Forbes recently published the results of the annual The 20 Best European Destinations in 2024 survey, voted for by over a million travellers from 172 countries, with Marbella coming out on top.

Words Michel Cruz, Photography Kevin Horn &

Forbes recently published the results of the annual The 20 Best European Destinations in 2024 survey, voted for by over a million travellers from 172 countries, with Marbella coming out on top.

Words Michel Cruz, Photography Kevin Horn &

The survey, organised by the EBD (European Best Destinations) organisation, collated the results of the voting on over 500 European destinations to list the top-20 results, and for 2024, Marbella not only made it into the top group but actually crowns it as the very best destination, summarising it as: “…a sunny, five-star, natural, sporty, gastronomic destination with everything to please the most demanding travellers.” It was the first time a Spanish destination has topped the list, this time beating Monaco, Malta, Geneva, and Batumi in Georgia to take the award.

It comes on the heels of another ranking, which placed Málaga at the top of the list of the Best city in the world to live for expats, so the Costa del Sol is riding high in 2024, topping the world, quite literally. The criteria used to quantify and value the over 500 different destinations included climate, culture, gastronomy, the standard of infrastructure and services, sustainable development, natural environment, sports and leisure options, quality of life, and it also measured such indicators as growth in popularity on social networks and the level of ‘smart tourism’ development that has been achieved. ›

Taken together, these and other criteria placed Marbella at the top, and allow it to say it is the ‘Best European Destination of 2024’. Marbella benefited from the fact that high-end exclusive destinations are very much in vogue but took top position despite another trend away from established resort locations in favour of less-frequented ‘finds’ such as Cap Ferret, Sirmione, Porto-Vecchio, Ponza, and even the rugged Faroe Islands. The tourist market is increasingly diversified, with some people wishing for luxury and active leisure options, others for peace and tranquillity off the beaten track, and some seeking a combination of the two.

Marbella’s Success Is Built Upon Its Flexibility

Marbella is so popular because it appears able to do just that – cater to many different interests and tastes. The town has a distinct flavour that centres upon modern glamour, but it is also capable of offering so much more, including satisfying those who seek sport, gastronomy, luxury pampering in resort hotels or private villas, an active social life and leisure activities.

You can also venture out for extreme sports in the nearby mountain ranges, aquatic distractions, high-end shopping, culture in Málaga, or experience authentic Andalucía in the adjacent countryside villages. Enjoy a cosmopolitan environment, modern amenities, nature, peace and relaxation. In short, Marbella’s star is built not just upon glamour but also upon infinite variety.

Add to this a very long ski season in the nearby Sierra Nevada, which almost overlaps with the long surf season in hippie chic settings such as Tarifa, and it further broadens the horizons. Marbella is many different things to different people, and in a myriad of ways allows you to design your preferred lifestyle, whether you live here or come for short getaways or extended stays. Naturally, safety, convenience of travel connections, and a welcoming environment also play a vital role in the mix, and in this regard the Costa del Sol again scores high, situated far away from conflict zones and urban trouble spots.

Where once the focus was largely upon beaches and seaside diversions, Marbella now also scores top for fine dining, thanks to a broad culinary offer and growing number of Michelin-star restaurants, emblematic hotels, top shopping and concierge facilities, some of the best golf courses and racquet clubs in the world, as well as a very broad choice of spa and wellness retreats. It is even a first-class destination for conferences, events, and clinical-based travel, as the local climate makes it one of the top choices for both work visits and recovering from treatments – usually accompanied by wonderful scenery that can include anything from mountain ranges and golf courses to the Mediterranean Sea – or all of the above.

Another factor that plays a major role in raising Marbella to the top spot is the fact that it is far from just a summer destination. To be sure, summer is when the region’s beach clubs and seaside resort hotels truly come to life, and it remains the undisputed high season for the Costa del Sol, but lovers of golf prefer the period from September to June, while the fact that it is Europe’s sunniest spot also in autumn, winter, and spring, brings many here to soak up the sun, the light, the happy atmosphere and social scene, as well as the pampering services this town has to offer along with the cultural attractions of nearby Málaga.

Marbella is the kind of place that points its gaze at the blue sea in summer, towards the green golf courses in autumn, the white ski runs in winter and the pink almond blossom that converts the countryside just inland from here into a springtime wonderland. It is a world of many offerings, from the beachside esplanade to the pretty streets of the town’s historic quarter, the luxurious villa suburbs lining golf courses, the elegant country clubs, and the heady nightlife of Puerto Banús. This mix, more than any one characteristic in particular, is what has propelled Spain’s foremost resort town to top the list of Europe’s best.