¿Qué hacer en Benidorm?
The Manhattan of the Mediterranean
Those who love and admire it, call it the Manhattan of the Mediterranean, and the cosmopolitan, modern and lively atmosphere you'll find in Benidorm will definitely remind you of New York's famous island. There's always something new and fun going on in this city that never sleeps.
Exaggeration or reality? I'd say it's true. Even though when you visit Benidorm you can always stay in a charming private villa in the nearby mountains, away from it all and in the midst of total peace and quiet, we are talking about the city that has the most skyscrapers anywhere in Spain, and the one with the most tall buildings per square metre anywhere in the world, after New York.
It's climate always adds to, or almost always adds to, the fun and the R&R. Even in midwinter the temperature in Benidorm tends to be quite pleasant, due to its specific geographical situation – the Sierra Helada mountains to the east, the Sierra Aitana mountains to the north, and the "Tossal de la Cala" hill to the west, all serve to protect the town from the wind and the rain.
Its radiant sun and its overwhelming offer of leisure activities explain why many visitors become quite addicted to the city. Entire families (generation after generation) and groups of friends, come back year after year. Because even though the scenery may change, the essence of Benidorm remains the same. And it catches you.
Markets, shows, theme parks, spas, concerts and live music, festivities, cinemas, dozens of themed restaurants, a historical town centre, horse riding, ten-pin bowling, scuba diving, sailing, golf, cycling, incredible discotheques where the beat goes on to dawn, charming pubs, casinos, bull fighting, terraces with sea views, wild parties, prominent congresses, beaches that go and and on... there are even charming little coves just waiting round the next corner! Who could ask for more?
The Benidorm skyline is famous throughout the world but what many people do not know is that in the heart of the city, very close to the Poniente beach, there is a charming historical town awaiting the unsuspecting tourist. It is made up by a labyrinth of peaceful, cobbled streets, filled with terraces, pubs, small restaurants and handicraft stores. The nearby church of San Vicente Mártir stands out on account of its lofty tower, crowned by an octagonal dome and set off by local indigo-coloured Levante tiles.
Just a few minutes walk away, we come to the Punta del Canfali viewpoint (also known as the Balcony of the Mediterranean) from which we can enjoy spectacular views of Benidorm's two bays, "Levante" to the east and "Poniente" to the west. The viewpoint sits on an enormous rock that was originally the base of the defensive fortification that the Christian inhabitants of Benidorm built and then reinforced in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries in order to ward off the incursions of pirates from Algeria and the Barbary Coast. Nowadays little remains of the walls.
Poniente beach is the original Benidorm beach. It's a splendid expanse of sand that stretches for more than 3 kilometres from the Marina in the north to Tossal Hill in the south. It maintains a family atmosphere that is so reminiscent of the city's early days and you'll often find entire families enjoying a dip in the sea and a kip in the sun.
A highly original Promenade runs alongside the beach, designed by architects Carlos Ferrater and Xavier Martí Galí. Its meandering layout won the FAD 2010 City and Landscape Prize, and it is considered a Spanish benchmark in urban landscaping solutions on account of is respectful treatment of the environment. Its curves and its colours mirror the cliffs and the tidal waves, and contribute surfaces that generate areas of light and shadow. Passers-by, athletes, street artists, skateboarders and running children live in harmony on its various platforms and levels.
The Island of Benidorm, also known as the Island of Journalists – it was sponsored by their Federation - is one of this beach's and indeed the city's most well-known landmarks. It's a small, triangular island, lying halfway between the city's two main beaches. If you would like to explore the island, boats sail from Rincón de Loix and the Port of Benidorm. It's a popular meeting place for divers and fishermen, and a sensational place in which to observe underwater flora and fauna - which may explain why it is of its own right part of the Serra Gelada Nature Park.
Myriad legends endeavour to explain the origin of this little island. Some say that the horse of St. James, or Santiago as he is known here, in an effort to save the Christians in some battle or other against the Moors, used his hooves to tear down the peak of the Puig Campana mountain. Others say it was Roldán the giant, who cut off the top of the mountain and placed it in the sea so that the dusk might last a little longer. It seems his beloved was doomed to die once night would fall.
Another typical Levante beach activity is to contemplate the enormous and quite spectacular sand sculptures that local street artists have been building here for decades now. They are undoubtedly genuine works of art, although sadly somewhat ephemeral.
Finally, we ought to mention the city's incredible culinary delights and its seemingly endless choice of restaurants. You may prefer a panoramic restaurant, one with a sea view, one situated in a garden perhaps, or a designer-built space. As for food! Mediterranean, local dishes from Alicante or Valencia, avant garde or traditional fare, tapas or a more elaborate menu... Nor should we forget the international establishments that so many thousands of tourists enjoy. Benidorm reinvents itself from one day to the next… and it fully intends to continue doing so for years to come.