Are you thinking about visiting Marbella?
Do you only have one day to explore?
This short itinerary will take you through the main highlights and also recommend places to eat.
Best of all?
It’s written by a local ex-pat. I have visited the city a number of times over the years, both in high season and low, to get the best insights and local recommendations.
Get yourself a cup of tea or coffee and start planning your day trip to Marbella!
When is it Best to Visit Marbella?
Marbella is crowded in the high season (June to the start of September).
By that I mean you will struggle to walk through the narrow streets of the old town without bumping into people in all directions. Restaurants in the old town are absolutely packed and it takes away from the whole atmosphere.
The beach side is also super busy in the summer, and prices are at their premium. The promenade of Paseo Maritimo is full of people walking in each direction and generally, the city feels very busy.
The best time to visit Marbella is in the shoulder season, so the months of May (April is also ok but the weather can be unpredictable), September to November.
The Winter season is also a pleasant time to experience the city, you just have to have plenty of time to spend in Andalusia, so you can pick a good day to visit. In the winter months, sunshine is guaranteed, but the weather changes quickly and there are considerably more rainy days.
Is One Day Enough to Explore Marbella?
One day is plenty of time to explore all that Marbella has to offer.
Unlike the bigger cities in Andalusia, Marbella doesn’t have many tourist attractions to speak of, and most people come here to stay by the sea, do some luxury shopping in Puerto Banus and wander through the streets of the old town.
One Day Itinerary
Below is a simple one-day itinerary that will take you through the city and beyond, including a recommendation for two of my favourite lunch spots.
Morning: Exploring the Old Town (Casco Antiguo)
Time needed: approximately 2 – 3 hours
Location: The Old Town stretches north of Alameda Park, just walk across the road from there and you’re entering the old town. It ends at Calle Salvador Rueda in the north.
What to see:
PLAZA DE LOS NARANJOS
Plaza de Los Naranjos, situated in the heart of the Marbella old town, is the liveliest place in town and one that you can’t miss on your visit.
It perfectly captures the spirit of the old town, even though at times it can feel very touristy and busy. As you would expect for such a hotspot, it’s home to overpriced restaurants and in the summer months, it’s predictably overcrowded. So much so that it’s almost hard to navigate through the narrow roads.
Despite the above, it still has the feel of an old village square where elders gather to discuss the latest gossip and locals meet for Sunday feats of churros.
As tempting as it may be, I would recommend not staying here for food and only enjoying a drink if you must.
The restaurants are not particularly good and are fairly overpriced. In the summer it gets really busy, and the square resembles an overcrowded market, so it’s not a great place to relax (at least not my idea of a relaxing place).
PLAZA DE IGLESIA
The square next to the Church Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación is one of my favourite spots.
It’s lined with orange trees with a large fountain in the middle, and it’s usually much more peaceful than Plaza de los Naranjos.
If you’re walking past during mass, it’s lovely to sit down on the bench outside and listen to the mass while watching the locals go about their everyday life.
The church itself is gorgeous inside, and it was converted from a former mosque.
Right opposite the church you will also see the remains of the old medieval city walls, and if you continue to walk alongside the walls, it will eventually lead you to Muralla del Castillo, the ruins of the old fortification built during the Moorish period.
Calle Ancha is one of the main roads of the old town, lined with restaurants and boutique shops.
It happens to be also one of the prettiest ones, with gorgeous flowers and plants decorating the walls and house entrances. A few of the hotel options in Marbella old town are also mostly located on this main road.
Calle Ancha starts at Plaza Puente Ronda and continues all the way up (it changes its name as you continue walking up North).
Further up the road, you will also find a tiny church and a lovely square called Plaza Santo Cristo with a fountain and restaurant, a perfect spot to stop and enjoy a cold drink in the summer.
PLAZA PUENTE RONDA
Another beautiful spot is at the start of Calle Ancha.
There are a few restaurants on this small square, and it also serves as a crossroad connecting the small streets leading down to Plaza de los Naranjos.
Lunch: Tapas at a Local Restaurant
When you’re ready to sit down for lunch, and prefer to stay in the old town, I would recommend trying The Farm Restaurant.
It’s a very unique place with a seasonal menu and typical Andalusian cuisine, but all organic and locally sourced, which is something you don’t see too often in Marbella.
It is set in a home built in 1502, one of the oldest ones in town, and thankfully a lot of its original features are still very much alive.
They have a gorgeous courtyard and a very innovative menu that won’t let you down.
READ MORE: The Farm Restaurant Marbella – Review
If you prefer to venture back towards the coastline for your lunch, stop by at Taverna Casa Blanca, my go-to spot for delicious tapas.
The location may not be great – it’s right by the main road next to Alameda Park, but the food is excellent and it’s a very popular place for locals (in fact it was recommended to me by a local resident).
READ MORE: Restaurante Taverna Casa Blanca – Review
Afternoon: Coastline & Puerto Banus
Time needed: 2 – 3 hours
What to see:
This gorgeous green space is a short walk away from the coastline and a great place to relax, watch the world go by or hide from the sun in the summer.
Alameda Park is a popular meeting spot for locals and visitors alike and features some beautiful botanical species. On Sundays, you would see families with kids strolling by before they head over for family lunch at the nearby restaurants, locals discussing the latest gossip, or excited visitors taking pictures of the lush surroundings.
The park dates back to the 18th century and in its current state, it’s only a fraction of its original size (20.000 square meters). The park’s crowning glory is the large fountain (Fuente Virgen de Rocio) which offers a spectacular light show in the evenings.
The park splits into two large promenades that meet in the middle where you find the fountains, along with lined pathways on each side.
AVENIDA DEL MAR
As you walk through Alameda Park down towards the coast, you will pass Avenida del Mar pedestrian zone, sandwiched between residential blocks.
It’s no shabby street either – the zone is decorated with ten sculptures by Salvador Dali, and they are truly a work of art.
Interestingly, the origin of these sculptures is a matter of dispute. When the Marbella town hall acquired them, there was no way to prove they were done by the artist himself, and some records indicate that they may have just been reproduced from his original sketches.
In either case, this open-air museum is a delight to walk through and admire the art.
STROLL AT PASEO MARITIMO
From Avenida del Mar, you will arrive at the coastline and the start of the coastal promenade. Start walking in the direction of Puerto Banus and enjoy the beautiful views!
The promenade is lined with restaurants and bars, so you can stop for a refreshing drink and hide from the sun.
Puerto Banus is the most luxurious neighborhood of Marbella and one that comes with some prestige. Unfortunately, it has a dark side too, which is rarely discussed in travel guides.
British Guardian described Marbella as the ‘United Nations of Crime‘, with much of the criminal activity happening in Puerto Banus. As you enter, you feel like you’re in a different world – the wealth is really being flashed here.
Wealthy yacht owners park their mega yachts in the marina and go on a spending spree in the shops. It’s common to see Ferraris and Lamborghinis passing by, or parked in the marina. It’s the place where you want to be seen wearing your best clothes and driving your best car.
For a visitor, it’s a great place for people watching – and if you happen to like cars – car spotting too!
I hope you enjoyed this short itinerary and find plenty of inspiration for beautiful places to explore in Marbella.
If you want to see more of the city, check out the highlights under my profile on Instagram.