Marbella

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Marbella
Municipality

Flag

Seal
Location of the municipality of Marbella
Marbella is located in Andalusia
Marbella
Location in Andalusia
Marbella is located in Spain
Marbella
Location in Spain
Coordinates: 36°31′0″N 4°53′0″W / 36.51667°N 4.88333°W / 36.51667; -4.88333Coordinates: 36°31′0″N 4°53′0″W / 36.51667°N 4.88333°W / 36.51667; -4.88333
Country Spain
Autonomous community Andalusia
ProvinceMálaga
ComarcaCosta del Sol Occidental
Government
 • TypeMayor-council
 • BodyAyuntamiento de Marbella
 • MayorMaría Ángeles Muñoz Uriol (PP)
Area
 • Total114.3 km2 (44.1 sq mi)
 • Land114.3 km2 (44.1 sq mi)
 • Water0.00 km2 (0.00 sq mi)
Population (2012)
 • Total140,473
 • Density1,228/km2 (3,180/sq mi)
Time zoneCET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST)CEST (UTC+2)
Websitewww.marbella.es
 
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Marbella
Municipality

Flag

Seal
Location of the municipality of Marbella
Marbella is located in Andalusia
Marbella
Location in Andalusia
Marbella is located in Spain
Marbella
Location in Spain
Coordinates: 36°31′0″N 4°53′0″W / 36.51667°N 4.88333°W / 36.51667; -4.88333Coordinates: 36°31′0″N 4°53′0″W / 36.51667°N 4.88333°W / 36.51667; -4.88333
Country Spain
Autonomous community Andalusia
ProvinceMálaga
ComarcaCosta del Sol Occidental
Government
 • TypeMayor-council
 • BodyAyuntamiento de Marbella
 • MayorMaría Ángeles Muñoz Uriol (PP)
Area
 • Total114.3 km2 (44.1 sq mi)
 • Land114.3 km2 (44.1 sq mi)
 • Water0.00 km2 (0.00 sq mi)
Population (2012)
 • Total140,473
 • Density1,228/km2 (3,180/sq mi)
Time zoneCET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST)CEST (UTC+2)
Websitewww.marbella.es

Marbella is a city and municipality in southern Spain, belonging to the province of Málaga in the autonomous community of Andalusia. It is part of the region of the Costa del Sol and is the headquarters of the Association of Municipalities of the region; it is also the head of the judicial district that bears its name.

Marbella is situated on the Mediterranean Sea, between Málaga and the Gibraltar Strait, in the foothills of the Sierra Blanca. The municipality covers an area of 117 square kilometres (45 sq mi) crossed by highways on the coast, which are its main entrances.

In 2012 the population of the city was 140,473 inhabitants,[1] making it the second most populous municipality in the province of Málaga and the eighth in Andalusia. It is one of the most important tourist cities of the Costa del Sol and throughout most of the year is an international tourist attraction, due mainly to its climate and tourist infrastructure.

The city also has a significant archaeological heritage,[2] several museums[3][4] and performance spaces,[5] and a cultural calendar[6] with events ranging from reggae concerts[7] to opera performances.[8]

Geography[edit]

The Marbella municipality occupies a strip of land that extends along forty-four kilometres (27 miles) of coastline of the Penibético region, sheltered by the slopes of the coastal mountain range, which includes the Bermeja, Palmitera, Royal, White and Alpujata sub-ranges. Due to the proximity of the mountains to the coast, the city has a large gap between its north and south sides, thus providing views of the sea and mountain vistas from almost every part of the city. The coastline is heavily urbanised; most of the land not built up with golf courses has been developed with small residential areas. Map of Marbella. Marbella is bordered on the north by the municipalities of Istán and Ojén, on the northwest by Benahavís, on the west by Estepona and on the northeast by Mijas. The Mediterranean Sea lies to the south.

Topography[edit]

Dunes of Artola, the Sierra Blanca in the background

There are five geomorphological units: the Sierra Blanca, the Sierra Blanca piedmont (foothills), the lower hill country, the plains and the coastal dunes.[9] The Sierra Blanca is most centrally located in the province, looming over the old village. This mountain has three peaks: La Concha, located further west at 1,215 m above sea level, Juanar Cross, located eastward (within the municipality of Ojen) at 1,178 m above sea level, and the highest, Mount Lastonar, located between the two at 1,270 metres. Marbella's topography is characterised by extensive coastal plains formed from eroded mountains.[10] After the plain lies an area of higher elevations of between 100 and 400 m, occupied by low hills, behind which rise the foothills and steeper slopes of the mountains. The coast is generally low and sandy beaches that are more extensive further east, between the fishing port and the Cabopino. Despite the intense urbanisation of the coast, it still retains a natural area of dunes at the eastern end of town, the Artola Dunes (Dunas de Artola).

