Holiday Guide for Benidorm

Benidorm, on Spainâs Costa Blanca, first officially became known in 1325 when Admiral Bernat De Serria of Polop palace awarded it a town charter.

It is believed there were settlements in the Benidorm area perhaps as far back as 3000BC and remains of a Roman villa have been found as well as evidence that Roman and Punic ships visited the bay of Benidorm.

There was a settlement on Tossal de la Cala, the hill behind Benidorm certainly from before the time of Christ. Archaeologists have discovered burial grounds and remains of an Iberian settlement on the hill dating back to the first century B.C.  Also remains of fishing nets were found here showing that Benidormâs famous fishing history has been a long one.

Settlements in the area were small however, and it is not until the Moors arrived that local population began to grow somewhat. The Moors were Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa and arrived during the Arab Conquest between the 8th and 13th centuries.

The Christian King Jaime I re-conquered the region in 1245 and the Moors were pushed out. The practice of giving town charters, such as the one given to Benidorm in 1325, was used as a way of removing the Moors and allowing Christians to inhabit the area.

Benidormâs history for the next few centuries was plagued by attacks from the sea. Turkish and Barbarian pirates constantly raided the coast, and a fort was built in the town to defend from these attacks. There were two particularly fierce attacks in 1410 and 1448 and the local population deteriorated. At some point during these years the fort was destroyed and rebuilt only to be abandoned for good soon after, having been being devastated once more.

The 17th century saw things improve for Benidorm and its people, most notably with the construction of an advanced irrigation system in 1666 to channel water to the region. This saw a great increase in agriculture for the town especially in olive groves but also in lemon and orange groves as well.

By the 18th century the town had grown and was prospering. Work began on the Parish Church of St Jaime. Another key event in Benidormâs history also occurred around this time when a boat was discovered by local residents on the beach at Playa Poniente. Wary of the plague at the time, and seeing no sign of life aboard, the townspeople set the ship alight. Among the burning embers they discovered a wooden statue, the 'Virgen del Sufragio', undamaged by the flames. The Virgen joined Saint Jaime in becoming a patron saint for the town, and the event is still celebrated each year with re-enactments.

Over these years the fishing industry of Benidorm had been steadily growing. By the 18th century Benidorm fishermen had become famous and sought after all over Spain and even further a field. Tuna was their main catch and they perfected the ancient âalmadrabaâ technique passed down from the Arabs. This technique used a complicated maze of deep sea nets to catch the tuna as they migrated across the Mediterranean. The success of the fishing industry, together with improved local agriculture, helped to fuel a strong local economy.

Coastal traffic increased too, bringing more wealth to the region with the town becoming a base for sea captains and the building of their vessels.

It is the tourist industry, however, that has really had the biggest impact on Benidorm over time. Although a relatively short period in the townâs history, Benidorm has changed almost unrecognizably from the small fishing village it was in the 1950s before the tourist explosion.

The start of the 19th century saw the beginnings of the tourist industry, which expanded after the building of a narrow gauge railway that brought tourists to the coast from towns such as Alcoy and Madrid. Also, the town was linked by road to Alicante. World War II and the Spanish Civil War saw the tourist industry temporarily setback, but from the 1950s growth in tourism has been huge.

In 1952 Benidormâs fishing industry went into decline; a factor in encouraging the town council to approve many new development plans aimed at the tourist market, including the plans to build the now famous avenues along the Levante.

In April1967, the airport at Alicante first opened and Benidorm hasnât looked back. As air travel expanded and became affordable to more, tourists flocked to the Spanish coast attracted by great weather and cheap package deals.

Many other early holiday resorts were based on the successful model of Benidorm, whose success was at a peak in the 1970s - 1977 saw a whopping 12 million visitors to Benidorm, a figure that has not since been bettered.

Today the town is Spainâs (and Europeâs) biggest holiday resort and responsible for a significant chunk of Spainâs large tourist industry. Todayâs Benidorm, with its endless high rise hotels and British restaurants on every corner, is a far cry from the sleepy fishing village of barely more than half a century ago. Five million tourists a year arrive to holiday in the resort and the huge range of accommodation and facilities attracts visitors young and old, families and singles. Most arrive in the summer, though the mild winter temperatures make Benidorm popular year round, with Northern Europeans arriving for a bit of winter sun.

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