Marbella does swanky very well.
Beloved by the glitterati for decades, this Spanish resort town has a spectacular setting and a pristine Andalusian old town. It’s a far cry from the holiday resorts that blight the Costa del Sol.
For a touch of Mediterranean glamour spend a day in Marbella. But to make the most of your time there, it’s worth doing your homework before you visit.
The good news is that I have done the legwork for you. Read on to discover the best things to do in Marbella and the easiest way to get from Málaga to Marbella.
All that remains is to don those big sunglasses and a floppy hat.
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Where is Marbella in Spain?
Marbella sits on the southern coast of Spain between Málaga and Gibraltar. The so-called Diamond of the Costa del Sol is located in the province of Málaga in Andalusia.
Málaga is just under 30 miles northeast of Marbella.
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How to get from Málaga to Marbella
Let’s start by exploring your options for getting from Málaga to Marbella.
Bus to Marbella from Málaga
If you are not hiring a car, catching the bus from Málaga to Marbella is your best option.
The Málaga to Marbella bus service is operated by Avanza and runs frequently throughout the day. The journey time is between 45 minutes and 1 hour 35 minutes. Check the timetable to ensure that you don’t catch one of the slow services that also serve the resorts along the Costa del Sol.
When I took a day trip to Marbella from Málaga in 2023, the one-way fare is just shy of €7. Buy your ticket from the ticket office before boarding the bus. You can also buy your ticket online via the Avanza website.
Buying two one-way bus tickets is the same price as a return. Leave your options open and buy your return ticket from the ticket office at Marbella bus station when you are ready to head back to Málaga.
Where is the bus station in Málaga?
Málaga bus station is located at P.º de los Tilos, s/n, 29006 Málaga. This is close to Málalga’s main railway station (María Zambrano).
From Málaga’s Historic Centre it’s a 20-minute walk. If you are setting out from the Soho district it should only take you ten minutes on foot.
Where is the bus station in Marbella?
It should take you 25 – 30 minutes to walk from Marbella’s bus station to its Old Town and beach. Head straight out of the bus station, over the main highway and pick up signs for the Old Town / Historic Centre.
Going there, it’s downhill all the way. Coming back, it’s a steep uphill walk in places.
Can you get from Málalga airport to Marbella by bus?
The semi-indirect bus services between Málaga and Marbella also stop at Málaga airport. Check the timetable for further information.
The journey time is 40 – 45 minutes there are several departures each day.
Málaga to Marbella by train
As Marbella does not have a train station it is not possible to get from Málaga to Marbella by train.
The closest train station to Marbella is Fuengirola. If you are hell-bent on completing some of the journey by train, you could take the frequent C1 train from Málaga to Fuengirola and transfer onto a bus to complete your journey. However, as the bus service between Fuengirola and Marbella is not frequent, I don’t advise this.
Málaga to Marbella by car
If you have hired a car to explore the more inaccessible corners of Andalusia, why not use it to visit Marbella for the day?
Málaga and Marbella are connected by the main coastal highway, but check if any tolls will apply before setting out.
Also factor in the cost and ease of parking. Check out this guide for more information.
It should take you around an hour to drive between Marbella and Málaga.
Take an organised day trip from Málaga to Marbella
Finally, you can let someone else do the heavy lifting and book an organised day trip from Málaga. Another advantage of an escorted day trip is that it can allow you to see more than one location in a day.
>>> Click here to book a day trip to Mijas, Marbella & Puerto Banús From Málaga
A 1-Day Marbella Itinerary
Your Marbella itinerary starts in its Old Town and finishes at its picturesque seafront via a charming park and a clutch of Dalí sculptures. It will be a relaxed day with plenty of opportunities for wandering, eating and drinking.
Before we get going, here’s a map to help you on your way.
1. Explore Marbella’s Historic Centre
Get an early start. Start your day in Marbella’s charming Old Town before the tour groups descend. I arrived there shortly before 11 am and almost had the streets to myself.
Marbella has deep historical roots.
