History of Marbella: A Rich Tapestry of History and Cultural Heritage

Introduction to History of Marbella

History of Marbella

Marbella, a picturesque coastal town in southern Spain, boasts a rich history of Marbella, a heritage that spans over two millennia. From its early Roman origins to Islamic rule and subsequent developments, the history of Marbella is etched in its ancient ruins, architectural marvels, and vibrant old town. This article delves into the captivating history of Marbella, highlighting key milestones and notable landmarks that have shaped its cultural identity.

Roman Settlement in Marbella Old Town

The history of Marbella dates back to the time of Roman settlers who established themselves in what is now Marbella Old Town, as evidenced by remnants such as three Ionic capitals embedded in the walls of the Moorish castle. This glimpse into the history of Marbella showcases the enduring influence of ancient civilizations on the city’s architecture and cultural heritage.


Known as Salduba during Roman times, Marbella was referred to as the Salt City, reflecting its significance as a trading hub.

Roman Ruins in Marbella

The town features various Roman ruins, including Guadalmina’s Roman baths, a Roman villa, and a Roman bridge, offering glimpses into the Roman era’s architectural and cultural heritage.

Lighthouse Towers

The history of Marbella, with its rich heritage, includes the significant contributions of the Moors. They constructed numerous lighthouse towers along the coast, some of which still stand today, serving as a testament to their architectural prowess and maritime significance. These ancient structures provide a glimpse into the historical importance of navigation and trade in the region, further enriching the captivating history of Marbella.

Citadel, Alcazaba, and Walls

 In this period, Marbella witnessed the construction of a citadel, an Alcazaba (fortress), and a protective wall to safeguard the town from potential invasions.

Marbella as a Regional Capital

 During the late 15th and early 16th centuries, Marbella gained the prestigious title of capital of the region, solidifying its importance as a cultural and administrative center.

Plaza de los Naranjos

The history of Marbella, with its captivating journey through time, includes a prominent legacy from the Renaissance era. One of the notable landmarks that reflects this period is the Plaza de los Naranjos (Orange Square), a charming square adorned with orange trees and surrounded by historical buildings. This architectural gem stands as a testament to the city’s rich history, showcasing the cultural and artistic elegance of the Renaissance period in Marbella.

Marbella Old Town’s Architectural Marvels

During the same period, I witnessed the construction of several notable structures in Marbella’s old town, each reflecting the grandeur and sophistication of the Renaissance style.

The Rise and Fall of Marbella’s Iron Ore Industry: A Tale of Economic Transformation and Social Divide

The history of Marbella, with its diverse chapters, encompasses the significant developments that unfolded in the early 19th century. During this time, a remarkable discovery of iron ore in Ojen, near Marbella, led to the construction of blast furnaces that would eventually supply over 75% of Spain’s cast iron. This newfound industry brought prosperity and numerous employment opportunities to the region. However, the subsequent dismantling of the steel industry left Marbella’s population grappling with the need to revert to traditional livelihoods such as farming and fishing. As agriculture faced its challenges, including an epidemic of pests in the vineyards, the area experienced a surge in poverty and unemployment. By the end of the 19th century, Marbella’s society had become polarized, with a clear divide between the working class and the oligarchs, leaving little room for a thriving middle class. This era of Marbella’s history reflects the economic and social complexities that shaped the city during this time.

Discovery of iron ore in Ojen

 The early 19th century brings a significant iron ore discovery near Marbella, leading to the establishment of blast furnaces.

Economic boom

 The iron ore industry flourishes, becoming a significant supplier of cast iron, contributing to the growth of the local economy.

Job creation

 The newfound industry generates employment opportunities, attracting workers from diverse backgrounds to Marbella.

Return to traditional livelihoods

 Many residents are compelled to return to farming or fishing, as the steel industry’s collapse leaves them with limited employment options.

Agricultural challenges

 A crisis in agriculture arises due to widespread pest epidemics in the vineyards, exacerbating the economic difficulties faced by the population.

Rising unemployment 

With limited job prospects, unemployment rates soar, exacerbating the economic hardships experienced by the residents.

Working class struggles

The working class bears the brunt of the economic downturn, facing joblessness and diminished opportunities for social mobility.

The emergence of oligarchs

 As economic disparities deepen, a small group of individuals amass wealth and influence, forming a class of oligarchs.

Shrinking middle class

The challenging economic conditions lead to the erosion of the middle class, further entrenching the divide between the working class and the oligarchs.

Marbella’s Journey from Conflict to Glamour: Rebuilding and Revitalization

The history of Marbella, with its intriguing twists and turns, includes a tumultuous period during the Spanish Civil War. This conflict inflicted significant damage on Marbella, with widespread destruction and burning of buildings. Seized by Nationalists, the city later attracted prominent figures, including personal friends of dictator Francisco Franco. After World War II, Marbella emerged as a small village with a modest population. However, the vision and investment of influential individuals, such as the Marquis of Ivanrey and Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, played a pivotal role in transforming the area. This transformation led to the establishment of the renowned Marbella Club Hotel in 1954, becoming a magnet for international movie stars and European aristocrats. Subsequently, the construction of Puerto Banus in 1970 added to the allure, with a grand opening attended by an array of famous personalities. This period in the history of Marbella reflects the resilience and the influence of key figures who shaped the city’s evolution into a glamorous and sought-after destination.

Destructive consequences

 Marbella endures extensive destruction during the Spanish Civil War, with numerous buildings burnt to the ground.

Post-war challenges

Marbella emerges from the war as a small village with a mere 900 inhabitants, facing the task of reconstruction and revitalization.

Visionary figures

The Marquis of Ivanrey and Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg acquire two estates in the area, embarking on a transformative journey.

The Marbella Club Hotel

The history of Marbella, with its captivating journey through time, includes the establishment of the iconic Marbella Club Hotel in 1954, a key milestone that marked the beginning of an era of luxury and sophistication. The hotel quickly gained fame and became a luxurious retreat frequented by international movie stars and European nobility. Its allure and impeccable service attracted renowned personalities, adding to the prestige and glamour of Marbella. The establishment of the Marbella Club Hotel remains a significant chapter in the history of Marbella, symbolizing the city’s rise as a coveted destination for the elite.

Introduction of Puerto Banus

 In 1970, the opulent Puerto Banus resort is built, adding to the allure of Marbella as a glamorous destination.

Lavish opening

The history of Marbella, with its fascinating chapters, includes the grand opening of Puerto Banus, which attracted a constellation of famous personalities, including Hugh Hefner, director Roman Polanski, Prince Rainier, and Princess Grace of Monaco. This star-studded event further added to the allure and glamour of Marbella, solidifying its reputation as a playground for the rich and famous. The presence of these renowned individuals during the opening of Puerto Banus reflects the international appeal and celebrity status that Marbella has enjoyed throughout its history.


From the Spanish Civil War ruins, Marbella embarked on a remarkable journey of rejuvenation and transformation. The city’s resilience and the foresight of influential individuals paved the way for its resurgence. The establishment of the iconic Marbella Club Hotel and the construction of Puerto Banus catapulted Marbella into the realm of luxury and glamour, attracting a star-studded clientele. This evolution from a war-torn town to a sought-after destination demonstrates the power of vision, investment, and the enduring allure of Marbella’s charm.