Early man under the Sierra Blanca
In neolithic times the wooded hills of the Sierra Blanca offered sanctuary to early man, while the plains below were a source of food and water. Artefacts from pre-history have been discovered where present-day Marbella stands, but more activity was apparent west of the town towards San Pedro de Alcantara, where the lowlands broaden and encompass the valleys of the Verde and Guadalmina rivers. In this area, saline lakes formed and in Roman times salt panning developed into an industry.
Roman settlement at Salduba
The small Roman settlement of Salduba (Salt town) grew up close to these salty lakes about 6 km west of Marbella and several villas were built in and around the village suggesting a certain degree of wealth. There is still debate as to whether a settlement existed at Marbella during Roman times, but the consensus of thought is leaning towards the idea that the site where the present town is situated was just part of the large estates centred on Salduba.
Occupation of southern Spain by the Moors
It was during the occupation of much of Spain by the Moors from the 8th to 15 th centuries that Marbella itself came to prominence. Prior to that, historians have argued that Maharbal was the original name for Marbella, coming from the Phoenicians and translated as 'wood castle'. Others argue that a Carthaginian sea captain called Marhabal founded the town. Some historians believe a small fortification existed on the site in Roman times, evidenced by the discovery of Roman foundations beneath the remains of walls dating from Moorish times.
Marbil -la before Marbella appears
The first mention of 'Marbil -la' as a town occurred in the writings of the 12th century Arab historian Al-Idrisi, when it was described as a settlement of under 3,000 people. The origin of the name itself is unknown but could well be a corruption of the Latin Mar (sea) the Arabic Bil (by the) and the Arabic or Latin derivatives -La (there/place) or from La(go) (Lake), resulting in 'place by the sea' or ' Lake by the Sea' reference to the old salt lakes of Salduba.
Fortification of Old Marbella
There is strong evidence that fortification of the town began in the late 10th century in response to aggression shown by a powerful caliph (Islamic ruler) in North Africa. A large castle was constructed, and by the end of the 11th century a defensive wall and moat surrounded the town. Local stone was used in the fortifications along with pillars and brickwork thought to have been taken from buildings in the surrounding countryside. Three gates allowed access to the town, and although these, along with the walls, are long gone, the 'Sea Gate' the 'Malaga Gate' and the 'Ronda Gate' are still used as thoroughfare names.
Liberation of present-day Marbella
On the 11th June 1485 the town of Marbil -la was liberated from Moorish rule and ever since, on this St Barnabas Day, there has been a fiesta in celebration of the return to Catholic rule. The narrow streets containing mosques, administrative buildings and dwellings were pulled down and replaced by wider streets and more open spaces. Churches and conventswere built, along with a Town Hall, all of which still stand. Over the years, the city walls crumbled but the castle still remains.
....and tourism arrives on the Costa del Sol
Marbil -la became Marbella with the arrival of the Spanish Catholics and the unified language of Castilian. Marbella (Beautiful Sea) was born. The town expanded eastwards with the vineyards on the gentle foothills of the Sierra Blanca providing employment and, in later years industry developed around furnaces that smelted iron ore which was mined nearby at La Concepcion. The town was already thriving when the first tourists arrived early in the 20th century, and in the mid 1960s, when the jet-set moved along the coast from Torremolinos, Marbella was ready to welcome a new chapter in an intriguing history.
Photos from Marbella
General Climate and Weather in Marbella
The Sierra Blanca rises to over 1200 metres to the northwest of Marbella with a further mountain range, Sierra Bermeja, rising to over 1400 metres, behind that. The net effect is shelter from the northwest, and from the land breezes from that direction that are then mostly diverted down the Rio Verde and Rio Guadalmina valleys to the west, and the Rio Fuengirola valley to the east. These winds often bring the extremes of humidity and temperature to the Costa del Sol, especially during the summer months, and these are elements that the residents of Marbella are pleased to avoid.
Weather in Marbella in January
|Average Maximum 16C/61F||Average Minimum 8C/46F||Days with rain falling 7|
There is usually plenty of sunshine during January and the rain, when it arrives, normally lasts, on and off, for 2 or 3 days before the sun returns for a week or more. Temperatures, although not especially high, do feel pleasant enough in the afternoon sunshine, On 2 or 3 days in the month, the temperature rises close to 20 Celsius (68F), but on the cloudy and wet days maxima may be no higher than 10 Celsius (50F). The evenings will almost always feel chilly, and on rare occasions, the larger gardens on the outskirts of the town may have a frost on the grass for an hour or two around dawn.
Weather in Marbella in February
|Average Maximum 17C/63F||Average Minimum 8C/46F||Days with rain falling 6|
This month can be described as early Spring, with flowers blooming and, by the middle of February, the famous Andalusian almond blossom begins to appear. Temperature levels are not dissimilar to those of January, and the evenings and nights remain cool. However, as the heat from the sun increases, the afternoon stroll down towards the Orange Square becomes more comfortably warm. Rain, as in January, usually comes in a spell that lasts for 2 or 3 days at a time before clear blue skies follow. It may turn breezy for a while after a wet spell, but strong winds are seldom an inconvenience.
Weather in Marbella in March
|Average Maximum 19C/66F||Average Minimum 10C/50F||Days with rain falling 5|
Some delightful days occur in March but the early risers usually enjoy the best of the weather. A typical March day will start cool and sunny with a gentle wind blowing down from the Sierra Blanca. Temperatures will rise rapidly and by noon values will be around 19 Celsius. A few clouds may form, then quite suddenly the wind will shift right round and blow in from the sea. The sea is as cold as at any time of year in March, so once the sea breeze has become established during the afternoon the promenade is best avoided. As for rain falling, perhaps a short-lived fall once or twice a week.
