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.
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.
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
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.