No matter how much we love Marbella, we understand that people on holiday might not want to be cooped up in one place for the whole time. Likewise, for those who have made a permanent move here or spend a good portion of the year in Marbella, it’s always great to get out and explore the surrounding area.
One of the best things about Marbella is that it is a gateway to plenty of easily accessibly day trips. Beautiful cities such as Ronda, Granada and Seville are just a short drive away, enabling visitors to soak up more of the sights and culture of southern Spain. There’s also plenty of places that we recommend you maybe even spend a couple of nights, with Tarifa being a must-visit for surfers and the Sierra Nevada offering skiing in the winter, helpfully situated just a few hours away from Marbella’s year-round sunshine!
Just an hour’s drive from Marbella, Ronda is one of the oldest towns in Europe. It’s quite small, which means it’s possible to take in all the major attractions in one day. It’s got plenty of historical sites, such as its bullring, which is considered to be one of the most historically important in Spain. The bullring can only seat 5000 people and has the largest central sand surface, known as the rueda, in the world.
Another interesting historical site to see is the New Bridge (Puente Nuevo) – this is the largest of Ronda’s several bridges that cross the impressive Tajo gorge that separates the cities two halves. The bridge is 98 meters tall with a room under the road that has been a hotel, a bar, a prison, and that is now a small museum. Visitors should also check out the Arab Baths, which are the most complete in Spain, and which offer a tantalizing glimpse into medieval Islamic times.
Visitors should also take a look at the Mondragon Palace, a 13th century palace that archaeologists believe was the home of Ronda’s Islamic King Abomelik when Ronda was the capital city of a large kingdom in Al-Andalus. The palace is home to the city museum with displays from the paleolithic, neolithic, Roman, Moorish, and Christian eras. Finally, take a look at the Santa Maria la Mayor, Ronda’s largest church. The church was built on the foundations of an Islamic mosque, part of which is still visible in a small alcove as you enter.
It takes just 2 and a half hours to drive to Seville, The largest city in southern Spain, from Marbella. For those who don’t have a car, there are plenty of busses that go from Marbella’s central bus station, though do note that bus journey times are closer to 3 and a half hours.
According to legend, Seville was founded by the mythical hero Hercules and is also the birth place of tapas. As a result, the city has many great tapas bars including Spain’s oldest El Rinconcillo which was founded in 1670.
There plenty of things to do and visit in Seville such as the Catedral de Santa Maria, the Golden Tower which was built in the 13th century, the Giralda tower which offers stunning views of the city, the spectacular Alcazar palace, as well of plenty of sites in the old city. The Museum of Fine Art and the Flamenco Art Museum are also must-visit attractions, while there are plenty of flamenco bars where you can enjoy the traditional Spanish dancing first hand.
With long stretches of white sand beaches and a crystal blue sea, Tarifa is go-to place for a totally relaxed weekend. It’s a beautiful place to just chill on the beach and sunbathe, but if you’re feeling more energetic, Tarifa also has the perfect conditions for perfect surfing and kite-surfing. People of all levels congregate here, from complete beginners to the pros showing off how it’s done!
There are also plenty of places to stay, including hotels, beach villas and even campsites for the more adventurous visitors. Once you’re all settled, wander around the town and choose a place to order freshly grilled fish, accompanied by a couple of glasses of vino for dinner. Tarifa is an hour to an hour and a half drive from Marbella, though unfortunately there are no buses from Marbella straight to Tarifa, so if you don’t have a car already you will need to hire one.
Just two and half hours’ drive from Marbella is Sierra Nevada – the most southerly ski resort in Spain . This is a great resort for skiers of all levels, from complete beginners to those of a more advanced level. These mountains feature the highest peak in Spain, the Mulhacén, which is 3480m above sea level. The resort boasts 100km of ski runs and, because of its high elevation, the ski season runs from late November to early May. The resort also has a number of other facilities including an ice rink, toboggans and ski bikes. There are also plenty of bars, restaurants, hotels, rental apartments and ski hire and equipment shops so can get all you need at Sierra Nevada and enjoy a few days in the snow!
Sierra Nevada is also open during the summer months for walking, cycling, horse-riding and mountain climbing. During July and August one cable car and one chair lift is kept open so people can get higher up in the resort and, on really clear day, take in the views that stretch as far as Africa.
Granada is about a two hour drive away, but is also reachable by the bus service that runs from Marbella bus station three or four times a week, though this can take up to three hours. There’s plenty to see in this beautiful city, including the famous Alhambra – a Moorish citadel and palace constructed in the mid-14th century. This is one of Spain’s most famous and popular attractions. It’s made up of gardens, fountains, streams, a palace and mosque that are all surrounded by an imposing fortress wall, flanked by 13 huge towers.
Other sights to take a look at in the city include the Royal Chapel of Granada, the cathedral of Granada and the Charterhouse monastery, while the neighbourhoods of Albayzín and Sacromonte are also popular with tourists. Aside from the attractions, Granada has a wealth of restaurants and tapas bars to enjoy. Make sure you check out the tapas tour!