10 September 2015

Marbella: An Insider's Guide

Allsun from Fluff and Fripperies at Ocean Club Marbella

Desperate for a bit of fun in the sun after our miserable Irish summer? Allsun has been holidaying in Marbella with family and friends every year for the past decade.  There truly is something to suit all tastes and as she loves the place to bits and knows it inside out, she's agreed to share her favourite spots.  

Favourite neighbourhoods:

Marbella Old Town (pictured above): A trip to Marbella would not be complete without a visit to the Casco Antiguo (Old Town).  It’s full of pretty, narrow cobbled streets, flower covered houses with ornate balconies and an atmosphere and pace of life that makes you forget you’re in the centre of Marbella. Plaza de Naranjos, or Orange Square, is a tree-lined square surrounded by cafes, bars and restaurants (and is great for lingering over a cocktail or two by night!).  The area is home to numerous artisan and craft shops, gourmet food shops and boutiques as well as the obligatory tourist shops. Not to be missed!

San Pedro: This is where we base ourselves for a ‘true slice’ of authentic Spain; San Pedro is  just a five-minute taxi ride from Puerto Banus but they’re worlds apart. Here the beaches are quieter but just as pretty, the prices are lower and, when walking through the streets of San Pedro, you really feel like you are one of the locals, immersed in the Spanish culture.

Puerto Banus: Puerto Banus is known as the playground of the rich and famous, with the summer months being one long party.  While it’s very popular with the TOWIE crowd, it’s still one of the most luxurious resort towns and boasts an endless supply of restaurants, bars, clubs and high-end designer shops. It might be a bit flash for some, but I could spend hours here people watching and ogling the huge yachts and fancy cars. It really is another world, but there's lots more to Marbs than this one spot.

Marbella Insider's Guide
Left: Paella at Chinales; right, crab at The Boardwalk
Where to eat:

The Orange Tree (Marbella Old Town): A beautiful little eatery in the heart of Orange Square.  I celebrated my birthday here this year with my sister and we were treated like royalty! Beautifully fresh and well-presented Mediterranean food is what they do best; you can’t beat the Prawns Pil Pil at this little gem

The Boardwalk (Marbella Promenade): This super stylish restaurant/café/bar is located right on Marbella Paseo Maritimo.  For dinner we like to sit outside facing the seafront, before heading inside for music and cocktails. They have an extensive menu, from salads, pasta, burgers and tapas; Emma loved the giant crab. This is a really friendly spot with lovely décor and good service in a prime location.

Restaurante Chinales (San Pedro):  Our holiday is not complete unless we eat here at least once.  The food is consistently great; seafood is their forte and the sole, john dory, turbot, and paella are all outstanding but my favourite is their special Sea Bass baked in a salt crust – try it and you will come back to thank me!

El Comercio (San Pedro): One of my all-time favourites, this place is a real authentic Spanish Restaurant and Tapas Bar.  It is one of the busiest typical Spanish tapas bars in Marbella, with a lovely interior, impressive menu and affordable pricing.  Outside is delightful in the summer and the tapas are all cooked fresh.  Try the pulpo a la Gallega (Galician style octopus), puntillitas (small squid) and queso frito con salsa de frambuesa which is fried cheese with raspberry sauce. The sangria is also obligatory!

Perfect Sunday afternoon: 
  • For a taste of sheer luxury far from the madding crowds, head for the famous Sunday Jazz Brunch at the Kempinski Bahia hotel (pictured above). This lovely, elegant five-star overlooks the ocean just outside the seaside village of Estepona, and welcomes residents, locals and visitors alike to enjoy a gourmet extravaganza complete with free-flowing Perrier Jouët champagne. It’s €100 per person for an afternoon to remember.
  • For a more casual, lazy Sunday afternoon in Marbella, head to Chiringuito, Kala Kalua, San Pedro. Chiringuitos are beachside bars and restaurants which look like little huts.  Kala Kalua is somewhere to go and totally chill.  It has the most amazing setting where you can sit right at the water and watch the waves break, while you enjoy a feast of traditional Spanish dishes.  They have “Paella Sunday” where they do a great deal for Paella and Sangria which is just delicious.  You can spend hours here just gazing into the sunset right over to the rock of Gibraltar, a little piece of heaven.
  • Feeling a little more active? Marbella’s sea promenade runs for over 17km from Marbella to San Pedro crossing Puerto Banus, which makes a great walk or cycle. For a little as €15.00 a day, you can hire a bike, helmet and a lock, and enjoy a really pleasurable afternoon seeing the sights. There are a number of places to hire a bike; we use http://www.marbellarentabike.com/

Mojitos at Ocean Club Marbella
Excellent mojitos at Ocean Bar - €18 a pop
Where to drink:

There are a ridiculous amount of bars and clubs to choose from; these are a few of my favourites:

Panega (Puerto Banus) is one of the most popular pre-club destinations, with a large, open-air terrace and plenty of space to mingle. It's also handily positioned on the marina front, and attracts many a yacht owner looking for the party. Panega has the most stunning views over the whole Marina; you really get that laid-back holiday vibe.

Olivia Valere (Marbella):  if it’s late night dancing you are looking for then this is the place for you. Sophistication is what this club is all about.  Beautiful surroundings, beautiful people and great DJ’s are the perfect match for a good auld boogie while on holidays.

The Hogan Stand (San Pedro): You can’t go anywhere without coming across your typical Irish Bar. The Hogan Stand is very popular with the Irish clientele and, with entertainment most nights of the summer, there’s plenty of craic agus ceol to be had.

Marbella Insider's Guide

Best Beaches and Beach Clubs

Chiringuito Guayaba Beach (San Pedro) is a fantastic chill-out beach that expands all the way over to Puerto Banus.  The beds are reasonably priced at €4.50 for the whole day.  They also offer lovely, reasonably priced food served right on the beach.  I love to dine with the sand between my toes!  I never leave this beach until late evening as you can spend the day relaxing with your book and cooling down with a dip in the sea.

Ocean Club Marbella (Puerto Banus) is where one goes to pose, spot TOWIE cast members and drink cocktails and champagne all day - but be warned, you’ll pay a pretty penny for the privilege! Beds need to be booked in advance and it gets pretty rowdy in the evening time; their champagne spray parties are legendary.  (That's Allsun at Ocean Club in the very top pic.)

Tramps Beach (Puerto Banus) is my go to beach when I want to go swimming in the ocean.  It is based around a little inlet where the sea is calm and the water is a little warmer.  The beds are €7.00 for the day which is great value as the beach is right beside Puerto Banus (so close to Ocean Club you can hear the music!) and they offer bar service on the beach. And there's great wifi!

Have you been to Marbella or would you like to? Is there anywhere you'd add to this list?

Check out our Insider's Guides to Dublin and London

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