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Blue-yellow Puerto Banús. A.M.S.
The Swedish influence on Marbella's Puerto Banús
International Marbella

The Swedish influence on Marbella's Puerto Banús

This month, as Marbella enjoyed its annual fair, the local Swedish community was celebrating its national day as well as the more recent Midsommar festival. Since the mid-20th century Swedish residents have been leaving their mark on the Costa del Sol

Alekk M. Saanders

Marbella

Tuesday, 25 June 2024, 13:46

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This month both Sweden and Marbella have been celebrating. Marbella honours its patron Saint Bernabé on 11 June, while Sweden's National Day is held on 6 June. However, the most popular holiday for the Swedes took place last week; on 21 June, Swedes on the Costa del Sol celebrated Midsommar, to mark the arrival of summer.

The Swedish community on the Costa del Sol has been leaving its mark on the area since the mid-20th century. Sweden and Marbella go back a long way. Puerto Banús has several iconic locations favoured by the Swedish diaspora, which often become venues for festivities.

Centro Forestal Sueco (Swedish Forestry Centre) was the most popular gathering place for Swedes in Marbella for several decades.

Recreational centre

In the 1960s, the Swedish Forestry Agency found a recreational centre for its employees in the emerging Costa del Sol for international tourism. The large estate on the Golden Mile was perfect for privacy and relaxation and retreat. Private rooms, a gym and a swimming pool allowed visitors to forget about their working days in their native Sweden.

The Centro Forestal Sueco on the Golden Mile allowed visitors to forget about their working days in their native Sweden

Over time, Centro Forestal Sueco became a key part of the Swedish community, not only in Marbella, but all along the Costa del Sol. Over the years, various events have been held here, including the traditional National Day celebrations. Incidentally, one of them was attended by Prince and Princess Carl and Kristine Bernadotte. The centre's former director Birgit Gumaelius even received the Royal Patriotic Society's medal for long years of work. In 2015, the keys to the Swedish complex were handed over to British investors to create a luxury hotel.

'La Sueca de Marbella'

In the 60s, 70s and 80s, Marbella was at the height of its splendour. A representative of Marbella's ‘golden era’ was Margit Ohlson, dubbed La Sueca de Marbella. She was described as a quiet Swedish woman, a model by profession, but her long and much-photographed marriage to Jaime de Mora made her a Costa del Sol celebrity.

Her husband was a significant populariser of glamorous Marbella. Many people still remember Margit Ohlson sitting in the corner of Antonio's restaurant in Puerto Banús with Jaime de Mora with his monocle, chains and a walking stick, thus becoming a magnet for passers-by who took photos of Marbella's famous couple.

Margit Olson passed away five years ago, and it is believed that with her the last or penultimate relic of Marbella's golden age was extinguished.

Restaurant

When talking about restaurants in Puerto Banús, Los Bandidos cannot be left out, especially since this restaurant has always been known as sueco. This is no coincidence… the iconic harbour front restaurant was founded by Jill Lindberg.

After graduating from university in Sweden, where Jill studied political science, the lady moved to Marbella, which then was at the height of the jet set era. As Jill said in one of her interviews, she always wanted to open a small café serving traditional Swedish sandwiches and pastries.

After managing several culinary establishments in Marbella, in 1986 Jill Lindberg opened Los Bandidos, which quickly became a resounding success thanks to her innovative menu ideas combining family recipes, including the popular Swedish-style lobster salad.

Swedish school

Marbella has a Swedish school, which opened in 2003. The current school building is located in a residential area called La Alzambra with a spacious garden, swimming pool, football pitch and playground, just a ten-minute walk from the centre of Puerto Banús. The school has a capacity of 150 children.

The advantage of the school lies in its small size, which is presented as the ‘school greatness’. Each child here is known by name and is monitored individually.

Swedish flavour

Swedish presence in Marbella is growing. Among the fairly new establishments in Marbella, is Spisa. This bakery, located in Nueva Andalucía, just a stone’s throw from Puerto Banús, produces a taste of Sweden, allowing everyone to try Swedish breads, pastries and sandwiches. Additionally, this is a venue for after-work gatherings. Despite the fact that it has an English name, after-work get-togethers are actually a great Swedish tradition.

Golf club

The Swedish are traditionally good at golf and so it is no surprise that one of the golf clubs in Marbella is owned by a Swede. Los Naranjos Golf Club has a long history. It is believed that Jose Banús, when he was building Puerto Banús, wanted to have a real championship golf course on its doorstep for tournaments. Renowned golf architect Robert Trent Jones brought the championship layout and classic design to life on 70 hectares of land with a riverbed running through a field of orange trees. The site quickly became world famous. In 1989, the course was sold to Swedish businessman Percy Nilsson. Incidentally, the ambassadors of the golf club in Marbella are also Swedes - Jon Olsson, a former freeskier and alpine ski racer, and Peter Hanson, a former professional golfer.

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