Famous for its artichokes, the entrance to Benicarlo is deceptively plain, as this fishing and agricultural town has good beaches, an interesting old quarter with some notable examples of fine architecture and its own port. Located on the Orange Blossom Coast (Costa Azahar), the surroundings are filled with orange trees and artichokes – and actually the town also has its own community gardening project

There’s enough to do and see in the town, and close by to make Benicarlo a good choice for a beach holiday, with an injection of culture and nature. One attraction that is not very far is the Parrot Garden, which is on the road between Benicarlo and Peniscola. The town also has its own marina, which is a lovely spot with plenty of bars and restaurants, as well as a disco. Benicarlo has some good beaches and coves, plus a fine church and other buildings of architectural interest. Like many Spanish towns it has its fair share of fiestas, and towards the end of August, there’s 9 days packed full of fun and festivities. There’s so much going on that it’s pretty much impossible to get to everything.

It’s also in a great location to visit one of Spain’s prettiest towns Peñiscola – which is only a few miles away, and really deserves a visit. Another of Spain’s prettiest towns is a longer trip away, but still very well worth the effort to drive the 70km or so, it takes a bit over an hour.  Do be warned that some parts of the road to Morella aren’t for the faint hearted …but it’s still something that I would highly recommend. Another shorter trip is to the Delta de l’Ebre Natural Park – which takes around 35 to 40 minutes. Find out about the park’s magical landscape here.

Don’t miss out on our Benicarlo Travel Collection – there you can also see the various fiestas, and plan a trip to coincide with one – lots of fun!

About

Benicarlo Artichoke

The Benicarlo artichoke is so famous that it has in fact been honoured as a protected denomination. Even if you aren’t an artichoke lover, the view of the fields when the artichoke plants are flowering is gorgeous; a carpet of purple and green that stretches out in front of you. The photo on the left was taken in early February 2014. This field is one of a few which actually overlook the sea, so when looking at the men working in the artichokes area, you see the expanse of green which meets the blue of the sea. One event in the social calendar of Benicarlo is the Artichoke Festival, which you can read about a bit later.

The soil is especially good in this area, I know because of our own first crops last year, of superb lettuces and tomatoes that tasted sublime. You can also taste the local quality and freshness in local restaurants.

History

Benicarlo History Overview

There have been remains that date back to the V and VI centuries B.C. found in the area of Benicarlo, in the Iberian towns of Puig de la Nau and Toassa. You can see the remains of these at the outskirts of the city. Towards the end of the Muslim era the town as Beni-Gazlum, and it was granted a town charter on 14th June 1246 by King Jaime I, under the jurisdiction of Zaragoza, at that time with the name Benicastlo.

In 1294 it belonged to the Templar Knights, later in 1329 to the Order of Montesa and it was at this time that it experienced unprecedented economic growth. Pedro el Ceremonioso was given the right to board and disembark with goods to and from his ships, in 1370, without having to pay anything.

In the 16th century the town suffered at the hands of both the Turkish pirates and Las Germanías, and in the mid 17th century Benicarlo lost over 500 people to the bubonic plague, like many other Valencian towns. Things got worse as the fields and crops were ravaged  with a plague, which wiped out the crops and vineyards.

In 1706 the town surrendered to the attacks of General Ashfield, during the War of Succession. Further attacks occurred during theh Carlist wars. Benicarlo widened its town in the 19th century by building a pier, and on 22nd October 1926 the town was given the title of city by King Alfonso XIII.

Things To Do

Archaeological Civilisations

Poblado Ibérico del Puig de la Nau (Iberian Settlement of Puig de la Nau)

Address: Partida El Puig, Benicarlo 12580

Declared a site of cultural interest, this Iberian settlement is one of the most important in the Valencian Community. There are traces of the final parts of the Bronze Age, however the structures that can be seen on tour are from the Iberian culture.

It’s thought to date to 6th century BC, because of the archaeological discoveries there, such as pieces of handmade pottery. It’s located around 5km from the town, leaving by Calle de Ulldecona and then follow the signposts for it.

Visits should be arranged at the museum.

Poblado Ibérico de la Tossa (Iberian Settlement of Tossa)

Address: Partida El Bobalar, Benicarlo 12580

This settlement dates to between the 6th and 2nd centuries BC. Iberian painted ceramics have been found here, which are based on a linear geometric theme, with some plant motifs. It is 8km west from the town, on the La Tossa mountain.

