-century Andalusia to replace the mosques with new churches. The building features a spacious basilica plan with a barrel-vaulted central nave and a semicircular apse with Corinthian columns. A distinguishing feature of the facade, the main door is exquisitely carved from ochre stone in Rococo style, an 18th-century enhancement. The sanctuary boasts a Sol Mayor Organ, considered the finest type of modern organ built in Spain.
Nearby is another historic church, the Capilla de San Juan on Calle Caridad. This Mudéjar (Moorish Christian style) chapel was part of a hospital built by the Spanish Monarchs in the 16th century.
Address: Plaza de la Iglesia, Marbella
7 Avenue del Mar and the Dali Statues
A must-see sight for lovers of Surreal art, the Avenue del Mar in the Old Town features a permanent exhibition of Salvador Dali's imaginative bronze statues. The pedestrian avenue is in an area where prominent residents once came to show off their decorated carriages. In the 1990s, the space was converted into a modern promenade but is still a popular gathering place for locals and visitors.
8 Museo Ralli
Between Puerto Banús and Marbella's old town, the Museo Ralli is a worthwhile excursion (about a 10-minute drive away). The Ralli Museum, which opened in 2000, is housed in a completely renovated building with 10 spacious exhibition rooms. This museum is part of the Ralli Museums, a group with other branches in Punta del Este, Uruguay; Santiago, Chile; and Caesarea near Haifa in Israel. The Ralli Museums boast one of the world's best collections of Latin American art. At the Marbella Museo Ralli, visitors will discover an extensive collection of works by contemporary artists from a variety of Latin American countries. The paintings on display reflect the influence of the great European masters.
Address: Urb. Coral Beach, Marbella
9 Alcazaba: Ruins of a Moorish Castle
The Alcazaba represents the remains of Marbella's old Moorish castle and its impressive fortifications, which once surrounded the town. This castle fortress is an important relic of the Muslim civilization of Marbella. Within the building are embedded Roman capitals repurposed from ancient buildings. The defense walls date to the 10th and 11th centuries. The towers and other remnants of the building are also from the Moorish Caliphal period (from the 10th to the 11th centuries). Tourists can also attend outdoor concerts and cultural events held here during summer.
Address: Calles de Portada, Marbella
10 The Franciscan Convent Church of Santo Cristo
Another historic church in the Old Town, the Iglesia del Santo Cristo was built in the 16th century as part of a Franciscan convent. The church facade features stone details and an octagonal glazed-ceramic tile roof. The interior is a humble space with a single nave and Andalusian-style decor.
Address: Plaza del Santo Cristo (Calle Ancha)
11 Mezquita del Rey Abdul Aziz al Saud (Marbella Mosque)
The Marbella Mosque was the first Mosque built since the Christian Reconquest of Spain in the 15th century. It was built by Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia and is a splendid example of modern Andalusian architecture inspired by the Moorish heritage. The mosque is surrounded by Mediterranean gardens and contains a library collection of 30,000 volumes, focusing on Koranic studies.
Address: Las Lomas de Marbella, Marbella
12 Paseo del Alameda: An Elegant 18th-Century Park
Filled with lush vegetation, leafy palms, and shady pine trees, the Alameda Park is a pleasant public space in the Old Town that joins the Alameda del Mar and the Paseo Marítimo along the seafront. This lovely 18th-century park features a main promenade, decorative benches, and fountains. Locals and tourists alike enjoy this refreshing green space on warm sunny days. It's also a wonderful area for a leisurely stroll.
Where to Stay in Marbella for Sightseeing
We recommend these great hotels in Marbella near the old town and beautiful beaches:
- Marbella Club Hotel: luxury beachfront resort, Golden Mile location, multiple restaurants, beach club with saltwater pool, kids club, golf and tennis, wellness spa.
- Hotel Claude Marbella: upscale boutique hotel, old town location, 17th-century townhouse, home-away-from-home, delicious breakfast.
- La Villa Marbella: mid-range pricing, heart of the old town, Asian decor, charming and intimate, small outdoor pool.
- Hotel San Cristobal: budget-friendly rates, modern hotel, short walk to old town and beach, friendly staff.