A lot of legends prevail regarding the origins of the region, some of which confuse fact with fiction. Some identify Velez with Sexi, capital of the ancient region of Sexitania, while others attribute its founding to Beluz, the Lybian Hercules, insisting that he gave the town his name. A Christian tradition claims the presence of St. Peter in the city. Details obtained from archaeological excavations confirm that Velez was inhabited in prehistoric times.
The walls of a Phoenician town have been discovered near the mouth of the River Velez on Los Toscanos Estate, and necropolises have been located on The Jardin and La Noria country estates. Velez must have been an important urban centre during the Roman times, giving refuge to settlers who had abandoned the coast following the fall of the Empire; however, it was during the Moslem occupation of Spain that the town really acquired renown and importance. In the 13th century, the fortress of Velez, along with Comares and Bentomiz, figured as one of the most important towns in the area corresponding to the present-day province of Málaga; proof of this is the alliance between the Christian King Ferdinand III, known as the Holy, and the Nazari ruler Al-Hamar.
An account by the traveller Ibn Batuta (1304-1368) describes Velez as a prosperous town enjoying an active trading relationship with the kingdom of Granada and the cities of the Mediterranean via its commercial port at Mariyya Balis -Atalaya de Velez- (Torre del Mar). In April 1487, it was captured by the troops of the Catholic Monarchs . The fall of Velez Málaga was crucial to the subsequent surrender of Málaga.
Torre del Mar's port developed in the wake of the Christian conquest under the protection of the fortress -part of whose walls still stand today of Rui Lopez of Toledo, a distinguished Castilian soldier who was awarded this military enclave in return for his role in the capture of Velez. The 18th century (1704) saw one of the most important naval battles of the War of Succession. A Franco-Spanish fleet and the combined forces of the English and Dutch navies locked horns in a fierce battle involving 146 ships and almost 50,000 men. The confrontation failed to produce a clear victor and the Anglo-Dutch contingent withdrew to the port of Gibraltar, the French and Spanish heading for Málaga. Another important episode in Velez’s history occurred during the War of Independence, when retreating Napoleonic troops blew up the town’s walls, which were left practically in ruins.
The city and its municipal area were also affected by the major tremor known as the Andalusian Earthquake on Christmas Day 1884, suffering six mortalities and extensive material damage. A new stimulus, which was to change forever the whole face of Velez-Málaga, the neighbouring dependency of Torre del Mar and the rest of the municipal area, as well as its inhabitants’ economic activities and way of life, came in the second half of the 20th century, when the progressive development of tourism, which had begun in 1960s, transformed the town into one of the Mediterranean’s leading holiday resorts.