One of the aspects of Spain that I have always loved is how so many towns and cities seem to balance the old with the new. Known as the City in the Sea, Peñiscola is a rather striking example of this, with its Templar Castle and medieval walls that are enchantingly surrounded by water. The former Papal Residence is also on the official list of Spain’s most beautiful towns. In fact in the province of Castellon we have three towns that make that list; the other two are Morella and Vilafames. In 1972 Peñiscola was declared to be an Historical Conservation Area, and in October 2015 it was a location for filming of Game of Thrones. Although being a film location is nothing new for Peñiscola, as it has played this role a number of times, including scenes from El Cid. It has also been featured as one of Condé Nast Traveller’s top towns in the community of Valencia. And if all of that isn’t enough to tempt you, Peñiscola is the proud owner of two blue flag beaches!
On a clear day I can see Peñíscola from the roof of our little country house, which is inland, around 25 miles away. The views of this piece of paradise are superb and rather unique, and can be seen from many vantage points along Spain’s Orange Blossom Coast (Costa Azahar). From a distance it is the dramatic contrast of the 14th century Templar castle, which rises majestically above the sea, that is a striking scene at any time of the day or night. In fact at night, when it is all lit up, it becomes the magical stuff fairytales are made of. Even though my partner had over-sold Peñiscola to me, I was still truly bowled over when I saw it for the first time. In fact, even now, though I have lost count of the number of times I have seen it from afar or up close, I still feel it is one of the most uniquely beautiful views I have ever seen.
Walking Through History & Memories
What you can’t know from the distant views of Peñíscola is what lies inside those castle and city walls. Rising 64 metres above the azure blue sea, the castle and city walls envelope gorgeous windy cobbled stone streets, which are throbbing with the memories of centuries gone by, but at the same time are home to lots of little shops. Walking along these historic streets of the old town of Peñíscola, you need to stop quite frequently to take in the breathtaking views over the Mediterranean sea. Then it’s time to look back at the quaint aesthetic beauty of the old town.
Traditional Fishing Village | Culture and Lovely Beaches
Traditionally a fishing village, Peñíscola has been popular for a long time with Spanish tourists and also with some foreign tourists and today, tourism is its main economic activity, followed by fishing. The nationalities of the tourists can be split currently into around 80% Spanish, and 20% foreign tourists, with French tourists accounting for a fair bit of this percentage. With a number of high end hotels, plenty of apart hotels, campsites and apartments on offer, this is a destination that is just waiting to be discovered by those who love culture, beaches, good food, amazing heritage, and the good life.
Did you know that there are around 200 restaurants to choose from in Peñiscola?
Although for many the old town is the undisputed main attraction, along with the lovely beaches, Peñiscola has a large modern town, to cater for both residents and visitors. Just as the distant views of the town are a contrast of the castle over the sea, so is the town itself. The old town contrasts with the new town, and the busy summer season contrasts with the quiet winter season.
Some foreigners have made it home also, but in comparison to the nearby towns of Benícarlo and Vinaros, for now, it’s quieter during the winter. However it is totally buzzing in the summertime, and the water is a lovely temperature in the sea. The slope is very gradual as you wander into the sea, just under the majestic castle – so you can walk out for quite a while before you need to get into a bit of swimming.
Of course the shallow, calm waters in such a unique and stunning setting make it a great destination for families. In case you’re not aware, Spain in general, is a very family friendly destination. Like other Mediterranean countries, the locals generally dote on children, and instead of feeling awkward in some restaurants, as can happen back in colder climes, you should get a warm welcome in most establishments for your younger family members.
Castellon Airport opened on the 15th September 2015, and no doubt this will change the tourism in the Valencian Community, especially in the province of Castellon where Peñíscola is located, and for sure over time in Peniscola. Of course it’s difficult at this moment to say how long this will take and to what extent it will change, but certainly Peñiscola is a destination with class and should be on your radar.
However for those of us who live here, we hope it will be beneficial to the area without bringing in the stag and hen brigade. It is hard to imagine Peñíscola, or the other towns, being spoilt like that. Mostly at the moment (August 2015) there isn’t an English or Irish breakfast in sight!
Castellon Airport will have its first flight paths up and running from the 15th September 2015 from Stansted, from the 16th September 2015 from Bristol. There will initially be three weekly flights from London Stansted UK, and two weekly flights from Bristol UK.