It was first settled by the Phoenicians in the 7th Century BC. Archaeological remains testify to the presence of a Roman settlement. During the 6th Century AD, the Arabs arrived in Spain and remained in Marbella for almost nine centuries.
Other than the Moorish fortress, little remains from these occupations.
Marbella’s Old Town is seductively appealing.
Blue ceramic flowerpots cling to the sides of whitewashed buildings that line its cobblestone streets, red geraniums providing splashes of vibrant colour. Elegant squares are lined with trees groaning with oranges.
I know that it’s an overused cliché, but one of the best things to do in Marbella is to wander around the narrow streets of its Old Town and see where your feet take you. That’s what I did.
But if you want a few pointers as to what to see, here is my pick of things to see in Marbella.
2. Visit Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnacion
The white and ochre bell tower of Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnacion rises over Marbella’s Old Town like a giant exclamation mark. Step inside to view this 17th Century church’s ornate Baroque altar and its 12th Century organ.
3. Stop for a coffee in Plaza de los Naranjos
Plaza de los Naranjos is the beating heart of Marbella’s Old Town.
A clue to its appeal lies in the name. Orange trees, bursting with vibrant fruit, provide shade for the restaurants lining this central square.
Orange Square was built after the Christian reconquest of the city in 1485. Although many of the Muslim buildings were destroyed by the Catholic monarchs to create more space, it is home to a handful of historic buildings of a later vintage. King amongst these is the Casa Consistorial de Marbella, built in the 16th Century, which is now home to the city’s town hall (Ayuntamiento).
4. Discover the most beautiful streets in Marbella Old Town
Narrow lanes of whitewashed buildings cluster in the streets around Plaza de Los Naranjos.
I’m a little reluctant to name-check these streets as I’m a firm believer in making your own discoveries when you travel. But if you were to twist my arm, these are the ones that would make my shortlist.
PRETTIEST STREETS IN MARBELLA OLD TOWN
- Calle Carmen
- Calle Nueva
- Calle Gloria
- Calle Caballeros
- Calle Montenebro
This labyrinth of streets, lined with gift shops and chi-chi boutiques, is a Mecca for shopaholics, even if your budget restricts you to window shopping.
5. Take time out in Parque de la Alameda
Located just outside the confines of Marbella Old Town, Parque de la Alameda (Alameda Park) is a surprisingly relaxed spot considering its busy surroundings.
There has been a park on this site since the 18th Century and its magnificent central fountain, known locally as La Pila, dates from 1762.
The park‘s lush greenery provides shade for its marble pavements and azulejos-clad benches. This natural canopy includes monkey-puzzle trees, Norfolk pines and rubber trees.
6. Check out the Dalí sculptures in Avenida del Mar
Salvador Dalí is one of the things for which Spain is best known, and it was a treat to be able to see some of his sculptures during my day in Marbella
Avenida del Mar, which links Alameda Park to Playa de la Venus, is an open-air gallery, showcasing bronze sculptures by the 20th-century surrealist.
7. Stoll along Paseo Maritimo
Paseo Maritimo, Marbella’s elegant seafront promenade, is less than a ten-minute walk from Plaza de los Naranjos.
Even if you don’t walk its 27-kilometre length – and who can blame you – strolling along its central section is a Marbella highlight. Time permitting, a more manageable stretch is that which links Marina La Bajadilla (Marbella’s traditional fishing port) with Puerto Banús.
There are epic sea views and on a clear day, you can see Gibraltar and the not-so-distant shores of northern Africa. As Paseo Maritimo is lined with bars and restaurants, this is also a good place to stop for lunch.
Is Marbella Worth Visiting?
It is worth spending a day in Marbella, one of the most gorgeous cities in Spain.
The climate is mild year-round – I visited in February and it was positively balmy – and it has an intact and pretty Old Town. Marbella has a striking natural backdrop, good beaches and a lovely seafront promenade.
Consider spending longer in Marbella if you want to explore more of its coastline, if you are a keen golfer or if you are a party animal. The city has a well-earned reputation for nightlife, particularly around Puerto Banús.
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Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.
Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.
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