Benidorm is one of the most visited holiday resorts in Spain, but somewhere along the line it became unhip to say out loud that you’re going there. Benidorm is for oldies, it’s full of (drunken) Brits, the food and the accommodation are entirely low-cost and the beach is always too crowded. That’s the idea that people have. And then I went there myself, a chance to either confirm or debunk the prejudices… The truth? Some of the stereotypes are there for a reason, but it’s time to talk about the beauty and diversity of the holiday resort, too. Here’s eight reasons why I will never giggle again when people tell me they’re going to Benidorm.
1. It’s a pioneer resort!
Benidorm was one of the first low cost resorts in Europe, if not thé first. Thanks to the introduction of affordable package tourism deals, families that otherwise couldn’t afford to travel could suddenly have a proper holiday in the sun. First the Spanish themselves came exploring the resort and after the Alicante airport opened in 1967 the international tourism really boomed. In fact, the success model of Benidorm was used as an example for many other holiday resorts in Europe to come. Now that’s something to be proud of, I reckon. Sure there are lots and lots of other resorts in the world today, but at least Benidorm was the first. It will always be unique for that reason.
2. The quirky architecture grows on you
The skyline of Benidorm is one of a kind. When tourism exploded in the 60s and 70s, new hotels, bars and apartments were randomly scattered around in the city. Apparently at one point there were over 100 buildings being built all at the same time… The result of that is that Benidorm is now dominated by a whole lot of skyscrapers, one even quirkier, higher and more imposing than the next, hence the nickname ‘Beni-york’ or ‘Little Manhattan’. There’s rounds, ovals, pentagons and hexagons, but most of them are mainly long and narrow so that everyone can enjoy as much of the sun and ocean views as possible. Clever! Marking the skyline are some of the tallest buildings in Europe, like the 200 meter high Residencial in Tempo (tallest resident building in Europe) and the Gran Hotel Bali (tallest hotel in Europe). Watching this inconsistent jumble of skyscrapers is unsettling and intriguing at the same time and after a while it just stops being weird. There’s a certain beauty to the chaos and some of the architecture is so retro that it’s becoming fashionable again.
3. The sun never lets you down
Well, never say never, but it’s a fact that Benidorm is enclosed by a range of mountains, which keeps the city sheltered from most rain and clouds. This way, Benidorm has its own little microclimate with an average temperature of 19°C and 330 days of sunshine throughout the year, making it the driest beachside in all of Europe. Another ‘fun sun fact ‘ is that there’s two main beaches that are both in the shape of a crescent moon. There’s the Playa Levante (sunrise beach) that invites the early morning sun and there’s the Playa Poniente (sunset beach) that is bathing in sunshine right until sunset. So if you want, you can laze by the beach from sunrise to sunset every single day. The entire Benidorm beachside is 6 km long and very wide so no matter the crowd, there will always be a free spot…
4. The Spanish food is as delicious as anywhere else in Spain
You’re in Spain! How can the food disappoint in Spain? Just like any other Spanish city, Benidorm has heaps of lovely pintxos bars (tapas the Basque way) and great seafood and paella restaurant as well for any kind of budget. Try La Taperia in the Calle Santo Domingo – there’s lots of others in this area as well) and El Barranco right at the Poniente beachside.
5. You can party if you want, whenever you want
Benidorm has an awesome party scene. You can go out at 22 pm and keep partying till the morning. When the restaurants and entertainment halls close, the bars open. When the bars close, the nightclubs open and when the nightclubs close, there’s always the notorious ‘British corner’ in the city centre, with the kind of nightlife that never sleeps. There’s even a brand new casino being built as we speak. But if you don’t want anything to do with that, you can easily avoid the party scenes and have a stylish evening of dance and magic at the Benidorm Palace or have a quiet walk around, not noticing anything about the drunken sing-alongs, the stripteases and the late night bull riding that are going on. That’s the beauty of Benidorm: whatever you decide, you can have. The ‘Ku’ lounge bar on the boulevard of the Levante Beach is pretty hip right now and Solotúla is known for it’s gin & tonics.
6. There’s a chic side to Benidorm that no one brags about
Next to 35 four star hotels, Benidorm has 3 five star hotels that will blow you away with their meticulous design, their luxury rooms and ditto pools. How come so little know about this? Because the city doesn’t brag about it. That’s why celebrities like Penelope Cruz, Bruce Willis, Bruce Springsteen and Javier Bardem spend their holidays here: this is the place to enjoy luxury, discreetly. The two hotels that stand out the most to me are Barcelo Asia Gardens with its tropical gardens and Thai theme and Villa Venecia, the only five star hotel right next to the ocean. Apart from that, hotels are starting to invest in rooftop lounge bars with smooth live music and great views over the city. Try the ‘Level 7’ champagne bar of the Agar hotel!
7. It’s the ideal family destination
I’ve been to many places, but don’t think I’ve ever been to a beach resort that has so many leisure activities so close to each other as in Benidorm. There’s something for every age and taste, like the two 18 hole golf courses of the Mélia Villaitana hotel or the high concentration of theme parks: the Aqualandia water park, the Mundo Mar park with marine life and exotic birds, Terra Natura and Aqua Natura with all kinds of animal and water fun for kids and my favorite: the Terra Mítica theme Park that takes you back to ancient times with rides that even I (and I’m 32) found awesome. Still can’t sit still? Try jet-skiing or go for a boat ride and some snorkeling along the way. And that’s just a few of the options.
8. It’s a paradise for street photographers
Want to know more? http://en.visitbenidorm.es
Getting there? Try www.jetairfly.com