Eight fascinating facts about Spain's Benidorm

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Eight fascinating facts about Spain's Benidorm
Benidorm may not be everybody's cup of tea, but it certainly has a very interesting past. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / STR / AFP)

The 'Mediterranean Manhattan' has quite the reputation, but there are some surprising facts about the city that you might not be aware of.


Located along the Costa Blanca in eastern Spanish region of Valencia, Benidorm was a quiet fishing village of 2,500 people in the early 20th century.

All this changed in 1950 when mayor Pedro Zaragoza Orts was elected, who over the next two decades developed Benidorm into one of Europe's primary holiday spots. 

Bold, brash and brilliant Benidorm is now famed for housing more foreigners than Spaniards, British residents and holidaymakers in particular (there's even a British TV comedy called Benidorm).

The city of 67,000 inhabitants is loved for its excellent weather, fine beaches, wild nightlife, British-style bars and its attractive old town. No wonder 16 million tourists visit every year.

For those of you who've been to Benidorm or who are curious about it, here are eight things you might not know about Spain's most famous holiday destination. 

Benidorm was the first city in Spain to allow bikinis

Believe it or not, Benidorm was actually the first city in Spain to allow women to wear bikinis on the beach in 1953. Visionary mayor Zaragoza famously travelled to Madrid on a Vespa and managed to convince Spanish dictator Franco that it was necessary for tourism and that the German, Swedish and English tourists would not want to cover up on holiday.

Benidorm beach in 1960, before 'el bikini' became a mainstay. Photo: Luis Fernández Fuster / E.S. Turismo Huesca


It’s the city with the most skyscrapers per inhabitant in the world

Move over Dubai, with 26 buildings over 100 metres tall, Benidorm is the city with the most skyscrapers per inhabitant in the entire world. The tallest building in the city is currently the Intempo building, which is 187 metres. In the 1950s the city’s urban plan allowed Benidorm to grow upwards rather than outwards. 

It's hard to believe that a century a go Benidorm was a quiet village of fishermen. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)

There have been hotels there for 100 years

The popularity of Benidorm is by no means a recent phenomenon. Tourists have been flocking to the coastal resort for the last 100 years, even though the real boom didn't happen until the 1950s and 60s. In the 1920s, a sailor from Benidorm who travelled around the world decided to open the first hotel in the city – the Hotel Bilbaíno. Then in 1934, the Hotel Marconi opened its doors. Both historic hotels are still open today. 

You can read more about the history of Hotel Bilbaíno here. Photo: Hotel Bilbaino



Benidorm is considered to be one of the most sustainable cities in Spain

It may not seem like it at first glance with all the hordes of tourists, bars and clubs, but Benidorm is actually one of the most sustainable cities in Spain. It occupies little space, private transport is hardly used and most trips are made on foot. The high density also means it has a more efficient use of water and electricity. According to Jorce Olcina, Professor of Regional Geographic Analysis at the University of Alicante, "Benidorm is the most efficient municipality in Europe", with "94 percent efficiency" in water management.

You wouldn't expect Benidorm to be considered a sustainable city. Photo: Volker Glätsch/Pixabay (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / STR / AFP)


It’s the city with the most tattooed English people after Sheffield and Birmingham

If tattoos are your thing, it looks like a trip to Benidorm should be on the cards. Surprisingly there are more British people with tattoos in the Spanish resort than in many cities in the UK, it’s only beaten by Sheffield and Birmingham. If you’re out and about on the beach in Benidorm, see how many you can spot.

How many different tattoos can you see on the beaches in Benidorm? Photo: Eric L'Heureux / Unsplash

Its nightclubs are historic

Over the years, the city has been home to some legendary Spanish nightclubs. In 1968 the iconic Penélope was inaugurated, whose logo was an image of a girl with a hat became known internationally. Then in 1970, CAP 3000 opened, in a building shaped like a UFO that had the first laser beam in Spain. During its inauguration party, the famous band Led Zeppelin played there.  

It was home to the first artificial geyser in Spain

Benidorm inaugurated the first artificial geyser in all of Spain. It was built in 1986 and its water could reach up to 100 metres in the air. Due to its high maintenance costs and the damage it caused both to nature and nearby buildings through erosion, it was decommissioned in 2014. 


The Benidorm Cross is meant to protect the city from sin

La Cruz de Benidorm is located at the top of the Sierra Helada mountain, one of the most popular viewpoints of the city.

The reason why this Christian symbol was erected there in the first place is because the Bishop of Orihuela and Alicante at the time of Benidorm's transformation into tourism mecca wasn't a fan of the once-fishing village becoming Spain's 'sin city'.

He threatened mayor Zaragoza with putting up a banner at the entrance of Benidorm which would read "Hell", but instead the Catholic leader was allowed to install a "cross of salvation" high above the town in 1962, so that locals and tourists alike knew "God would be watching them". 

The cross is a reminder that not everyone was in favour of Benidorm becoming a playground for tourists. Photo: Kelvin Koolmees/Unsplash

The city has its own 'vampire' legend

Benidorm’s 'vampire' was less of the Dracula version and more of the serial killer variety. During the mid-1960s, three girls were murdered along a highway in Germany. The top suspect was Waldemar Wohlfahrt, who owned an apartment in Benidorm. He was eventually arrested for the murders in the Spanish city and spent 25 days in detention in Alicante. People called him the vampire because of his German look of pale skin and blond hair. Wohlfahrt was quickly released as there was another murder in Germany while he was in prison. When he got out, the German made the most of his newfound fame, dubbed himself 'El Vampiro' and went on to star in several erotic movies and even released a song about Benidorm. 




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