Marbella’s old town or ‘casco antiguo’ is an authentic Andalucian treasure. Once a fortified settlement, this charming, historic quarter of the famous Mediterranean resort still retains parts of these ancient city walls. This is the real heart of the city, with ancient patio-style palatial homes, lining narrow streets, clustered around orange-fragrant, palm-shaded plazas, chapels, and churches, writes Andrew Forbes (The Luxury Editor).
It is in this delightful, characterful location that hotel group La Ciudadela is restoring period properties and giving them a new lease of life as stylish, luxury boutique hotels.
Maison Ardois, named after the family, which made this palatial property their home in the early 20th century, is the first of these hotels to open.
This 9-room property is within a beautiful Andalusian mansion. There is a ground-floor gourmet restaurant, Thaissence, as well as a stylish roof terrace for cocktails and light bites.
The restoration has retained striking elements of the property’s more than 100 year history including brick arches, the elegant entrance and facade, as well as fascinating details like quartz (from nearby Sierra Blanca) which is embedded in the walls. This echoes the history of the original family that built the house, as they, like many in Marbella at the time, made their wealth from mining the mineral wealth in the mountains that create the town’s renowned microclimate.
Although sympathetically restored, the interiors have combined an elegant aesthetic, with welcoming details, fabrics, and natural materials.
The guest rooms also have some bold, contemporary styling, with on trend mid-century details like the steel grid glass doors used for the bathrooms.
All the details are there, from a coffee machine, kettle, bottles of filtered water, and a tablet as a destination guide, concierge, and interface with room service, housekeeping and front desk.
The linen is elegantly embroidered, giving a cohesive, sophisticated look. Over the bed hangs black & prints of Marbella in the last century.
I particularly liked the large ‘French Doors’ that opened to balconies over the street, allowing guests to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of old town Marbella.
Bathrooms are super stylish, with luxury amenities, thick, plush towels and all the extras you’d expect from a luxury hotel. There are even branded grooming products like GHD hair tongs and dryer.
The restaurant, Thaissense, offers an interesting menu of Thai & Peruvian style dishes – presentation including the table settings and ceramics, is impressive – matched equally by the quality of the food, and the attentive service.
Dishes will inspire and surprise, like the ‘Salmorejo La Cuidadela’ – a modern interpretation made with mango, tomato, artisan cheese ice cream and a touch of caviar oil. The tuna ceviche is made with a green tomato gazpachuelo, which is so flavoursome. Other starters like the croquette were a real winner.
Main plates include grilled tuna, crab, as well as a splendid entrecote and also elegant chicken ravioli.
The hotel group has the know-how to create ‘Bespoke Experiences,’ showcasing the best of Marbella and Andalucia – tailormade trips and experiences to make your stay extra special.
La Ciudadela Marbella hotel group is planning initially to open five new, small luxury hotels in the historic centre of Marbella.
Maison Ardois is the first hotel to open.
The second hotel in the collection, La Ciudadela Santo Cristo, is just a few hundred metres up Calle Ancha, on Plaza Santo Cristo. This historic house, once owned by the Marquis of Duero in the 19th century, has a classic Andalucian patio courtyard at its heart. Bespoke details like commissioned ceramic tile artwork, and artisan esparto woven blinds show a respect and love of Southern Spain’s craftsmanship.
It too has a charming roof terrace, but rooms are styled in a rustic chic, style, fusing the beauty of Andalucía’s mountains and sea. The property also boasts a gourmet restaurant, La Bouganvilla, specialising in grilled foods and creative tapas.
The third hotel, La Ciudadela El Castillo, built within the Marbella city walls, is finished and opening soon – with what will be one of the best rooftops in town – I took a peek; it’s impressive, built over levels, with views across town from La Concha mountain to the sea.