Southern Spanish star

Marbella waved goodbye to its fishing village roots decades ago – now this Costa del Sol goliath is home to 300,000 Spaniards and Brits, as well as one of the world’s highest concentrations of Rolls Royce cars. The glitz factor is high on the seafront Golden Mile, which throbs with bars and clubs. But there’s a traditional side too, in the calm oasis of the old town.

Sand that doesn’t stop

Marbella doesn't do anything by halves, and that’s certainly true of its beaches. You’ve got 24 of them streaking their way across a 25-kilometre stretch from Guadalmina to Las Chapas via Puerto Banus. They come with dark sand or pebbles. Most do a great line in watersports, and several are backed by shops and restaurants on the Paseo Maritimo walkway.

A charming old town

The whitewashed old town – or Casco Antiguo – is partly framed by 10th-century Moorish castle walls, a throwback to its Arab heritage. Narrow streets meander past flower-strewn balconies, leading you on through shady squares with orange trees, fountains and bustling cafés. On the way, there are historical sites, like the 16th-century Encarnación Church with its ornate interior.

Roman history and daytrips to Ronda

Marbella has plenty more history, thanks to the Romans who left their sandalled mark in the suburban San Pedro area. Here, you can visit their old baths and take in the ruins of the Rio Verde Roman Villa. For trips further afield – about an hour-and-a-half by bus – there’s Ronda, a city sliced in half by the dramatic Tajo Gorge. One side has the old town, the other a new quarter packed with smart shops and restaurants.

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