Marbella on the Costa del Sol in Andalucia is a town known as an up market holiday and shopping destination, with prices to match, but with a lesser known much older part that is well worth seeing. The walk is only about 4 kilometres in total and can be completed in 2 hours. It takes you along narrow streets with many small shops selling a vast range of goods. Each street has its own architectural character. The suggested visits add another 2 to 3 hours.
Take the N340 towards Malaga and leave at junction 175, signposted Marbella. Drive right into Marbella for 6km, carrying straight on past the big roundabout, until you see a blue ‘P’ (parking) sign on the right and turn right into Avenida Miquel Cano. Take the first left, Avenida del Mar, and within a few metres on the right there is the central underground car park costing 1.20EUR per hour.
Coming up the stairs you emerge into a large pedestrian area with a series of statues down the centre leading to the promenade. Make a note of the exit you used. Head inland. At the top of the square go across the road and up steps to a fountain in the Alameda Gardens. On Saturday mornings there is a small flea market here. Go through the gardens to the main road and cross at the pedestrian crossing. Take the street ahead, again leading inland and go to the left of the BBVA Bank up a narrow passage.
At the end of the passage turn right and walk into Plaza de Los Naranjos, Orange Square. This square is packed with restaurants and is a good place to sit and spot the rich and famous who, if in Marbella, seem to congregate here.
As you enter the square the Tourist del mar ca office space is in the far left corner and the Los Naranjos Snack Bar diagonally opposite, turn left here down Chincillas and then right down Calle Carmen taking you into Plaza de la Inglesia. On your left are the Arab built walls of the old town.
Marbella has a long history before it became a holiday destination. The Phoenicians had a small settlement that was enlarged by the Romans. Under the Nazrid rulers Marbella became a fortress. Take a look at the stonework at the bottom of the walls as you entered Plaza de la Inglesia. Notice how the stonework changes from the typical multi sized stone, mortared rubble wall liked by the Romans to the much more regular stonework of the Arabs. The town developed further during the 18th and 19th centuries.
At the Plaza turn left, keeping the old walls on your left. Leave the square by the corner with Ceramica San Nicholas to your right. Turn a sharp right and immediate left and you will see the Museo del Grabado (Contemporary Spanish Engraving Museum) on your left. This is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 2pm and 5.30pm to 8.30pm. The entrance fee is 2.50 Euros each and the displays are, as you may have guessed, paintings, sketches and engravings from Spanish artists through the ages.
Leave this museum and turn right and almost immediately left into Calle Pelleja. A short way on, on your left, is the Cultural and Archaeological Museum. This museum is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
Leave the museum and turn right past Bar Altamira. Walk until you see L’Orientalista shop where you turn right and then right again at La Casa del Sol. You should be back in Plaza de la Inglesia with the church on the right. The interior of this church is a well-kept example of the small town catholic church and is worth a look inside if there are no services being held. The screens behind the altar are very elaborate, as is the roof decoration.
Leaving the church, cross the square and again keep the old walls on your left. This time continue to follow the walls until you see the Hostel Don Alfredo ahead. On your left, up a short flight of steps is a nice shrine built into the walls. On your right are steps down into a park.
Go down these steps and turn left through the park. There is a large children’s playground here and some very nice planted areas. Walk until you see the Bonsai Museum. This for me is the highlight of the trip.
The museum advertises itself as the only one of its kind in Spain and the best in the world. I am not arguing. It is open from 10.30am to 1.30pm and 4pm to 7pm daily. A small fee, 3 Euros, allows you to walk around three areas set out in an Oriental style with streams and wooden bridges. In all three areas there are exquisite examples of the bonsai art form. The oldest is a tree over 500 years old growing in a shallow dish. Henry VII was but a lad when that tree was a sapling. These plants were passed down from father to son over many generations and have to be nurtured almost continuously. Some examples almost as old are groups of plants set out as scenes, lake side, mountain and so on.
Leaving the Bonsai Museum continue up through the park towards the arched bridge. This part of the park has a large lake beneath the bridge and then a series of cascades and pools supplying the water for the Bonzai Museum. Apart from the large fish in the lakes you may also see terrapins like these, basking on rocks and apparently playing a game related to ‘King of the Castle’.
Trace your steps back through the park to the steps at the entrance. Go up the steps, cross the road and straight ahead. The old walls are again on your left as you go down a narrow passageway back down into the town.
At the end of the passage turn left down a street lined with shops and bars and turn left past the Bar Restaurante La Pesquera. Walk back into Orange Square.