Wrapped in lush subtropical gardens with touches of pink bougainvillea dripping from the whitewashed buildings, the Marbella Club transports you to another world from the moment you step inside. This seaside pleasure dome was the vision of Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, who stumbled upon the vast land on which it stands, while traveling from Madrid with his father Max in the late 1940s. They extended the original finca in a family house and cultivate fig, olive and pine orchards in well-tended garden areas. Fast forward to 1954, when Prince Alfonso started the Marbella Club with his simple 20-room guesthouse modeled on a California motel.
The prince was the It boy of his time; he was attractive, well educated, he had lived in New York and California where he studied agricultural engineering, and his connections ranged from royalty to Hollywood stars. With its magical touch, the Marbella Club quickly became the place to see and be seen, with its high-flying friends taking off for slices of fun in the sun. Another decoy was the prince’s fancy dress parties, which ranged from “Hawaiian” to “jungle fever”.
Today, monochrome photos adorn the walls of the original part of the farmhouse, which hugs an interior courtyard. It’s like a game of ‘spot the celebrity’, with Brigette Bardot, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant among the mix of former Marbella Club guests. With the aim of perpetuating the legacy of Prince Alfonso, the patio space and the bowels of the farmhouse have been recently redeveloped. One notable addition is a Chanel pop-up store and another is an exhibit of elegant rose-tinted photos of the hotel taken by Australian photographer Stuart Cantor. These snaps are also available as swim shorts, thanks to a collaboration with British men’s resort wear brand Orlebar Brown.
The recently inaugurated “clubhouse”, right next to the vine-draped courtyard, is a setting, with communicating rooms leading you on a kaleidoscopic journey, full of colors, textures and flair. El Patio, which occupies a side of the clubhouse, is a dream location for a leisurely breakfast or lunch; while at night things speed up, with a DJ taking over and dancing is encouraged.
Around the corner, the hotel’s piano bar exudes old-school glamor with tailored waiters preparing perfectly made martinis; the sound of the shakers completes the musical score – as does the chatter of well-heeled guests. The tunes can still be heard from the terrace of the gourmet Grill restaurant, which many locals consider to be one of the best places to eat in Marbella, with everything – especially the scallop carpaccio – executed with great skill.
In terms of accommodation, the Marbella Club is now home to 115 beautifully appointed guest rooms and suites, as well as 17 villas. The hotel has also expanded to include a state-of-the-art spa, two swimming pools, an impressive kids’ club, and eight restaurants and bars, including a beachside restaurant. From its humble beginnings, the Marbella Club has certainly grown into a magnificent being. It still serves as a glamorous playground for children and adults alike, with Prince Alfonso joy of living still alive and well.