Puerto Banús: Spain´s successful answer to Saint-Tropez and Monte Carlo.
Puerto Banús is located in the Nueva Andalucía district of Marbella, about 6 km to the west of the centre of Marbella. Only built in the late sixties and inaugurated in 1970, it has since grown into one of the most famous marinas in Europe. Incredibly picturesque, with its architecture that took inspiration from the typical Andalusian “white villages”.
This exquisite marina town is renowned for being the playground of the rich and famous, which in itself offers a lively spectacle that attracts all kinds of visitors who come here for celebrity spotting, car and people watching or simply soaking up the atmosphere. Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Ferraris slowly cruise past designer boutiques, buzzing cafés and cosy restaurants, all facing the gently bobbing superyachts of the rich, moored in their berths.
It´s definitely designer shop heaven here, with the world´s most exclusive fashion brands all being present. Bulgari, Gucci, Dior, Luis Vuitton, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tom Ford, Armani, Versace, YSL, Michael Kors, Valentino, Hermes,… you name it. No place in Europe has such an impressive collection of designer names in such close proximity.
But if you still you look for a wider assortment of luxury goods, there is always the El Corte Ingles department store, Spain’s equivalent of London´s luxury department store Harrods. Puerto Banús is synonymous with chic, wealth, high fashion, extravagant parties, glitz and glamour. The marina, the casino, the designer shops and exclusive beach clubs. The golf courses and the flashy hotels. Everything here reflects this glamorous, luxurious lifestyle.
If you are tired of shopping and wining and dining in the port, you can always enjoy the fine beaches on either side of the marina. Also here, the glamourous lifestyle shows, with exclusive beach clubs such as Plaza Beach, Ocean Beach, Mistral Beach, La Sala by the Sea, all catering to thrill seekers, socialites and fans of extravagant parties.
A fascinating history which leads back to Beverly Hills and Andalusian villages
Puerto Banús has always been crucial for the development of the (luxury) tourist industry in Marbella. It receives nearly 5 million visitors per year, double the number of The Alhambra in Granada, Spain´s most visited monument. This in itself already explains why leading luxury brands are fiercely competing to be present in the marina and why restaurants here gradually make way for designer boutiques.
Yet, the success and uniqueness of Puerto Banús mainly rests on two contradictory pillars: ubiquitous luxury and rural architecture. The latter has not always been how building promotor José Banús himself envisaged his ambitious project. Banús, who started out as a simple gravel man, worked his way up to a respected entrepreneur in the Spanish construction industry.
After realizing some big (social) housing projects in Madrid in the 1950´s, he enjoyed the admiration and protection of the Franco Regime that wanted to promote tourism on the Costa del Sol, able to compete with the French Riviera.
In 1962, with the profits obtained in his Madrid projects, Banús bought a 100-hectares strip of land between the Rio Verde river and the Guadaiza river, all the way from the coast to the mountains (covering present day Puerto Banús and Nueva Andalucia). His plan was to build a huge touristic theme park and a 1km coastal stretch with a wall of rather big, modern skyscrapers.
This was not to the likings of Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe, owner of the exclusive Marbella Club Hotel on the neighbouring Golden Mile, preferred holiday destination for aristocrats, film stars and celebrities. Since building his exclusive resort in 1954, the Prince had earned the respect of many as the father and promotor of high level tourism in Spain and the Costa del Sol. He rightly feared that Banús´s preposterous ideas would destroy the appeal of the area to the world´s rich and famous. He warned Banús not to go ahead with the skyscraper project.
José Banús, conscious about his own lack of experience in luxury tourism projects, listened to the Prince´s advice. And so, at the suggestion of Prince Alfonso, Noldi Schreck was selected as the architect of Banús ´s ambitious project. Schreck himself managed to convince Banús to cancel his modern gigantic project and replace it with an Andalusian village built around a luxurious marina. The inspiration for that village came from nearby Casares, a typical Andalusian town of Moorish origin with white houses.
Schreck´s previous architectural achievements included prestigious projects such as the exclusive Bel Air hotel in Beverly Hills where the rich and famous came to play. He also designed many private mansions for Hollywood stars and millionaires who adored Schreck´s typical rustic, colonial building style. This is how Hohenlohe, who resided in Hollywood as a young man and socialized with many of these jet setters, came to know of Schreck and his refined architectural style.
Building works started in 1967. In May 1970 the official inauguration of Puerto Banús took place and in August of the same year the famous celebrations took place. These lasted several weeks and with a long and very impressive guest and performer list, they gave Puerto Banús a global presence.