In and Around Marbella

Puerto Banús

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When José Banús gave his name to the now famous port it was unlikely he envisaged it becoming one of the most famous marinas in Europe. Puerto Banús is synonymous with wealth, fashion, glamorous parties and the 'highlife & nightlife'. Its reputation is high-class and high-price-tag. The "place to be" and "to be seen", this is where the elite classes and would-be famous are to be found.

The area is lined with designer boutiques and restaurants, including well-known venues such as Trader Vic's and Salduba while other well venues such as the Marbella Club Hotel and Oliviá Valère's nightclub are just down the road. The marina is home to large expensive yachts and smaller pleasure craft alike, Shaf - King Fahd's boat is moored near the old tower and is a well known point of reference.

The marina is home to a plethora of restaurants and cafés, catering for all tastes from fine dining to burgers and fries. The marina's increased popularity has led to international chains such as TGI Friday's opening up, making it within the reach of most people to eat in Puerto Banús. In terms of leisure activities Puerto Banus is home to an Aquarium and a multi screen cinema showing films in English.

Apart from drinking a coffee while watching the coming and going of Ferrari's and Bentley's, the most popular pastime in Puerto Banús is probably shopping. It is definitely the "in" place to shop for designer labels with stores from Gianni Versace, Hermes, Ralph Lauren and DKNY. Many of the boutiques also stock several designers under one roof such as Mic Mac - Armani, Cerruti, Kenzo; Royal House - Valentino, Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin; and Exseption - Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabanna.

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If your budget doesn't stretch to haute couture there are plenty of other interesting shops including Neck & Neck and Jacardi (great kids clothes). The large 4 floor El Corte Ingles department store sells just about everything - a variety of designer names, it's own clothing lines, sports gear, shoes, home decor - you name it. While the new Marina Banus shopping centre is home to high street names such as Zara and Mango (both Spanish companies), which make a good bargain for tourists with their ranges being decidedly cheaper than in most other European countries.

Marbella

Marbella's motto is "A Way of Life" and, certainly, this luxurious resort town seems to have it all and is, once again, rising to the fore as a favourite location with the rich and famous, as well as more ordinary folk who are willing to pay just a little bit extra for southern Spain's answer to St Tropez.

Not too long ago, Marbella sharpened its image still more thanks to a considerable investment initiated by the town's colourful and controversial late mayor, Jesus Gil which resulted in a massive landscaping drive.

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But Marbella has a down to earth side as well, an air of individuality which can be best appreciated by exploring back streets in the old part of town. One of the prettiest places is the fabled 'Orange Square' which is located just off the main street in the older district and is also home to the 16th century town hall and tourist office where you can pick up a detailed map and visitor information.

Your visit might very well inspire you to consider living in Marbella, if so click here for an introduction to the neighbourhoods that make this such a charming place to live.

Back to Orange Square, or "La Plaza de los Naranjos", as it is called in Spanish, expect to meet with stately buildings, small shops, art galleries, bars and bistros and is a hub of activity day and night. And, depending on the time of year, the colours here can be vibrant, with the trees and exotic tropical plants set against a backdrop of dazzling white buildings and a deep blue sky.

Be sure to explore the honeycomb of surrounding narrow streets where homes and shops intermingle to create the atmosphere of a small village, rather than a cosmopolitan town. There are numerous excellent restaurants to choose from, ranging from those specialising in the predictably pricey exclusive cordon bleu to the gritty individuality of a backstreet Spanish bar where the Serrano ham is gently cured by tobacco smoke and the tapas are both tasty and filling.

Back towards the coast is the La Alameda park where you can book your personal horse and carriage to travel in style or, if you prefer, stroll on towards the sea along the Avenida del Mar. This is arguably one of the most delightful promenades on the costa, flanked by classy restaurants and bars and mercifully free of concrete skyscrapers, glass bottom boat trips, imported shells and I love .... T. Shirts that are fast bringing a sameness to coastal resorts, whether they be in Pathos, Cyprus or Portimao, Portugal.

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From Guadalalmina to Cabopino, the Marbella coastline stretches along some 26 kilometres of sunny beaches bathed by the Mediterranean and where you can enjoy traditional fish and seafood favourites like sardines on a spit, fried fish and the incomparable paella. There are also two large parks in Marbella which provide some welcome shade to spend some time with a book. The amphitheatre at Constitution Park (once the garden of a private residence) is frequently used for concerts and plays in the summer. Casinos, clubs and just about every sporting activity under the sun, few places can match Marbella for world class tennis, sailing and golf. There are also three pleasure craft harbours here.

However for the ultimate in coastal charisma it would be hard to beat Puerto Banus, just west of the town. This is the place to be pampered yachtside and watch the world go by or window shop at one of several of the world renowned fashion houses and boutiques. The port has grown considerably over the years and now includes a casino, commercial shopping centre, El Corte Ingles department store, marine observatory and a multi cinema with films shown in their original soundtrack. The nightlife is buzzing here with alfresco bars, piano clubs and discos which are open dusk until dawn.

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