Hydrography[edit]

The La Concepción reservoir

The entire region lies within the Andalusian Mediterranean Basin. The rivers are short and have very steep banks, so that flash floods are common.[11] These include the Guadalmina, the Guadaiza, the Verde and the Rio Real, which provide most of the water supply. The irregularity of rainfall has resulted in intermittent rivers that often run dry in summer; most of the many streams that cross the city have been bridged. The La Concepción reservoir supplies the population with drinking water; apart from this there are other reservoirs like El Viejo and El Nuevo (the Old and the New) that irrigated the old agricultural colony of El Ángel, and Las Medranas and Llano de la Leche that watered the plantations of the colony of San Pedro de Alcántara.

Climate[edit]

Marbella is protected on its northern side by the coastal mountains of the Cordillera Penibética and so enjoys a microclimate with an average annual temperature of 18 °C (64 °F). The highest peaks of the mountains are occasionally covered with snow, which usually melts in a day or two. Average rainfall is 628 l/m while hours of sunshine average 2,900 annually.[12]

Flora and fauna[edit]

Playa de Cabopino (Cabopino beach) of the Dunas de Artola

Despite the pressure of urbanisation, remnants of the land in its natural state are still preserved in the mountains, where there are chestnut and cherry trees, reforested firs, Aleppo, Monterrey and maritime pines; pinyons, and ferns. The fauna is represented by golden eagles, Bonelli's eagles, short-toed eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, genets or musk cats, badgers, wild goats, deer, martens, foxes and rabbits.[13]

The coast has the Natural Monument site of the Dunas de Artola, one of the few protected natural beaches of the Costa del Sol, which contains marram grass, sea holly, sea daffodils and shrubs such as large-fruited juniper.[14] A highlight of the marine ecosystem of the sea around Marbella is the Posidonia oceanica, a plant endemic to the Mediterranean, found in the Cabopino area.[15]

Demographics[edit]

Marbella urbanisation: much of the population is dispersed in low density developments.

According to the census of the INE for 2011, Marbella had a population of 135,124 inhabitants,[16] which ranked it as the second most populous city in the province of Málaga and eighth in Andalusia after supplanting Cádiz in 2008.[17][18] Unlike other towns in the Costa del Sol, Marbella had a significant population before the population explosion caused by the tourist boom of the 1960s. The census counted about 10,000 people in 1950; population growth since has been as spectacular as that of neighboring towns. Between 1950 and 2001 the population grew by 897%, with the decade of the 1960s having the highest relative increase, at 141%. In 2001, only 26.2% of Marbella's population had been born there, 15.9% were foreign-born, and those born in other towns in Spain made up the difference. During the summer months the population of Marbella increases by 30% with the arrival of tourists and foreigners who have their second homes in the area.[19]

The population is concentrated in two main centres: Marbella and San Pedro Alcántara; the rest is scattered in many developments in the districts of Nueva Andalucia and Las Chapas, located along the coast and on the mountain slopes. According to a study by the Association of Municipalities of the Costa del Sol, based on the production of solid waste in 2003, Marbella had a population of about 246,000 inhabitants, almost twice that of the population census of 2008. From the estimated volume of municipal waste in 2010, the City calculates the population during the summer months at around 400,000 people, while official police sources estimated it at about 500,000, with a peak of up to 700,000 people.[citation needed]

Gentilic names[edit]

Traditionally the people of Marbella have been called "marbelleros" in popular language, and "marbellenses" in the liturgy; these names have appeared in dictionaries and encyclopedias. However, since the mid-fifties, Marbellan residents have been called "marbellís" or "marbellíes", the only gentilic, or demonym, that appears in the Diccionario de la Lengua Española (Dictionary of the Spanish Language) published by the Royal Spanish Academy.[20]

The use of "marbellí" as a gentilic was popularised by the writer and journalist Victor de la Serna (1896–1958), who wrote a series of documentary articles on "The Navy of Andalucía"; in his research he had come upon the Historia de Málaga y Su Provincia (History of Málaga and the Province) by Francisco Guillén Robles, who used the plural word "marbellíes" to designate the Muslim inhabitants of Marbella.[21]

History[edit]

Prehistory and antiquity[edit]

Remains of the Roman bridge of Marbella

Archaeological excavations have been made in the mountains around Marbella which point to human habitation in Paleolithic and Neolithic times. Some historians believe that the first settlement on the present site of Marbella was founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC, as they are known to have established several colonies on the coast of Málaga province. However, no remains have been found of any significant settlement, although some artefacts of Phoenician and later Carthaginian settlements have been unearthed in different parts of the municipality, as in the fields of Rio Real and Cerro Torrón.[22]

