The lively Spanish city of Marbella is one of the most popular hotspots on the Costa del Sol, and a terrific holiday destination, not least because it offers something for everyone. Cleverly combining a cosmopolitan appeal with a traditional feel, it offers plenty of culture, a lovely old town, wonderful food, super shopping, great beaches, and a terrific year-round climate - all elements that ought to ensure a great time, whether you visit as a couple, family or group of friends.

A two-day trip is a pretty good way to get a good feel for Marbella, as it should give you enough time to see everything the city has to offer, from laidback squares to lively neighbourhoods, chilled out dining to exciting nightlife.

Wander around the Old Town of Marbella, where quaint streets open onto vast plazas, with many bars and restaurants.

Wander around the Old Town of Marbella, where quaint streets open onto vast plazas, with many bars and restaurants.

But before we get going, it might be best to deal with a few potential misconceptions about Marbella, as plenty of people seem to have the wrong idea about the place. For starters it’s neither an over-developed concrete jungle nor a party town for the rich and famous. Sure it attracts its fair share of luxury yachts and flash Ferraris, but the well-heeled know a great spot when they see one, and with more than 320 days of sunshine a year, 16 miles of pristine beaches, spotlessly clean old and new towns (tirelessly maintained, just like those beaches), top-quality restaurants and nightlife, it’s no surprise the city has more than its share of admirers.

But you don’t need to rock up with a Rolex and a Rolls-Royce to enjoy Marbella. Here’s our guide on how to make the most of 48 hours in this wonderful holiday destination…

Day One: Morning

The best way to start a trip to Marbella - and this rule applies to most places, in my experience - is to hit the streets and explore it on foot.

Start your weekend in Marbella on foot, exploring the ancient cobbled streets of the Casco Antiguo, or Old Town, undisturbed by tourists to get a real feel for traditional Spain.

Start your weekend in Marbella on foot, exploring the ancient cobbled streets of the Casco Antiguo, or Old Town, undisturbed by tourists to get a real feel for traditional Spain.

The best streets on which to do so are the narrow, cobbled ones of the city’s Old Town or ‘Casco Antiguo’. Even though it’s near the centre of town and very near the city’s main street (the Avenida Ricardo Soriano), this lovely little area of colourful squares and flower-laden streets is (criminally) overlooked by many tourists - a fact that only adds to its hidden gem appeal.

Follow the signs to Casco Antiguo for a relaxed walk through quaint cobbled streets, lined with restaurants from which you can select a venue to stop off for dinner later in the day.

Follow the signs to Casco Antiguo for a relaxed walk through quaint cobbled streets, lined with restaurants from which you can select a venue to stop off for dinner later in the day.

The ancient streets are lined with elegant houses, boutique shops, quirky art galleries, cool cafés and trendy tapas bars, all orbiting Orange Square (‘Plaza de los Naranjos’), which is at the heart of the action. A traditional Andalucian square filled with orange trees and tropical plants, it’s the perfect place to stop for a coffee and watch the world go by. Better yet, go bar hopping and turn tapas-tasting into a makeshift lunch.

Fragrant Orange trees line the streets in the Andalucia region of Spain. The vibrant trees make the streets look so pretty.

Fragrant Orange trees line many of the streets in the Andalucia region of Spain. The vibrant trees make the streets look so pretty.

Day One: Afternoon

Your appetite hopefully sated, it’s now time for some culture, because Marbella is home to a surprisingly wide collection of museums and galleries, most notably the spanish Contemporary Engravings Museum, the only one of its kind in Spain.

Housed in a beautifully-kept 16th century building that was once a hospital, the 4,000-piece collection tells the story of Spanish engraving and graphic art from its earliest days, and also showcases work by artists, such as Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí. The latter never lived or worked in Marbella, yet the city is also home to a unique and fascinating collection of his bronze sculptures, which are spread out along the Avenida del Mar, a wide road that leads down to the seafront promenade, and are free for all to view.

Take a walk along the Avenida del Mar and check out all the bronze sculptures by Salvador Dali, which are free to view along this promenade.

Take a walk along the Avenida del Mar and check out all the bronze sculptures by Salvador Dali, which are free to view along this promenade.

There are more sculptures, as well as ceramics and photography exhibits, at the Art Wanson Gallery, located in Marbella Club Golf resort, but the main (pun alert!) draw is a number of significant works by the likes of Cézanne, Picasso, Chagall and Bacon. For something rather more off the wall, in every respect, check out the oil and archaeology exhibits at the Miraflores Cultural Centre.

Live the high life and check out some of the boutique designer shops in Puerto Banús.

Live the high life and check out some of the boutique designer shops in Puerto Banús.

Of course many visitors will require a shot of retail therapy during their time in Marbella, and while some of the pricier boutique shops in the city’s charming Old Town are galleries for most of us (look but don’t touch), it’s certainly a novelty to gasp at the price tags. You might even fancy treating yourself to a perfect new outfit or piece of jewellery.

There’s more upmarket shopping down the coast at Puerto Banús, where the designer-label stores include the likes of Armani, Versace and Vuitton, while more affordable shopping can be found at La Cañada, a shopping complex that’s just a short bus or taxi ride north of the city. Serious shoppers could probably spend a day here, as there are nearly 300 stores, as well as bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and a cinema, all under one roof.

