24 Hours in Marbella, Spain with Michelle Hastwell

by Sabrina Smelko

24 Hours in Marbella, Spain
Marbella is a culturally diverse city on the coast of the Andalucian region in Spain and, yes, is as romantically beautiful as you’d expect. Boasting on average over 320 days of sunshine a year, gorgeous beaches, more than 10 golf courses, cafes on almost every corner and a nightlife in the summer months to rival any major city, it’s no wonder Marbella attracts so many different kinds of people, including London-native Michelle Hastwell.

In between eating out, drinking tons of coffee, and raising her son (age 10) and daughter (age 7), Michelle runs a wedding and event decoration business, Gorgeous Event Decoration. As a business owner, she’s explored Marbella high and low, seeking out the best cafes, shops and attractions. Today, Michelle’s sharing her ideal 24 hours in Marbella, which she promises is “much more than champagne parties and celeb-spotting!” —Sabrina


Even though I was born and raised — until my late 20s — in London, Marbella feels like it’s always been my home. Maybe it’s because I’ve been coming here for family holidays since I was five years old that it’s always had a special pull on my heartstrings. Eleven years ago my husband and I quit our jobs in London, he worked in catering and I was in TV advertising, and made the move over here and we’ve never looked back. There are so many reasons why I love Marbella and it’s not just to do with the 300-odd days of sunshine a year here, though it certainly is a bonus. The place is so diverse and there is something for everyone — golf, beaches, gorgeous Spanish food, quaint little parks, skiing in the winter months (Sierra Nevada is a couple of hours drive down the coast, but you can organize trips from Marbella), to name but a few. I love spring and autumn here as it’s not too touristy and the weather is good, so there are always plenty of things to do without the summer heat. The summer months see the young and beautiful people flocking here to party all day and night at hip and trendy beach clubs such as Nikki Beach and Ocean Club, but on the flip side there are families who just want to chill out with the kids and relax.

One thing I have noticed about living here is that everything revolves around family and food – two of my favorite things! Bringing up our kids here is very different to that of our family and friends back in the UK. We take the good bits of our Britishness mixed in with the good bits of Spanishness and it makes for a fun — though at times, rather hectic — lifestyle. For example, in Marbella it’s very normal to go out for a meal on Saturday night with friends and the kids (never before 9 pm, as that wouldn’t be a very Spanish thing to do!) and see kids everywhere, running around and playing until 2 am. It took a bit of getting used to, but now we wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope you enjoy my guide to my Marbella life!

9 am: There is nothing better than a sombre (milky coffee) to start the day and Goyo does the best. And, of course, it would be rude not to indulge in a cheeky little pastry on the side. You give up thinking about the calories by the time you eventually make up your mind about which one(s!) to have. My other favorite coffee shop is El Churreria Feliz (Calle Tetuán, 9), which serves the best churros (a bit like a deep-fried donut) in town.

El Churreria Feliz

10 am: If you’re a bit of a culture vulture I’d suggest going to the Ralli Museum located on the way out of Marbella towards Puerto Banus. Entrance is free and there are temporary and permanent exhibitions, so something different to see every time. If you’re not really into art and fancy something a bit different, the Bonsai Museum in the Old Town of Marbella fits the bill.

Old Town 2

Noon: No matter how many times I wander through Marbella Old Town I still love it. The little cobbled streets and quaint shops that I remember visiting as a child haven’t changed much in over 30 years. In the center of the Old Town is Orange Square (Plaza de los Naranjos), which is a great place to have a coffee at one of the cafes and watch the world go by. Further down the road in Plaza Santo Cristo is La Iglesia de Encarnación (Encarnación church). Whether you are religious or not, the interior of the church is breathtaking and you have to take a peek. In the Old Town I’d also recommend doing a bit of shopping. There are the usual touristy shops, however, there are some little gems, too. My favorite is Jardin Secret (Plaza de la Victoria, 7) as they have the most gorgeous handmade soaps and fragrances.

Jardin Secret
2 pm: For a really delicious and al fresco meal, head to El Pozo Viejo (The Old Well). One of my favorite Spanish dishes is Gambas al pil pil (prawns cooked in a spicy garlicky sauce) and here they have a spin on this fabulous, traditional dish. Definitely not to be missed if you like spicy food.

3:30 pm: After lunch I recommend taking a stroll along the Paseo Maritimo (promenade) on the seafront. The view is amazing. It never fails to astound me that on a clear day you can look out to sea and see Gibraltar to your right and Morocco just in the distance in front of you. Three countries and two continents, right before your very eyes! You can walk for miles along the Paseo Maritimo and there are lots of cafes and ice cream parlors which are perfect for people-watching, and if you’re lucky you might get to see some amazing sand sculptures on the beach along the way. If you don’t fancy walking, you can rent a bike, but I wouldn’t recommend it in the summer as it can get pretty crowded along here.

Paseo Maritimo

5:30 pm: For me, it’s coffee time again and one of my favorite haunts is the cafe at the entrance to the Parque de la Constitution (Avenida Arias Maldonado). It’s a nice place to chill out surrounded by trees and the coffee is good. I used to come here with friends when our kids were very young, so I guess it’s kind of sentimental to me. Plus, the park itself is lovely and really quiet. It’s the perfect place to put your feet up and read a book on one of the benches among the beautiful flowers.

Entrance to Parque de la Constitution Inside Parque de la Consitution
6 pm: With the city coming back to life after siesta time (roughly 2-5 pm) I meander down Avenida Ricardo Soriano, popping into Zara and Mango on the way to meet friends at one of the best tapas places in Marbella (in my opinion, anyway), La Taberna del Pintxo. The great thing about tapas is that you can eat as much or as little as you like and it’s so sociable. A glass of vino here, a bit of tapas there (the homemade croquets, as well as the meatballs in tomato sauce, are the best) and I’m happy.

10:30 pm: If you’re up for a bit of partying I would suggest either getting a taxi to Suite nightclub or to Puerto Banus to La Sala where there is live music every night and the atmosphere is always good.

Things To Do:

Hiking up La Concha mountain – Refugio de Juanar
Go-karting, water sports etc. – Funny Beach
Shopping mall – La Cañada


Shanti Som (great place for yoga and well-being retreats)
El Faro Apartments
Hotel Lima
Hotel Claude

Eating Out:

Da Fabio
El Patio de Mariscal

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  • I spent a lovely week long vacation in Marbella and if I ever go back would love to take advantage of these recommendations!

    I must suggest a cute little cafe, Bellaria, that has healthy food and is friendly those who are gluten-free and dairy free! It is slightly outside of Marbella but the owner is very nice and the food was amazing!

  • Thank you for sharing your photos…it was fun to stroll down memory lane, albeit a bit vicariously! I had the good fortune to spend Easter week in Marbella last year. I absolutely fell in love! And, like you, I really enjoyed the overall family-and-food-friendly vibe! Can not wait to get back soon!

  • Marbella sounds delightful!! And I’m very jealous of their siesta time (let’s catch up with that idea, America!). Gorgeous – thanks for sharing!

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