The existence of a Roman population centre in what is now the El Casco Antiguo (Old Town) is suggested by three Ionic capitals embedded in one section of the Murallas del Castillo (Moorish castle walls), the reused materials of a building from earlier times. Recent discoveries in La Calle Escuelas (School Street) and other remains scattered throughout the old town testify to a Roman occupation as well. West of the city on the grounds of the Hotel Puente Romano is a small 1st-century Roman Bridge over a stream.[23] This bridge was part of the ancient Via Augusta that linked Rome to Cádiz. There are ruins of other Roman settlements along the Verde and Guadalmina rivers: Villa Romana on the Rio Verde (Green River), the Roman baths at Guadalmina, and the ruins of a Roman villa and an early Byzantine basilica at Vega del Mar, built in the 3rd century and surrounded by a paleo-Christian necropolis, later used as a burial ground by the Visigoths. All of these further demonstrate a continued human presence in the area. In Roman times, the city was called Salduba (Salt City).[24]

Middle Ages[edit]

Moorish defensive walls of Marbella

During the period of Islamic rule, after the Normans lay waste to the coast of Málaga in the 10th century, the Caliphate of Córdoba fortified the coastline and built a string of several lighthouse towers along it. In the Umayyad fashion[25] they constructed a citadel, the Alcazaba, and a wall to protect the town,[26] which was made up of narrow streets and small buildings with large patios, the most notable buildings being the citadel and the mosque. The village was surrounded by orchards; its most famous crops were figs and mulberry trees for silkworm cultivation. The current name may have developed from the name the Arabs gave it: Marbil-la (ماربيا), which may in turn derive, according to some linguistic investigations, from a previous Iberian place name. The traveller Ibn Battuta characterised it as "a pretty little town in a fertile district."[27][28] During the time of the first kingdoms of Taifa, Marbil-la was disputed by the Taifas of Algeciras and of Málaga, eventually falling into the orbit of Málaga, which in turn later became part of the Nazarid Kingdom. In 1283 the sultan Marinid Abu Yusuf launched a campaign against the Kingdom of Granada. Peace between the Marinid dynasty and the Nasrid dynasty was achieved with the signing of the Treaty of Marbella on 6 May 1286, by which all the Marinid possessions in Al-Andalus were restored to the Nazarid sultan.[29]

Early modern age[edit]

Partial view of the main façade of the Casa del Corregidor, built in the 16th century in the Plaza de los Naranjos

On 11 June 1485 the town passed into the hands of the Crown of Castile without bloodshed. The Catholic Monarchs gave Marbella the title of city and capital of the region and made it a realengo (royal protectorate). The Plaza de los Naranjos was built along the lines of Castilian urban design about this time, and some of the historical buildings that surround it, as well. The Fuerte de San Luis de Marbella (Fort of San Luis) was built in 1554 by Charles V. The main door faced north and was protected by a moat with a drawbridge. Today, the ruins of the fort house a museum, and on the grounds are the Iglesia del Santo Cristo de la Vera Cruz (Church of the Holy Christ of the True Cross) and Ermita del Calvario (Calvary Chapel). Sugar cane was introduced to Marbella in 1644, the cultivation of which spread on the Málaga province coast,[30] resulting in the construction of numerous sugar mills, such as Trapiche del Prado de Marbella.

19th century

In 1828 Málaga businessman Manuel Heredia founded a company called La Concepción[31] to mine the magnetite iron ores[32] of the Sierra Blanca at nearby Ojén, due to the availability of charcoal made from the trees of the mountain slopes and water from the Verde River, as a ready supply of both was needed for the manufacture of iron. In 1832 the company built the first charcoal-fired blast furnace for non-military use in Spain;[33] these iron-smelting operations ultimately produced up to 75% of the country's cast iron. In 1860 the Marqués del Duero founded an agricultural colony, now the heart of San Pedro de Alcántara.[34] The dismantling of the iron industry based in the forges of El Angel and La Concepción occurred simultaneously, disrupting the local economy, as much of the population had to return to farming or fishing for a livelihood. This situation was compounded by the widespread crisis of traditional agriculture, and by the epidemic of phylloxera blight in the vineyards,[35] all of which accounted for Marbella's high unemployment, increase in poverty, and the starvation of many day labourers.

Marqués del Duero

The associated infrastructure built for the installation of the foundry of El Angel in 1871 by the British-owned Marbella Iron Ore Company[36] temporarily relieved the situation, and even made the city a destination for immigrants, increasing its population. However, the company did not survive the worldwide economic crisis of 1893, and closed its doors in that year due to the difficulty of finding a market for the magnetite iron ore removed from its mine.[37]

In the late 19th century, Marbella was a village composed of three parts: the main districts, the Barrio Alto or San Francisco, and the Barrio Nueveo. There were three smaller nuclei arranged around the old ironworks and the farm-model of the colony of San Pedro Alcántara, as well as isolated dwellings in orchards and farms. The general population was divided between a small group of oligarchs and the working people, the middle class being practically non-existent.

