Long before TOWIE landed in town, Marbella has served as a playground for the rich and famous.
One of the hotels responsible for this fishing village flourishing into the polished coastal resort that it is today is the ultra-lux Marbella Club.
This plush resort, where nightly stays can cost up to £7k, was opened in 1954 by ‘it boy’ of the day, Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, and Metro.co.uk got one of the first looks following its recent facelift.
Immediately on entering the resort you’re whisked away to another world, with lush subtropical gardens making for an exotic scene.
On top of that, VIP service is offered from the get-go; you’re greeted by doormen who insist on parking your car, and on stepping into the refined lobby, chilled glasses of Pol Roger champagne are ushered your way.
The hotel, which started life as a simple 20-room guestroom modelled on a Californian motel, now has 115 exquisitely appointed rooms and suites, along with 17 villas.
At the heart of the property is a whitewashed building and inner courtyard, which are remnants of the original Finca (farm ranch) that Prince Alfonso went about converting.
This space has been upgraded over the years and the most recent additions include a gleaming Chanel pop-up store and a photography exhibit by Australian snapper, Stuart Cantor.
Black and white photos adorn the walls of the courtyard, documenting some of the Marbella Club’s most famous guests, who were lured by Prince Alfonso’s much-talked-about fancy dress parties and his seductive joie de vivre.
The hotel’s guestbook includes everyone from Brigitte Bardot to the Duke of Windsor.
Thanks to a two-year revamp, the ‘clubhouse’ now serves as a delicious carousel-like ride of restaurants and bars.
El Patio, which takes up one flank of the vine-covered building, is open from breakfast through to dinner, with highlights including the wood-fired pizza, grilled Wagyu steak and sweet Galician oysters.
The restaurant’s photogenic indoor bar is headed up by Nelson, with some of his top tipples including Alfonso Meets Frida (a refreshing blend of Mezcal, lime, orange liqueur and corn cordial) and the Traveller Paradise (a mix of coco fat wash rum, coriander vermouth, apricot brandy and orange Curacao).
From there you can wander through the whimsically decorated indoor area to Rudi’s Bar, which feels like a Moroccan tent, full of colour, texture and flair, and on to The Grill which oozes old school glamour.
The restaurant, which many locals consider the best fine dining option in town, turns into a twinkling scene come nightfall, with well-heeled guests tucking into melt-in-the-mouth dishes and quaffing wines which run up to £10,200 for a bottle of 2010 Petrus.
If cocktails are more your thing, one of the best spots in the hotel for stonking martinis, whisky sours and more is the Piano Bar.
In this refined outdoor drinking hole, suited waiters work their magic as Frank Sinatra tracks are performed live with a glossy grand piano coming to life.
Other drinking and dining options at the sprawling resort worth checking out include MC Beach, which is set on the sand and has somewhat of a Greek feel with blue and white hues, and the Beach Club, which serves up an incredible all you can eat lunch buffet bejewelled with fresh lobsters, hunks of avocado and perfectly-grilled cuts of meat.
On the rest and recuperation front, there are two swimming pools to lounge around, a pilates centre, and a state-of-the-art spa complete with multiple treatment rooms, saunas, steam rooms and a heated indoor pool.
There’s so much to explore at the Marbella Club you could definitely spend a week or more doing the rounds.
But at up to £7k a night, this slice of paradise certainly retains its status as one of the region’s most exclusive hideaways, where Prince Alfonso’s vision of understated opulence punctuated with playfulness lives on.
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