The transformation of historic buildings in Marbella’s old quarter signals a revival of true style in Marbella – and when it corresponds so perfectly to a new definition of quality and luxury, the result is something really special.

Words: MICHEL CRUZ, Photography: COURTESY Rhone Property

The transformation of historic buildings in Marbella’s old quarter signals a revival of true style in Marbella – and when it corresponds so perfectly to a new definition of quality and luxury, the result is something really special.

Words: MICHEL CRUZ, Photography: COURTESY Rhone Property

La Ciudadela Marbella is not one but a collection of beautiful boutique hotels, each with its own setting, characteristics and ambience. Indeed, in an era where style is often subject to overbearing corporate branding and slavish trend-following, this individuality and willingness to adapt to the uniqueness of each location rather than want to bend everything to one’s ‘DNA’ is truly refreshing – and it shows in the superb new luxury offering that La Ciudadela has added to Marbella. In fact, one is tempted to speak of a new jewel in our midst!

Visit each of the four hotels currently either operating or nearing the final stages of renovation and you will be spoiled for choice. Actually, choosing one to stay at is a remarkably difficult undertaking, and one that will ultimately depend on each person’s individual preference. The experience at any of the La Ciudadela hotels will make you want to come back – to Marbella and its hotels – and now there is an even greater excuse to do so as it would be a pleasure to sample each of the four hotels that currently form part of its Marbella collection.

La Ciudadela is also different from even the most luxurious hotel chains in that it is created by locals with a passion for their town, and a keenness to revive its heritage and pedigree. Leading the project is Miguel Cerván, CEO of Rhone Property, and the fact that he doesn’t originally come from the hotel business appears to be irrelevant as you look around you. Survey the hotels with a keenly critical eye and you won’t see anything but a talent for design and dedication to detail. In fact, each of the establishments is a fine example of tasteful renovation, blending modern comfort and taste with classical charm in an ambience of personable service.

“Our mission throughout has been to create something special here; not just a series of hotels in renovated buildings, but a very special ambience in which you can really feel and experience the authentic heart of this town,” says Miguel. “For this reason we were passionate about authenticity, achieving an all-important balance between modernising and maintaining original features and ambience, and meanwhile also creating functional establishments that meet the practical, technical and luxury requirements of our time.” In treating each of the hotels as a unique project, Miguel and his dedicated team have indeed added four new gems to Marbella’s crown.

Maison Ardois

Named after a family once prominent in Marbella’s erstwhile iron ore mining industry, Maison Ardois is the first in the series of beautiful boutique hotels within the collection of La Ciudadela Marbella. It is situated right in the heart of the historic quarter, on Calle Ancha, and yet just a short walk to each of the other hotels in the group – making it possible to sample the different restaurant experiences they offer. At Maison Ardois, this is Thaissence, a restaurant that offers Thai-Peruvian fusion built around fresh local produce and additional Spanish-Andalusian inspiration. The design of Maison Ardois is clean and has a fresh contemporary feel in spite of its inspiring historical setting and classic details, which have been highlighted within the décor with such skill. “Ours are luxury hotels not for people looking for glamour and ostentation but for authentic experiences,” says Miguel. “We want this to be a place where fond memories are made and people come back to create new ones.” As you sit in the indoor restaurant, the terrace, one of the intimate courtyards or survey Marbella’s townscape from the roof terrace, it seems this is easy to do.

Hotel Santo Cristo

A short stroll further up Calle Ancha, overlooking the atmospheric Plaza del Santo Cristo, and its accompanying church (the Ermita del Santo Cristo de la Vera Cruz), is the second in the collection of La Ciudadela’s boutique hotels. From this position, the hotel also has stunning views of La Concha Mountain, and its authentic old town credentials are further enhanced by the proximity of Marbella’s finest flamenco tablao, where live performances can still be seen. The fact that this is a very different building, and that it has been treated with the same sense of uniqueness and dedication, is evident the moment you enter.

Modern amenities and 24-hour check-in systems also prevail, but in combination with a highly personal renovation and decorative treatment that highlights the character of Hotel Santo Cristo, and gives it a unique ambience and appeal of its own. The tones here are blue and white where those of Maison Ardois are earthy offset against crisp white walls, but as in all the establishments of La Ciudadela, the furnishings are bespoke and unique – indeed designed by the team itself and manufactured locally, augmented by individual pieces of international origin.

More can be expected on the panoramic rooftop terrace that boasts some of the finest views in downtown Marbella, while at the La Bouganvilla restaurant the emphasis is on the quality of ingredients and skill in a creative, contemporary interpretation of the region’s much-loved cuisine. “Our philosophy is to source everything we can locally, applying the kilometre-zero concept to a desire to be authentically local, though always embellished with international elements and inspiration,” says Miguel Cerván, the passionate force behind the Santo Cristo and Maison Ardois.

With two more elegant old town hotels poised to open soon, La Ciudadela is already considered by many to be the icing on Marbella’s offering of luxury hotels and an embodiment of ‘new luxury’.


La Ciudadela Marbella