20th century[edit]

In the early decades of the century the first hotels were built: the El Comercial, which opened in 1918, and the Miramar, which opened its doors in 1926.[38] During the Second Republic, Marbella experienced major social changes driven by the mobilisation of contentious political parties. At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, Marbella and Casare suffered more anticlerical violence than the rest of the western part of Málaga province. Several religious buildings in the city were burned the day after the failed uprising that led to the Civil War, including the Church of St. Mary of the Incarnation and the Church of San Pedro Alcantara, of which only the walls were left standing.[39] Marbella was seized by the Nationalists with the aid of troops from Fascist Italy during the first months of the war, and became a haven for such prominent Nazis as Léon Degrelle and Wolfgang Jugler, and a favored getaway for the leisure and business of Falangist personalities like Jose Antonio Giron de Velasco[40] and Jose Banús, personal friends of the dictator Francisco Franco,[41] who were later responsible for the launching of urban development in Marbella in the 1960s. This urban expansion involved not only outsiders, but also local authorities and Nationalist leaders who had returned from exile, growth that came with the almost total opposition of the Republicans.[citation needed]

After World War II, Marbella was a small jasmine-lined village with only 900 inhabitants. Ricardo Soriano, Marquis of Ivanrey, moved to Marbella and popularised it among his rich and famous friends.[42] In 1943 he had acquired a country estate located between Marbella and San Pedro called El Rodeo, and later built a resort there called Venta y Albergues El Rodeo, beginning the development of tourism in Marbella.[43]

Soriano's nephew, Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, acquired another estate, Finca Santa Margarita, which in 1954 would become the Marbella Club, an international resort of movie stars, business executives and the nobility. Both these resorts would be frequented by members of European aristocratic families with well-recognised names: Bismarck, Rothschild, Thurn und Taxis, Metternich, de Mora y Aragon, de Salamanca or Thyssen-Bornemisza, transforming Marbella into a destination for the international jet set.[42]

Given Alfonso's maternal membership in Spain's titled aristocracy (his mother, María de la Piedad de Yturbe y Scholtz-Hersmendorff, was the Marquesa de Belvís de las Navas), and his paternal kinship to the royal courts of Europe, the hotel quickly proved to be popular with vacationing members of Europe's social elites for its casual but discreet luxury. Jaime de Mora y Aragón, a Spanish bon vivant and brother to Fabiola, Queen of the Belgians, as well as Adnan Khashoggi and Guenter Rottman, were frequent visitors.[44][45]

Typical was a gala held in August 1998 as a fundraiser at the Marbella Club for an AIDS relief NGO. Prince Alfonso presided, supported by the sons of his first marriage to Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, an Agnelli heiress who arrived with her own entourage; Princess Marie-Louise of Prussia (great-granddaughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II) who, with her husband Count Rudolf "Rudi" von SchönburgGlauchau, would eventually take over the Marbella Club Hotel from Prince Alfonso; and socialite Countess Gunilla von Bismarck.[46]

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia until his death was a frequent visitor to Marbella. His entourage used to spend up to 5 million euros a day in the city.

In 1974, Prince Fahd arrived in the city after having broken the bank at the Casino of Montecarlo.[47] Until his death in 2005, he was a frequent and profligate guest at Marbella, where his retinue of over a thousand people spending petro-dollars was welcomed,[48] including the then-anonymous Osama bin Laden who visited on a number of occasions with his family between 1977 and 1988.[49]

In the 1980s, Marbella continued to be a destination for the jet set. However, the city was cast in an unflattering light in 1987 when Melodie Nakachian, the daughter of local billionaire philanthropist Raymond Nakachian and the Korean singer Kimera was kidnapped, focusing international media scrutiny on the city.[50]

In 1991, the builder and president of Atlético Madrid, Jesús Gil y Gil was elected by a wide majority as mayor of Marbella for his own party, the Independent Liberal Group (GIL in Spanish), having promised to fight petty crime and the declining prestige associated with the region. He employed actor Sean Connery as an international spokesman for the city; Connery later ended this relationship after Gil used his image in an election campaign.

Luxury car parked in Puerto Banús

The city also experimented with extensive building activity under Gil's administration—critics complained that this construction was often performed without regard for the existing urban plan; consequently new development plans were suspended by the Andalusian government. Something of a maverick, Gil despised town-hall formalities, instead ruling from his office at the Club Financiero. Gil was strongly criticised by Spain's major parties, the (Spanish Socialist Workers' Party and the People's Party), but not enough voters were persuaded to oust him and Spanish celebrities continued to spend summers there. Gil's political party, GIL, extended to other Costa del Sol towns like Estepona and even across the Strait of Gibraltar to the Spanish North African cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

This period resulted in a reappraisal of the city's finances but also brought investigations of corruption. Jesús Gil was finally forced to resign in 2002 after being jailed for diverting public funds for Atlético. He was succeeded by Julián Muñoz, a former waiter well known for being romantically involved with singer Isabel Pantoja; more than one hundred trials for corruption followed. Muñoz was overthrown by his own party which then elected Marisol Yagüe, a former secretary, as the new mayor. Muñoz and Gil took part in a scandalous debate on television where each accused the other of having robbed public funds.[51]

