While there might not be any truly undiscovered parts of the Mediterranean, luckily there are still places that have not quite landed on the 21st century American traveler’s radar. One of those destinations is Marbella – which once drew Hollywood royalty such as Brigitte Bardot, Grace Kelly and Cary Grant – in the Andalusia region of southern Spain.

In recent years, Marbella has become a popular vacation spot for Europeans, particularly the British, who enjoy easy access to the Costa del Sol (Sunshine Coast) from London. In June, United Airlines launched a seasonal nonstop route to Málaga, the closest airport to Marbella, putting the destination in the league of jet-set hot spots, such as the French Riviera and the Amalfi Coast, that have direct flights from the United States.

Marbella even has a popular hashtag on social media, “Marbs,” that has become shorthand to convey a certain upscale lifestyle (#marbslife).  Still, it’s a place that can’t be lumped in so easily with other ritzy European seaside towns.

First and foremost, Marbella’s culture is influenced as much by its proximity to Northern Africa (the Moroccan port city of Tangier is within day-trip range) as by being in Europe, giving this slice of southern Spain a certain diversity and singularity that begs the question: Is Marbella the last great place on the Med?


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