Marbella’s Old Town has some seriously stylish bohemian bars, cutting edge restaurants and elegant and eclectic shops.
Article by Giles Brown
Looks can be deceptive. At first glance Marbella’s Old Town – Casco Antiguo – might seem to be just another quaint tourist favourite, its narrow streets home to souvenir shops, ‘typical restaurants’ advertising jugs of sangria while proudly displaying photos of the menu and, that millennial malaise, pop-up shops with the latest accessories for your mobile. Including inflatable halo lights to give that all important selfie, with the aforementioned jug of sangria or bucket of beers, that professional look.
But Marbella’s Old Town has much more to offer, including some seriously stylish boutique hotels, bohemian bars, cutting edge restaurants and elegant and eclectic shops.
Thirty years ago, if you had predicted that Marbella would have a Michelin-starred restaurant, you would have been laughed off your place at the table. Marbella may have been many things, but in terms of dining it was very much a rural restaurant backwater. So it is proof of just how much the town has evolved as a gastronomic destination that it is now home to not just one but several Michelin-starred restaurants.
Amongst them is the small but perfectly formed Skina, where you will find Seasonal Andalusian Haute Cuisine. Tucked away on a side street of the Old Town, Marcos Granda opened Skina in 2004 with his wife, María Isabel Salamanca.
The couple’s obvious passion for the finest food, wines, and gastronomy in general saw Skina achieve their first Michelin star in 2009 and their second in 2020. The self-effacing Marcos has acknowledged the importance of his team in Skina’s success. Focusing on regional produce, Marcos prepares dishes with innovative techniques and a nod to tradition.
Skina, Calle Aduar 12
Another stand out restaurant in the Old Town is Zozoï, located just off Plaza Altamirano, a few blocks away from the main church square. A beautiful and stylish location, with a wonderful conservatory style terrace at the rear and an atmospheric patio in the front, the talented kitchen team believes that “fresh is best”.
Choosing from a tremendous variety of local ingredients and adding their own creativity, Zozoï offers seasonal menus alongside daily specials. Service is always excellent – professional without being pretentious. The Zozoï staff are a friendly bunch: always in a good mood and ready to serve you, with the aim of making your visit to this lovely restaurant as enjoyable as possible!
Zozoï, Plaza Altamirano 21
A perennial favourite and picture postcard pretty, Casanis is a Mediterranean-style bistro restaurant with influences from French and Belgian cuisine. Located in a beautifully renovated two-story house, the ground floor houses a beautiful central patio, with an old water well that works perfectly, a cosy dining room and a terrace in the middle of Calle Ancha.
The upper floor has high ceilings adorned with wooden beams, a rustic fireplace that contrasts with the walls painted with tropical motifs, the work of local artist Aldo Gigli.
Casanis, Calle Ancha 8
Busy and bohemian, The Farm prides itself on what it calls ‘honest food’. Located on the same square as Zozoï, The Farm really is a hidden gem, as the modest façade of the converted town house opens up to a large interior patio overlooked by a terrace.
Describing itself as an ‘urban beach bar’ The Farm also hosts regular events including live bands, DJs, craft fairs and workshops. It also champions slow food, at km “0”, organic, transparency and creativity with the aim of creating a vibrant and warm environment where you can enjoy life. It is certainly a different vibe!
The Farm, Plaza Altamirano 2
If you fancy a lighter bite, then La Polaca is a must. Friendly and funky, La Poloca is possibly the most eccentric bar in Marbella. The décor in this intimate venue is brilliantly eclectic, with vintage advertisements from the 50 and 60s, model car collections, old radios, kitsch flamenco photographs and even an old coin arcade game.
La Polaca also hosts live Vinyl DJ sessions, and enjoying a drink and a tapa on the upstairs terrace on a summer night is highly recommended
La Polaca, Haza de Meson 6
If you want a more traditional tapas experience, then El Estrecho is the place to go. Located down a narrow street just off a plaza featuring a bust of Marbella’s much missed aristocrat Don Jamie de Mora y Aragon, El Estrecho has been serving authentic and outstanding tapas since 1954.
Needless to say they know what they are doing and the bar is popular with residents and tourists who obviously can’t believe their luck in finding this award-winning tapas bar!
Bar El Estrecho, Calle San Lázaro 12
The Old Town isn’t just about food and drink, however. The streets are also home to several unique business. Vintage Déjà Vu, run by husband and wife team Rich and Amanda Zizzi, has been specialising in hard to find and beautiful items for over two decades.
From designer clothing to accessories, interior design items to paintings and art prints, Vintage Déjà Vu is a brilliant place to find that ‘out of the ordinary’ item with class and style!
Although much more fun to visit in person, you can also visit their website and shop online.
Vintage Déjà Vu, Calle Pedreza 8
D·OLIVA is a family business that has selected a comprehensive collection of some of the best extra virgin olive oils in Spain, with many winning national and international awards. There is literally a world of olive oil waiting to be discovered – with a fantastic range of flavours that include Black Truffle, Wasabi and even ‘Marbella in Flower’. Many come in funky packaging (check out Malapipa) making great gifts. In addition D·OLIVA also stocks a range of olive pastes and olive oil based cosmetics.
D·OLIVA, Nueva, 9
Staying in the Old Town is also an option, as many of the formerly derelict townhouses have been converted into boutique hotels. One of the best is The Town House for some old-school luxury. Located in the south of the Old Town, its 10 rooms have been individually designed with chic furniture and marble flooring. As well as a wine lounge with open day bar. The Town House also has a residents’ only rooftop garden with views across the Old Town to La Concha mountain, perfect for planning your day over breakfast.
The Town House, Calle Alderete 7
Take a walk around Marbella’s Old Town and you will soon discover that many of the sadly neglected buildings are being given a new lease of life and turned into superb new restaurants, hotels and boutiques. The heart of Old Marbella is beating once again.