Architectural Interest

Antigua Prisión – The Old Prison

Address: Calle Mayor 5, Benicarlo 12580

It stopped serving as a prison in 1960, with restoration being carried out in 1997-1998, after which it was used for a period of time as the Museum of Archaeology, and currently as a Centre of Studies. It was constructed in the late 15th to early 16th century, on a site of a former prison, from the 14th century.

The old prison building held prisoners on the ground and second floor, whilst the first floor was the residence of the jailer, but also the women’s prison. You didn’t really want to be kept on the ground floor, as this was meant for common criminals and those who were on death row!

Casa Bosch

Address: Calle Juan Carlos I, 7, Benicarlo 12580

Today Casa Bosch Benicarlo, one of the town’s most important, if not the most important modernistic building is where you’ll find Bankia (Spanish banking conglomerate). It won’t surprise you to know that the house belonged to the Bosch family, hence its name! Built in the 20th century, the main highlight is its facade and it had been declared a site of cultural interest.

Casa del Marqués de Benicarló – House of the Marquis Benicarlo

Address: Calle San Joaquin, Benicarlo 12580

Built in the late 18th century, the house is organised around a large hall and is decorated with unique tiles from the factory of the Count of Aranda. It is a notable building, more so, in the interior than the exterior.

Beaches

Playa del Morrongo – Morrongo Beach

Just before the port, you’ll find the blue flag Morrongo Beach of Benicarlo. It has golden sand and is around 300 metres long by 30 metres wide. It has good access and is perfect for a family day at the beach. As you’re so close to the port, there are a good selection of bars and restaurants close by to the beach.

Playa Norte o Playa del Mar Chica – North Beach or Beach of the Sea Girl

A relatively long pebble beach, the Mar Chica is 1000 metres long and 15 metres wide. The area has a rustic feel and there are some typical beach bars.

Playa de la Caracola – Snail Beach

A fine sandy beach of 1000 metres long by 15 metres wide, this is the beach which connects Benicarlo by coast to Peniscola.It is semi urban and peaceful.

Churches

Capilla del Santo Cristo del Mar – Chapel of Holy Christ of the Sea

Address: Calle Cristo del Mar, Benicarlo 12580 Phone: 964 473 180 (Tourist Office)

The story goes that a felucca arrived in 1650 on the shores of Benicarlo and Cesar Cataldo disembarked, carrying with him an image of Christ on the cross, and it is considered that many miracles happened thanks to this Christ of the Sea. The chapel that honours this was inaugurated in 1924, and it’s a combination of Mudejar, Byzantine and Pseudo-Romanesque design elements.

The chapel, which was built in 1924, has a central nave with two chapels, and a vaulted ceiling with a semi-circular canon which is cut by arches. The project is rich in marble and was under Juan de Abril. There are a series of frescoes in the apse which mark the life of Cesar Cataldo, as well as allegorical paintings of the arrival of Mary and Christ of the sea. Further down there are paintings by Angel Acosta depicting “the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes” and “the Preaching of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee.”

Iglesia de San Bartolomé – Saint Barthomolew’s Church

Address: Plaza Sant Bertomeu, Benicarlo 12580

Construction started on 25th May 1724, on the site of an earlier church, of which we know little. The late phase Baroque style church has a beautifully, striking facade which has stone carvings, with a dramatic entrance which is a monumental doorway flanked by spiral, twisted columns. In my humble opinion it is worth a visit for this exterior view! Building was completed on 9th October 1743.

The interior is one nave with buttresses which separate the chapels, which have light coming from their ceilings. There is an octagonal bell tower, which is separate from the main church building. Saint Barthomolew is the patron saint of the town, along with two other saints – Senen and Abdon.

Convento de San Francisco – Convent of Saint Francis

Address: Calle Sant Francesc, Benicarlo 12580

Founded in 1578, by Fray Cristobal de la Plaza, this was a convent of the Barefoot Franciscan monks, and is now home to the town’s museum. It has been declared a site of cultural interest.

Originally its design and organisation revolved around a small cloister, but in the 18th century it was restructured bringing it up by a floor. Today it has a consolidated appearance, with a simple facade and interior. Over the years it has been used for a variety of purposes, from schools to helping the sick during the 1885 cholera epidemic, to being an army barracks of the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard).

