Marbella for Beginners


Say Hola to his week’s guest blogger, Ana Carro!

Ana was born and raised in León, a city in northern Spain. In her late 20s she moved to Dublin, and during her years there she mastered the English language. 

These days Ana dedicates herself to teaching English to schoolchildren. She currently lives and works in Marbella on Spain’s Costa del Sol. Over to you Ana…

There is a side of Marbella that everybody knows. The rich and famous come to Marbella and have parties. They have boats in Puerto Banús and drink champagne after lunch in the beach club. Fair play to them. But, does Marbella have anything to offer to the ordinary tourist? I guess so, since it has plenty to offer to the ordinary worker, like me.

If you are fan of the colours of nature, Marbella has plenty. I recommend you get up early and go down to the beach to see the break of dawn. Even if you are facing the mountains you´ll get a rush when you see the pink and blue skies. It has put a smile on my face on my way to work, so imagine what it can do to you when you are on holiday.

sunrise in marbella

As a worker, I have to –guess what- work! But as a holiday maker, you have a wide choice of possibilities before you. What about walking or cycling to Puerto Banús? Seriously delightful.

cycle in marbella

You look to your left, the sea, to the right, the mountains and an abundance of trees and plants that you would think you are about to be trapped in a jungle (ok, I may be exaggerating, but man, there are trees in Marbella! And not your usual tree with the green leaves, you have the ones with the red flowers and the purple flowers, and the pink flowers… a festival for the eyes).

Or you can have a breakfast softly sunkissed on the dozens of terraces along the seafront. If you are the brave tourist who wishes to embrace the culture and mingle with the locals, don´t hesitate to try the delicious and healthy Andalusian breakfast (toasted baguette with oil and tomato if you like). Delicious. Yes, I´ve said it twice.

You may want to wander around the old city, which is my favourite part of Marbella. Whitewashed houses splashed with yet again, the luscious colours of plants and flowers. Fuchsia is the colour. Amazing. To this day I don´t know what street leads to what little square or alley, but I still love getting lost in the old town. Do not forget to visit it again in the afternoon light. And in the evening, when there isn´t so much light. And at night when there´s no natural light. You will always like it.

old town in marbella

If you like shopping, Marbella has lots of shops. I´d rather be walking about, enjoying beer and tapas, but I´m sure there´s time for everything. Now, if you want to have a flavour of real Marbella, there is a market on Mondays at the very unglamorous neighbourhood of Las Albarizas. There you can buy your fruit and veg, five pairs of knickers and a fake Prada handbag for a really good price. That must be the reason why it´s called ´El Barato´ (The Cheap). The market itself suffices for a sociological study. The shouting of the sellers in their stands is… how can I put it… As a Spanish person it’s equally embarrassing or charming, I guess it depends on the day… There you can see how Marbella also has other kinds of people. Workers, housewives, grandparents walking their grandchildren, the girls from the supermarket having their coffe and ciggy break, the tattooed man who´s been unemployed for the last 6 years and is now at the health centre complaining at how bad the health system is. If you can speak Spanish you can attend a free course on current affairs provided by the taxi drivers… Life as it is on a normal day.

I guess it´s lunchtime by now (remember you are in Spain, you are allowed to have lunch at 3pm). You have to try ´pescaíto frito´ (fried fish) and espetos de sardinas (sardine skewers). Eat that on a terrace, looking at the sea, with a warm breeze caressing your face (that happens even in December) and you´ll know what quality of life really means. If you´re not too much into Spanish food, don´t worry, Marbella has it all. Lots of people from different countries come here on holidays and that is what makes that a small place like this city has such a wide variety of restaurants.

fish in marbella

I was talking about colours, wasn´t I? Wait till dusk and be the witness of gorgeous sunsets. Yellow, orange, pink, red… Stunning. Breathtaking. Just great. And ready for the night. The bars and nightclubs multiply. But I stick to the little, unpretentious bar, with the non-commercial music and the lovely Moroccan terrace. It has a weird name ´Malasuerte´ (Badluck), but I´ve been very lucky to find it, because I´m not a fan of the fancy clubs or even the bars in the harbour.

Say you are not the type of tourist who wants to go from the beach to the restaurant and back. If you get tired from the daily non-rush life in Marbella, remember you are less than an hour away from Málaga. About an hour and a half from Tarifa. Ronda in the mountains is a gorgeous visit and you can do it in one day. You have Mijas at an approximately 40 minute drive, Castellar de La Frontera also an hour away, lots of white villages scattered around in the mountains, where you can also do some hill-walking. Not far from Marbella there is a beautiful place called Juanar. You can go for a walk, enjoy the magnificent views of the sea, far away, showing timidly between the mountains. Istán, another white village with views over  a beautiful reservoir is worth a visit, a great option if you want to be back for dinner time.

There is a chance you may like Marbella so much that you decide to move here. If so, you may wish to fill in your days like any other citizen rather than the eternal holiday-maker. There are many things you can do apart from the ones already mentioned. There are so many classes you can sign up to. From the popular Latino dance to the more sensual tango, passionate flamenco, sexy belly dancing and many more. Also, the city hall offers courses with a wide range of choice, such as drama, sewing classes, piano lessons, English (if you are reading this, don´t sign up for these ones) and lots more. You can do diving courses, learn how to sail, rock climbing… These are the ones I know of, there may be more. And of course, there´s always the gym, although I recommend the seafront, which I call the biggest outdoor gym in Marbella.

sand in marbella

When I first came to Marbella, I didn´t like it that much. I had a biased opinion about it, and I was reluctant to let myself enjoy it. Also, I knew it was going to be temporary, but I´ve had to work in Marbella a few more times, and the more I live in it and live it, the more I like it. I´m starting to understand why it´s the holiday destination of so many people and why there are so many foreigners settled in this colourful little paradise.

Thank you Ana for a highly informative and beautifully written piece!

See you next time readers,


Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee, home of the most comprehensive Spanish learning program for children ever to appear online

Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain with his two bilingual children. Loves it! More…

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