When it was ‘discovered’ as an idyllic spot on the European map back in the 1950s, and subsequently became the darling of well-to-do visitors from around the world, Marbella was little more than a humble fishing village on Spain’s southern Mediterranean coast. The good fortune of being located in a particularly attractive part of this sunny coastline has gradually transformed Marbella into the lively modern resort town it is today.
It is exactly the convenient location and pleasant microclimate that has fascinated a privileged clientele. Enchanted by the climate, beauty and views over both mountain scenery and the Mediterranean Sea, Ricardo Soriano Scholtz von Hermensdorff, the Marques of Ivanrey, bought a large country estate between Marbella and the little village of San Pedro. Land sloping down to the Mediterranean was poorly regarded for farming and sold at bargain prices, even for that time.
Not much later his nephew, Alfonso von Hohenlohe acquired the Santa Margarita estate in the heart of what was to become the Marbella Club. Established in 1954, this famous five-star resort hotel became an icon for the glamorous years that were to follow, when the likes of Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Omar Shariff, Sean Connery and Liza Minelli became regular visitors. The Puente Romano Hotel opened its doors soon afterwards, and it was to become almost as renowned as the Marbella Club itself, yet before long wealthy visitors started building their own villas directly on the shore or in the hills immediately beyond.
The catering and other services of the five-star Marbella Club Hotel are available to the villas and bungalows in the area. Many of these homes have direct access to the Marbella Beach Club through the gardens. The Beach Club, with its own pier for easy access to your powerboat, really deserves a chapter to itself, but let’s simply say that it will meet all your expectations of what a Mediterranean beach club should be.
Perhaps the most iconic of Marbella’s glamorous areas, the Golden Mile is synonymous with style, privilege and luxurious living. Grand villas and penthouses lie ensconced between the lush greenery that characterises much of this area, while prestigious hotels, beach clubs, restaurants and nightclubs play host to an international jet-set. This is Marbella at its opulent best.
With residents such as the Bismarcks, Rothschilds, Thurn und Taxis, Metternichs, Goldsmiths, de Mora y Aragóns and the Thyssen-Bornemisza family, the Golden Mile was soon established as one of the most prestigious addresses in Europe. This status was cemented when the late King Fahad of Saudi Arabia built a summer residence here that resembled Washington’s White House both in styling and scale. The area – first named ‘La Milla de Oro’ by Roy Boston, the German entertainer and developer of the award-winning Alhambra del Mar project – was well and truly on the map.
The Golden Mile connects the western edge of Marbella town with the marina complex of Puerto Banus, skirting a gentle sweep of coastline and ascending the first slopes of the coastal plain. On the seaside are private estates, as well as famous resort hotels, luxurious beach clubs and exclusive restaurants, boutiques, delicatessen and nightclubs – all fronting the beaches midway between Marbella and Puerto Banus.
Turn off the palm-lined boulevard towards the mountainside and you enter a prestigious residential area that stretches a few kilometres inland towards the distinct outlines of La Concha Mountain. Though just a few minutes removed from the shops, services and social scene of central Marbella, this is an area of peace and seclusion, where greenery offers privacy to large estates and luxurious developments.
Icons of luxurious living
With such a background, the Golden Mile is not surprisingly serviced by establishments that have become icons in their own right. The Marbella Club and Puente Romano have continued to flourish, featuring facilities such as a glamorous beach club and private tennis centre that also hosts concerts by the likes of George Benson and Blondie each summer. Golf clubs, racket clubs and gyms, boutiques, delicatessen and stylish restaurants and cafés discreetly line the stylish boulevard most noted for its parks and lush greenery.
Equally discreet are the nightlife venues such as Olivia Valère’s Babilonia and Puente Romano’s Suite del Mar in Marbella. Such venues cater to an international clientele, and indeed, celebrities ranging from Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone to football stars are regularly spotted there. Olivia Valère, in particular, has become an integral part of the trendy Marbella nightlife scene, offering a range of restaurants, lounge bars and nightclub ambiences within a single, Marrakech-inspired location.
For all this, the Golden Mile is a peaceful area, offering enough space and vegetation to provide residents and visitors alike with privacy and diversions. Yachts lying in the water just off the beach add the final touch to a zone dedicated to the art of luxurious living – and one that has helped build the glamorous reputation of Marbella.