Spain is rarely associated with glamour and luxury, but Marbella – the swankiest resort on Costa del Sol – tells a different story. Ideally located on the Mediterranean shore of Andalusia, between Malaga and the Strait of Gibraltar, and sheltered by the gentle slopes of Sierra Blanca, it’s no wonder its microclimate is often regarded as one of the best in the world. This enviable feature along with the rich cultural heritage and the outstanding natural setting has transformed Marbella into the perfect destination for wealthy vacationers.

These days, only its charming Casco Antiguo (Old Town), with its lovely Plaza de los Naranjos and quaint shopping boutiques, gives visitors a clue about its Moorish past. Outside this maze of narrow whitewashed streets, Marbella reveals itself in a different new light, in all its magnificent decadence: the streets become wider, the architecture more familiar to the eye, and the front-shops bigger and more sophisticated. Classy restaurants and ubiquitous cafes spill out onto the sidewalk and music fills the air as you get closer to the sun-dappled shore. Yet again, little has remained here from the once-upon-a-time white fishermen’s village.

Nowadays, glamorous beach clubs stand side by side with characterful chiringuitos and wooden boats where fishermen grill their freshly caught sardines; cheerful groups of loud senoritas share the sand with famous, well-heeled visitors; and children play in the same warm, blue waters of the Med where the state-of-the-art yachts of Arab millionaires shimmer in the distance.

All in all, Marbella is an eclectic, sophisticated mix of classes and types, of jet-setters, celebrities, and families that have been part of the community for generations. Not the same can be said about its newest addition, Puerto Banus. Established in 1970, this top-notch marina and shopping complex 6 km southwest of Marbella is one of the most luxurious spots along the Mediterranean Sea. Enjoying a wonderful seafront setting, with the Cordillera Penibética mountains on the background, this hub of luxury shopping, high-end restaurants, trendsetting nightlife, and big sleek yachts, gives St Tropez a run for its money.

What to See and Do in Marbella