The city of Marbella was founded by Muslims who established its overall structure and architecture. Before the Muslims came, there were several different villages and cultures within the area of Marbella, the ruins of which can still be visited today. In the old part of the city, you can still find the influence of the Romans.
In 711, the Moors, led by Al-Tarik, came to Spain through the area that today is called Tarifa. Marbella was the perfect location for the Arabs to settle due to its proximity to Tarifa. Here they set about building their city and their main monument is the castle, La Alcazaba which was built to defend the city.
The Alcazaba was later rebuilt by the nazaries, creating a wall around the city. This wall divides the old city from the new. The boarders of the wall are found in the streets of Peral and Portada on the north, Huerta Chica on the west, Fortaleza and Muro on the South, and Arroyo de la Represa on the west.
In 1485 the Muslims handed over the keys of the city to the Catholic Kings who gave Marbella the title of a “Noble and Loyal City”.
In the period that followed, the city focused its attention on reinforcing the main wall, the castle and the towers. The Church was also supported and Hermitage of St James, Trinity Convent, San Juan de Dios Hospital, Church of Santo Cristo, and finally Bazan Hospital were all constructed.
Marbella was defended by a wall surrounding the city centre which consisted of the castle in the north, with its fortress and the three towers of Santa Catalina which had a drawbridge, Chorrón and Cubo, Vela Tower in the south, Nueva Tower in the east and Fixo Tower in the west.
There were only three gates leading into the city: from Ronda in the northwest (now plaza del Puente de Ronda), so named because it is the beginning of the road to Ronda which is today called Ancha Street.
From the south, Puerta del Mar (which is today situated approximately in plaza de José Palomo) and in the East, Puerta de Málaga (today in plaza del Puente de Málaga), the start of the road to Málaga.
The XVI Century was the most dynamic period of growth in the urbanization of the city. The most important work of this period was the creation of La Plaza de los Naranjos and calle Nueva, which linked the square with Puerta del Mar.
Inside the city walls the inhabitants lived in four different neighbourhoods. The old Medina in the centre and surrounding it the Puerta del Mar, Puerta de Pedraza and Puerta de Castillo. The layout of the city was more or less the same as it is today; 44 narrow streets, 4 small squares and one large square.
The streets are named after characters from the re-conquest such as Mendoza and Buitrago, distinguished locals such as Alderete along with other names that reflect the religious times for example Remedios, Virgen de los Dolores, Cruz, Trinidad, Caridad, Misericordia, Soledad.
Other streets were given simple names by the residents like Pasaje, Panadería, Nueva, Álamo, Viento, Apartada, Muro, Pelleja, or calle de los Caballeros where the mansions were.
During the XVII century, the city expanded beyond the walls to the North via Ancha Street. A century later, the city grew to the East; Barrio Nuevo (know as El Barrio) developed around the old Camino de Málaga, where it is Cruz de Humilladero. Under this, Fernando el Católico thanked God for the conquest of Marbella, in the 11th of June of 1485.