The situation exploded in March 2006 when Yagüe was jailed as the city stood near bankruptcy. According to unsubstantiated testimony, Muñoz and Yagüe were puppets in the hands of Antonio Roca, a councilman who got the job after failing in private business and gathering substantial wealth while working as a public servant. While Yagüe was in jail, the city council was run by Tomás Reñones, a former Atlético Madrid football player, who ended up in jail as well. On April 8, 2006, the Spanish government decided to suspend the council, the first time such a course of action was taken in Spanish democracy.[52]

After a short period of interim government, municipal elections were held in May 2007. The People's Party (PP) gained a majority with 16 out of the total of 26 councilors. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) had 10 councilors, United Left (IU) had 1.[53] The Mayor is Maria Angeles Muñoz, leader of the People's Party in Marbella. In the municipal elections of May 2011 the PP won 15 seats, the PSOE 7, IU 2 with three independents elected.[54][55]

Landmarks and places of interest[edit]

Map of the old town with its main buildings

Old Town (Casco Antiguo)[edit]

The old town of Marbella includes the ancient city walls and the two historical suburbs of the city, the Barrio Alto, which extends north, and the Barrio Nuevo, located to the east. The ancient walled city retains nearly the same layout as in the 16th century. Here is the Plaza de los Naranjos, an example of Castilian Renaissance design, its plan laid out in the heart of Old Town after the Christian reconquest.[56] Around the square are arranged three remarkable buildings: the town hall, built in 1568 by the Catholic Monarchs in Renaissance style, the Mayor's house, which combines Gothic and Renaissance elements in its façade, with a roof of Mudejar style and fresco murals inside, and the Chapel of Santiago, the oldest religious building in the city, built earlier than the square and not aligned with it, believed to date from the 15th century. Other buildings of interest in the centre are the Church of Santa María de la Encarnación, built in the Baroque style starting in 1618, the Casa del Roque, and the remains of the Arabic castle and defensive walls; also in the Renaissance style are the Capilla de San Juan de Dios (Chapel of St. John of God), the Hospital Real de la Misericordia (Royal Hospital of Mercy) and the Hospital Bazán which now houses the Museum of Contemporary Spanish Engravings.

Ermita del Santo Cristo

One of the highlights of the Barrio Alto is the Ermita del Santo Cristo de la Vera Cruz (Hermitage of the Holy Christ of the True Cross), built in the 15th century and enlarged in the eighteenth century, which consists of a square tower with a roof covered by glazed ceramic tiles. The Barrio Alto is also known as the San Francisco neighborhood, after a Franciscan convent formerly located there. The so-called Nuevo Barrio (New Town), separated from the walled city by the Arroyo de la Represa, has no monumental buildings but retains its original layout and much of its character in the simple whitewashed houses with their tiled roofs and exposed wooden beams, orchards and small corrals.[57]

Historic Eixample[edit]

Constitution Park

Between the old town and the sea in the historic area known as Eixample, there is a small botanical garden on Paseo de la Alameda, and a garden with fountains and a collection of ten sculptures by Salvador Dalí on the Avenida del Mar, which connects the old town with the beach. To the west of this road, passing the Faro de Marbella, is Constitution Park, which houses the auditorium of the same name and the Skol Apartments, designed in the Modernist style by the Spanish architect Manuel Jaén Albaitero.

The Golden Mile of Nueva Andalucia[edit]

The Golden Mile is actually a stretch of four miles (6.4 km) between Marbella and Puerto Banús, on which are located some of the most luxurious residences in Marbella, such as the Palace of King Fahd, as well as some landmark hotels,[58] among them the Melia Don Pepe, the Hotel Marbella Club and the Puente Romano Hotel.

Nueva Andalucía is an area that was developed during the tourism boom of the 1960s, where may be found the ruins of the Roman villa by the Rio Verde,[59] and El Ángel, where the land of the old forge works was converted to an agricultural colony, and the Botanical Gardens of El Ángel with gardens of three different styles, dating from the 8th century.

San Pedro de Alcántara[edit]

At the heart of San Pedro de Alcántara are two industrial buildings of the 19th century: the Trapiche de Guadaiza and the sugar mill, which now houses the Ingenio Cultural Center. The 19th-century heritage of San Pedro is also represented by two buildings of colonial style, the parish Church and the Villa of San Luis, residence of the Marqués del Duero. Next to San Pedro, near the mouth of the river Guadalmina, are some of the most important archaeological sites in Marbella: the early Christian Basílica de Vega del Mar, the vaulted Roman baths of Las Bóvedas (the Domes) and the eponymous watch tower of Torre de Las Bóvedas.[60] The important archaeological site of Cerro Colorado is located near Benahavis; it features a chronologically complex stratigraphy that begins in the 4th century BC within a Mastieno (ancient Iberian ethnicity of the Tartessian confederation) area, then a town identified as Punic, and finally a Roman settlement. A series of domestic structures built behind the city walls, and corresponding to these different stages of occupation recorded in the archaeological sequence of the site, characterise the settlement as being fortified. A hoard of three pots filled with silver coins of mostly Hispano-Carthaginian origin, and numerous pieces of precious metalwork, along with clippings and silver ingots, all dating from the 3rd century BC were found here.[61]

