Six reasons why Benidorm is so much better than you think

Leah Pattem has fond memories of Benidorm after spending family holidays there as a child. Now, years later and living in Madrid, this Newcastle-born blogger revisits the resort and discovers it still retains a certain charm.

Six reasons why Benidorm is so much better than you think
Benidorm is simply something special. Photos by Leah Pattem

Here she tells The Local why people should give Benidorm a chance.

It spawned the bikini revolution

Pedro Zaragoza, the Mayor of Benidorm between 1950 and 1967, was en route to becoming a hero of modern Spain, but there was an itsybitsy teenyweeny problem standing in the way of his vision to turn the humble fishing village of 1,700 residents into a booming resort.

At the time, Spain was under a fascist dictatorship backed by the Roman Catholic Church. The prudish state would have loved to stop holidaying Brits coming and trying their luck in the near-nude, and the church seemed to be winning when a fleshy brawl between a bikini-clad tourist and a fuddy-duddy policeman broke out, slamming the skimpy señora with a whopping 40,000-peseta fine. When news got back to our Pedro, he decided it was time to meet Franco.

He set off at dawn and rode a gruelling eight hours on his little scooter to Madrid. In oil-stained trousers and still sweating from the baking sun, Pedro made the bravest pitch of his life. Franco stayed quiet, aware that this new business idea would ruffle the feathers of his Catholic counterparts, but how could he say no to that kind of money coming into Spain? Pedro wisely took Franco’s sheepish silence as a “yes”, and so the Benidorm boom was born.

Benidorm spawned the bikini revolution. Photo: Harry Fabel / Pixabay

It’s a huge economic success

It may have a reputation for ‘cheap and tacky’ but today, Benidorm is an economic success story bringing in millions of foreign tourists every year, all eager to spend every last one of their pre-exchanged euros.

As Europe’s largest resort, it holds the world title for “most skyscrapers per capita”, earning it visibility on the global map. Benidorm was, and is, oblivious to the recent crisis and yet is still the cheapest place to holiday in Spain.

It’s a beacon of cross-cultural harmony

Benidorm is a playground for all generations of hard-working Brits and Spaniards alike, all seeking somewhere to unwind, wear skimpy clothes and tan like there’s no tomorrow. Both Brits and Spaniards love Benidorm as much as each other – the Brits have chippies, pubs and curry houses, and Spaniards have chiringuitos, bowls of salty olives, and standing-only bars with litter strewn across the floor. Even though neither venture into the others’ realms, they live harmoniously side-by-side and respect each other’s precious downtime.

READ ALSO: IN PICS: 18 photos that prove Benidorm is beautiful

It has a thriving ‘international food scene’

If you live in Spain and are nostalgic for traditional hearty British grub, then Benidorm’s your Britain away from Britain. At El Chippy, on the menu tonight – and every night – we have Fish ‘n’ Chips, Bangers ‘n’ Mash, Doner Kebab, Teriyaki Chicken, Lamb Madras, and so on. Open for dinner from 5pm for those who want to line their stomachs before a boozy night on the tiles.

Benidorm is also a popular spot for holidaying Madrileños. Every evening, they descend upon one particular street in the heart of Benidorm’s old town. It’s a narrow, 100-meter-long lane that seamlessly transitions from an indoor mercado to a smoky outdoor alley and would satisfy the crowding instinct of any local.

There are around 30 top-notch eateries packed into this delightful chaos and you have to fight for a table all year round. This soulful alley gets its nickname ‘Calle del Coño’ because of the hundreds of Madrileños that unexpectedly bump into their Madrileño friends and yell something along the lines of “Coño! What a surprise to see you here!”.

Benidorm nightlife is unique

Benidorm is simply something special. Photos: Leah Pattem

At the far east end of Playa Levante lies Benidorm’s debauched backstage – a 30-story world of package-holiday hotels where time has stood still for three decades.

“Midget Stripper”, “Live Sex Show” and names of long-forgotten British comedians adorn the chalkboard facades of many nightspots in Benidorm, but one legend is still the undisputed star of Benidorm despite her retirement at the age of 72 (she’s now 78) and that is “Sticky Vicky” and her magic vagina.

Benidorm equally appeals to stag and hen dos. We stumbled across a merry group of stags giving the passers-by exactly what they wanted to see. Before the patrolling police moved the huge crowd on, I got a quick snap of the Diva-Daves. Moments after, they stripped off all but their high-heels and raced each other into the sea. Epic.

You won’t find the Benidorm stereotype anywhere else in the world

You won’t find anywhere else like Benidorm. Photo: Harry Fabel / Pixabay

Beer bellies and plump cigars are manly and the women look ready to party at any moment: their style is relentless – colourful print dresses, nails done, big earrings offset by a terracotta skin backdrop. Fake tan is for fake people – these ladies are real. Any pretentiousness can use the back door – this isn’t Marbella sweetie.

Benidorm gets a lot of flak for its unapologetic stereotype, coarse nightlife, and package holidays, but in combination with its bold moment in history, Benidorm has become a cultural phenomenon treasured by many.

Put simply it is worth seeing with your own eyes.

Follow Leah Pattem on instagram @madridnofrills and read her blog

READ ALSO: Spain shudders over Benidorm’s Full English Breakfast pizza


Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.


Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 


Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.


Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.


The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.