After a warm welcome we are given a tour of the premises of what may very well be the most iconic hotel in Spain: the Marbella Club. Elated, we walk through the lovely, park-like estate with its many rooms and suites built in charming single-story architecture, interspersed with one gorgeous free-standing villa after another. All of this beauty remains entirely unnoticed by our children: all they have eyes for is the 5,000m2 Kids Club. Their mouths are hanging open in astonishment and excitement: ‘Dad, this looks like a children’s village. No, it’s more like a children’s city!’ An understatement: this children’s paradise exceeds all possible expectations. After all, what child wouldn’t want to cook in his very own culinary studio and eat the results with his newly made friends in the adjacent ‘tavern’? Or participate in a dance class in the fully equipped dance studio, paint in the art studio, play the newest games on the computers in the games room, swim in the special children’s pool, make bars of scented soap for his grandparents, ride a pony, plant vegetables in the garden and, if that’s too much activity, choose a book from the library and read it, ensconced in a comfy bean bag chair?
Once they’ve discovered the Kids Club you’ll have a difficult time indeed to get your children to explore the rest of this luxury hotel with you. However, if you think the 5-star Marbella Club is mainly for kids, you’ve got it all wrong! While the children amuse themselves to their heart’s content at the Kids Club, their mums and dads can unwind at the spa, enjoy an extensive lunch at one of the nine restaurants and bars, or swim a few laps in one of the three swimming pools. Anyone staying a week or less will hardly have enough time to try out each of the many facilities on offer!
Perhaps it’s a good idea to let all of this sink in over a cool drink. Black and white photographs of Brigitte Bardot, 007 Roger Moore, Audrey Hepburn look down at us from their picture frames while we settle in at the ‘Champagne Bar’. They were all, at one time or another, the guest of Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, a flamboyant aristocrat who in the 1940s acquired the most splendid plots of land on the Spanish Costa del Sol near Marbella to establish the Marbella Club - the first luxury resort in the region - in 1954.
Not only film stars were attracted to the small chunk of paradise that Prince Alfonso created; leading banking dynasties such as the Rothschilds and Oppenheimers felt equally at ease here. As a matter of fact, they still do: we discovered during our stay here that several members of the first-mentioned family were in fact occupying one the private villas on the estate.
Fortunately, mere mortals are also welcome to stay at the Marbella club, although it goes without saying that it costs a pretty penny. However, after a week in an environment like this, your batteries will be fully charged to last you through another year. Anyone hearing the name Marbella will immediately think of lots of bling-bling and ostentatiously expensive cars. You won’t find any of this at the Marbella Club. You could almost call the setting old-fashioned - but in a positive way. No matter how grand it is, there are no situations where you could possible feel awkward or self-conscious and the staff is extremely friendly and informal.
We are staying in two interconnected Deluxe Junior Suites, beautifully decorated in a subdued, understated style. Our broad terrace looks out over the garden and one of the swimming pools. If you prefer a view of the sea, the resort also offers several accommodations, in the classic whitewashed architectural style typical to Andalusian villages, just a stone’s throw from the beach and the promenade.
And if you’ve just won the lottery: why not book the ‘Villa del Mar’? There’s more than enough space in this majestic villa hidden from view on the resort grounds. With a surface area of 6,000m2, the villa features six bedrooms (the biggest is 250m2) and nine bathrooms. Finally: a house where there’s no need to queue for the bathroom! When the weather is overcast, simply light all seven fireplaces and watch a film in the villa’s private cinema.
And when the sun does start to peep from behind the clouds, it’s only a 20-minute drive to one of the professional 18-hole golf courses - or visit the Marbella Club Equestrian Centre, where all the resort guests are welcome to choose a mount. If you’re feeling a little less energetic, just stroll down to the resort’s private Beach Club for a freshly brewed espresso and a home-made pastry, a copious lunch from the acclaimed buffet or a lovely cocktail, served on the beach (if you like) while basking in the last warm rays of sunshine on your comfortable lounger.
Brigitte Bardot and her jet-set friends certainly knew how - and above all where - to enjoy a holiday!
# The feeling that you are part of the rich history of jet-setters. The understated, stylish allure of aristocracy from by-gone days mixed in with a splash of movie star glamour makes for an irresistible combination.
# The Kids Club is phenomenal. Even parents who aren’t fond of organised children’s entertainment will be happy to leave their children at this genuine children’s village. The immense range of activities on offer focuses on creative and athletic development and you will have a difficult time persuading your children to leave.
# Although a stay here is certainly not inexpensive, everything offered here is of a superior standard of quality, without any concessions. From the accommodations themselves to the swimming pools, restaurants and gardens: everything here is magnificent. Without ever being stuffy or formal.
This hotel is part of The Leading Hotels of the World.