Hermitages

Ermita de San Gregorio – Saint Gregory’s Hermitage – May 9th Feast Day

Address: Camino Sant Gregori, Benicarlo 12580

Located around 2.5km out of the town on a hill, you’ll find Saint Gregory’s Hermitage. The time of its construction is not known, but it’s an ancient shrine close to the Iberian settlements of Puig and Tossa.

It is a simple, white-washed chapel, which has three arches at the front and one at the side, with a porch covering the entrance. The reason for its construction was in honour of this saint, who is of Italian origin, and protected against agricultural pests. Benicarlo had a plague of worms in 1677.

There is a polychrome wood carving of the saint, which although quite rough is full of expression, which is thought to date to the early part of the 16th century. This is kept in St. Barthomolew’s Church but it heads up the procession on the feast day of the 9th May. You can make a day out of the trip here, as there is a restaurant or you could take a picnic with you, to this lovely setting.

Museums

El Mucbe – Benicarlo Town Museum

Address: Calle Sant Francesc, Benicarlo 12580

The museum of Benicarlo is in the Convent of Saint Francis (Convento de San Francisco) and has been open since 2005. There you can see a permanent exhibition which tells the story of the agricultural lifestyle of the area, as well as various temporary exhibitions.

Museo del Mar San Telmo – Museum of the Sea Saint Thelma

You can visit the Benicarlo Sea Museum normally during the following times:

Monday to Friday: 17.00 to 20.00

Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays: 11.00 to 13.00

Theme Parks

Jardin del Papagayo – Parrot Garden

Address: Camí de la Ratlla del Terme, Benicarló 12580  Phone: 964 461 224

On the road from Benicarlo that goes to Peniscola, you’ll find the Jardin del Papagayo, which is well worth a visit to see over 50 different species of parrots, macaws and cockatoos in a setting where you can interact with them. However it’s not just the colourful birds that you can see, but there are also kangaroos, a butterfly sanctuary, and various shows. There is an on-site breeding facility, where you can see different species, depending on which birds are being bred when you visit.

To find out how to arrive click on the link below:
http://www.jardindelpapagayo.com/Como%20Llegar.html

Where to Sleep

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Where to Eat

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Transport

Yacht Clubs

Puerto Deportivo Benicarló – Benicarlo Sports Port

Address: Puerto Deportivo Benicarló, Benicarló 12580   Phone: 964 462 330

Website: http://www.marinabenicarlo.com/

The fishing town of Benicarlo has around 50 fishing boats, and also its own marina. You can charter boats, and rent mooring in the Benicarlo Marina which has 300 moorings available.

Map

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SPECIAL SPOTS

Cadaques Costa Brava Fishing Boats and View At Night

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BUZZING BEACH TOWNS

Lloret de Mar boat at beach

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FAMILY HOLIDAYS

Cambrils Catalonia beaches

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MEDIEVAL VILLAGES

Pals Girona Catalonia Picturesque medieval village

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INLAND VILLAGES

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FISHING VILLAGES

Mantis Shrimp Gastronomic Festival Alcanar Catalonia

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SEASIDE TOWNS

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ARTIST ROUTES

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WINE ROUTES

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NATURAL PARKS

Beach at Delta de l'Ebre Natural Park

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17 Responses to Benicarlo Travel Guide

  1. Paul (@luxury__travel) March 3, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    An artichoke festival? That sounds interesting! 🙂

    I’m also ashamed to say I’ve never heard of the Benicarlo Artichoke (please someone tell me I’m not the only one!). What’s particularly special about it, Jackie?

    • Jackie De Burca March 4, 2014 at 9:27 am #

      Benicarlo, Paul, is the top one, but there are actually a number of artichoke festivals happening around here, as well as quite a few other gastronomic and traditional festivals. Before I moved here I would never have imagined an artichoke festival either. 🙂 The Benicarlo Artichoke is the only product with Denomination of Origin in the province of Castellón. This recognition was granted by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of the Generalitat Valenciana in September 1998, and was declared a Protected Designation of Origin Artichoke Benicarlo by the EU in November 2003.

        Benicarlo Artichoke:

      Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is native to the Mediterranean, is the rose, a flower or inflorescence perennial thistle, which has been prized since antiquity. The appreciation that the Romans had for the artichoke was well documented – they typically ate it with coriander, wine, oil and garum – which was considered to have aphrodisiac powers, but it truly is also an excellent food that has also been used in natural medicine in cases of anemia, intestinal problems, gout, rheumatism or diabetes among other conditions .

