Marbella: History

Costa's Honey Pot of Glamour and Wealth

Marbella History

Marbella is steeped in a rich history which has produced some of the city’s most remarkable architecture. It is thought that the town first came into existence around 1600 BC, formed by colonists, but the actual name only originated in the first decade of the sixth century when the Muslims arrived in this part of southern Spain and they called the town Marbil-la. In order to protect their new settlement from attack by Christian invaders, a fortress was built in the style of the Damascus caliphate, coupled with a defensive wall. However the occupation was short-lived and the Catholic Monarchs who were driving the reconquest of Spain in 1485, received the keys from the defeated calif, Mohamed Abuenza. The town was consequently renamed Marbella, which still stands today, and the original Muslim design of the old town remains a tourist attraction.

Following the reconquest, Marbella started to grow again in the sixteenth century, and surrounding farmland became an important centre of agricultural production. New residential areas were built around the remains of the ruined Muslim town, but construction was slow, and by the end of the eighteenth century, there were only 820 buildings, and many of them became empty or rundown.

Marbella remained under threat from invasion, and the San Luis fort was built in 1725 to protect residents from pirate attacks, but it was later destroyed by the French during the Peninsular War (1808-1814). The tower is the only section that remained and it can now be seen by visitors in the gardens belonging to the El Fuerte hotel.

Fortunes turned for the city, and in the nineteenth century, Marbella began to enjoy a period of extensive growth, and expanded beyond the historic old town to areas along side to what has now become the Parque Arroyo de la Represa. Investment in infrastructure provided new bridges and roads encouraging the development of industry. Agriculture continued to be an integral part of Marbella's economy throughout the nineteenth century, but the modern fishing port, which can now be seen today, did not come to fruition until the 1950s.

Marbella how it is now seen only started to develop following the end of the Spanish Civil War, and tourists did not visit the city in great numbers until the mid 1940's after entrepreneurs began the construction of hotels and apartment complexes. As word of mouth spread about the greatness of Marbella, it developed into a haven for the rich and famous, and in only 50 years, Marbella grew into an international resort and tourist destination.