With its enviable micro-climate, diverse beaches and stunning views across the Mediterranean Sea, it is not difficult to see why Marbella attracts so many tourists.
But, aside from daytime tanning sessions and traditional chiringuitos (typical beachside eatery or bar) serving tapas and tinto, Marbella boasts another string to its bow as a celebrity party hotspot.
Events such as the Marbella Luxury Weekend, which took place in Puerto Banús at the beginning of June, epitomise the affluence - and some may say, pretentiousness - that Marbella is so famous for. Walk along the port itself on a ‘normal’ day during summer and the extravagant yachts, boats and super cars will drown you in opulence.
Having been a top choice of holiday destination for celebrities over the years, Marbella is the place to be to catch sight of footballers and TV personalities. Peter Andre, Baywatch legend Pamela Anderson, and reality TV stars Abbie Holborn and Megan McKenna are just a few names to have graced the Marbella sands already this summer.
Glenn Ward, founder of Things2Do Marbella, said it’s “the nightlife and beach clubs” that attract people nowadays, as well as “the diversity of Marbella and the mix of nationalities”.
Talking about the type of ‘stars’ who tend to visit, he said, “In the 60s, 70s, and 80s we had royalty visiting Marbella almost, and true stars roaming the ports. We do still have a lot of this now but it’s generally overshadowed by the TOWIE wannabes; it’s become a Mecca for people who like to be extravagant (without class).”
It is difficult to talk about Marbella these days without some reference to TV shows such as TOWIE (The Only Way is Essex) and, more recently, Life on Marbs, cropping into the conversation. Of course, whether the perception of ‘Marbs’ that is generated from the publicity of such ‘celebrities’ is beneficial for the local community or not divides opinion.
Lina Hodgkins, Marketing Director for Linekers Group loves the tourists and “watching them have a great time”. She said: “I am sure it’s a mixed reaction from different residents, but without the tourists Marbella wouldn’t be what it is today; you only have to look at the winter months to realise how quiet it is here when there are no tourists.”
The 56-year-old looks forward to the summer months every year. Having lived on the Costa for 14 years after she “came on holiday and fell in love with Marbella”, Lina is a huge fan of the big opening parties and can’t wait to see the effort people make to dress up in line with the colour codes this summer.
“Although there are some extremely wealthy people living here and the port and boats make it extremely attractive for the rich and famous,” Lina doesn’t view Marbella as a millionaire’s paradise. In fact, it is the accessibility that she thinks is the main attraction for tourists these days.
“Marbella is accessible to all, regardless of wealth and background as all regional airports in the UK fly to Malaga these days,” she said.
Another real lover of summer in Marbella is Sandro Morelli, owner of Villa Tiberio on the Golden Mile, and he agrees that the tourists help to make it so special.
“The best industry in the world is the tourists - they come, go, are happy to be here and provide wealth for restaurants, hotels and shops,” he said. Sandro has welcomed the likes of Sean Connery, Prince Rainier of Monaco and the King of Saudi Arabia (among many others, photos of whom adorn the Tiberio walls) into his restaurant over the years and had television crew there earlier this month filming for an ITV show.
Splashing out in Marbs
Marbella attracts men and women of all ages, a lot of whom seem to save up a small fortune to splash out in ‘Marbs’, whether it be on golfing, beach clubs or exclusive opening parties. Louisa Garrett, 24, from Northern Ireland, has been to Marbella seven times over the past few years and admits that she can’t get enough of the bars, restaurants and, in particular, events such as the Ocean Club Champagne Spray. She said, “There is so much luxury and wealth which makes it great for people-watching and window-shopping!”
Kara Jaye, who owns The Boardwalk restaurant in Marbella with her twin sister, describes summer in Marbella as “showy, fabulous and trendy”. Why? “The lifestyle, the luxury and opulence, and most of all the chance to show off your wealth - this seems to be what most ‘millionaires’ come here for!”
Originally from London, the 32-year-old loves the “buzz” of summer in Marbella and this year she is particularly looking forward to a new “super club” that has just opened its doors in Puerto Banús.
She refers to Marbella as the “it” place in Spain, where competition is rife “to be better, richer and more successful than the rest”. And she wouldn’t change it if she could.
Love it or loathe it, there is no denying that Marbella is a headline-grabbing destination. And even more so during summer when tourists flock from all over the world with intentions to spend, spend, spend. Great news for local businesses...
From sun-worshippers and avid golfers, to hard-core party animals and celebrity stalkers, Marbella offers something for everyone - including the chance to live life on the red carpet, even just for a day or two.