Most famous for Spain’s top musical festival, Benicassim actually has one of the most charming promenades that I have ever seen. It is extremely well kept beside lovely beaches, but what makes it really special are the wonderful late 19th and early 20th century houses that are alongside parts of it.
The wonderful Benicassim villas, by the sea, make me dream about the lifestyle of the roaring twenties, and some of the amazing parties that must have been hosted in these houses. Oh, if only the walls could tell me some stories! Architecturally some of them are very beautiful. Of course architectural taste is a subjective issue, however it’s hard not be affected by the grandeur and perfect location.
Benicàssim – A Gorgeous Seaside Town With Three Faces
Located only 13 km north of the city of Castellón, the name Benicàssim orginates from Arabic and translates as: children of Casim. Although more recently, due to the boom the town had in the early 21st century, it has also been referred to as the “Biarritz of the Levante”. Visitors can waft from one distinct part of Benicàssim to another, to soak up some of the different charms on offer in this wonderful seaside town. In reality it is a place with three faces. Come and explore in our Benicassim Spain travel guide.
In the town centre there are areas which have a great buzz, such as the main street, Calle Sant Tomás, and the Plaza de los Dolores (which literally translates into the Square of Pains…). But don’t worry it’s not painful, but actually a wonderful, social meeting point for those balmy summer evenings.
In the coastal area, which is called Las Villas – because of the mansions from the late 19th and early 20th century, there is a balance between this heritage, because the area has a preservation order, alongside the type of tourist infrastructure visitors can enjoy. This includes hotels, bars, restaurants, campsites, a youth hostel and even a rehabilitation centre.
The third face of Benicàssim is the Desert de les Palmes (Desierto de las Palmas in Spanish, and Desert of Palms in English.) This is a mountain range whose 18.8 km stretches through 5 different municipalities – Benicàssim, Castellón de la Plana, Borriol, La Pobla Tornesa and Cabanes.
Things To Do
La Ruta de las Villas – The Route of the Villas
During a period from the late 19th until the early 20th century, some of the most important architects of the time were employed by a variety of wealthy families from Valencia and Castellón, to build this wonderful selection of villas that you can admire today. There are 51 properties which have been catalogued, and 19 of these have signposts.
Visiting what inspired the Valencian Biarritz is wonderful, as you wander by the beautiful bay and take in the architecture that overlooks it. The Villa Route has been classed into two different itineraries, which take into account both the character of the properties’ original residents and the artistic trends of the period. The two groups of villas are separated by the gardens, which are popularly known as Limbo, but are really called the Comín Gardens.
The Celestial Court is the group of villas that are renowned for their tranquility, whereas the Hell route is where you can see the villas that were notorious for their scandalous parties, in the good old days! The only villa that is not privately owned is Villa Elisa, which is sometimes opened to the public. The other villas need to be admired from outside.
Playa Voramar – Voramar Beach
A blue flag sandy beach, with some of the gorgeous villas in the background; Voramar beach has that rather comfortable feeling of being a privileged place. The golden sand is embraced by the well kept promenade, there are several facilities and all in a spot that symbolises the town’s personality. The beach is 550 metres long by 60 metres wide.
Playa Almadraba – Almadraba Beach
A southerly continuation of Voramar, once again you can enjoy the feeling of being in a privileged environment on another blue flag beach. It is more protected from waves, due to the jetties that separate it from neighbouring beaches and it’s set up to facilitate visitors with disabilities. It measures 650 metres in length by 60 metres in width.
Playa Torre San Vicente – Beach of the Tower of Saint Vicent ( also called Torreon)
Named after the impressive tower that sits behind it, this beach is a fine sandy beach that tends to get busier than some of the others. There are various tourist activities carried out there, including volleyball courts, sports competitions and movies during some of the summer nights. It is around 750 metres long and 75 metres wide.
Playa Heliópolis – Heliópolis Beach
This is a large beach, which is 2650 metres long and 50 metres wide, with a cycling path running alongside it during the summer. Another blue flag beach, it also has plenty of activities plus it is possible to hire boats there during the high season.
Playa El Terrers – El Terrers Beach
This beach has a youthful atmosphere because of the youth hostel and sailing school. It’s a great location to start to learn watersports as it is quite protected due to its oval shape, plus it was also reclaimed in 2006.
Castillo de Montornés – Montornés Castle
Located in the Sierra del Desierto de las Palmas, on a steep peak, on 22nd April 1949 the castle was declared a site of cultural interest. It was an Arab fortress in the 10th century, which had been built on the location of Roman remains. Legend says that it was temporarily conquered by El Cid, but after his death it was recovered by the Almoravids and then in 1233 it was finally conquered by James I.
It was an extremely important defence in its day, located 4 km out of the town, at an altitude of 500 metres. It was later abandoned in the 17th century. There is a well signposted route to reach it, and while making your way there, you can enjoy gorgeous views over the Mediterranean sea and the plains of Castellón.
Torre de San Vicente – Saint Vincent’s Tower
Avenida Ferrandis Salvador, 1
This tower can be traced back to the 16th century, and it is one of 18 watch towers that were built along the coast of the Castellón province, at that time, to defend against pirate attacks. The exterior is in quite good condition today, and can be found close to the sea, a good beach and set amidst pretty gardens and a leisure area.
