The name ‘Marbella’ carries a certain flair with it. Just like Cannes, St Tropéz and San Remo, it is one of a select group of places on the European map that conjures up images of wealth, glamour and good living.
Marbella is certainly associated with each of these things. Its wonderful climate, incredibly sporting and recreational facilities, and luxury residential areas have made it one of the playgrounds of the rich and famous; somewhere that people across the globe are irresistibly drawn to.
The greatest jewel in Marbella’s crown is Puerto Banús – the famous yacht harbour that cradles the Bahia de Marbella. Here you will find the greatest concentration of wealth, power, glamour, since the area is known for its lazy sun-kissed days and sultry nights of Spanish summer.
Puerto Banús is a kaleidoscope world with a landscape dominated by big boats, fast cars and beautiful women. It’s a cosmopolitan melting pot of big business, royalty and showbiz; a place where the paparazzi have rich pickings and ordinary visitors hope some of the glamour will rub off on them. Indeed, Puerto Banús is one of those rare places where you could literally bump into a celebrity on every corner.
But what exactly is it that makes this little marina resort so trendy and popular? Sure enough, there are larger marinas with more facilities – there are even those that are prettier – so what is it that makes this area remain such a hotspot? The answer, as always, lies in the coming together of several factors.
When Puerto Banús was first developed in the late 1960s, it consisted of nothing more than the brand-new yacht harbour, framed by the now famous apartments in traditional Andalusian style. Marbella itself was not much more than a small fishing village that had only recently been discovered by wealthy tourists, ranging from eccentric travellers and yachtsmen to well-to-do American students.
Like many before them, these tourists fell in love with the unbridled fire and fullness of Andalucía, and even after parts of the coast became centres of mass tourism, these early visitors held on to Marbella as a place where only well-monied tourists could afford to come.
As this level of tourism steadily developed over time, Marbella remained an island of opulence and glamour, where the wealthy would choose to vacate and purchase property. Wealth attracted celebrity, which in turn attracted beauty, and so on, until the area became the setting for tycoons, models, artists, aristocrats and even royalty.
Even sheikhs are not an unusual sight in Marbella and, in Puerto Banús itself, the Saudi Arabian Royal Family own a magnificent palace here.
The regular presence of the Saudi royal family and their huge entourage, as well as international celebrities like Sean Connery and Kate Moss, confirms Puerto Banús’ status as a jet-set paradise. However, despite this association with wealth and extravagance, the area is often regarded with some suspicion.
To those more critical of star-gazing, Puerto Banús is synonymous with conspicuous consumption. Sure, the rich and famous let themselves go here, but the beauty of this port is exactly the fact that it is not exclusive to them. No one is barred from entering. In fact, regular mortals such as ourselves, young and old, rich and poor, are heartily welcomed to mingle in and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the place.
While your eyes may water at the sight of the largest and most luxurious yachts you are likely to see anywhere, one of the biggest pleasures in Puerto Banús comes from sitting in one of the many lively quay-side bars and restaurants, watching humanity pass by in front of you. Nationalities of all ages and economic segments of society are represented here, often walking side by side.
The diversity present within Puerto Banús is what makes Puerto Banús what it is – not any list of luxury facilities and amenities. Of course, you would be disappointed if the place was not packed to the full with brand shops, choice restaurants and trendy night spots, but Puerto Banús is also a place where you can buy a cheap T-shirt and have an inexpensive meal. The choice is yours.
If bustling nightlife and large crowds are not your thing, you might choose to come here in the morning, when it is peaceful, and watch the seagulls sweep over the ships’ masts while sipping a coffee. Grab a newspaper and a baguette, and you’re in a peaceful paradise, refreshed by the cool onshore breeze.
Alternatively, if you book a table at one of the fine restaurants on the quieter end, near the old Moorish watchtower, you will find that Puerto Banús is also a very romantic place. Time it correctly and you can enjoy dinner as the sun dips into the sea, colouring the whole world in shades of pastel orange and pink. Then, as always, you will be able to enjoy expansive views of the Mediterranean, the mountain-ringed greenery of Marbella, and, of course, the vibe of Puerto Banús itself.
Puerto Banús, Glamour Capital of Spain by and copyright of Michel Cruz, for more information visit his web site at www.freelancewriter4u.com.
Image used in this article are copyright of Michelle Chaplow from michellechaplow.com