The Marbella of today is a far cry from its origins that date back to arrival of Phoenician traders in the 7th century BC. Its history is rich in ancient cultures, with the Phoenicians, being just the first in a long line that includes the Romans, who dubbed it ‘Salduba’ (Salt City) and the Moors until it transformed itself into Europe’s sun-soaked playground in the 1960s.
In just a matter of 50 plus years, this once small fishing and farming village has metamorphosed from being a small fishing and farming village into a European paradise for the jet set with a uniquely mild climate that makes it a year-round pleasure resort
From Roman remains, including Roman baths and the Villa Romana de Rio Verde to the arrival of the Arabs in the 6th century, who changed its name to Marbil-la, the town has seen remarkable changes. The Plaza de los Naranjos in the heart of its picturesque Casco Antiguo (Old Town) was once a Moorish Medina, or market square, and in the grounds of the Hotel Fuerte lies the remains of a fortress, designed to protect the town from pirates, but which was destroyed by the French during the Peninsular War of 1808 -1814. They are reminders of earlier residents in whose steps we follow.
But it would be a foreign aristocrat who would profoundly turn the wheel of Marbella’s fortunes and its global image. In the 1940s, Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe stopped in Marbella due to a problem with his Roll Royce. While waiting for the repairs to his vehicle to be completed, he explored the small city and fell in love with it. He also decided it was the perfect location for hotels and residential complexes, so he bought land for commercial purposes, primarily on what is now known as the ‘Golden Mile’ but is more correctly called the Bulevar Principe Alfonso von Hohenlohe, named in honour of the man who almost singlehandedly created modern Marbella.
In 1954 he opened the doors of the now legendary Marbella Club Hotel and with a personal address book that contained the name of European royalty as well as Hollywood stars and political celebrities, he quickly managed to attract them all to this new location in southern Spain where they could enjoy a thoroughly modern form of discreet luxury delivered with timeless, aristocratic polish. With the help of Count Rudi von Schönburg, who managed the Marbella Club, the hotel, and Marbella, hosted a long list of famous names, including Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, as well as Prince Rainier III of Monaco and his wife, Princess Grace, the former actress Grace Kelly, and many more.
Prince Alfonso’s vision had a remarkable effect, and soon other high profile names made Marbella their playground. The arrival of Prince Fahd bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud in the 70s, former King and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, and his construction of a summer residence, the Mar-Mar Palace, which was modelled on the White House, as well as his brother Prince Salman’s Al Riyad palace nearby, brought even more focus on the city. The presence of royalty, plus the buzz that was being generated by the Marbella Club Hotel and also by its sister, the Puente Romano, ensured that the Golden Mile became not merely an address, but a globally famous destination.
Other famous Marbella residents include Sean Connery, most famous for his portrayal of the most suave spy in the world, James Bond. Singer Rod Stewart had a house here for many years, as did Formula One racing driver, James Hunt. Today, celebrities still head to Marbella and it is a favourite retreat of actress Elizabeth Hurley, tennis player Novak Djokovic and a host of Europe’s leading football players, including Cristiano Ronaldo. And, it is impossible to talk about the famous in Marbella with mentioning Antonio Banderas who owns a beachside residence here, as well as residences in his birth city of Málaga.
Given its international profile as a destination that provides a casual yet luxurious ambiance, it is only logical that Marbella’s finest properties are in harmony with the city’s evolution into a high quality resort with global appeal.As a result, Marbella has an extraordinary wealth of sensational residences and diversity in architectural styles that all blend with, and are enhanced by, the surrounding scenery.