Iglesia Parroquial de Santo Tomás de Villanueva – Parish Church of Santo Tomás de Villanueva
Built between 1769 and 1776, the church which is dedicated to Santo Tomás de Villanueva, is rectangular with a neoclassical style and the form of a Latin cross. As soon as you walk inside your attention is grabbed by a large painting by Camarón, the Segovian artist. There are also more frescoes and paintings in the dome of his – the frescoes in the dome represent the four archangels. There are two side chapels, one of which is dedicated to the Our Lady of the Rosary and the other to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Convento Viejo de los Padres Carmelitas – The Old Monastery of the Carmelite Fathers
Parque Natural Desierto de las Palmas
Although it is only the ruins that you can see today, it is worth the trip from an historical perspective as well as to enjoy the spectacular views. It’s the perfect spot to meditate on the life of the barefoot Carmelites, or think about something or someone in your own life, within an ambience of beauty and serenity.
When the Carmelites first arrived there in the 17th century, they were especially moved by the solitude and scenery. There was one monk who is specially remembered, Friar Antonio Jésus Maria, who studied aromatic herbs. There is an abundance of herbs growing in the area and by the time the monastery became a seminary, the need for funding became important in order to train the novices. This is what prompted the friars to make their aromatic liqueur. Today you can do a tour in their distillery, for only €2.50 – further details of this are below.
Originally built in 1697, the original monastery was unfortunately destroyed by an earthquake and torrential rains in 1783. A new monastery was built in a safer location, around 500 metres away.
Convento de los Padres Carmelitas – The Monastery of the Carmelite Fathers
Parque Natural Desierto de las Palmas
The new monastery was built between 1784 and 1791, in a superb setting surrounded by orange groves, with remarkable views over the sea and the valley, which leads back down to Benicàssim. With Mount Bartolo in the background, the location is filled with important fauna and flora of the area.
The new monastery was built according the to Order’s rules, with monastic rooms dotted around the church which lies at the central point of the monastery. It is full of documents of great importance for the Order.
It is necessary to contact the Carmelite Fathers before visiting. There is a museum that is open on Sunday mornings however. Additionally the Santa Teresa Spirituality Centre is available to groups and those who wish to partake in silent prayer.
The Carmelite Winery, Calle Bodolz, 12, Benicàssim, Website: http://www.carmelitano.com/?lang=en Phone: 964 3080 849
Open every day from 9:00 to 13:30 and from 15:00 to 18:30. It costs € 2.50 (VAT included) for a tasting and guided tour.
Visits can be arranged either by calling: 964 30 08 49 or at the web page, where there is a link on the top menu – Book Your Visit. If you do go onto this page you’ll notice something quite cute on their details – they put their phone number like this: 964 August 30, 49 – of course with the August being 08
During the tour you can learn about the ancient methods used by the Carmelite monks to make their Carmelitano Liqueur and their Muscatel. The very first bottles of their liqueur were sold on 15th October 1896. One challenge faced by the monks was that their products had to be shipped on horseback, because the roads were pretty bad. This meant that in 1912 they decided to relocate the distillery to where you can visit it today, in Benicàssim town. There is a shop there where you can buy their wonderful, natural liqueurs – you can also shop online!
Where to Sleep
Where to Eat
Food And Restaurants In Benicassim Spain
The food of Benicassim is focused on the Meditteranean diet, with an abundance of seafood dishes and paellas. The deserts use ingredients such as the local oranges, the Muscatel grape and some are accompanied by the famous Carmelite liquor made in the town. As a popular tourist resort the town also has non-typical food offerings such as Chinese and Italian. There is no shortage of restaurants to choose from in Benicassim, and currently we are compiling a list of these …coming shortly…
Festival Internacional de Benicàssim (Benicàssim Festival) 16th to 19th July 2015
Official festival website: http://fiberfib.com/
A fans website: http://benicassimfestival.co.uk/
Expect a great line up of around 100 acts at the Benicàssim Festival, which was bought into by Vince Power (Mean Fiddler) in 2005, although in 2013 he sold his majority share. This is a sun holiday and music festival rolled into one, with fun in the sun during the day and music and partying at night (well during the day there’s partying for those who can keep up the pace as well – see below, apparently Sangria is one of your five a day!)
2014 marks the 20th anniversary of this famous festival, which in 2013 headlined acts such as the Artic Monkeys, Beady Eye and the Killers and in 2012 Bob Dylan and the Stone Roses were part of the line-up. In 2012 it won the title of Best Overseas Festival from the UK Festival Awards and is shortlisted again for 2013. Gigwise also feature the Benicassim Festival in their Top 10 Overseas Festivals 2013 and the not too shabby Cosmopolitan also ranked Benicàssim in their Best Summer Music Festivals Abroad.
Celebrity writer, Ellen Stewart, wrote a feature for the Huffington Post entitled – Seven Lessons I Learnt From Benicassim 2013 making the rather clever point that Sangria is definitely one of your five-a-day, right? MyDaily also features a piece written by Ellen Stewart, which is called 15 Ways To Spot A Benicassim 2013 Festival-Goer – one of which is: “They’ve got a Spanish dictionary on their desk and keep answering your questions with “qué”. ”
FESTIVALS – Local Benicassim Festivals
2nd Friday of January – Dia de las Paellas – Paella Day
This event has been running since around 1986 and is a big party and culinary day in Benicassim. Residents make paella in the streets and visitors and locals enjoy the food and fun. It was recognised in 2007 as an important festival for local tourism.
17th January – San Antonio Abad y Santa Águeda (Saint Anthony and Saint Agatha)
The Feast Day of Saint Anthony is celebrated in many towns, and the format is parades and the blessing of pets. The pilgrimmage goes to the shrine of St. Agatha.
Around or before 22nd September – Santo Tomás de Villanueva (Saint Thomas of Villanueva)
This is a week long festival in honour of the patron Saint, which includes bulls, sardine tasting, and closes with fireworks.