Weather in Marbella in April
|Average Maximum 21C/70F||Average Minimum 12C/54F||Days with rain falling 5|
Only the foolhardy or truly seasoned bather would venture into the sea off Marbella during April. A morning of sunshine and temperatures touching 21 Celsius tempt many people to the beach, but around midday the inevitable sea breeze arrives and temperatures fall to a less than comfortable 17 Celsius. In most Aprils there are 1 or 2 days when the breeze does not blow from the sea and in the absence of the sea breeze the temperature can rise to 25 Celsius, or more. Once or twice during the month a short unsettled spell will probably occur, and an occasional day may be marred by rain.
Weather in Marbella in May
|Average Maximum 23C/73F||Average Minimum 14C/57F||Days with rain falling 3|
This is arguably one of the best months to visit Marbella if yachting or bathing in the hotel swimming pool is a priority. The mornings are usually sunny and warm. Around midday, just as it begins to become uncomfortably warm, the sea breeze sets in and the afternoons are normally sunny and pleasantly warm. Of course, it is very easy to get sunburnt during May, especially as the cooling sea breeze gives a false sense of immunity to burning. On 1 or 2 occasions during the month, the temperature can exceed 30 Celsius (86F), but in most Mays there are 1 or 2 short-lived unsettled spells.
Weather in Marbella in June
|Average Maximum 27C/81F||Average Minimum 17C/63F||Days with rain falling 1|
The sun beats down relentlessly from a clear blue sky. Not completely true, but certainly a close approximation to the weather in June. The sun appears hazier as the air trapped under the sea-breeze inversion becomes more polluted, but clouds are rare. Occasionally, say once or twice a month, a band of cloud may spoil the sunshine and this could produce an hour or two of rain. High-level thunderstorms, moving north from Morocco, may produce a few spots of dust-laden rain, otherwise sunshine, and just the odd unpleasant day when the temperature rises close to 38 Celsius (100F).
Weather in Marbella in July
|Average Maximum 28C/82F||Average Minimum 20C/68F||Days with rain falling <1|
Rain is so rare in July it is not worth a mention. Bands of high cloud occasionally prevent a day of full sunshine but the normal July pattern of weather is this. After a warm and fairly humid night, there is a dip in temperature to 19 or 20 Celsius around dawn. The morning then warms up rapidly, reaching around 29 Celsius between midday and 1 pm. The light wind on the beach then quite quickly becomes a steady breeze off the sea. With sea temperatures generally around 23 Celsius in July, the afternoon breeze is very refreshing. Occasionally the sea breeze fails and it becomes very hot.
Weather in Marbella in August
|Average Maximum 28C/82F||Average Minimum 21C/70F||Days with rain falling <1|
During this month it becomes increasingly unpleasant for those without air-conditioning. Although temperature levels are similar to those of July, the humidity is higher, the pollution levels are greater and the sea breeze is usually lighter and less refreshing. Nevertheless, the sea is pleasantly warm, and the weather is normally reliably sunny. On rare occasions, most likely late in the month, a thunderstorm may occur, and on 1 or 2 days the failure of the sea breeze may result in temperatures near 38 Celsius (100F) by day, and not falling much below 28 Celsius (82F) by late evening.
Weather in Marbella in September
|Average Maximum 28C/82F||Average Minimum 19C/66F||Days with rain falling 2|
September in Marbella is a summer month. The first week or two can be very hot and humid, and nights with temperatures remaining above 23 Celsius (73F) are not uncommon. Pollution levels often appear high, and the chance of relief from refreshing rain is almost nil. Occasionally, an upwelling of cold water can occur with cold sea fog lapping the beaches. This can happen at any time during the summer months but thankfully it is rare and only lasts a day or two. The phenomenon of upwelling is poorly understood at present, and unlike the less unusual Spring sea mist, is unpredictable.
Weather in Marbella in October
|Average Maximum 23C/73F||Average Minimum 16C/61F||Days with rain falling 4|
October weather in Marbella is fickle at the very least. The figures say that it is the wettest month of the year with over 100 mm (4 inches) of rain, but they don't say that the rain falls in severe thunderstorms with curtains of water that often last for less than 2 hours. The sea remains very warm, partly the reason for those storms, but the adjacent land also stays pleasantly warm and without the intense heat from the sun. On balance, this month is probably the 2nd best, behind May, to visit this part of Spain, and by the end of the month nights are becoming comfortably cool again.
Weather in Marbella in November
|Average Maximum 19C/66F||Average Minimum 11C/52F||Days with rain falling 6|
The nights have lengthened in Marbella at this time of year, but are not as long as they are in northern Europe. Of all the months, November probably offers the best contrast between the grey and cold of northern latitudes and the sun, and relative warmth, of the Costa del Sol. Early in the month, temperatures regularly reach 20 Celsius, or more, and to have 2 consecutive cloudy days is rare. The weather is thundery at times, and rain can sometimes be very heavy, but pollution levels are low and, in most years, the sea is warm enough to bathe in, at least early in the month.
Weather in Marbella in December
|Average Maximum 17C/63F||Average Minimum 9C/48F||Days with rain falling 6|
There can be some dire days in December anywhere in Europe, and even Marbella can have 3 or 4 days of windy, wet and relatively cold weather with temperatures struggling to reach 12 Celsius. However, this is the exception and, although not warm, there is sufficient sunshine to cheer a visitor from the north. The evenings and nights are normally quite cold, and in sunnier Decembers a frost may occur on the grass in larger gardens away from the coast. Occasionally the temperature may approach 20 Celsius (68F), but the lower humidity adds chill to the air when evening arrives.