Those looking to spot celebrities could not wish for a better setting than the southern Spanish city of Marbella on the Costa del Sol. After World War II, tourism developed rapidly, aimed at the rich and famous of Europe. Today, you can find movie stars, musicians and even royalty on the Costa del Sol in and around Marbella.
The history of tourism in Marbella
After the Spanish Civil War and World War II, Marbella was a sleepy town of less than 1,000 inhabitants. Until Marquis Ricardo Soriano settled there in 1945. He bought a large estate there, where he provided lodging for those traveling back and forth between France and Morocco: El Rodeo. Later that became a luxurious resort for all his rich and famous friends and family.
His aristocratic nephew Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg followed suit and opened the Marbella Club, an international resort for movie stars, businessmen and the nobility. For example, one of the regular visitors to those resorts was Jaime de Mora y Aragon, brother of Belgium’s Queen Fabiola. This hotel and resort complex continues to be a favorite of vacationers looking for luxury and opulence.
Thanks to the efforts of Ricardo and Alfonso, Marbella became a real attraction for the European aristocracy. That was the beginning of the tourist development of the southern Spanish town. To honor his efforts and vision for the future of Marbella, the main street was named after him: Avenida Ricardo Soriano.
Glitz and glamour
By the 1960s, Marbella had become a real Hollywood hotspot where numerous movie stars were eagerly seen. Think stars such as Brigitte Bardot, Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn, Carry Grant and Grace Kelly. But American politicians also spent their vacations there, such as Senator Edward Kennedy, for example.
King Fahd of Saudi Arabia built a huge palace in Marbella in the 1980s near the Marbella Club. This replica of the White House marked the start of an exclusive residential area. This region is also called the Golden Mile because of the numerous mansions and villas for the richest and most powerful people in the world.
Famous residents of Marbella
Seven-time James Bond actor Sean Connery lived in Marbella from 1970 to the late 1990s. Until 2016, Simon Cowell was also a permanent resident. You’ve probably even seen his house! Remember the X Factor moment when the candidates had to perform at the judges’ home? That was with Simon Cowell so in Marbella, One Direction, among others, performed there under the Spanish sun at the time. And we can’t forget Spanish singer Julio Iglesias, either. He owned a huge 45-hectare estate on the border between Ojén and Marbella, but he put it up for sale in early 2018 for €145 million.
Even today, Marbella is still a favorite residence for celebrities. Actor Antonio Banderas, for example, was born and raised in Malaga. He owns a number of properties on the Costa del Sol, including a vacation home near Los Monteros beach in Marbella. Dani Garcia, a Michelin-starred chef, not only lives in Marbella, he also operates his 2-Michelin-starred restaurant in the Puente Romano hotel there.
Spotting famous vacationers
For vacations, the Marbella area is also a popular destination for celebrities. The royal family of Saudi Arabia still owns a country residence in Marbella. The palace on the Golden Mile, built by King Fahd, is owned by current King Salman bin Abdoel Aziz al-Saud and the family resides there regularly. Mark Thatcher, son of Margaret Thatcher, often stays in Marbella’s luxurious resorts.
If you want to spot celebrities on vacation, Marbella’s marina is the place to be: Puerto Banus. This port light southwest of Marbella and was built in the late 1960s by Jose Banus. The grand opening in 1970 was attended by big names such as Julia Iglesias, Hugh Hefner, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco and so on. Every year, this port is visited by more than 5 million visitors, including a host of celebrities. You will find exclusive, expensive stores, one yacht after another, expensive cars and top-level bars and restaurants.
Benahavis – La Zagaleta
Benahavis is small mountain village along Marbella on the Costa del Sol with an area of about 145 km2. The majority of residents and homeowners are not Spaniards; you will find more than 80 different nationalities. Moreover, it is also one of the richest municipalities per capita in Andalusia. That’s because of La Zagaleta, a very exclusive gated residential neighborhood and country club.
In 1991, 860 acres were purchased for this residential development. Meanwhile, there are already 230 houses of between 3,000 and 10,000m2. Eventually that should become 420. Of course there are not only houses, residents can also enjoy several golf courses, an equestrian center, tennis courts and a private helicopter landing strip. To meet everyone’s needs, there is also a 24-hour concierge service.
Princess Diana, for example, often spent vacations there in a villa owned by friends. These days, you have a good chance of running into Hugh Grant and his seen there. Eva Longoria is also said to own a villa here and is regularly spotted in the neighborhood. A lot of famous A-listers can be found there on vacation during the summer, think Rod Stewart and Sting, for example.
But perhaps the most surprising celebrity to bump into there is Vladimir Putin. The president of Russia recently had a second home of 4,000square meters built there. Two swimming pools, a cinema and a wine cellar are present in this villa of more than €15 million.
So if you choose an outdoor residence in Marbella, you certainly won’t be the only one. Which celebrities would you like to bump into in this beautiful coastal setting?