The Marbella Club has long been touted as the grande dame of southern Spain and so I was intrigued to see if she lived up to the accolade on my recent visit to the property.
Sadly, my short stay here proved that her crown was slipping and, in certain areas, she looked and felt a little tired and threadbare, clearly living in her past glory.
The resort is steeped in history. Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe-Langenburg, dubbed the ‘King of Clubs’ and around-town known as Olé-Olé in reference to his partying and hard-to-pronounce surname, was looking to restore his fortune when he headed south from Madrid in 1947 to explore business opportunities. Here in Marbella, he bought a plot of land of 180,000 m² and an old finca (in Spanish, estate) which initially became the family’s private residence.
In 1954 the prince opened the doors of this twenty room home to his friends and, with a penchant for partying hard, opened the bar and dining room to the same well-heeled crowd. The Marbella Club was born. Friends would ask to stay for one night and end up staying longer.
During the early years Alfonso hosted at least three parties a week, mostly fancy dress events on the beach. Guests included members of the English aristocracy, Hollywood stars and European royalty.
As the destination’s popularity grew over the decades so did visitor numbers. Children were welcomed along with their party-going parents and the resort expanded to introduce large villas and suites with pools and more facilities. Today, it offers a vast range of accommodation to suit all needs and requirements. In 2014, the hotel completed an extensive renovation of its rooms.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Buffet breakfast
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Food & Beverage credit
- US$100 or equivalent to be used during your stay
- Hotel experience
- One complimentary round of golf per person per day on the Marbella Club Golf Resort
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
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I was greeted upon arrival by a gracious doorman who took care of my hire car and escorted me to the reception to check in. While by no means busy, I felt as if I was imposing on the telephone calls the staff were making behind the desk and I waited a few minutes to be seen to. The person who attended to me was very efficient and presented me with a map of the resort and explained where my suite was in conjunction with the reception area. Informative, but she lacked any genuine warmth and was clearly just going through the routine with me. The same doorman appeared once again to escort me to my suite. Perfect timing on his part.
Rooms and suites
My Deluxe Garden suite was located close to the Garden Pool and terrace, a lovely section of the property near to the heart of the hotel and nestled in the verdant gardens. It had a light and airy feel to it and a welcoming sun-filled lounge area lead out onto my small terrace. The bedroom was separate to the living area, offering a great sense of space. The feel was modern and contemporary with hints of traditional décor in the form of dark, wooden furniture. It did not have a big ‘wow’ factor however.
The suite featured two flat screen TVs, one in the lounge area and one in the bedroom. There were plenty of channels to choose from, in all languages. A DVD/CD player was hooked up, as was an IPod docking station, albeit an obsolete old version. A very welcome Nespresso machine is standard in all the suites and free WiFi works well throughout the hotel.
For a more spacious terrace, opt for the lower ground suites which have sun loungers and table and chairs. Sadly, they are not secluded as those on higher floors overlook these ground floor patios.
The bathroom was a decent size and offered a separate shower and bath with the WC in an adjoining alcove. A nice touch was the underfloor heating, appreciated as I was there in cooler climes. Lighting was good, however the reddish/brown marble did darken the ensemble somewhat.
Natura Bisse amenities were a nice choice.
I opted for the more relaxed option for dinner at the MC Café, famous for its friendly and lively atmosphere. Just three other tables were occupied that evening so the scene was not exactly hopping, but I can imagine that in the height of the season this intimate restaurant would come alive with residents and locals alike. Black and white pictures on the walls of celebrities and royalty who had, in the past, spent many an evening enjoying the convivial atmosphere here, validated this sentiment.
A lovely outside terrace area seats approximately twenty and would be a great spot for an alfresco lunch or dinner: people watching at its best!
The menu offers an extensive selection of light bites, from low calorie healthy salads and sushi to burgers, wood-fired pizzas and pastas. There is also a very tempting menu of European/Asian fusion food. Opting for the prawn tempura with soba noodles and a baby spinach salad, I enjoyed the food with a select glass of Rioja.
Again, the staff here were not effusively friendly but were very efficient and I was well looked after.
Other restaurant options
The sunshine allowed me to enjoy my breakfast on the outdoor terrace of the Winter Garden one morning, a real treat while sipping my early am java. The buffet was lavish, with a great choice of fruit, freshly baked breads and pastries, cereals, Spanish hams, yoghurts, eggs to order and glass of champagne, should I have been inclined.
On another morning, I ordered breakfast at the Winter Garden, where I asked for some poached eggs. The order took quite a while to come and to my surprise, when I tucked into it, the eggs were stone cold. My dish was replaced when I requested a hot version, but I got little in the way of an apology.
Sunday brunch here is popular at the Beach Club, so be sure to book in advance. Another option is a candlelit dinner at the iconic Grill restaurant, not to be missed if you are feeling particularly romantic or enjoy a fine cut of meat cooked on the grill.
The hotel’s sister property, Puento Romano, located next door, hosts a further selection of dining options. These include Thai, Italian, seafood, Japanese, a bistro offering 100% organic produce, and a two-star Michelin restaurant offering Spanish fare at its finest.
Spa and wellness
The beach-front spa is situated in a great spot with amazing views and is a perfect place to relax after a luxurious treatment on the terrace.The treatment menu is extensive and tailor-made options are also available.
I made use of the gym during my stay and while not the biggest or the most well-equipped facility I’ve ever frequented, the equipment is new and well-maintained and, better yet, open 24 hours. They offer a range of lifestyle programmes including boot camp, yoga, stress management and their ‘breathe-free’ programme for those who want to quit smoking, something unique for a resort spa.
Pool and beach
Of the three pools here, I dipped my toe in the Garden Pool, a perfect spot to indulge in some Spanish sunshine. It is a little oasis nestled in the centre of the hotel grounds, surrounded by mature gardens and offering a casual bar and restaurant for some alfresco dining.
I did notice that pool service was nearly non-existent and while the restaurant was manned, guests still had to get up and walk to the pool bar to order. This may be a different story at busier times of the year; I certainly hope so.
I imagine that in the summer months the beach club is a hive of activity as would be the pool area as both are very popular places to be seen. The beach is not private but is a nice spot to take a dip in the Med.
The third pool is located at the spa where this thalasso facility is a perfect start or finish to a spa treatment.
The kid’s club here is one the of best equipped I have seen in Europe. It covers 5,000 m² and offers little visitors a plethora of activities including adventures in the vegetable garden, a perfume making-lab, cookery classes, dancing lessons and the standard paint and craft sessions. There is also a supervised swimming pool. At 75 euros per child, per day, it doesn’t come cheap. But for those on what the property calls its Wellness Package, this charge may be included.
Staff and service
A mixed bunch and while the staff around the Garden Pool and in the Winter Garden restaurant at breakfast certainly looked the part in their white tuxedos, I felt at times they were far from professional and lacked any real interest in their jobs.
The reception staff were aloof and robotic and they made me feel as if I was lucky to be staying here rather than they being delighted to have me as a guest. However, there were flashes of excellent service in the form the bell boy on arrival and departure and a few others here and there.
Mostly British guests, sensibly taking advantage of the winter sun. Many seemed to be repeat clients and were well known to the staff. Local guests and Russian couples were also milling about.
Check out was very swift and efficient. The bell boy appeared yet again with my hire car already loaded and ready to go.
How to get there
40 minutes from Malaga Airport
115 Rooms & Suites