The Hedonist: Marbella

Nick Clarke of <a href="http://Hg2" target="new">www.hg2.com</a> luxury city guides goes to town

On a Sunday in the ritziest resort on Spain's Costa del Sol, the only place to be is at Nikki Beach – and I'm there, amid the bronzed bodies of its most taut and toned, most plastic and most fantastic, with the throb of a heady dance track pulsing beneath the wooden decking underfoot.

It's here that Marbella lives up to its reputation as a raucous party town – and it's about time. For a while, the recession seemed to have frozen Marbella's legendary social scene solid, so much so that you couldn't tell the summer season from the winter. The paseos were empty, the chiringuitos even emptier.

But – thank goodness – Marbella is back on message. Property is slowly starting to sell again; business owners again have the confidence to throw open the doors to new ventures; and tourists are trickling back to an old faithful after a few years dipping their toes in alternative waters.

I head for more glam at Salotto (00 34 952 818 112) on Avenida del Prada, run by the same Italian family who remain behind Marbella's legendary Villa Tiberio (00 34 952 771 799; villatiberio.com ), the must-eat-at restaurant with sumptuous grounds at Calle de Cádiz. In the same glamorous vein, Salotto has large tables cloaked by crisp white tablecloths, vintage Playboy canvases adorning the walls and an al fresco terrace flanked by a chic crowd. I skip a starter and head straight for the tortellini al ragu.

Salotto is in Nueva Andalucia, and it's just a short taxi ride to Puerto Banús – or "Port of Abuse" as insiders call it, thanks to its reputation as a place to get up to no good. Built in the 1970s by legendary property mogul and celebrated playboy Jose Banús, it certainly does its best to lure people from the straight and narrow, with row after row of restaurants, bars and clubs. Here superstars step out of supercars and onto superyachts, and the white-washed buildings and glossy glass shop fronts are a shrine to flamboyance and flashiness.

Sinatra's bar (00 34 952 819 050) beckons from its prime position on a Front Line corner (bars and their clientele work on a class system here; the closer you are to the water the more expensive you are – and you can't get much closer than the Front Line). I join a party of peacocks, all of whom pout and pose like their lives depend on it, and savour a Jack Daniel's. It's good to see that the bar has returned to its former glory, with rock stars such as Rod Stewart migrating back to the haunts they know and love from of old.

And so it is time to bed down, and people scramble about Sinatra's for someone suitable to go home with. Like a good boy, I leave alone – but only because I don't want to share my extravagant suite at the Marbella Club Hotel (00 34 952 822 211; marbellaclub.com ) on Bulevar del Príncipe Alfonso von Hohenlohe with just anyone. With the street named after the hotel's celebrated founder – royal, playboy and all-round promoter of Marbella – the Club is the town's most glamorous place to catch 40 winks. It really is something special – having played host to the likes of Ava Gardner, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in days gone by – and offers well-heeled guests awe-inspiring suites and villas, a Thalasso spa and adjoining beach club.

For the moment at least Marbella is enjoying the return of glam. And for the big-spending tourists who flock here, that's what matters most.

A Hedonist’s Guide To... (Hg2)is a luxury city guide seriesfor the more decadenttraveller. For moreinformation, see www.hg2.com

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