District of Las Chapas[edit]

In the eastern part of the municipality in the district of Las Chapas is the site of Rio Real, situated on a promontory near the mouth of the river of the same name. Here traces of Phoenician habitation dating to the early 7th century BC were discovered in excavations made during an archaeological expedition led by Pedro Sánchez in 1998.[59][62] Bronze Age utensils including plates, carinated bowls, lamps and other ceramics of Phoenician and indigenous Iberian types have been found, as well as a few Greek examples. There are two ancient watchtowers, the Torre Río Real (Royal River Tower) and the Torre Ladrones (Tower of Thieves). Among the notable tourist attractions is the residential complex Ciudad Residencial Tiempo Libre (Residential Leisure City),[63] an architectural ensemble of the Modernist movement, which has been a registered property of Bien de Interés Cultural (Heritage of Cultural Interest) since 2006.

Beaches[edit]

The beach-front in Marbella

The 27 kilometres (17 miles) of coastline within the limits of Marbella is divided into twenty-four beaches with different features; however, due to expansion of the municipality, they are all now semi-urban. They generally have moderate surf, golden or dark sand ranging through fine, medium or coarse in texture, and some gravel. The occupancy rate is usually high to midrange, especially during the summer months, when tourist arrivals are highest. Amongst the various notable beaches are Artola beach, situated in the protected area of the Dunas de Artola, and Cabopino, one of the few nudist beaches in Marbella, near the port of Cabopino. The beaches of Venus and La Fontanilla are centrally located and very popular, and those of Puerto Banús and San Pedro Alcántara have been awarded the blue flag of the Foundation for Environmental Education[64] for compliance with its standards of water quality, safety, general services and environmental management.

Politics and administration[edit]

Political administration of the municipal government is run by the Ayuntamiento (City Hall), whose members are elected every four years. The electoral roll is composed of all residents registered in Marbella who are over age 18 and a citizen of Spain or one of the other member states of the European Union. The Spanish Law on the General Election sets the number of councilors elected according to the population of the municipality;[65] the Municipal Corporation of Marbella consists of 27 councilors.

From the first democratic elections after the adoption of the 1978 Spanish Constitution in 1979, and until 1991, all the mayors of Marbella were members of the El Partido Socialista Obrero Español (The Spanish Socialist Workers Party, or PSOE).[66] Between 1991 and 2006 Marbella was governed by the neo-conservative Grupo Independiente Liberal (Independent Liberal Group, or GIL), with Jesús Gil y Gil as its head, who after his arrival in office stayed in power by controversial methods. His style of government—characterised by "town planning on demand" for developers, market speculation, and predatory incursions on the environment,— led to accusations of corruption. In 1999 he was convicted of crimes of embezzlement of public funds and falsifying public documents.[67]

The Malaya Case[edit]

City Hall in Plaza de los Naranjos

After Jesús Gil, the mayoralty was occupied by Julián Muñoz, who was expelled from office by a vote of no confidence after he fired Juan Antonio Roca, a planning consultant. Julián Muñoz is involved in about a hundred pending court cases. In 2003, after the censure motion that ousted Julián Muñoz, the mayoral chair was won by Marisol Yague, who was prosecuted in 2006 for corruption and imprisoned, but later released on bail. That year, after other members of the city council were detained under corruption allegations, the Spanish Senate unanimously approved the report of the General Commission of Autonomous Communities and decreed the dissolution of the Marbella city councill, perhaps the most unusual such action to ever occur in modern Spain. The investigation, known as the Malaya case, has resulted in the detention of twenty-four persons and the seizure of goods worth 2.4 million euros.[68] Today the term "Marbellan urbanism" is synonymous with corruption in government[69] and its legacy of environmental destruction and overcrowding, as shown by the figure of 30,000 illegal homes built in the town, and the lack of significant educational and health infrastructure.

Since 2007, and for the first time in the history of Marbellan politics, the City Hall has been governed by the Popular Party.

Symbols[edit]

The design of the coat of arms and the flag used by Marbella city hall has been the subject of controversy. According to some sources, GIL changed these symbols without any consensus or heraldic rigor, nor had they been vetted by the Junta de Andalucía, so that different factions claim the rehabilitation of the shield granted by the Catholic Monarchs to the city in 1493 and official recognition of a flag designed in accordance with prevailing standards of vexillology.

Economy[edit]

The Hotel Don Pepe, designed by Eleuterio Población, opened in 1963

According to 2003 data, Marbella is amongst the municipalities ranking highest in household disposable income per capita in Andalusia, second to Mojácar and matched by four other municipalities, including its neighbor, Benahavís.

