Think of Marbella on the Costa del Sol and what comes to mind? A-list celebrities and the cast of TOWIE hanging out at exclusive beach bars, splashing the cash in designer boutiques and cruising the Med in outrageously luxurious yachts?

There’s certainly no denying that Marbella has acquired that reputation. But have you ever asked yourself why the rich and famous have chosen this particular Spanish location as their perfect party pad rather than, say, Torremolinos or Benidorm further up the coast? The reason is disarmingly simple: Marbella is gorgeous – in fact the name says it all: Marbella means ‘beautiful sea’ in Spanish.

A bit of history…

At the end of World War II, Marbella was a pretty little jasmine lined fishing village of 900 souls before it was ‘discovered’, quite by chance it seems, by Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, a Spanish/European royal who fell head over heels in love with the area.

Who knows whether it was the miles of golden beaches, endless sunshine, charming white painted fincas, beautiful countryside or tons of Mediterranean charm that did it. The fact is that he loved Marbella so much he opened the Marbella Club was a fitting venue to entertain his many friends who included international movie stars, members of the aristocracy and powerful business execs.

The touchpaper was lit and the rest, as they say, is history.

With money continuing to pour in through the postwar years, combined with a strong desire to develop tourist facilities for Europe’s social elite, the results are speaking for themselves. From the famous Golden Mile to the luxury marina at Puerto Banus, the superb nightlife, fantastic choice of restaurants, excellent beach facilities, wealth of luxury shops and much more, it’s no wonder that people now flock to Marbella to sample a slice of the good life.

Relax and enjoy your visit

Being perfectly blunt, most visitors to Marbella aren’t all that bothered about the history and culture of the place. Spain has plenty of other destinations for culture vultures – Barcelona, Seville, Granada immediately come to mind.

No, Marbella is all about having a well deserved rest from the stresses back home and feeling good about spending your hard earned cash in a beautiful Mediterranean location. Relax and have a holiday, let yourself be pampered, lie on the beach, sample fabulous food, party all night if you want, shop all day if you must, and just enjoy being here in the Mediterranean sunshine.

If you’re after the full Marbella experience, here are 5 things you should definitely include.

  1. Rent an amazing holiday villa

Travelling to Marbella wouldn’t feel right without the right kind of accommodation. This is not a place for budget hostels – if you truly want to experience how the other half lives, you need to book yourself a luxury pad, ideally with a pool!

amazing villas in marbella - 5 things you need for the full Marbella experience

Club together with a few mates and rent a 3-bed apartment on Marbella’s Golden Mile or in the heart of Puerto Banus from €1.500-€2.500 per week, a 2-bed penthouse at the Marbella Club from €2.500-€3.500 per week or a 4-bed villa with private pool from €3.500-€5.000 per week. Prices are open ended – all-out luxury is of course available, but you may need a footballer’s salary to afford it!

  1. Play golf on the world’s best courses

If you’re a golfer, Marbella is an obvious destination. As the capital of the Costa del Golf – there are more than 70 golf clubs on the Costa del Sol – it is home to some of the best golf courses in the world including Rio Real, La Cala Resort, Los Naranjos and El Paraiso.

With good weather virtually guaranteed all year round, golf courses designed by professionals, a vast choice of exclusive services on offer and spectacular scenery all around, it’s the perfect way to unwind and breathe in the Marbella magic.

  1. Party all night long with the stars

The nightlife in Marbella is legendary, but if you’re only here for a few days, there are really only two places you should visit. Nikki Beach is more than just a nightclub – it’s a Marbella institution. Frequented by national and international celebrities and located on the Marbella beach front, it’s an exclusive beach club by day. The place comes alive at night with world famous DJs playing funky house tunes and Latin rhythms all night long. Plus there’s additional entertainment from go-go dancers, acrobats and fire throwers and a whole lot more.

The original, classic beach club in Marbella, the famous Ocean Club Marbella is situated at the foot of Puerto Banus Beach, and it’s positively heaving with VIPs. The exclusive surroundings are a shrine to relaxing, partying and enjoying the best of the summer. There’s a central saltwater pool with extra large sunbeds to lounge around during the day, while DJs channel a relaxing summer chill ambience as the sun goes down and the party gets going. Ocean Club themed parties are famed for being glamorous and exciting – be there or be square!

marbella experience - 5 things you need for the full Marbella experience

  1. Discover fine dining Andalusian style

Gastronomy is one of Marbella’s must-have reasons for visiting. Frankly, why stick with tapas when you could be spoilt for choice with fine dining? Marbella has a choice of no less than 4 Michelin starred restaurants that are all worth a visit.

Skina is a small restaurant located in the historic centre of the city. It serves Andalusian style cuisine with avant garde inflections including the divine White Malaga Garlic with White Shrimp & Figs, and Malaga Cuttlefish with Dried Rice. Head to Dani Garcia and experience the 2-starred Michelin magic of his imaginative and innovative twist on Andalusian classics in elegant yet intimate surroundings. Watch the chefs in the open plan kitchen prepare delicacies such as Cherry Gazpacho, Malaga Suckling Goat and Gazpachuelo with Whiting & Sea Snails.

Surrounded by a beautiful lake and golf course boasting fabulous views, El Lago is a destination as well as a restaurant. There’s a ‘zero kilometre’ food philosophy that means all produce is sourced in the Malaga province and dishes to try include Tuna Tartar with Ajoblanco de Kimchi and Crisp Apple and Quinoa, and Shoulder of Suckling Lamb. At Messina, original culinary creations include Ceviche with Transparent Lime Peel and Fizzy Lime Juice Mousse, and Pan-Fried Tuna Terrine with Coconut Milk.

  1. Shop til you drop

If you like to indulge in some retail therapy while you’re on holiday on the Costa del Sol, you’ve definitely come to the right place.

In Puerto Banus, Marina Banus and Centro Plaza are good shopping centres but you’ll find most of the designer labels along Calle Ribera in the marina area. Exclusive boutiques to rival London’s Bond Street include haute couture from Dior, Gucci, Versace, Chloe, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste and too many others to mention.

If the budget doesn’t quite stretch to designer levels, El Corte Ingles is probably Spain’s best known department store, a bit like our John Lewis, and the one in Marbella is a flagship store.