The Perfect 1, 2 or 3 Days in Marbella Itinerary

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by Maggie Turansky

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Planning a Marbella itinerary may not seem like something you need to do – should you simply plan for any number of days lying on the beach in this charming Andalucían city? You could do this, however, Marbella and its surroundings offer a lot more than sunbathing and spending 1, 2 or 3 days in Marbella exploring the region is an excellent addition to any holiday on the Costa del Sol.

Situated on the southern coastline of Spain’s Andalucía region, Marbella is located just 60 kilometres west of lively Málaga. Though it’s a popular resort area boasting beautiful beaches and plenty of waterside activities, the town itself holds its own unique charm that makes it very much worth exploring.

Marbella is also well-poised to explore some other highlights in this area of Andalucía. Whether you want to use it as a base to check out some other towns on the Costa del Sol, visit the monkeys of Gibraltar or even head inland to a historic town, you have that option when staying in Marbella.

This itinerary will help you plan up to three days in this city, giving you plenty of time to see the compact city centre and explore some of the surrounding region if that suits your fancy.

How Many Days in Marbella?

It can be difficult to figure out exactly how many days to spend in Marbella. The town of Marbella itself and its historic centre are quite compact and can easily be explored within the confines of a day – and even this is a generous amount of time.

However, most planning a holiday to a beach destination don’t necessarily want every single moment packed with activities. This is generally why I would recommend spending more than one day in Marbella.

If you have 2 days in Marbella, you can either use that extra day to hang out on the beach and relax, or take a day trip to another town close by on the Costa del Sol. Even if you choose the latter option, you will have plenty of beach time should you want it!

And with 3 days, you simply have more time to explore the surrounding area. You can opt to go on a day trip to Gibraltar, to Ronda or, if you prefer, you can simply hang out on more of Marbella’s beautiful beaches.

Church in Marbella
Church in Marbella

Getting To & Around Marbella

Marbella isn’t home to its own international airport and instead relies on the Málaga airport, which serves the entire Costa del Sol. Located about 60 kilometres from Málaga, Marbella is easily accessed by both public transport and personal vehicle.

If you’d like to rely on public transportation, there are direct bus links from Málaga airport to Marbella frequently, so it’s very easy to reach. If you’ve spent time in Málaga before, there are also plenty of buses from the city’s central bus station to Marbella. You can also organise a transfer.

It’s also relatively easy to reach Marbella from other cities nearby, however, there may not always be a direct option available.

If you want some flexibility, plan to explore the Costa del Sol at your leisure or simply don’t want to be beholden to bus timetables, then hiring a car for your trip to Marbella is a good option. There are lots of car hire companies at Málaga airport and you can browse in order to find great deals.

The drive from Málaga to Marbella is only about an hour. Having a car in Marbella itself can be helpful, especially if you’re staying a bit further from the city centre.

The Marbella old town is small and compact and easily explored on foot. There are, however, plenty of garages where you can park your car for the day if you’re exploring.

Street in Marbella
Street in Marbella

1, 2 or 3-Day Marbella Itinerary

Whether you’re just planning to spend a day in Marbella or of you have 2 or 3, you’re sure to fall in love with this charming coastal city. Here are just a few things to do in Marbella if you’re planning up to a 3-day itinerary.

Day 1 – Marbella’s Old Town & Beaches

Day one is dedicated to exploring the city centre of Marbella itself. The old town is incredibly picturesque and compact, so you can see a good portion of it in just half a day. The good news is that you can spend the rest of the day lounging on the beach or swimming in the Mediterranean Sea!

If you’d like a bit more context while you’re visiting Marbella, then this guided walking tour is a good option.

Mercado Municipal

The first stop on this Marbella itinerary is at the city’s Mercado Municipal, or the central market. Most major Spanish cities are home to a main market hall and Marbella is no different.

Exploring here is an excellent way to see what is fresh, experience Spanish market culture and maybe pick up something to eat for a beachside picnic or snack later!

The Mercado Municipal is smaller than, say, Málaga’s Mercado de Atarazanas but it still holds its own charm and you can pick up everything from briny olives, jamón, fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, freshly caught seafood and more.

If you want to learn more about the market and food culture here, you can also opt to take this market and food walking tour of Marbella.

Mercado Municipal Marbella
Inside the Mercado Municipal

Wander the Old Town

The Mercado Municipal lies just on the cusp of the old town and it’s only a short walk before you’re fully ensconced in the charming whitewashed streets of old Marbella.

There’s a lot of charm packed into a small space here and it’s well worth taking the time to let your feet lead you where they may and just get lost in this lovely area. It’s a great place to hop from tapas bar to tapas bar and also enjoy some nightlife if you come back in the evening.

The cobbled, narrow streets and flower-lined buildings are incredibly picturesque and inviting. If it happens to be quite sunny and hot outside (as is pretty common in the south of Spain), you’ll likely find the shady streets and white buildings to be several degrees cooler than out on the beach and this will be a welcome respite from the heat.

Exploring Marbella's Old Town
Exploring Marbella’s Old Town

Plaza de los Naranjos

During your exploration of the old town, you’re likely going to stumble upon the Plaza de los Naranjos – the main square in Marbella. Literally translated to Orange Square, this plaza is so-called because it is surrounded by sweet-smelling orange trees.

It’s a charming square to take in and it’s completely lined with cafes and restaurants. These places can be a bit tourist-centric, however, any may have some inflated prices.

