The first impression of Oropesa del Mar is of a resort by the sea that has given way to development for mass tourism, but actually that’s not the entire story. Oropesa del Mar is very definitely a case of when you don’t want to judge a book by its cover. Hugging the southern part of this sprawling development is the gorgeous old part of the town. Oropesa in the province of Castellon is a stark comparison – between the old and the new, between superb craftsmanship and modern building styles. Because of this, this Orange Blossom Coast town will appeal to many different types of holiday makers.
It could be a very desirable holiday destination for those of you who want an easy choice for a family holiday in a resort where everything is within easy reach, but Oropesa old town – could be a lovely destination for people who love to romantically immerse themselves in streets where the walls are just waiting to tell you stories.
Oropesa del Mar has grown around its bay, with a good selection of beaches and coves, a modern tourist infrastructure and this gorgeous, well preserved old quarter. It is one of Castellon’s most developed beach resorts, if not the most. As it’s home to the Marina d’Or holiday resort, it has a lot more laid on tourist facilities than some of the other towns and village, if this is the type of holiday that you like.
However the town itself is historic with some interesting monuments to see, in particular the the ruins of the Arab Castle and the King’s Tower, and of course it’s also right on the edge of El Prat de Cabanes Natural Park. It’s worth mentioning that in the high season Oropesa del Mar can be busier than some other towns, because of the large amount of apartments and hotel deals available there. That said I was there in August last year and although it was busy compared to some other local towns, it’s nothing compared to some of the resorts on the Costa del Sol.
Check out some of the photos just below that I took from the Castle which is at the top of the old town, this will give you some idea of the amazing contrast that hits you as you wander around the old town of Oropesa del Mar.
Due to its strategic location, Oropesa del Mar has attracted many different cultures thoughout its history. Traces of Paleolithic and Iberian settlements have been found there in Cau d’en Borras and Oropesa La Vella, respectively.
In 1103 there are references to conquests by hoards of Almoravid mercenaries, but in 1233 it was Jaime I who recuperated the town for Christianity. Inn 1234 it was donated by Ramon Berenguer IV to te Order of St. John of the Hospital, and after this time the town changed hands many times to different rulers.
From the Middle Ages there were frequent pirate attacks, during which time Oropesa del Mar was badly hit by the Barbary Pirates. For this reason a network of defensive walls and towers were created. King Fernando I of Antequera ordered the construction of a robust tower, La Torre del Rey, which is an important monument and an important symbol of Oropesa del Mar today, more details about that and other sites further below.
The town featured heroically in 1811 the War of Independence, putting up a very strong resistance against the conquest of Marshal Suchet and his men. The castle was destroyed in the attack and the Marshal had to do a detour of 40km towards Valencia.
Things To Do
Oropesa La Vella – The Old Oropesa
Southeast of the Concha Beach, you’ll find a small promontory, around 25 metres above sea level, which can be traced back to the Bronze Age, as an important walled town, which would have later been an Iberian settlement and also a small Muslim fortress. As an old walled town, it is of great interest because of the construction techniques. It is evident that the first inhabitants here prepared the promontory firstly with clay and then built the homes. There were also various holes with wooden posts for support, and inside many materials, including handmade ceramic bowls, some metal objects and objects made from bone. So much information has come from the site that studies still continue.
Castillo Árabe de Oropesa del Mar – Oropesa del Mar Arab Castle
Calle Horno – translates into Oven Street
Islamic inhabitants left Oropesa La Vella to find a more strategic spot that would afford them better protection, and when you visit you’ll appreciate why they chose this site to build the castle. In fact so did the likes of El Cid and King James I, as they both conquered the castle.
The castle was designed with a rectangular floor plan and six towers which were spread in a type of fan shape at the outside walls. In its day it provided excellent protection for the inhabitants. However in the 19th century it underwent severe destruction during Marshal Suchet’s siege. Today it is a landmark that can bring you back in time, in a super setting.
La Torre del Rey Oropesa del Mar – The King’s Tower Oropesa del Mar
It was originally built in 1413 under the instructions of King Fernando I of Antequera, but other work was carried out and it was actually completed in the 16th century. The King’s Tower is great defensive monument of Renaissance-style tower, it is very important as it’s in such good condition. Aesthetically it’s style is a unique balance between 16th century and military architecture. It has ashlar stones – the tower takes the form of a large cube, with three lower floors and two garitones.
Iglesia de la Virgen de la Paciencia – Church of The Patient Virgin
Plaza de la Iglesia
Located in the old quarter, the 18th century church boasts some beautiful Alcora tiles. The church itself is simply composed with one nave and lateral chapels. It is also home to an important painting from the 16th century, that was almost destroyed after a pirate raid in 1619. However the Count of Cervellon paid to have it painstakingly restored, and today you can see the image of Our Lady of Patience, which is known as Our Lady of the Rosary, in the church.
Plaza de la Iglesia 6
Two doors away from the church you will find Naturhiscope, which is a interpretation centre which will take you through the various historical stages of the town, as well is its rich natural environment. Inside it has four floors, with the Mediterranean room on the first floor where you can see order visual representations of the Mediterranean sea and all the different cultures that have passed through it.
The second floor is dedicated to the oral history of the people of the town, and you can see audiovisual documents and photographs. The third floor reveals how there has been a big shift from agriculture to tourism and finally on the terrace on the fourth floor there are the most gorgeous views over the town.
Museo del Hierro – Iron Museum of Oropesa del Mar
Calle Ramón y Cajal 12
The Iron Museum of Oropesa is home to over 500 pieces, and has a really impressive door. Its main focus is on the world of railings, but its collection also includes locks, household objects, jewellery, drawings, books and prints. The entire collection represents the history of iron over the last 2600 years.
Museo del Naipe – The Playing Card Museum
Calle Hospital 1
First impressions – that looks like a fun place, maybe a cocktail bar or something!! I was dead curious when I saw the exterior of this Museum, as it is definitely a very niche Museum, and the combination of the cards and stonework from the exterior is pretty, but definitely unusual at the same time. Inside there is more than 5000 decks of cards, which take you on a journey through the customs and history of face different countries.
Museo de Oropesa Arte Internacional – Oropesa Museum of International Art
This one caught my eye, but I didn’t see any information about it and it was closed when I was there, but that was on a Sunday.
Mundo Fantasia – Fantasy World – Marina d’Or Resort, Oropesa del Mar
This is a great kids theme park, with heaps of attractions, which has a medieval wall surrounding it, and has huge figures decorating it. Fun activities include speeding tree trunks, mini go-karts, jumping on trampolines and with harnesses, an inflatable play zone and a merry-go-round. There is also a 4D cinema and a pirate ship.
Aventura d’Or Parc Tematica – Gold Adventure Theme Park – Marina d’Or Resort, Oropesa del Mar
Also at the Marina d’Or Resort, this is the perfect place for both young and older children! It opens during the high season of July and August, as well as during Easter Week. Forget the children, just joking… and get yourself onto the giant slide, the mixer or the spider. Or what about the free fall? There’s a quad circuit, a rock wall and much more.
Aquarama Benicassim – 6 miles – 10 km
Aquarama is a water park that offers a range of online combos, so if you’re planning to go, do consider booking online.