Marbella was the charming jasmine-scented village that gave its name to this real-estate Mecca, but the stretch of coastline that has come to be known as the Golden Mile is the reason for its existence.
When the founders of the fledgling resort’s earliest developments were enticing their aristocratic friends to head right for southern Spain, instead of left for St Tropez, it was the beaches they came for.
There was a rustic spontaneity to the 1950s and 60s fancy dress parties and donkey-ride expeditions up into the hills that were organised by the Marbella Club’s charismatic manager Count Rudi.
Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, Omar Shariff, Sean Connery and Liza Minelli were regular guests. And when the Puente Romano Hotel opened its doors in the 1970s it cultivated a similarly ritzy reputation: its Moorish-themed La Suite nightclub is still the place to be seen.
But the tidal flow of the European jet-set could have jetted off anywhere – it was the golden coastline, as well as the glamorous company, that kept them here.
Amongst the astute early investors was Britain’s millionaire entrepreneur Alan Sugar – later Lord Sugar – who owns a substantial frontline villa on the Golden Mile.
King Fahd of Saudi Arabia also discovered Marbella in the Seventies, and began buying land around the present-day Golden Mile. On his 200-acre Nahda estate in hills built a mosque, a private clinic and a sports centre, and several palaces, including a replica of the White House.
He returned only four times after his palace was built, but his visits became legendary. His last seven-week stay was said to have injected €90m into the local economy: his retinue included 3,000 family members, friends and staff, requiring 300 hotel rooms and 500 additional staff.
When the king died the town declared three days of official mourning (three more than in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself).
The new King Salman Bin Abdelaziz owns an opulent palace on the Golden Mile, Al Riyad, and the luxury yacht Shaf of London, which is often seen docked in Puerto Banús.
Attractions of the Milla de Oro
The name the Golden Mile (Milla de Oro) was coined in the 1980s by German singer turned Marbella property developer Roy Black (developer of the award-winning Alhambra del Mar project).
Fortunately for property developers it covers not just one but nearly five miles of gold-coloured sandy beaches, stretching west from Plaza Bocanegra in Marbella city to Puerto Banús.
Serving the residents of the palaces, villas and hotels are the gourmet restaurants of the Mile, including including Dani Garcia’s three-Michelin-starred Lobito de Mar, the one-starred Skina and Messina, and Robert de Niro’s much-anticipated Nobu which opened in 2018.
The most desirable addresses are close to the luxurious beach clubs of the Marbella Club and Puente Romano.
At the western end of the “mile” is the luxury marina and shopping centre which opened in 1970 with a lavish party where 1,700 high-society guests were served Beluga caviar and serenaded by Julio Iglesias.
Local developer José Banús had bought up an estate in the area now known as Nueva Andalucía, and had the idea of building an exclusive marina flanked by spectacular skyscrapers.
Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe introduced Banús to architect Noldi Schreck who had been involved in the design and construction of Beverly Hills, and who had been engaged with Marcos Sainz to work on the Marbella Club Hotel.
Schreck convinced Banús to reconsider his skyscraper concept, and embrace the architects’ modern interpretation of a low-rise Andalusian fishing village.
(In a different local context, a similar move away from high-density development has spurred the exclusive villa developments of the hillside gated community of La Zagaleta estate above Marbella.)
Puerto Banús now prides itself on pavements lined with supercars, and luxury boutiques ranging from Christian Dior, Gucci, Bvlgari and Versace to Docle & Gabbana.
Its beach clubs La Sala by the Sea, The Ocean Club, and Plaza Beach, are renowned for their high-priced "champagne spray parties".
The strength of the property market on the Golden Mile lies in the finite availability of prime locations. “Beachfront” means frontage onto the sand, not a ten-minute walk from a couple of blocks back.
The premium properties on the Mile are super-luxury villas with pools, and gardens leading onto the beach. Or, for the security-conscious, villas within the exclusive gated community of Altos de Puente Romano.
Investors are fortunate that the Golden Mile actually stretches for a flexibly-measured five - or 7.6km - west of Marbella: which makes nearly five miles of opportunity.
And in local real-estate parlance the prime real estate ribbon is generally taken to stretch back from the beach to the main coastal road, the N340. This is where the area’s iconic destinations are located: La Suite nightclub; the historic Marbella Club; and 2018’s major opening, the Nobu restaurant and hotel.
Nonetheless as Pia Arrieta Morales comments in Knight Frank’s 2017 Marbella Real Estate Market Report:
The lack of availability of building plots on the Golden Mile, and a reluctance to wait for building permissions and construction, is driving the demand for properties ready for renovation.
Current buyers are looking for Scandinavian-driven design, with high standards of finish, comfort, and technological infrastructure.
Morales confirms there is strong demand for older properties in top locations that can be renovated, both for investment and personal use:
In 2018, a 6-bedroom, 6-bathroom villa in need of updating, on a generous 1,365sq m plot within the Altos de Puente Romano gated community, was available for €2.69K.
Limited availability of development plots on the premium stretch of coastline from Marbella to Puerto Banús has led to the promotion of a “new” Golden Mile, extending west from Puerto Banús to the resort town of Estepona.
Estepona has been tipped as one of “the areas to watch in 2018” by partner in Marbella Lucas Fox, Stephen Lahiri. It offers virgin building land and no planning licences. What it lacks in the Golden Mile’s high-octane glamour it is promoting as a more laid-back, family-friendly appeal.
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