  2. noelmorata March 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    What a very nice post, it covers all the main attractions…if I visit I would love to attend when the artichoke festival happens, happens to be one of my favorite vegetables!

  3. Chris Boothman March 3, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

    I have never been someone who was particularly intrigued in visiting a ‘beach destination’ but when you combine the sense of culture and history, you are starting to talk more my language. Its so nice to have a perfect mixture of relaxation opportunities such as on the beach with the ability to get out and about exploring the local town or village.

    Benicarlo looks like a perfect combination of all the above and you have succinctly highlighted some of the key attractions for folks heading there. Again, this is not one of the mainstream tourist destinations but I am sure after reading a travel guide such as this more tourists would be inclined to head there.

    • Jackie De Burca March 4, 2014 at 9:35 am #

      Thanks Chris. When I was a bit younger I could have stayed on the beach all day, sunbathing, swimming and of course people watching. Now the most important ingredient for me is that there is this great mix that so many of the towns have here, so not unlike a boyfriend/girlfriend – one has much more under the surface than just a pretty beach, but lots of layers of history and culture. It does make me happy to hear that you think more folks would consider coming here with this guide. 🙂

  4. Heather Cowper March 3, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    I like the idea of a place that celebrates the artichoke and has great tasting tomatoes! Love visiting places when a food festival is on.

    • Jackie De Burca March 4, 2014 at 9:37 am #

      Thanks Heather. And me, I think it’s great. I will eventually get lots, hopefully all, foodie and traditional festivals covered, but as you can imagine this will take time. In the future, when design and functions are 100% ready, you will be able to search to plan a trip around these types of events, and then download your custom itinerary.

  5. Kathryn Burrington March 3, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

    So many wonderful buidlings and churches and the Parrot Garden sounds interesting too (with the added bonus of kangaroos and butterflies!)I’m curious about how Snail Beach got its name though??

    • Jackie De Burca March 4, 2014 at 11:04 am #

      Hi Kathryn, there are indeed. I love parrots, we had one living next door who, amongst other things, used to announce the arrival of the post, in Spanish. Not sure how the beach got its name, but will let you know if I hear. 🙂

  6. Lee Briggs March 4, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    I’ve never heard of the Orange Blossom Coast. It sounds interesting so thanks for enlightening me about it. If I were to go there, I’d be sure to plan it around an artichoke festival.

    • Jackie De Burca March 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

      Good to hear Lee. It is lovely and I love artichokes also, so a good choice.

  7. Judy June 28, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    Hello Jackie-
    I enjoy reading your quick takes on the villages along the coast. My husband and I hope to purchase a property but want to find somewhere that doesn’t close down once the summer ends. And, I’d love to have a place where I could walk to get bread, shop as well. We visited a place for sale in Vinaros and Peniscola this year, but both were quite remote from the town.
    What is Alcossebre like in the cooler months? I think what we need is a working town… any thoughts?

    • Jackie De Burca June 30, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

      Hi Judy,
      Thanks for your comment and question. I am going to mail you now shortly, as it’s a little bit of a long winded answer 🙂 Alcossebre does have more of an ex pat community, in terms of English speakers than some of the other places, it is however, generally a bit more pricey when it comes to property. That said there are some lovely properties thee also. I shall be in touch by email, Thanks, Jackie

      • Judy Detwiler September 27, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

        Hello Jackie-
        Your reply must have gotten caught and deleted in my spam filter. If you have time, would you please send any insights or feedback on these two inland villages:Calig and Vilafames.
        We hope to purchase a property in December. After our May visit, we realized that seaside villages (like Peniscola) will be quite deserted in the off season and would like to be in a working village that is “open” year round. So sorry that your earlier reply disappeared. I will check my inboxes.
        Thank you!
        Judy

        • Jackie De Burca September 28, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

          Hi Judy,
          Not sure, it does seem like a while ago since we were last in contact. 🙂 Vilafamés is on the blog – http://www.catalonia-valencia.com/vilafames-spain-travel-guide.html – Calig – not as yet, although I do know it. Calig is not quite so pretty as Vilafamés, so in a way its a hard comparison. Please email me jackie@catalonia-valencia.com with a quick overview of what you are looking for, in terms of lifestyle and then I will do my best to help. Many thanks, Jackie

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