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Marbella

Marbella's motto is 'A Way of Life' and, certainly, this luxurious resort town seems to have it all and is, once again, rising to the fore as a favourite location with the rich and famous, as well as more ordinary folk who are willing to pay just a little bit extra for Southern Spain's answer to St. Tropez.

Not too long ago, Marbella sharpened its image still more thanks to a considerable investment in landscaping the area.

Marbella has a rich, yet down to earth feel with an air of individuality that can be best appreciated by exploring back streets in the old part of town. One of the prettiest places is 'Orange Square' where you expect to meet with stately buildings, small shops, art galleries, bar and bistros in a hub of activity day and night. Depending on the time of year, the colours here can be vibrant, with the trees and exotic tropical plants set against a backdrop of dazzling white buildings and a deep blue sky.

Be sure to explore the maze of surrounding narrow streets where homes and shops intermingle to create the atmosphere of a small village, rather than a cosmopolitan town. There are numerous excellent restaurants to choose from ranging from those specialising in the predictably pricey exclusive cordon bleu to the gritty individuality of a back street Spanish bar.

Back towards the coast is the La Alameda Park where you can book your personal horse and carriage to travel in style or, if you prefer, stroll on towards the sea along the Avenida del Mar. This is arguably one of the most delightful promenades on the Costa, flanked by classy restaurants and bars and mercifully free of concrete high-rise apartment blocks.

Along the enormous stretch of sunny beaches you can enjoy traditional fish and seafood favourites likes sardines on a spit, fried fish and the incomparable paella. There are also two large Parks in Marbella, which provide some welcome shade to spend some time with a book. The amphitheatre at Constitution Park (once the garden of a private residence) is frequently used for concerts and plays in the summer. Providing casinos, clubs and just about every sporting activity under the sun, few places can match Marbella for world-class tennis, sailing and golf. In addition, there are also three pleasure craft harbours.

However, for the ultimate in Coastal charisma, it would be hard to beat Puerto Banus, just West of the town. This is the place to be pampered yacht side and watch the world go by, or window shop at several world-renowned fashion houses and boutiques.

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