Recently I spent a week in Benidorm. My impression of this former fishing village, now transformed into a “shrine” for the high-rise tower block worshipper, was derived largely from the somewhat tarnished reputation depicted by the media over the years of drunken lager louts behaving badly on the seafront. Add to that image presented to us by the entertaining range of colourful characters and their experiences at the Solana in the excellent TV comedy series Benidorm, and it would be safe to say that I did not have great expectations for my week in the sun.
In fact we were in for a very pleasant surprise. All of us who visited Benidorm felt that it is a much underrated town. Whilst it is true that during a week we did see a couple of pairs of (I’m sad to say, English) lads who felt the need to walk along street effing and blinding – although to be fair they were not causing any problem apart from the bad language – they were the only nods to the Benidorm’s often maligned image.
The vast majority of the visitors were either families with children or senior citizens. Many may well be attracted by the budget rates in the hotels: one family managed to find a deal for 6 nights with full board in the 4-star hotel we stayed in, the Princesa, for €1,100. Not only does it boast a very well-equipped gym, two indoor pools and spa facilities but the staff were friendly & helpful, and the quality & range of the food served on the buffet meals were also excellent. Whilst enjoying a coffee on the terrace overlooking the outdoor pool, the thought did cross my mind that the only thing the hotel really lacked was a transvestite on roller skates delivering the drinks.
It is easy to see where Mel from the TV programme – or perhaps, more accurately, the writer Derren Litten who, it is claimed, has an occasional drink in one of the bars I visited – got the idea for the mobility scooter shop from. With a high elderly visitor demographic, mobility scooters are even more prevalent on Benidorm’s seafront than they are in Eastbourne! We were particularly impressed by the 2-seater tandem-style scooters, allowing couples to trundle along the promenade together.
The mix of nationalities was slightly different to other parts of Spain. There were plenty of English visitors. Reassuringly, many Spanish also holiday in Benidorm. Conspicuous by their absence were the Germans who are often such ubiquitous imports to other holiday destinations. The fourth language on signs and menus was, rather surprisingly, Dutch. The reason for this quickly became clear as we realised just how many Dutch & Belgian guests there were around us. We even found a reasonably priced Belgian Bakery round the corner from the hotel, serving a range of tasty light meals, followed by crêpes with Grand Marnier & ice cream for those looking for a dessert.
Benidorm has entertainment to suit all tastes. Of course, in most cases you usually don’t have to even leave the hotel: Solana-style karaoke and similar events are typically on offer. If your holiday dream is to start the day with a full English breakfast & finish the day in an English bar, you do not have to walk very far to find one. We enjoyed an after-dinner drink in a lovely Spanish bar each evening. With many Spanish holidaying in the town, there are plenty of places where you can “go local”. For LGBTQ visitors the old town offers a range of venues and you may even see someone navigating the narrow alleyways in drag, although it is unlikely to be Lesley or even Mateo.
There are a number of attractions in and around Benidorm. I can highly recommend a trip to Guadalest up in the mountains about an hour’s drive away. If Benidorm has the highest number of skyscrapers in the world, then Guadalest must be able to make the same claim about museums.
For those not planning a trip to Benidorm any time soon, you can at least look forward to season 10 of the comedy series due to air in early 2018.