Whilst staying in Malaga, we took a day trip by bus to Marbella. We bought tickets on the day and caught the 9.20am Avanza bus (€27.68 return for two).
Our only stop on the one-hour journey was at the airport. On arrival, we negotiated our way out of Marbella bus station and found ourselves heading south along Avenida del Trapiche: the bus station is around a 20-minute walk from the historic centre. The map from our 10-year-old Lonely Planet didn’t include the outskirts of Marbella, so we had to guess a little, but we eventually came to a bridge which dissected Parque Arroyo de la Represa. Here we intended to visit the Museo de Bonsai, but having climbed down into the park, we asked two workmen for directions and were told ‘finito’, ‘biblioteca’. Not a great start to our day.
Having walked around the park, we spotted green turtles in the water, some interesting trees and birds and signs about how the park was a green lung for the city which included a map of all Marbella’s green spaces. At the southern edge of the park, we saw the walls of the old castle and spotted a narrow alley with steps leading to Casco Antiguo or Old Town. At the top, we found Plaza del Sepulcro and a tourist office where our luck improved as were able to get an excellent map with a wider view of Marbella on one side and a more detailed one of the Casco Antiguo on the other.
We continued down Calle Viento and found Plaza de la Iglesia, a large, quiet, shaded square with citrus trees, a sculpture and the catholic church, Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación. A large group were just going into the church, so we stopped for a drink in the bar opposite, Maruja Limon, overlooking the square where a beer and a half litre of San Pellegrino cost €6.80. Having looked around the church with its ornate alter and beautiful high stained-glass windows which opened, we meandered our way through lovely narrow streets lined with painted wastepaper bins, butterfly sculptures floating high above and blue pots full of flowers, hung on walls. We made our way up to the busy Plaza de los Naranjos, the main square, with classy looking restaurants all around it. It was absolutely stunning and not at all what I had imagined Marbella would be like.
We continued on to Parque de la Alameda, a lovely park with lots of shade from the trees, a spectacular fountain (Fuente Virgin del Rocio) and beautiful tiled bench seats with different designs.
To get to the sea, we walked down the pedestrianised Avenida del Mar, famous for its series of 10 bronze sculptures by Salvador Dali down the middle which included: naked woman climbing a staircase; horse with people stumbling; Mercury; Perseus and Don Quixote seated.
Here on the coast, the peace and calm of the historic centre, was in total contrast with beaches full of people, boats moored in the harbour and restaurants all vying for trade, with one advertising 100 tapas at €1 each. Beauty outlets offered all forms of treatments designed to make you look young and beautiful. At the Hotel Amare, the small poolside was rammed but we spotted an empty double sun bed with drapes and a bottle of Moet et Chandon in an ice bucket with two glasses. This was the Marbella I had imagined, so we returned to the tranquillity of the old town for a late lunch.
We found a small bar with a few tables outside with only one set of customers, La Tasca de Santi on Plaza Jose Palomo. We ordered a bottle of rose, and chose calamares fritos and an ensalada salmon. With bread and water the bill came to €44.50. By the time we left, every table was taken. There was no seating inside what was a tiny place, and the loo was under the stairs which meant you had to be careful of bashing your head on rising.
By this time, the restaurants surrounding Plaza de los Naranjos were heaving, and the shops were closed for siesta time. We returned to Maruja Limon for a final drink, before heading back up the hill to catch the 5.05pm bus. Having walked back to the hotel, we had covered nearly 22,000 steps, but had an amazing day.