What started as the dream of a Madrid property developer has since become one of the most luxurious marinas in the Mediterranean – and an enduring icon of Marbella. This month, Puerto Banús celebrates its 50th anniversary. We look back at a glamorous half-century as an international beacon of yachting, shopping, dining and nightlife.

The story of Puerto Banús is intricately connected to that of Marbella itself. This marina famous around the Mediterranean and beyond has its roots in the very process that gave birth to the concept of this town as the centre of a glamorous resort destination. In a way, the port is an extension of the Golden Mile, the natural culmination of a process of gentrification. Beginning with the founding of the original Marbella Club by Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe and the discovery of Marbella’s potential by Ricardo Soriano.

It is this Hispano-German aristocratic link that lies at the foundation of the town’s rise to international prominence, and its evolution from a village of fishermen and farmers. It became the kind of place that came to attract the world’s tycoons, celebrities, socialites and film stars. Make no mistake, Marbella was an A-list destination in the 1950s and 60s frequented by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot and Sean Connery. By 1965, it had become one of a select number of beauty spots on the world map that attracted the jet-set. The area developed and became ever more sophisticated, the need for a yacht harbour became increasingly evident.

The Dream of José Banús

Puerto José Banús, as it is officially called, is named after the man who first dreamed about its possibility, and then made it a reality. José Banús was a successful property developer, one of the leading constructors in Spain. The creator of much of the real estate in Madrid and Marbella. In latter years, he became more closely involved with Marbella, where he will always be known for Puerto Banús.

The path to the creation of the marina was not always easy, as not everyone believed in its necessity. There were those who realised that it would lead Marbella to grow and receive more visitors. As a result, bursting the private bubble of the privileged few who had had it all to themselves. However, by the late sixties Marbella had passed this phase and was ready for the next step in its evolution. Plans were drawn up and Noldi Schreck, the Swiss-Mexican architect responsible for the Marbella Club. His commission was to design a yacht harbour and leisure area worthy of the newly-emerging Marbella.

An Idyllic Village on The Mediterranean

Used to constructing contemporary high-rise buildings, José Banús had originally wanted to create Puerto Banús in a similar style. However, Noldi Schreck and his assistant, a young architect named Marcos Saínz, convinced him to change course. The result was a design that was more in harmony with the natural and cultural setting. An organically flowing, low-rise ‘village’ in the classic Andalusian style, white-plastered and charming, with terracotta rooftiles. A maze of pathways and intimate little squares beyond the frontline facing the yacht harbour.

The initial plan was more elaborate, featuring also canals that would have made Banús a ‘little Venice’, but its developer returned to a simpler version. And so they got the green light for the construction of the marina that has been such a familiar part of the Marbella landscape for the past 50 years. The opening, in May 1970, was a grand event, celebrated in suitable style with a lavish party. Hundreds of waiters served a veritable feast to an A-list of 1,700 celebrities including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, future Spanish King Juan Carlos and Princess Sofia of Greece. Also Brigitte Bardot, Liza Minneli, Roman Polanski, the Aga Khan, Hugh Hefner, Dr Christiaan Barnard, and many others. Julio Iglesias provided the live entertainment.

50 Years of Puerto Banús Glamour and Entertainment

Noldi Schreck and his team had created the first port to be designed by a single architect. He is remembered for this with a star on Puerto Banús’ Boulevard of Fame. The marina he helped to give shape to subsequently became one of the glamour spots of the Mediterranean. Home not only to large, luxurious ocean-going yachts and pleasure vessels owned by the likes of Saudi royalty, but also the site of fine dining restaurants and cafés. Likewise designer boutiques and jewellery stores, grand events, and a glamorous nightlife scene.

In the early days, the likes of James Hunt, Sean Connery and Joan Collins could be seen rubbing shoulders with Spanish and Middle Eastern royalty. More recently, pop stars, footballers such as David Beckham and Sergio Ramos, as well as a host of other celebrities frequent ‘the port’. Puerto Banús has continued to exert a pull as a place where beautiful yachts, cars and people come together. A glitzy world of jewellery, designer fashion and revelry, and in so doing also a destination that has moved with the times.

Over five million people visit the port every year, and it has expanded to become a residential and shopping destination between the Golden Mile and Nueva Andalucía. It is home also to one of the most impressive El Corte Inglés department stores in Spain.

Past, Present and Future

Like Marbella itself, and indeed all the world, Puerto Banús has had its challenges. Regardless of its ups and downs, it remains the reference point in the region and a Mediterranean beacon. With the financial crisis, Qatari investor Sheikh Abdullah Ben Nasser Al-Thani promoted the creation of a new centre-point. This modern marina would be located at La Bajadilla on Marbella’s own shoreline.  However, a variety of problems ensured that this €400 million project did not come to fruition. Subsequently, Puerto Banús remains the jewel in the crown of the Costa del Sol.

This, and the fact that one of Europe’s most iconic marinas turns 50 in 2020, forms parts of a series of celebrations. Furthermore, a reinvigorated branding and market positioning campaign has been implemented. Aimed at cementing the port’s prominence it hopes to ensure its continued appeal among a younger audience. Lady Kitty Spencer, the niece of Princess Diana and a leading British fashion model, is the face of this campaign. It kicked off with a lavish launch party that relived the halcyon days of Marbella. The project also seeks to cement relationships with the many top international luxury brands present in the port. We look forward to the rejuvenation of an icon of glamour now celebrating 50 year on the world podium. Here’s to 50 more as it welcomes new generations to its shores.


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