Day One: Evening

Much like the culture versus shopping options above, I feel duty bound to offer alternatives here - a nice meal out or the chance to party at one or more of Marbella’s renowned selection of bars and clubs. More energetic readers will doubtless manage both, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Marbella is of course famed for its nightlife, and there’s a head-spinning selection of bars and clubs where you can enjoy as wild (and late) a night of drinking and dancing as you have the stamina for. Most are in the streets in and around the promenade of Paseo Maritimo and Alameda Park. A little further out of the city, the Golden Mile, which stretches out as far as Puerto Banús, plays host to some of the world’s top DJs every summer, and there’s a good chance you’ll spot a few shape-throwing (or ultra-cool) celebrities, from rock gods to soap stars.

Alameda Park provides shade and is a calm oasis when you need a break from the busy streets of the Old Town.

Alameda Park provides shade and is a calm oasis when you need a break from the busy streets of the Old Town.

For a rather more relaxed evening, finish the day where you began it in the Old Town, which is as lively as it is lovely to explore, and where you can choose from a range of great eateries, from pricey restaurants serving gourmet meals to relatively inexpensive tapas bars where you can eat and drink until the early hours.

Day Two: Morning

The morning’s activities will crucially depend on what option you chose the night before. If you were out partying until 8am, I rather think you can skip this bit - but let’s assume you were tucked up early and are ready to start the day by a reasonable hour. Because a great way to get going again, as well as to see the area, is a bracing walk or cycle ride (there are a number of places where you can rent bikes) out to the marina of Puerto Banús.

When you have finished wandering around the boutique shops and looking in awe at the expensive yachts in the Puerto Banús marina, take yourself down to the beach for some time to relax and take in the views,

When you have finished wandering around the boutique shops and looking in awe at the expensive yachts in the Puerto Banús marina, take yourself down to the beach for some time to relax and take in the views.

The easy five-mile journey takes about half an hour on a bike (around 90 minutes on foot), along a coastal path that runs alongside the Mediterranean, so you’ll be accompanied by terrific sea views all the way.

Your journey will take you to the rather more man-made attraction of Nueva Andalucia (New Andalucia), which is home to a range of upmarket hotels, casinos, apartments and golf courses. The millionaire’s playground - and people-watching paradise - of Puerto Banús raises the bar even further, with yachts and Ferraris - the chosen transport of the rich and famous who frequent the marina’s boutique shops and glamorous restaurants.

The Red Bulldog sculpture which sits close to the marina in Puerto Banús.

The Red Bulldog sculpture which sits close to the marina in Puerto Banús.

Day Two: Afternoon

After the exertions of the excursion (see what I did there?) to Puerto Banús, it’s only fair to reward yourself with a couple of hours chilling on the beach. Marbella has an amazing 23 beaches to choose from, but its main stretch of sand is Playa de la Fontanilla, which runs along the city centre’s southern edge, and works equally well whether you want to kick back and rent a sun lounger, or kick on and take part in one of the many water sports on offer. The beach also conveniently backs onto the Paseo Marítimo, which is lined with bars and restaurants should refreshments be required.

The Paseo Marítima is an endless, car-free boulevard stretching along the Marbella coastline, all the way towards Puerto Banús. It is lined beautifully with palm trees. Perfect for an afternoon stroll.

The Paseo Marítimo is an endless, car-free boulevard stretching along the Marbella coastline, all the way towards Puerto Banús. It is lined beautifully with palm trees. Perfect for an afternoon stroll.

Another lovely beach can be found at Playa de la Bajadilla, a little further east in Marbella’s old fishing quarter, where its idyllic arc of sand is lapped by calmer waters, making it especially popular with families.

Speaking of which, if you’re visiting as a family and need more than sandcastles to keep the children entertained, then Funny Beach Marbella, the region’s top water sports centre, could be the answer to your prayers. Dramatically modernised just over a year ago, here you can try everything, from tubing and jet-skiing to pedalo and banana boats, while other child-friendly options include (deep breath) go-karting, electric bikes and cars, amusement rides, trampolines, video games… Oh and food and drink outlets that serve the sort of meals that children love too.

You will be spoilt for choice with the amount of water sports on offer in Marbella.

You will be spoilt for choice with the amount of water sports on offer in Marbella.

Day Two: Evening

On the subject of food, I’d say the best way to round off the weekend, and bid your farewell to Marbella, is to sample some of the city’s fantastic seafood. You’ll find plenty of places and ways to do so, from those tapas bars and restaurants of the Old Town to cheery little chiringuitos at the beach, where you’ll find fish being cooked over an open fire.

You can't visit Spain without trying some of the local Tapas dishes. Tapas is a good way to try multiple dishes, without spending a fortune!

You can't visit Spain without trying some of the local Tapas dishes. Tapas is a good way to try multiple dishes, without spending a fortune!


Take that notion a step - well ten minutes’ worth of steps - further and head back out to the old fishing quarter of Playa de la Bajadilla. Here you’ll find arguably the city’s best-known seafood restaurant, Puerto Playa, which has tables out on the sand with great views out over the sea. Hopefully the perfect end to a perfect weekend…

The best way to end your day, and your time in Marbella, is an evening meal at a seafood restaurant, situated on the beach, watching the sun set.

The best way to end your day, and your time in Marbella, is an evening meal at a seafood restaurant, situated on the beach, watching the sun set.

If you would like to make Spain your next holiday destination, there are plenty of options. Click on the RCI Resort Directory button below to select your accommodation.

RESORT DIRECTORY

If you own timeshare, and have yet to get the real value out of your purchase by swapping your owned week for others around the world in different destinations, then you should take a look at joining RCI. RCI is the world's leading holiday exchange membership company and if you want to learn more about how you could be holidaying with your timeshare, click on the Join RCI button below.

JOIN RCI