If you’re on the hunt for a great, local place for a drink and a bite to eat, you can’t go wrong with Taberna la Niña del Pisto, which is only a few hundred metres from Plaza de los Naranjos. This place serves classic Andalucían tapas and has a very local vibe. There are also plenty more local-focused bars and restaurants to patronise in Marbella.

And if you want to learn more about the cuisine in Marbella while wandering the city centre, then make sure to check out this old town tour with tapas and wine – the perfect combination!

Plaza de Naranjos
Plaza de Naranjos

Parque de Alameda

Making your way away from the old town and toward to the beach, you will reach the tranquil Parque de Alameda. This city park is absolutely lovely – filled with lush palm trees, a beautiful fountain and plenty of benches on which to sit. It’s another great, shady place to escape the heat that comes with a visit to Marbella.

Parque de Alameda
Alameda Park

Avenida del Mar

Just down the steps from the Parque de Alameda, you will find the Avenida del Mar. This is a beautiful marble avenue that leads its way to Marbella’s promenade and the Playa de Venus. Adorned with fountains and plenty of benches, it’s a nice place to take in.

Another interesting focal point of this area are the Dalí sculptures. Spaced along the Avenida, you will find a number of sculptures designed by the famed Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí. The sculptures depict various scenes from Greek myths and are a wonderful art installation.

Avenida del Mar
Avenida del Mar

Playa de Venus

The final stop on your first day is the Playa de Venus – the main beach in the city. After a long day of exploring the highlights of this town, spend the rest of your time lounging on the sand and enjoying the delightful waves of the Mediterranean.

If you want to get out onto the water, then consider going on this half-day catamaran tour that also includes dolphin watching!

Playa de Venus
Playa de Venus

Day 2 – Day Trip to Estepona

On day two, you can choose to continue spending time in Marbella simply chilling out on the beach, or you can head to another lovely little town on the Costa del Sol – Estepona. Located just 30 kilometres west of Marbella, it’s a great place to explore, is home to a delightful beach and has a lot to offer!

Explore Estepona

Estepona is a charming little town on the Costa del Sol that very much still retains a lot of its charm. It’s located only about 30 kilometres from Marbella and it’s easily reached by car or by bus in about half an hour, making it a great option for a day trip.

Spend the first part of your day exploring the centre of Estepona. If you thought Marbella’s old town was picture-perfect, it honestly doesn’t hold a candle to Estepona’s. Whitewashed and lined with flowers, it’s absolutely charming. If you want some context to the sites here, this walking tour is a great option.

You also should make sure to visit the Orchidarium – a greenhouse botanic garden dedicated to different kinds of orchids.

Art lovers will also love the Murales Artísticos – city-sponsored murals dotting the city that make the entirety of Estepona feel like an open-air gallery. You can pick up a map of all of the murals from the tourist info centre in the main square.

Of course, Estepona also has its own delightful, sandy beach to enjoy so make sure to pack your swimmers on your day trip!

If you want to get out onto the water, then you could go on a dolphin-watching tour or, for something a bit more romantic, there is also this sunset sailboat cruise to enjoy.

Exploring Estepona
Exploring Estepona

Day 3 – Day Trip to Gibraltar or Ronda

If you’re spending 3 days in Marbella, then it’s a great idea to use your final day to go somewhere a bit further afield. You have numerous choices to make, however, two of the best options are either Gibraltar or the town of Ronda.

Gibraltar Day Trip

This British Overseas Territory is located only about 70 kilometres from Marbella and you can reach the border in under an hour if you’re driving yourself. There are also buses that run to the border very frequently and the journey tasks a bit over an hour.

If you’d rather take a tour and not bother with the logistics of planning a Gibraltar day trip yourself, you can opt for this full-day tour which includes pick-up in Marbella and a guided tour around Gibraltar.

Gibraltar has a lot to offer visitors, including the nature reserve (home to the famous monkeys!), the charming old town and lots of history to take in.

The Rock of Gibraltar
The Rock of Gibraltar

Ronda Day Trip

Another great day trip from Marbella is to the town of Ronda. Located about 60 kilometres north of the city, this whitewashed town is famous for its incredible bridge (the Puente Nuevo) and its historic bullring – which is still active today.

You can reach Ronda from Marbella in about an hour by car and in about an hour and a half via bus – many of which leave each day. If you’d rather not go independently, then you can opt for this full-day guided tour which also includes stops in some regional vineyards for a wine tasting!

View of Ronda from the City Walls
View of Ronda from the City Walls

Where to Stay in Marbella

Villa Palma – This bed and breakfast is an excellent choice for mid-range visitors to Marbella. Located in the heart of the city, they have a range of clean and comfortable rooms on offer and there is also a shared garden and lounge for guests to enjoy. Click here to check availability

Hotel Claude Marbella – This boutique hotel is located in the centre of Marbella’s old town in a historic building. They have a number of wonderful rooms available, a gorgeous rooftop terrace, an on-site bar and breakfast is also available in the mornings. Click here to check availability

Hotel El Faro Marbella – If you’re looking to stay within spitting distance of the beach, then this hotel is an excellent option. They have a range of plush rooms to choose from, a gorgeous pool to enjoy, a continental buffet breakfast each morning and an on-site cafe. Click here to check availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Marbella hotels!

Visiting Marbella is an excellent way to have a delightful holiday on the Costa del Sol. You can have the best of both worlds – enjoy time on the beach while seeing some of the highlights of the south of Spain!

Are you planning to visit Marbella? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie

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