Ask any number of British expats where their favorite place in Spain is and more often than not, the answer will be …. Benidorm.
The seaside resort at a distance of just 45 kilometers from Alicante and its airport, with multiple flights to and from the United Kingdom every day (at least at normal times), holds an undeniable attraction to sun-and-fun loving Brits of all ages. This applies to summer and winter holidays as well as to longer stays in holiday homes or even a location to retire to in the sun.
The latest census shows that more than 5,000 British nationals are legally registered residents in a place with just over 71.000 permanent inhabitants. The number is even bigger if you add those who have not yet registered and are enpadronado – something they need to do before the end of the year or the consequences may be dire. The number of tourists who descend on Benidorm each year is a staggering 5 million!
Beaches and booze
But, back to Benidorm.
What makes the place so attractive?
Hayley, a British expat who has lived in Spain for nearly 20 years, sums it up like this:
I love visiting Benidorm and I go there often, for a quiet break with my parents or a boozy night out with my girlfriends. I personally prefer the Old Town with the little church squares and of course, the famous “Tapas Alley.” Add sandy beaches, parks and gardens to stroll in and the sunshine. Visit at least once and you will be surprised at all that Benidorm has to offer.
Let’s find out what’s on offer. Benidorm’s best beaches, connected by a palm lined promenade, are called Levante and Poniente. With an average of 2,853 hours of sunshine per year, it’s no wonder so many Brits flock here to get a suntan on the beach. The proximity of Alicante airport, the short flight time of an average of two-to-three hours from the UK and, most of all, the advent of cheap all-inclusive package tours since the 1980s have added to make
Benidorm the favorite destination for Brits.
It’s no secret that the British like their tipple or three or five and Benidorm, as Hayley said, is an ideal place for drinking. The main drag is the Avenida Comunidad Valenciana with one bar, disco and club after another. You can listen to tribute bands perform Take That, Queen and Elvis, or test your own vocals at karaoke bars.
Nobody goes hungry in Benidorm
Nobody goes hungry in Benidorm. The influx of international tourists means that you can find a great variety of cuisines, even a sushi bar – always poplar with the British. Of course the typical Valencia rice dishes like seafood paella are well represented too, as are the ever present tapas.The “tapas alley” Hayley mentioned, is in Calle Santo Domingo, Plaza de la Constitución. Ask for directions to the Hotel Queens and the alley starts just opposite.
The British visitors don’t have to miss out on their own cuisine either. Fish fingers and fish and chips are easily available as is black pudding at Amigos Restaurant and Roof Terrace. With 27 4-star hotels and a great number of budget accommodation to choose from, the British love the choice and especially the all-inclusive variety.
Benidorm is family-friendly too, with entertainment like the Aqualandia water park and the Terra Mitica. Terra Mitica is is one of Europe’s largest theme parks, inspired by ancient civilizations like Rome, Egypt and Greece. The highlight is the Magnus Colossos ride, a wooden roller coaster on tracks that’s 1-kilometer long.
Not to be forgotten is the somewhat overwhelming architecture of the three high-rise buildings that have become a Benidorm landmark. The Grand Hotel Bali,Europe’s tallest hotel, the two looming towers of the Intempo, joined by a see through walkway at the top, and the Neguri Gane. The Bali Hotel hosts Christmas dinners and Flamenco shows. Since the ITV comedy “Benidorm” aired, the place has become even more popular, especially with older Brits.
There are places you can escape the package-tour mayhem. As Hayley said, the Old Town is equally pretty: White-washed houses, winding cobbled streets, bars, boutiques and restaurants galore as well as the famous lookout point called Mirador de la Punta del Canfali, with views over the sea and the port of Benidorm.
Wednesday is market day in the covered municipal market in the old town. On weekends there are several open market stalls along the waterfront selling clothes, trinkets and souvenirs.
As soon as Spain opens again for foreign tourism and the UK allows visits to Spain, and the cheap flights resume, a new wave of British tourists will make their way to the beloved Benidorm.They love to be among themselves and to experience Britain in the sun, but with a Spanish flavor.
Benidorm fits the bill to a “T.”
About the author:
Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is an international attorney-turned-travel-and-lifestyle writer based in Spain. She has contributed to BBC/Travel, several in-flight magazines, TripSavvy (Spain) and TravelAwaits, among many other publications. After several years in Turkey, she now lives on Spain’s Costa Blanca.
Read more about Spain in our Dispatches archive here.
Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is an international attorney-turned-travel and lifestyle writer based in Spain. She has contributed to BBC/Travel, several in-flight magazines, TripSavvy (Spain) and TravelAwaits among many other publications.