Its business sector consisted of 17,647 establishments in 2005, representing a total of 14.7% of the businesses in Malaga province, and showed greater dynamism than the provincial capital itself for growth over the period 1998-2004, when it grew 9% compared to the 2.4% growth rate of Málaga. Compared to the rest of Andalusia, the volume of production in Marbella is higher than that of most other municipalities with similar population, ranking even above the capitals of Almeria, Huelva and Jaen.

As in most cities of the Andalusian coast, Marbella's economy revolves around tertiary activities. The service sector accounts for 60% of employment, while trade accounts for almost 20%. The main branches of the service sector are hospitality, real estate and business services, which fact underscores the importance of tourism in the Marbella economy. Meanwhile, the construction, industrial and agriculture sectors account for 14.2%, 3.8% and 2.4% of employment respectively.

The number of business establishments in the service sector accounts for 87.5% of the total, those in construction account for 9.6%, and in industry, 2.9%. Of these companies, 89.5% have fewer than 5 employees and only 2.3% have a staff of at least 20 employees.

In 2008 a study by the Institute of Statistics of Andalusia (IEA) based on 14 variables (income, equipment, training, etc.), found Marbella was the Andalusian city with the best development of the general welfare and the highest quality of life. According to the results of the study, Marbella ranks highest in the number of private clinics, sports facilities and private schools.[70]

Transport[edit]

Port of Cabopino

Cities on the coast are accessible by bus from Marbella, including Málaga, Estepona, Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Gibraltar. The area is also served by the A7 motorway; the closest airport is Málaga-Costa Del Sol.

Marine shipping[edit]

The four ports of Marbella are primarily recreational; although both Puerto Banús and the Puerto de la Bajadilla are permitted to dock cruise ships, neither operates regular service to other ports. The port of Bajadilla is also home to the fishermen's guild of Marbella and is used for the transport of goods.

Rail[edit]

Marbella is the most populous municipality in the Iberian Peninsula without a railway station in its territory, and is the only Spanish city of over 100,000 inhabitants not served by rail.[71]

An infrastructure project is underway for the construction of the Corridor of Costa del Sol rail system to connect Nerja, Málaga and Algeciras, possibly to include a high speed railway, with several stops planned for Marbella. Until then the nearest station is near Fuengirola, 27 km (17 miles) distant, further away is Málaga Maria Zambrano, located in Málaga city, 57 km (35 miles) away, and Ronda Station, also 57 km (35 miles).

Intercity bus[edit]

Most intercity bus services are operated by CTSA-Portillo, communicating with major urban centres of the Costa del Sol, including Málaga and its airport, and nearby towns in the interior (Benahavis, Ojen, Ronda), as well as the Campo including Gibraltar (La Linea and Algeciras), some of the major cities of Andalusia (Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Jerez, Granada, Jaen, Seville and Úbeda)[72] and Mérida in Extremadura. The central bus station has connections to other domestic destinations, Madrid, and Barcelona.

Taxis[edit]

There are always plenty of taxis available from Malaga airport or from the different taxi ranks along the Costa del Sol, it is without doubt the most comfortable way of travelling to your holiday destination, most of these taxis are clean and non smoking.

Marbella is not formally integrated into the Metropolitan Transportation Consortium Málaga area.

Media[edit]

Given the ethnic diversity of the city, Marbella's newspapers and magazines are published in several European languages, among which are La Tribuna de Marbella (Spanish), and Costa del Sol Nachrichten (in German). In addition, Diario Sur (Spanish) or Southern Journal (in English) and La Opinión de Málaga (Spanish) have editorial offices in the city. Among the magazines with the largest circulation are those dedicated to fashion and lifestyle, such as Absolute Marbella, Essential Magazine, The European Magazine, Transform Magazine (all in English), and Das Aktuelle Spanienmagazin (in German). Golf Andalusia and Golf Spain magazines, monthly Spanish-English bilingual magazines with a total circulation of 45,000 copies, are distributed throughout Spain.

Marbella has several local television stations, such as M95 Television, Summer TV and South Coast Television, and several digital news dailies including the Voice of Marbella and Journal of Marbella.

Culture[edit]

Bronze sculpture by Salvador Dalí on Avenida del Mar

Besides the typical Andalusian cultural events, a variety of annual festivals are held in Marbella, mainly between June and October; other events are held sporadically. Festivals dedicated to music include the Marbella International Opera Festival held in August since 2001,[73] the Marbella Reggae Festival[74] in July, and the Marbella International Film Festival[75] in June at different locations around the city—amongst them the beach, aboard a boat or in Old Town. It also hosts the Marbella International Film Festival,[76] the Spanish Film Festival and the Festival of Independent Theatre.

