High-rise, flash hotels, rowdy, lager-drinking tourists, stag and hen parties; this is the unfortunate image that Benidorm has picked up in recent years. But there is another side to the resort that offers so much more to its visitors.
Benidorm attracts around 5 million visitors each year, including people from all over Europe and local Spanish families from places such as Madrid. For cruise guests, most ships will stop in Alicante, with Benidorm being a 40-minute coach transfer away. Here’s why it’s worth the trip.
Soaking up culture in the Old Town
Benidorm has two parts – the New Town, where much of the stereotypical reputation has come from, and the Old Town. The Old Town has a charming Spanish ambience to it. Wandering its cobbled streets, you’ll see whitewashed houses with blue tiling, plenty of chic boutiques, intriguing market stalls and local restaurants and bars. If you want to sample some traditional Spanish tapas, head to Tapas Alley, where the entire street is dedicated to offering high-quality varieties of these well-known small plates.
Taking in the historical sights
The Old Town also boasts several elegant churches and the city’s icon, ‘the viewpoint of the castle’, or Mirador del Castell. Built as a fortress to defend against pirates from the 14th -16th century, the castle was later abandoned. Its remaining walls, perched on top of the rock overlooking the sea, offer spectacular views along the coastline, thus gaining the name ‘The Balcony of the Mediterranean’.
Iglesia de Sant Jaume is a beautiful, peaceful church in the Old Town, admired for its unique façade. However, don’t miss out on going inside, where you’ll discover a richness of artefacts, icons and stained glass windows decorating its interior. Or for those interested in maritime history, the Centro Cultural Maritimo reveals intriguing stories of Benidorm as a fishing village.
Discover the surprisingly beautiful reason behind the high-rise
The high-rise hotels and buildings in Benidorm may seem like an attempt to cram as many tourists in as possible, but there was an excellent reason for building upwards. It avoided sprawling outwards. This choice results in a lot of natural beauty for you to enjoy just a short distance from Benidorm’s centre.
For example, Sierra Helada Natural Park, 7km from the centre, is a highly protected nature reserve. With a stunning mountain range, coves and bays and a wide range of flora and fauna, there are some incredible hiking, mountain biking and diving opportunities.
L’Aiguera Park is also worth a visit. Separating the Old Town from its newer side, it is a long green park designed in a neoclassical style by the architect Ricardo Bofill. Within, you’ll find two amphitheatres, used for shows and cultural events, and a fairground site, used for fiestas.
Then there are the beaches. And you cannot argue about the beauty of those in Benidorm. Playa de Poniente is the largest. Awarded an EU Blue Flag, it offers 3km of clean, white sands and high-quality, safe-for-swimming seawater and is less crowded than the tourist-go-to, Playa de Levante.
Although Benidorm can be frowned upon for its high-rise buildings, the skill involved in their impressive design cannot fail to be appreciated, not to mention the spectacular views they provide. With 52 floors, The Gran Hotel Bali is Europe’s tallest hotel. Take the lift to the 45th floor, where there is a dedicated observation deck for visitors, offering stunning, panoramic sights over Costa Blanca, its expansive beaches and backdrop of mountains.
Away from its reputation, Benidorm has a lot more to offer its visitors. So, if your cruise stops in the Alicante region, why not take a trip there to discover its enchanting other side.// END - About the Author ?>