Marbella is a unique city that enjoys mild weather all year round. This south western corner of Europe is one of the only places you can go in the winter, to be assured of winter sun, and outdoor dining, and without leaving the EU.
Marbella is a foodie destination with a huge array of restaurants and tapas bars. Every kind of cuisine is present and every style from ultra casual to ultra chic. Don't think your only choices will be pizza and french fries, like in many other Spanish seaside towns. Marbella has it all, and most places offer excellent quality. We have rarely had a bad meal or bad experience, even in the simplest places. It helps if you can manage a few polite words in the national language - as long as you don't make the mistake of using your Italian when in Spain.
When you are in Marbella deciding where you will have dinner, you have a few choices. Do you want chic or casual? And do you want to go on the beach (seaview dining) or in town?
WATERFRONT BEACH DINING
Chiringuitos are restaurants on the beach, that usually have an open fire going for grilling fresh fish on skewers. You can get Paella, fried seafood, fish baked in in salt crust, squid sauteed on the plancha.. Chiringuitos can be very casual - a few tables with plastic chairs and paper table coverings - or very chic - like Trocadero or Diblu, which have created veritable luxury salons right on the sand and dining in incredibly decorated waterfront dining rooms. These restaurants almost always have sunbeds for hire and depending on the place, serve food at your sunbed and at their dining tables. In summer and high season it's better to reserve a table if you want to eat around 2pm!
Places we love in Elviria are: Carlos y Paola, Merendero Cristina, Simbad, and La Perla Blanca. More upscale: Casanis Plage and The Beach House. In center Marbella you have dozens of choices, upscale beaches tend to be either side of the boardwalk away from the center, on one side in front of the Amare hotel you have Soleo and Mahiki beach, towards the Golden Mile and Puerto Banus you will find Diblu and Trocadero, La Milla and other chic beaches with lovely restaurants. These places are also open at night and the atmosphere is magical.
Specialties not to miss are: gambas pil pil (prawns served in bubbling boiling oil with garlic slivers and whole red peppers), fried seafood - including calamari of course but try the little anchovies called boquerones or the baby squid called chopitos or puntillitos, Paella of course or it's festive cousin Arroz Caldo which is like a French fish soup served in a ceramic pot with rice instead of potatoes and croutons. Also very popular are the barbecued fish, done on an open fire right on the beach. Skewers of fresh sardines, prawns, octopus leg or seabass are held to the flames and served piping hot. Delicious!
SIDEWALK TAPAS BARS
If you decide you've had enough of the beach, Marbella city and old town offer lots of choices: will you go for the atmosphere of strolling around old town Marbella and the Plaza de los Naranjos? Or stay in the residential district for more authentic and less tourist-themed fare? In center Marbella the choices are endless and you can enjoy people watching in any neighborhood. The old town has a labyrinth of whitewashed streets, it is more tourist-oriented but there are lots of good places! Many small independant tapas bars tucked into hidden corners are a delight. Some of our favorites are Bar Altamirano and Casa Curro in the old town, La Sacristia and Jamon y Vino in the beach neighborhood, El Barracon in the Elviria shopping center.
We like to look for the local places where Spaniards sit on stools and order a beer, a glass of sherry or wine and enjoy some small bites, such as steamed prawns fresh from the Malaga seafood market, or small plates of luxury iberico ham.
CHIC RESTAURANTS WITH THEIR OWN TERRACES
Upscale restaurants usually have their own terrace space, whether they are off the beaten track, in a shopping center or downtown.
In the old town, Zozoi is a Belgian-run high-end restaurant with two lovely courtyards. Casanis Bistrot is a reference in the old town, but also Belgian-owned and you can eat outside on the sidewalk or in the back courtyards. These are favorites among the large Belgian and French expat communities in Marbella.
On the Paseo Maritimo, Los Mellizos is a favorite among Spanish visitors - white tablecloths good cutlery and upscale service make this place stand out.
In Elviria, you will find El Lago in the Greenlife golf course, a Michelin-starred treat with outdoor seating and views over the fairway.