The history of the fort that gave El Fuerte Marbella its name dates back to 1554, when the emperor Charles V ordered its construction to protect the coast against pirates.
During the 19th century, the building became an important strategic location during the Napoleonic invasion, since it was used as a power magazine storage fort. For this reason, only the remains of the building are still standing today.
1950 - 1951
José Luque Manzano
His business background
The Hotel El Fuerte, was founded by José Luque Manzano, who was forced to leave school at 14 to take charge of his father’s businesses. Those that knew him say he had a natural instinct for business. His first venture came about with the purchase of a chocolate Factory which went on to produce around 40,000 “El Carmelo ” bars between 1950 and 1951.
Doña Elvira’s house
José acquired Doña Elvira’s house, which sat where the hotel now stands, for 1,200,000 pesetas. Those who knew him say that he “was a man who kept an eye constantly on the future”. Who could even begin to imagine the types of dreams that José Luque Manzano thought up at the time.
The Hotel El Fuerte’s inauguration took place on 4th July 1957. The hotel was blessed and visitors were invited to an agape ceremony in the gardens, located right next to the sea. From the start of its journey, the hotel was marketed to foreign tourists. In those days, very few Spaniards could afford to go on holiday.
First celebrity visitors
Filmmaker Walt Disney stayed at El Fuerte in the spring of 1958. Pedro Guerrero was a young porter working at the hotel and remembers being tasked with walking Disney’s dog, Pluto along the beach. He still remembers the “juicy tips” the animator gave him for doing the job.
1959 - 1960
Lola Flores &
Lola Flores, loved Marbella until the very end of her life and enjoyed lengthy stays at El Fuerte. She is one of the most memorable guests without any shadow of a doubt. Lola exuded art, a generous character and talent.
The filming of ‘Holiday in Spain’, starring Diana Dors, the British “Marilyn Monroe” caused heads to turn. A large number of scenes were filmed on the beach and featured the lead character wearing a bikini, at a time when the local mayor still fined people for wearing that kind of clothing in public.
1962 - 1968
First renovation projects
There was barely a season in memory when builders didn’t work along hotel staff to improve the facilities. The first refurbishments involved building sea facing balconies in each room to give guests the experience of being outside.
In 1968, two extra floors were added to the hotel and the entire structure of the former flour factory was reinforced.
Santa Marta: Much more than a brotherhood
The founding of the Santa Marta Brotherhood was an important milestone in relationships between hoteliers and further promoted Marbella’s Holy Week, which had suffered a particular decline since the Civil War. In 1963, the brotherhood was founded. All of the founders were hotel managers with the exception of José Luque, who was El Fuerte’s owner.
1978 - 1987
Further expansion projects
New west wing
Few understood the true impact of José Luque’s work in bringing about significant refurbishments to the hotel, especially during the most difficult moments experienced in Costa del Sol tourism history. In 1978, he built the hotel’s East Wing. In a period of 21 years, the hotel went from 45 to 140 rooms.
Don José’s last great project, the construction of the West Wing, was left on the drawing board. However, his wife Doña Isabel, carried it out to an exquisite standard which saw the hotel grow to accommodate 263 rooms.
1990 - 1992 - 2010
Alberti, Penélope Cruz, Vargas Llosa...
Poet Rafael Alberti held a large event at the hotel where he spoke about the history of his work.
Another significant visit was made by Penélope Cruz and Timothy Dalton, who visited El Fuerte during the filming of the series ‘Framed’.
In 2010, writer Mario Vargas Llosa and Alfredo Montagne held a talk titled Architecture and life’ at Hotel Fuerte Marbella.
1992 - 2002
Continuous enhancements and
Museo del Hotel El Fuerte
In 1992, the swimming pool cover was built and the hotel’s façade was redesigned in a terracotta clay color. Additionally, other work was done in the West Wing and public areas.
In 2002, the Museo del Hotel El Fuerte museum was inaugurated and provides a space offering a look back at the hotel’s history through the preservation of photographs, publicity and documents, and antique machines like switchboards, cash registers and coffee machines.
After turning 60 in 2017, El Fuerte continued looking to the future and began the biggest refurbishment project in its history in 2022. A thorough transformation that will convert our renowned hotel on the Costa del Sol into a 5 star destination: the new El Fuerte Marbella.