How many of us have passed through Estepona, maybe gone down to the Sunday market in the Port or stopped off at one of the many chiringuitos dotted along the beach, but have never really explored the town?
Estepona is one of the largest coastal towns on Spain’s Costa del Sol, with a varied history that takes it back to the Phoenicians, then the Romans and on to the Moors. There is a small archaeological museum in Plaza Blas Infante situated in the old Town Hall (the building is a restored 18th century house) that is worth a visit but be aware that the descriptions are all in Spanish.
If you want to find out more about the history, take a trip to the Museum of Ethnography where you can see more than 2000 objects that will tell you more about the life, customs and economy of the inhabitants of the Estepona region in recent centuries. Children will enjoy a tour around the Paleontological Museum which features displays of dinosaurs, marine-life fossils and flora. Both these museums can be found at the Plaza de Toros which also houses the “Antonio Ordóñez” Bullfighting Museum.
Drive through the town or stroll around the narrow labyrinth of streets festooned with thousands of different coloured flower pots and you will understand why Estepona is known as the Garden City of the Costa del Sol. Flowers and colourful shrubs abound everywhere, in fact over 250,000 are planted in the autumn and winter seasons. The plants come from the municipal nursery and are part of the beautification and rejuvenation of the town that started over a decade ago. If you want yet more stunning displays of flowers, the Orchidarium, otherwise known as the Orchid House, is a one of a kind in Spain, with over 5000 plants. The spectacular state of the art building with its three glass domes has more than 1300 different species of Orchids from Asia and South America, with an average of 125 species in bloom at any time. Follow a winding path past beautiful displays of orchids, wander behind the 30 metre high artificial waterfall (kids will love this) and then continue to a small bridge set over pools of water. Truly a must-see sight.
Over the years, Estepona has established itself as a place for food lovers with a profusion of tapas bars, bistros and eateries, including some of the finest seafood restaurants in Andalusia. The old town’s main square is the iconic Plaza de las Flores, and a recently opened new addition to the historic centre is the imposing El Pilar Andalucía Hotel Boutique, managed by the Silken chain who invested 10 million euros in the renovation of the original building. For a bird’s eye view of the Plaza, head up to the roof terrace (open for food and drink after 5 pm) and sit and relax with a cocktail in the evening sun, or go back down to the bodega to sample some regional wines.
The old covered food market situated in Calle Villa next to the San Luis Castle, closed down and re-opened in 2018 as a Gourmet Food Market, the ‘Mercado de San Luis’. From 6 pm until after midnight you can enjoy the alluring ambiance and a range of high quality international food from one of the many different stalls or partake of a drink from a choice of bars.
The bustling streets are full of independent boutiques, which makes a change from the large retail stores, where you can buy clothes, shoes, accessories and jewellery items that are just that little bit different. Something that Estepona has become famous for are the magnificent giant murals painted by artists from all over Spain on the side of some of the high-rise apartment blocks. They are scattered throughout the town and at the last count there were over sixty of them. The best thing to do is to get a Murals Route map from the Tourist Office (in the Plaza de las Flores) that will tell you where the murals are located, some of which are totally spectacular and one of which, ‘Fishing Day’ by Jose Fernandez, covers five apartment blocks. Another by Fernandez, ‘Watering the Garden’ covers a wall measuring 240m and depicts a child watering a tree, but look closely because it is an optical illusion and if looks as though she is watering the real tree that has been planted in the street. Also look out for the sculptures of human figures and animals, 47 of them, situated on street corners dotted throughout the town, as well as the 17 poems that grace the walls of various buildings by well-known Spanish poets together with other bards such as Victor Hugo and Shakespeare.
Estepona Port is just five minutes from the centre of the town where you will find the Sunday market, popular with tourists, that runs from 10.00am and continues until around 2.30, with stalls selling a wide range of goods including handbags, belts, shoes, clothes, and many other items. For a more local experience, try the bustling big open-air Wednesday morning market in the area by the Parque de Los Niños (children’s park), which also sells fresh fruit and vegetables.
The remodelling and beautification of Estepona and its transformation into a cultural and artistic hub has ensured that it is a truly special destination full of various attractions and it deserves a visit, even if only for a day.