Towering over the city centre, you can’t miss the impressive castle perched on the top of Mount Benacantil. The golden fortress situated an impressive 166 metres above sea level is one of the main attractions in Alicante city centre. Even better still, it’s a very budget friendly day out.
Location: Santa Barbara Castle, 03002 Alicante. To travel by tram you take the L1 to Castillo. By car, it’s a 30 minute drive from Benidorm.
Price: If you’re taking the elevator, it’s 2,70€ each to go up or free for children in pushchairs. If you’re driving or going by foot, access is completely free.
Getting there: The elevator access is located near the port, if you follow the signs you’ll have no problems. You can also access Santa Barbara castle on foot, or by car which are both free access. If you’re walking it’s better to head from the side of the Castillo tram stop.
Opening hours: The castle is open from 10:00-22:00 everyday.
A Day Out in Alicante
We visited the castle a few years ago, back on a blustery December morning, though by the time the sun rose, we were sitting in t-shirts sheltered away from the wind in the café on site. I remember all too well wearing Uggs, thermals and a beige dress with tights and regretting the decision completely as we were sitting basking in the sun. But, we had used the castle as a stop off. We were meeting some friends and didn’t want to venture too far away from our meeting point at the port.
It wasn’t until I was scrolling on Instagram last week that I realised we had seemingly missed all the best spots of the castle altogether. Well, unless we exempt the fact we were at the café because the views there truly were impressive. But, in terms of real history and not just a good cup of cappuccino which are both rather good pulling points for me. I had noticed that there was a fortress jutting out of the castle that looked almost like a tower you see in princess castles in story books you read when you were young. If there’s anything remotely Disney like, I’m there.
It also meant that we could make a small detour and head to Starbucks, which although I love Spanish coffee, there’s something about Starbucks that is just so comforting. Maybe it’s the mass over inflation, maybe it’s the touch of home or maybe it’s the cream that the Spanish just can’t get right. Either way, if there’s a Starbucks, I’m there. I can have independent Spanish coffee shop coffee everyday. No shame in admitting that I do. A 3€ for a cappuccino and a tostada con tomate I’m fuelled for the day for less than a Costa that I used to grab at work everyday. Win.
Rio sat this one out, as a 9th century Muslim castle with a pit stop at Starbucks isn’t really his thing. Or more accurately, the 9th century Muslim castles aren’t really about dogs. Even Spain where dogs are accepted, I can’t see them being too keen on my little big perro running around. Looking back, Rio loved Monument park at Park Guell, so maybe castles and architecture are his thing. [edit: after googling, dogs are not allowed at Santa Barbara Castle. Good job we didn’t take him!]
The route from Benidorm is around 25 minutes, traffic depending, and it’s so easy to find the castle. In fact, once you reach Alicante, it’s unmissable. Perched over the port and towering over the city below, you can’t help but look up and admire it. You imagine that this is how artists must have felt when they wrote songs about castles perched upon hills.
Every time we visit Alicante, we park in the same car park, near to El Corte Inglés. It’s good access to the shops and city centre, with it being only a few minutes walk into the action, it’s ideal.
Down rolls the window and Alex’s head is leaning out of it as we pull into the car park. “What’s up?” I ask. My face clearly looking puzzled and probably sounding more stern than I intend to be. “The tyres flat”. Driving around in hot temperatures, flat tyres and tyre burn outs are not uncommon. But, the only thing I was thinking was, do we even have a spare tyre and how exactly are we going to change it? I don’t give Alex enough credit when it comes to general maintenance things, I’m never actually sure if he can do them. He usually can.
There we are in the middle of a city centre car park. Alex jumping on a crow bar of some sort to smash the plastic off and to be able to undo the nuts or bolts or whatever they are. Then there’s me, standing awkwardly, providing nothing much more than taking photos and reporting to everyone we know that Alex is lying on the floor in his fairly new Levi’s jeans changing a tyre.
Nevertheless, he got it changed. Knees covered in oil, we headed off to Starbucks. I opted for my usual café mocha and Alex had his signature cool lime refresher with a croissant with ham and cheese to share. They still had a few Christmas ornaments left over, in March?! which I was pleased about. We picked up a “You are Here” Starbucks cup with a Spain design on it to hang on the Christmas tree. That’s when I started looking at Disney Starbucks Christmas ornaments. It’s going to be dangerous in Disney.
We walked quite briskly to the elevator from Starbucks so it took us about 10 minutes. Once you enter the tunnel, you reach the ticket dispenser. It’s a touch screen machine which swaps between lots of languages, English and Spanish being the first two options. A ticket costs 2,70€ per person.
You follow the tunnel along where you reach the elevator and the person who is manning the elevator checks your admission. There’s no view from the elevator, it’s just a seemingly slow moving vessel where there is a rather awkward silence as you’re ascending. But, once it opens, you’re there. You’re at the castle.
We took a walk around but I was most interested in finding our way to the fortress. There are two and we discovered that the one at the bottom has the best views.
With the port to your left and the rest of the castle to your right with the minuscule veins of the Alicante streets below it’s an impressive 360 view. The city looks like it could be a car play mat from up here. You feel like you’re in the clouds.
Making use of the fact I had a bag to carry, I stuffed it full with crisps and sweets. We sat on a bench overlooking the castle munching on salt and vinegar chipsticks with the seagulls flying over head and in the weirdest way it felt like we were eating fish and chips on a beach front of Skegness or something, perhaps it was the murmur of English voices in the background and the English crisps designed to taste like chips. A strange correlation.
Before heading back, we took a stroll around the rest of the castle. At the top, they have the Spanish flag waving proudly yet gently in the March breeze. The breeze was soft yet all so chilling. In a few weeks, this breeze will feel like a hot fan blowing on us, wouldn’t it be nice if it was in reverse? Cool, gentle wind in the summer and a warm breeze in spring? I suppose we can’t have it all.
On the way back, we stopped off at Playa del Torres, which is a small cove situated between La Cala and Villajoyosa. The shimmering Mediterranean had almost never been so turquoise as how it is here. The waves soft and small, it’s a isolated cove with a happening campsite on site. With static cabins on site, they look beautiful for a night’s stay surrounded by the woods and the quiet beach.
We make plans to head back tomorrow, by walking from Benidorm to Villajoyosa. All in all, it was a lovely day and a different pace and scenery. It’s always great to be able to head to different places and revisit places now we have a car, making it much easier and less of a drag relying on public transport.
Every weekend is a mini holiday.