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Surface Area: 114.3 square kilometres

Population: 136,645

What the natives are called: Marbellíes / Marbelleros

What to see: Church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación, Arab Fortress, San Juan de Dios Hospital, Bazán Hospital (Engraving Museum), Casa del Corregidor (Mayor’s House), Chapel of Santo Cristo de la Vera Cruz, Town Hall, Chapel of Santiago, Cortijo Miraflores Cultural Centre (Olive Oil Museum and Archaeology Hall), Bonsai Museum, Plaza de los Naranjos, Chapel of San Juan de Dios, four marinas (including Puerto José Banús), Río Verde Roman Villa, Vega del Mar Palaeo-Christian Basilica, Guadalmina Roman Baths.

Geographical Location: in the centre of the western Costa del Sol, between the slopes of the Sierra Blanca range and the coast. The city is 56 kilometres from Málaga. The municipality records an average annual rainfall of 630 litres per square metre and the average temperature is 18.7º C.

The unmistakable silhouette of the Sierra Blanca mountain range is visible from any point in this municipality and is the geographic feature that best defines this territory. It is especially mountainous in its northern part, where elevations rise above 1,000 metres, and its terrain is furrowed by countless valleys that still lend a certain natural ambience to the formidable onslaught of luxurious urban development that this place has experienced over the last few decades.

Despite the fact that large residential developments have gone up even in areas back from the coastline and despite the dubious suitability of certain brick conglomerations to the surrounding landscape there is still room in the environs of Marbella for sizable stands of old growth cork oaks, large pine woods and several areas with olive groves. Together with newly built private gardens and the tended turf of the golf courses (of which there are 15 in this municipality) they make greenery a true basic resource that attracts the tourists with high purchasing power who frequent this locality.

The second largest city in the province of Málaga was home to its first few settlers in the Palaeolithic Era, as is shown by weapons and tools discovered at the place known as Coto Correa in the area of Las Chapas and in the Pecho Redondo cave (Neolithic) in the southern foothills of the Sierra Blanca. Except for the Phoenician archaeological site of Río Real there is no evidence of other civilisations until the end of Carthaginian rule, which left traces in Río Verde, some five kilometres from Marbella.

The Romans left such remarkable signs of their passage through these lands as the villa of Río Verde, the Guadalmina bathhouses and assorted materials that have been found in the old quarter of the city. Some students of the subject do not discard the possibility that the urban nucleus of modern Málaga was founded by the Romans, and some even point out that it may be the famous Salduba Ibérica that Pliny and Ptolomey speak of. Others, meanwhile, say it may be the Cilniana referred to in the Antonine Itinerary. Whatever the case, the ancient city’s perimeter, which without a doubt was fortified, must approximately coincide with the present old quarter.

The towers and walls of the castle that are still standing are from the Muslim era but the lowest part of the construction is Roman, as are the foundations of several buildings on the centrally located Los Naranjos Plaza. All this goes to show that the locality must have been of some importance during the Roman hegemony. The Paleo-Christian basilica of Vega del Mar, adjoining San Pedro Alcántara, is from the Visigoth epoch. It is one of the most remarkable of all the structures of this period that were erected in Spain.

This locality was under the rule of various dynasties from the beginning of the Muslim invasion until the rise to power of the Benemerins (1274). Later, as was the case with the entire region, it passed into the hands of the Kingdom of Granada until it was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs in 1485. In the sixteenth century, the city underwent significant urban development, beginning with the levelling of part of the "Medina", or old quarter, to make room for a central plaza—the modern Los Naranjos Plaza—and a street to link this new urban space with the sea.

Considering the present appearance of the city it is hard to imagine that in the nineteenth century Marbella was one of the areas of Spain where the mining industry was most highly developed, with the installation of blast furnaces to exploit the iron that was extracted from mines in the Sierra Blanca. Within a century the city went from being a standard of reference in the world of industry to a world-class tourist resort.

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