It’s Marbella. But not as you know it

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It’s Marbella. But not as you know it

Louisa Walters enjoys carbs, Marbs and a wedding at a serene, elegant hotel

Louisa Walters is Features Editor at the Jewish News and specialises in food and travel writing

The swimming pool at Anantara Villa Padierna Palace
The swimming pool at Anantara Villa Padierna Palace

I didn’t actually go to a wedding. But if either of my kids chooses to get married, I have chosen the venue. A Roman amphitheatre sets the stage for an atmospheric chuppah at the heart of a glorious Palladian villa up in the hills of Benahavis. There’s a pretty tree-lined terrace for dinner and dancing and, should it dare to rain, a magnificent ballroom with a palatial foyer that can hold up to 300 or be sectioned off for your nearest and dearest. This is the Anantara Villa Padierna Palace – a world away from the glitz of tourist-soaked Puerto Banus, it offers an altogether more refined way to entertain and indeed holiday in Marbella.

The amphitheatre is the perfect setting for a chuppah

All those lockdown walks drew me to the beauty of light, peace and space, which is exactly what is afforded me as I enter the hotel. The undeniable beauty of the building and the grounds. The light of the glass-roofed atrium. The peace of its location high up in the hills of Benahavis. The space of the opulent rooms and the three golf courses on the property. I could go on, but I need to check in and unpack my bags, for this is very much a place to settle in and stay a while.

Looking very much like a beautifully restored ancient Italian palazzo, the dusky rose-coloured building is in fact relatively new, having been constructed only 20 years ago by the Arranz family. They are art lovers, and it shows in the prints and paintings chosen to line the walls and in the objets d’art dotted around the hotel. It has recently been taken under the wing of Asian hotel group Anantara, well known for supreme levels of comfort and service, both of which are very much in evidence.

The swimming pool is a particularly magnificent construction, surrounded by little turquoise-tiled canals and lined with majestic cypress trees. Tucked in a corner is the delightful La Pergola restaurant, which serves healthy dishes (mainly plant-based), salads, smoothies and (ginger) shots .

There are 67 rooms in the main hotel and further 56 in the adjoining building, which also houses the ballroom and outdoor function spaces. If you hold a function at the hotel, these rooms are allocated to your guests, so that partying into the night will not affect those staying at the hotel. Villa Padierna has become one of the foremost wedding venues in this part of Spain and it’s easy to see why. Kosher caterers are welcomed and if the cross atop the chapel in the grounds causes offence, it can be removed. They think of everything. There are also nine private-pool villas – one of which is named the Obama Villa after the former First Lady, who graced the hotel with her presence in 2010.

Our huge lilac-painted bedroom was filled with antiques and had three sets of floor-to-ceiling double doors with views of one of the three golf courses. On a clear day, which it mostly is in Spain, we could see as far as the Rock of Gibraltar. Our king-sized bed was extremely comfortable and our vast stone-lined bathroom had a large bath and separate shower, double sinks (the key to a successful holiday a deux) and luxury toiletries from Ortigia. In-room speakers, coffee machine, robes and slippers, plants, water in glass bottles, chocolates at turndown – all the treats denied to travellers during and after the pandemic are back in force and it is wonderful to see them.

The pool at the spa

The hotel has extensive leisure facilities, including a seasonal kids club, a gym, tennis and padel courts and an internationally-awarded thermal spa with Roman baths, hammam and aromatherapy steam tooms. This is where I headed first, to enjoy the signature essential olive oil massage. This began with an Andalusian orange and rock salt foot scrub followed by a one-hour full body massage that had me drifting into lavender-and-rosemary-scented deep relaxation.

Eddy’s Bar

The charming concierge can arrange activities outside the hotel such as an e-biking nature adventure, or a visit to Marbella Old Town with a local photographer to see it through his eyes. We didn’t want to leave and we settled down instead on the plush sofas of Eddy’s Bar, an elegant lounge area reminiscent of fine English country house hotels except that the sun pours through the windows.

Dessert at La Veranda

With the takeover by Anantara comes a whole new focus on food and the opening of La Veranda restaurant. A fine-dining experience in an elegant room lined with tapestries had us feasting on Ajo Blanco soup (almond and pistachio gazpacho), foie gras with fig mousse, red mullet coconut curry and a chateaubriand. No carbs before Marbs means that you can enjoy them while there and we did – beetroot bread and tomato and onion bread with delicious spicy oils to dip them in.

The terrace

By night an informal Italian restaurant and by day the home of breakfast, La Loggia is a gorgeous Mediterranean-style restaurant with a terrace looking out over the lake and one of the magnificent golf courses. I can think of few better places to start the day than here. A sumptuous, inviting and beautifully presented breakfast buffet is supplemented with hot dishes from the kitchen. At dinner there is an equally impressive antipasti buffet and a great range of pizza, pasta, meat and fish dishes, some of which are finished off live at the table.

By the Sea Beach Club

When Michelle Obama visited, she officially opened the By the Sea beach club. We hopped on the hotel’s shuttle bus which delivered us there in just a few minutes. The luxury, attention to detail and service followed us down there and we had a wonderful day soaking up the sun. On Sundays there is a special brunch at the beach club with live music, activities for kids and bottomless Cava. It’s another gorgeous location for a wedding – chuppah at sunset against the backdrop of sea and then a fun beach party under the stars.

I’m not telling my kids – my heart is back up the hill in that intimate amphitheatre at the villa.


Anantara Villa Padierna Palace Resort, Marbella offers Deluxe rooms from 325 Euros per night based on two sharing, including breakfast and taxes.

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