Saturday, June 2, 2012

Benidorm: A Beach Metropolis with Charm

In Britain at least, there is an air of snobbishness surrounding the practice of taking a vacation, it may be something to do with the infamous and undying class structure in this country, or perhaps it’s just that we Brits feel the need feel the need to separate destinations according to prestige in an overcrowded marketplace; whatever the reason, it’s widely accepted that Benidorm on Spain’s Costa Blanca is among the lowest common denominator when it comes to popular holiday destinations.

Benidorm was once a small village, but it exploded as a major tourist destination in the 1960s and 70s, it is now one of the most well known and well frequented tourist destinations in Spain. Benidorm is unique in that it is dominated by large, high-rise apartment and hotel buildings, giving it an imposing skyline. 

Here are some interesting facts about Benidorm;
  • The town is the setting and namesake of a popular British TV comedy series
  • Benidorm has the most high-rise buildings per capita in the world
  • For this reason it often nicknamed ‘Beniyork’
  • Benidorm enjoys a microclimate due to being located around a cluster of mountains – it’s average year-round temperature is 18 degrees Celsius
  • Giles Tremlett, Guardian journalist described Benidorm as the birthplace of package tourism.
Upon arrival in the town (after a long winded, laborious coach transfer) it was clear that this was indeed a tourists paradise, but is that such a bad thing? Sure, I had plenty of preconceived ideas about the place before I arrived, but I like to think I'm open minded enough to reserve judgement until I’d settled in for a few days.

Well it turns out the image people have of Benidorm is entirely correct. From the tacky themed Cabaret bars, to the ropy tribute acts that ‘tour’ them, to the rows of shopping selling tacky souvenirs, and the numerous English themed restaurants and cafes (where else can you get a Cornish pasty on your Spain holidays?) Benidorm fits the package holiday image perfectly.

It’s easy to see why this place is called ‘Beniyork’ just look at the amount of high rise hotels visible from the balcony of our apartment – and this was some way inland. This view is essentially replicated from any given vantage point in the town, and getting the sun all day can be a task in futility as you case it in and around the towering monoliths.

While some of the hotel blocks are modern and vaguely attractive (for high-rise hotel buildings), there were just as many tired, ugly-looking un-loved structures that would look more at home in a communist state than in Spain.

Nonetheless, and despite its obvious shortcomings, Benidorm is a a unique and exciting place. Sure there are plenty of other ‘clone’ resorts in Spain and elsewhere, but Benidorm is the original, and there’s certainly something to be said for visiting the birthplace of package tourism.

Suspended disbelief is required at times to enter into the spirit of the place, but doing so will allow you to relax and enjoy some more of the ‘seedier’ shows and neon-lit bars offering discount booze. Then there’s the beach; I won’t have a bad word said against it, it was clean, well patrolled and the sea warm and inviting.

Benidorm is by no means the place for culture vultures, not foodies, nor those who want to escape the hustle and bustle (there were people EVERYWHERE), however it is certainly worth visiting for a few days if only to experience the undeniable, albeit in-your-face charm of the place. 

Acknowledgements: this post is an idea and contribution from Joe JohnsonJoe is a travel blogger who's not afraid to venture into tourist trap areas. He's particularly interested and will take several holidays in the south of Spain every year. Therefore, thanks for your offer Joe, and perhaps this will turn into the first of a series of contributions from readers!


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  2. What wonderful blog this one, it really speaks for Spain's hidden beauty. Spain was one of my top choice to visit to. I am not only after its natural beauty but the culture and the medieval churches in this country. How I wish I have time and resources to visit place.