European retreats don't come much better than Marbella, a Mediterranean paradise in Southern Spain. Beautiful beaches and cultural hubs such as Barcelona make Marbella one of the go to destinations on the European continent. Beyond the alluring sands there is a welter of things to do and see from simply relaxing with good food or exploring some of the region’s history. Whether you’re looking for a family holiday or traveling solo. You will soon find that Marbella has something that suits your tastes. We've put together this short guide to get you started on your choice of which treasures to enjoy when enjoying the fun and sun of glorious Andalusia.

Wander around the old town

Although a very modern resort, Marbella also packs in a lot of history. Away from the ultra-yachts and ultra-rich there is a maze of fascinating cobbled streets to be explored in the old town. This area originates from the time when the centre of Marbella was a Muslim settlement but its history actually goes as far back as Roman times.

The first thing that strikes you is the lovely architecture of whitewashed housing and terracotta roofs, many of which are decorated with fresh flowers. You will find that the locals are very proud of their town and everything seems clean, spotless and shiny.

The best place to start is the central 15th century square of Plaza de los Naranjos where you can enjoy a relaxing coffee amongst the orange trees. From here it is just a short walk to Marbella Castle to look at the ruins and discover the stories. Follow this up by posting in front of the fortified walls of the Alcazaba that used to protect the town from invaders. Amongst the streets of the old town you will also come across The Magistrate’s House with its delightful gothic muslim architecture. There is also a very good restaurant on the bottom floor of this building.

Tick off a few more charming squares on your walk including the bustling Plaza de la Iglesia, Plaza de la Victoria and Plaza África. Visit one of the parks that offers a charming stroll through lush vegetation. Stop for tapas at a little restaurant and meet the friendly locals. Above all, try to get lost in the cobbles and use fate to find your own unique part of old Marbella.

Love the night life

Whether you are leaving the kids back at base to sleep or simply looking for the town's youthful vibes, the night life of Marbella is rightly world famous. Indeed, the city itself seems to change character as the sun sets and a fun, party atmosphere takes over.

That is not to say that Marbella is a frenzied, headache-inducing destination and a quieter, more ambient evening can be enjoyed depending on what you are looking for. Head for the Golden Mile to find the main places where a cocktail and good music await as well as some of the most famous clubs. There are also plenty of great restaurants around here.

When it comes to dance music, Marbella has you covered with world famous DJs regularly in attendance at big clubs such as Mirage, Pangea, or Dreamers. Summer nights at pleasure palaces such as these are legendary, full of the latest beats, endless drinks and smiling faces. Even better is sitting on the beach afterwards watching the sunrise before heading back to base for a much needed sleep

Away from the main strip you will find many beach parties going on in and around Marbella. There is a bar for everyone and it is up to you how loud, quiet, chilled, international or intimate you want your night to feel. Wherever you are after hours, Marbella will deliver what you want and then some.

Eat good food

If you like to enjoy great cuisine on holiday then Marbella has something special to show you. The presence of four Michelin starred restaurants in the town is just the start of the story of how Marbella has become one of Spain's hot spots for those who love everything from tapas to paella and every international cuisine in between.

There are many options for eating out from the more formal diners to small bistros or snacks by the beach sold by the clubs. The more popular hotspots fill up fast so make sure you book in advance if you are planning a meal at one of the bigger names.

The old town is probably the best place to head if you are looking for the authentic tapas experience of Spain where you can stop at one of the many little establishments that serve small plates and chilled beer with views encompassing the gorgeous streets of central Marbella. Bars are colourful, atmospheric and the food authentic and fresh.

It is a good idea to do a little research if you are planning on eating out as the restaurant scene can change quite quickly and what comes recommended may change week by week. You also have the option of dining in at Club Med’s Suenos restaurant with its view of the sea from the terrace or the Tierra Gourmet Lounge which offers the best in local cuisine together with ambient live music.

Play a round of golf

The Golf Valley of Marbella is rightly famous as a paradise for those who enjoy a good walk spoiled under sunny skies of spectacular surroundings. The size and variety of courses offered is nirvana to a golfer with something aimed at all ages and skill levels. It is the perfect place to introduce the younger members of the family to the game or to simply wander by yourself across different greens enjoying a truly luxurious golfing holiday, Golf tuition and classes are offered within the Club Med Resort where you will also find facilities to help you improve your short game and swing.