To provide venues for these and other events, the city has cultural facilities both publicly and privately managed, such as the Auditorium of Constitution Park, the Ingenio Cultural Center, the Teatro Ciudad de Marbella or Black Box Theatre, among others. In addition, there is a music conservatory, a cinema club, and several movie theatres showing foreign films dubbed into Castilian.

The International Contemporary Art Fair I, also known as MARB ART, was held in Marbella in 2005, exhibiting works of photography, painting, sculpture and graphic design by over 500 artists; it has been held annually since at the Palace of Congresses. The following year the 2006 extension of the Ateneo de Málaga Marbella (Atheneum of Málaga Marbella) opened, dedicated to the development of artistic and cultural activities.

Amongst local cultural associations is the Cilniana Association, an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the heritage of Marbella and neighboring towns, which publishes its own magazine. Since 2009 the city has been home to Marbella University,[77] the first private university in the province of Málaga and the only one in Andalusia where classes are taught in English.

Hospital Bazán, the Museum of Engraving

Museums[edit]

Cuisine[edit]

The traditional cuisine of Marbella is that of the Malagueño coast and is based on seafood. The most typical dish is fried fish, using anchovies, mackerel, mullet or squid, amongst others. Gazpacho and garlic soup are very typical. Bakeries sell oil cakes, wine donuts, borrachuelos (aniseed rolls fried with a little wine and dipped into syrup), torrijas (similar to French toast) and churros (fritters). In addition to the traditional native cuisine, there are many restaurants in Marbella that serve food of the international, nouvelle, or fusion cuisines.[84]

Festivals[edit]

In June, the Fair and Fiesta of San Bernabe is celebrated to honour the patron saint of Marbella. For a week there are various activities and performances which are divided into two parts: Fair Day, which began in Old Town and is now held in the Avenida del Doctor Maíz Viñals, and Fair Night, which takes place in Arroyo Primero. In October the fair and festivals in honor of the patron saint of San Pedro Alcantara are celebrated, which also last a full week. The smaller Fair and Festivals of Nueva Andalucía celebrated in early October in Las Chapas and El Ángel are also popular.[85] Throughout the summer season (July to October) most barrios of Marbella have events organized by neighborhood associations to encourage cultural activities including: bullfights, musical performances, photo competitions and sporting events,. Among the best known associations are those of Santa Marta, Salto del Agua, Leganitos, Divina Pastora, Trapiche, Plaza de Toros and Miraflores. Other festivals and local celebrations include the Pilgrimages of Cruz de Juanar (May), La Virgen del Carmen (July), and La Virgen Madre (August), as well as the Día del Tostón (November), a traditional celebration which consists of going to the fields to roast chestnuts.[86]

Tourism[edit]

The city is especially popular with tourists from Northern Europe[87] (including the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany) and also Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.[88] Marbella is particularly noted for the presence of aristocrats, celebrities and wealthy people;[89] it is a popular destination for luxury yachts,[90] and increasingly so for cruise ships, which dock in its harbour.[91][92]

The area is popular with golfers and boaters, and there are many private estates and luxury hotels in the vicinity, including the Marbella Club Hotel. Marbella hosts a WTA tennis tournament on red clay, the Andalucia Tennis Experience.

Sights in or near Marbella include:

Notable residents[edit]

Media references[edit]

'Puerto Banús' is one of the main tourist sites of Marbella.

The short story Soñar un Crimen is set in Marbella. It details one of the infamous murders that occurred in the city.

Marbella was featured in the popular political thriller, Syriana. It was used as the location for a private party which an Arabian Emir hosts. Marbella was portrayed as an extremely affluent city with most cars at the entrance of the palace being very expensive. In the same year it appeared in Steven Spielberg's Munich in a very similar context.

In 2006, there was an international advertisement advertising Marbella as a tourist destination. The song on the advert is aptly called Marbella and is performed by singer Cristie.

Torrente 2: Misión en Marbella and the Finnish 1985 comedy film Uuno Epsanjassa is situated in Marbella.

Many other movies and TV programmes such as Nip/Tuck portray it as a playground for the rich.

ITV aired a TV programme in spring 2007 called Marbella Belles which portrays a series of British women who now live in Marbella with their rich partners.

Cast of Living On The Edge visit on the fourth episode of the first season.

It is also referenced in the stage play "Noises Off" by Michael Frayn. The character Phillip and his wife Belinda have been tax exiles in Spain. The character Gary thinks he and his guest are alone in the house, when he spots Phillip, and thinks he's a ghost. Gary: "Hold on a second, you're not from the other world!" Phillip: "Yes, yes, Marbella!"

Carlos Baute's song "Colgando en tus Manos" mentions him and his love vacationing in Marbella and Marta Sanchez sings this line in their duet version of the song.

The second half of series 2 of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet is set in Marbella.

The British TV show The Only Way Is Essex has filmed multiple times in Marbella, including the current series.

Twin towns - Sister cities[edit]

Marbella is twinned with:

See also[edit]

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External links[edit]