For more than 60 years, the Marbella Club has been a pinnacle of barefoot luxury in the middle of what once a small and sleepy village in southern Spain. Today, the region is a bustling tourist destination, thanks to its year-round mild temperatures, its Mediterranean flavours and Andalusian cuisine and friendly locals.
There were many people that – in their own way – had a great impact on how the Marbella Club was viewed and how the location was perceived. Today, we begin to introduce you to those people, the real influencers behind the Marbella Club.
Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe at the entrance to the Marbella Club. Photo credit: Classic Driver.
You may have heard of a certain Prince Alfonso; maybe you’ve seen a bust dedicated to him at the entrance to The Grill. The prince, of Austrian and Basque descent, was the visionary behind the Marbella Club. One of six children, Alfonso grew up between Bohemia and Madrid, where his mother, Doña María de la Piedad had properties. Though born into great wealth, many family properties were depleted due to World War I, the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish Civil War.
A young Alfonso with his godfather, King Alfonso XIII of Spain.
In the late 1940s, on a trip from Madrid to Marbella to see a relative, Alfonso and his father Max stumbled upon a vast fig and olive field facing the sea. Eventually, they would acquire the finca called Santa Margarita and would build a family home. Their barefoot-luxury way of life, where time slowed and there was no pressure to pretend would convince many Middle East royalty, Hollywood celebrities and some of the oldest families in Europe to bypass the south of France or the islands of Italy and come to a small town in the south of Spain.
Actress Brigitte Bardot and Gunther Sachs (left), alongside Prince Alfonso.
In 1954, Prince Alfonso debuted the Marbella Club Hotel, with 20 simple guest rooms built in similar style to California motels. Its personalised, family-like service and charm and its simple approach to luxury was a success. Guests would be led down the path to the beach in donkeys, they would have seaside picnics and partake in at least three themed parties a week.
The first room distribution at the Marbella Club was inspired by California motels.
A hideaway, a place to shed all worries and a place to have fun. Prince Alfonso found the right formula for his guests to create an authentic emotional tie to a place. Glamorous and entrepreneurial in a very spontaneous way, “Olé Olé” as he was affectionately known locally, made a long-lasting contribution to the values now attributed to the Marbella Club.
Want to know more about Marbella Club’s history? Head here.