Choose the courses that match your style, pleasure and budget. For a top end experience and a relaxing round try La Quinta Golf Club for five star luxury, a truly fun course with great facilities. Marbella Golf Course itself is a stunning set of holes and includes a series of Par 5s that will challenge any golfer, so make sure your swing action is at its best. If Seve Ballesteros is one of your heroes then why not give a course designed by him a go at San Roque? The Old Course has hosted major tournaments and is a brilliant place to imagine yourself being cheered on by the crowds under glorious sunshine.

Admire the old church

The Iglesia de la Encarnación is a must-see when in Marbella. In a country where religious architecture is generally spectacular to say the least, this is one of the finest examples of baroque design that dates back to the late 1700s.

A former mosque, it has been used by Christians since the reconquest of Spain which gives it a unique look and feel. The original Muslim design can still be seen but fused with classic iconography it creates an atmosphere like no other.

As well as admiring the exterior, make sure you head inside to appreciate the stunning rococo decoration. There is an abundance of statues to be admired as well as the lavish architecture and imposing tower that rises up from the back of the church. A series of beautiful 17th century paintings add to the ambience. Light streams in from over 60 windows situated at all levels making it a place that truly raises the spirits. Try to book a guided tour to fully appreciate what this hidden treasure in the middle of Marbella can offer to the visitor.

Go to the beach

If you are in Marbella then a visit to the beach is likely to happen at some point. And what a choice of beaches you have from the playgrounds of the rich and famous to smaller, more intimate locations where you can leave the world behind and just admire the views.

Expect sun bathing of the highest quality including a selection of Blue Flag beaches where the facilities are superb and the water sparkling and clean. Families can find baby changing activities, pedalo hire, the reassurance of lifeguards and plenty of lounger rental options so everyone can lie back in a comfortable chair all day.

Whatever you choose, the beaches in this region are amongst the best anywhere and stretch for miles in every direction. You will find plenty to do when you get there as well if you are looking for bars with a view or the opportunity to dance to music at lunchtime.

If you want a general good choice then you won't go wrong with the widely lauded El Faro and Cabopino beaches. For peace and quiet El Alicate is a great idea that offers spectacular nature without the bustling crowds of other locations. Nueva Andalucía Beach offers something slightly different with lots of little coves and dark sands.

If you are seeking a more VIP experience then head for the beaches that are named after the bars that made them famous. The Marbella Club Beach Club, La Cabane, Nikki Beach, Ocean Club, and Trocadero Arena offer a touch of glamour as well as a brilliant choice of food and drink.

Sunrise, sunset and all the times in between - get ready for fabulous beach days in Marbella.

Enjoy the water

The fact that Marbella is located on the Mediterranean Sea makes it the perfect place for many water sports. Whatever floats your boat or powers your sail can be found along the beautiful coastline. You can spend days or weeks simply enjoying the surf, the lovely water and warm sun as well as the adrenaline of fun that comes from sea-based activities

So what will you choose? Maybe a simple swim in the Med will be enough, but how about trying windsurfing for the first time or wakeboarding, kitesurfing or jet skiing? If you have ever fancied yourself as a sailor then lessons are available and boats can be hired to give you a taste of life on the waves. Alternatively, why not join a romantic sunset cruise or go in search of the local dolphins who play happily in the nearby sea? For those who love fishing there are also plenty of places and tours to get your catch of the day. Essentially, Marbella is prime water sports territory and if you and your family are dreaming of briny fun in the sun there are few better places to choose from in Europe and beyond.

Visit Mijas

Finally, why not book an excursion to nearby Mijas just half an hour away - Club Med can take care of the arrangement. This charming white mountain village seems to be suspended between the sky and the sea and is a maze of streets that have a real arty, bohemian feel to them. There truly is an old town vibe in Mijas with mountains in the background and the glorious Mediterranean in the other direction. Moorish buildings can be found throughout as well as little workshops where local artisans make your perfect souvenir from clay or silver.

If you travel in September then you can enjoy festivals of theatre, food and music and join in with the locals as they celebrate Mijas’ patron Virgen de la Peña. The mixture of traditional and modern is best exemplified by the donkey taxi that can take you on a tour of the village and then leave you by the waterside to enjoy water sports and contemporary restaurants. For those seeking genuine Spanish charm and a folder full of great photographs, Mijas really is hard to beat for all the family and you will be back in time for the party after your day is over.