Peñíscola Climate Today is the 23rd October and the weather is lovely. The day started off quite dull but has really brightened up. We have a high of 26º and a low of 15º. There are still a few clouds around, but it’s definitely a beach day. Click here to see the monthly weather averages for Peñíscola
Things To Do
Peñíscola is known as the city within the sea, because it is connected only by a narrow land strip to the mainland. The castle is also known as the Castle of Pope Luna (Papa Luna) and can be visited for an admission fee. It is well worth the fee, but be warned that in July and August, you need to be prepared to sweat as you tour inside the castle. You can of course wander around the exterior for free, where there are amazing sea views.
Pope Luna (Papa Luna) | Antipope Benedict XIII
Before entering you are greeted by an impressive bronze statue of Pope Luna at the entrance of the Templar fortress castle, which was constructed between 1294 and 1307. Pope Luna (originally Pedro Martínez de Luna y Pérez de Gotor, of one of the 12 noble families of Aragon) was Pope between 1394 and 1417, and due to the Great Schism he was anti-Pope from 1417 until he died in 1423. He came to Peñíscola in 1415, after he had refused to surrender his Papal tiara to the Council of Perpignan. The Master of the Order of Montesa, Romeu de Cabrera, offered him the fortress and Pope Luna accepted and turned it into his Papal court. If you would like to know more about the fascinating story of Papa Luna, please click on Pope Luna Peñíscola (Antipope Benedict XIII)
Church of the Virgen del Socorro – Iglesia de la Virgen del Socorro- Parish Church Formerly Known As Santa María
Carrer de Don Juan José Fulladosa Sanz, 3, 12598 Peñíscola Castelló Phone: +34 964 48 00 11 In the 15th century the church was damaged in a fire, which led to some reconstruction, including its Gothic starry vault. It is thought to date back originally to the 12th century. It is situated in the old town.
Ermita de la Mare de Déu d’Ermitana Peñiscola – Hermitage of the Mother of God
The Sanctuary of the Mare de Deu d’Ermitana is attached to Pope Luna’s castle and because of this sometimes visitors think it is the parish church. It was built between 1708 and 1714 in Valencian Baroque style. For the locals, it holds great importance for hosting the image of the Virgin.
The Sea Museum – Museo de la Mar Peñiscola
Calle Príncipe, Phone: 964 481 603, E-mail: email@example.com
Opening Hours: July to September: 10.00 to 14.00 and 16.00 to 20.00 April to June: 10.00 to 14.00 and 16.00 to 20.00 October to June: 10.00 to 14.00 and 16.00 to 18.00
It is thought that the original building where today’s Sea Museum is housed, can be dated back to medieval times. However it was during the 18th century when it was reshaped into the form we see today; at that time its purpose was to be an artillery barracks. From 1912 on it was reconditioned to be used as classrooms, but once these local schools moved out of the buildings in 1969 it was left abandoned. That was until 1993 when restoration works began under the Taller School, with further work being carried out in 1996 to customise it for use as a museum. The goal of the Sea Museum is to preserve and promote the seafaring cultural heritage of the town. Peñíscola’s Sea/Maritime Musuem is located in the most easterly wall of the promontory on the Prince’s Bastion, and inside you’ll see the seafaring heritage divided into three themes:
– Fishing and marine life
Marine species are featured in three aquariums, there are model ships, graphic documents, as well as archaeological pìeces and ethnological exhibits. Additionally the museum has multimedia displays.
Where to Sleep
Where to Eat
As you can imagine the food of this area is inextricably linked to the sea. However the town is also located in the wonderfully fertile area of the Orange Blossom Coast (Costa Azahar), which as the name suggests means there’s a wealth of citrus fruits, but there’s an abundance of other types of fresh local food produce. The area is also famous for its artichokes, with Benicarlo, which is a couple of miles up the road, actually producing artichokes which have been awarded the equivalent quality mark as a denomination of wine.
Both in the old town and the modern part of the town, you’ll find plenty of restaurants to choose from. Up to now my favourite restaurant of all time, has recently relocated from Alcanar to Peñiscola.
See photos of their dishes, and read my review here at Carmen Guillemot de Peñíscola
Click on any of the names and dates below to find out more about these various fiestas (festivals) that happen in Peñiscola during the year.
Hondarribia-Peniscola International Guitar Festival This is a guitar festival which takes place in the castle, in the Gothic Hall. Peñiscola and Hondarribia are twinned cities, and this music festival is a mark of this fraternity. If you wish to know more about Peñiscola’s twin, which is a tiny Basque town, check out this article in the New York Times about Hondarribia. While listening to some very talented guitarists, many of your other senses will be awakened by the most perfect views from the castle over the sea, while at the same time feeling the serenity and impact of this Templar Castle.