Marbella is in the foothills of the Sierra Blanca, on the Mediterranean coast between Málaga and the Strait of Gibraltar. It has a rich archaeological heritage and boasts several museums as well as a cultural calendar that includes everything from reggae to opera.
Archaeological artefacts found in the surrounding hills point to Palaeolithic and Neolithic habitation but most importantly, findings indicate that there was a civilisation on the present day site founded by the Phoenicians, otherwise known as the Canaanites, as far back as the 7th century BC. It is unfortunate that although artefacts of this civilisation have been found there are no remains of any Phoenician settlement here.
Evidence of a Roman centre can be explored in El Casco Antiquo or Old Town embedded in the Moorish castle walls. In the grounds of the Hotel Puente Romano, one can still see a 1st-century bridge which was at one time part of the ancient Via Augusta, the road that linked Rome and Cadiz. In the time of the Romans, the city was named Salduba (Salt City).
After the Normans had laid waste the entire coastline around Marbella the Moors fortified it and constructed a citadel, the Alcazaba as well as the wall surrounding the town itself. As mulberries flourished in the area so did silkworm cultivation and the production of silk.
During the 15 and early 16 centuries, the Plaza de Los Naranjos and many other buildings in the Old Town were built and Marbella became the capital of the region.
With the discovery of iron ore, early in the 19th century, industry in Marbella began in earnest, until later the same century the dismantling of the industry meant that many had to eke out a living from the land.
Aerial view of Marbella with its soccer field and bull ring
Tourism began in the early part of the 20th century with the building of El Comercial in 1918 and the Miramar hotel in 1926, but tourism really got going in the 1940s and when Ricardo Soriano, Marquis of Ivanrey built a resort which he named Venta y Albergues El Rodeo and so Marbella became a playground for the rich elite of the time.
Marbella was seized by the Nationalists, under Franco in the very early stages of the war and Under Franco, the Marbella Club was built creating a luxury get-away destination for film stars and many famous personalities such as Bismarck, Rothschild, and Metternich. Later after the addition of Puerto Banus, Marbella became the holiday choice of Prince Rainier of Monaco and his wife Grace Kelly and Aga Khan IV.
It was under the dubious patronage of the Mayor Jesus Gil y Gil that the town of Marbella lost its illust lustrious visitors and became a safe haven for gangsters from all over the world, until, in 2006, steps were taken to rid the area of corruption and gangsterism.
Under the good auspices of Mayor Muñoz, Marbella has once again become a much sought after holiday destination that offers top class restaurants, nightclubs, cultural activities, as well as cycling and hiking trails, in fact, all that goes to make the very best of holidays.