After enjoying a relaxing breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant we wandered along to the Mercado tram/train station where we used a machine to buy two Zone 3 return tickets to Benidorm at €6.40 (£5.30) each. The Alicante to Benidorm tram route is on Red Line One, with services every 30 minutes.
We took the 10.10 a.m. tram and enjoyed scenic coastal views as the majority of the journey is along the coast. If possible, try and sit on the right hand side of the tram for the best sea views. Our service wasn’t very busy and we had a comfortable journey along to Benidorm taking 70 minutes. Line One terminates in Benidorm and passengers just need to scan their tickets at the barriers to exit the station.
I’d never visited Benidorm before and to be honest probably wouldn’t have gone this time if it hadn’t been so easy to reach from Alicante but in the interests of blog research I had an open mind on what to expect. Almost everyone on our flight was heading to Benidorm as it’s been a top destination for British tourists for many years.
Interestingly, the Costa Blanca is noted for being the most famous 20km stretch of coastline in Spain and when we first saw the huge number of hotels surrounding its bay, it was hard to believe that Benidorm was once a sleepy fishing village. Since the onset of cheap package holidays in the 1960’s the former village has transformed into an area of high rise hotels and holiday apartments arranged along the vast, white, sandy beaches. Britons who used to spend their holidays in English seaside resorts such as Margate, Blackpool or Brighton soon discovered they could take a cheap overseas package holiday with year round sun, sea and cheap alcohol.
Strolling along the seafront overlooking the Playa de Levante beach, which is surrounded by the town’s iconic skyscraper hotels and apartments we felt the resort lacked the sophisticated feel of neighbouring Alicante but it was a likeable place and we enjoyed our walk. We were there in winter but it felt more like June with the sun beating down and temperatures in the low to mid 20’s. Most of the tourists appeared to be retirees escaping the cold, damp northern European weather and who could blame them. I could definitely see the attraction of swapping a couple of weeks huddled in front of the fire at home for a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean.
Over the years Benidorm has had a reputation for raucous behaviour and although the seafront still caters mainly for those seeking a ‘home from home’ holiday with dozens of English themed pubs and cafes selling beer by the pint, traditional fried English breakfasts and fish and chips, much seems to have been done to gentrify the resort. We noticed several of the now dated budget accommodation blocks had been demolished to be replaced by modern, luxury hotels.
Our walk continued into the old town where we wandered along its narrow cobbled streets lined with shops and cafes. Most of the shops seemed to be selling low priced clothing, shoes and the usual touristy gifts found in most seaside resorts. Further along one of these alleyways, an entire street had been given over to tapas bars which seemed to be proving popular with lunchtime diners.
Returning to the seafront, located up some steps just beyond the Levante beach we came to Plaza de Santa Ana. The centrepiece of this square are four cannons each pointing to a cardinal point. These guns belonged to the old castle that was located at the top of the old town and are all that remains of the original fort nowadays.
Climbing up some more steps, we arrived at a gorgeous blue tiled plaza called the Plaza del Castillo from where we had some stunning views of Benidorm’s beaches. This raised balcony is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque viewpoints along the Costa Blanca with its delightful wooden pergola bedecked with flowers and benches from where visitors are able to sit and relax whilst taking in the breathtaking views.
Continuing our coastal walk, we admired the church of San Jaime and Santa Ana which is the oldest in Benidorm having been built between 1740-1780. The church has a beautiful blue tiled domed roof which has recently been renovated restoring it to its former glory.
Our stroll continued along the promenade overlooking the Poniente beach which has a more relaxed feel and is less touristy than its Levante neighbour to the east of the town centre. This wide sweep of golden sand was less crowded and it was good to see that its bars and cafes were more authentically Spanish than on the main beach.
It was then time to return to the station for our tram back to Alicante. It was nice to rest our legs for an hour as we had walked quite a distance exploring Benidorm. Our seats on the left hand side of the tram afforded us with some good coastal views and being wintertime, the tram wasn’t crowded. Would I return to Benidorm? Surprisingly, I think the answer might be yes, perhaps not to actually stay there but to visit for a day sometime, let’s see!
Back in our hotel we enjoyed a reviving cup of tea and a couple of biscuits, later venturing out again for an evening stroll and to find somewhere to eat. We settled on an attractive floodlit square just behind the city hall where we dined outdoors, keeping warm with the aid of patio heaters and rugs. So far on this trip we hadn’t sampled any local paella so we ordered seafood and chicken options from the menu. Sadly, these didn’t live up to our expectations, especially the seafood paella which had very little seafood and was mostly just rice. Our meal was quite disappointing as the restaurant appeared attractive and the waiter friendly. We didn’t linger for coffee and instead found a cosy bar on the seafront to end our third day on the Costa Blanca.
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