EuropeSpain

Life on planet Benidorm

I went to Spain last April, and somehow I ended up staying for a few days near Benidorm. It’s a place I’ve heard absolutely nothing nice about. Rumor has it that while you may be able to lure the tourists there out of Benidorm, you can never take the Benidorm out of those tourists.

I don’t judge anyone who willingly travel there. It’s great that this world has a place for every kind of tourist. Where Asia has Pattaya and North America has Las Vegas, Europe has Benidorm. It’s like a human zoo, mostly for elderly specimens. I spent one day in the epicentre of it. What follows is my impression. Again; I truly don’t look down on this kind of tourism as such. However, I can only observe it in total disbelief, while also fully accepting that Benidorm serves a number of necessary functions for humanity.

Let’s have a look.

Benidorm Beach seen from the eastern end of it.

Once upon a time, the beach and the climate was the main reason for why Benidorm came to be what it is. A wall of high-rise hotels and apartment buildings makes for a massive and impressive waterfront. Thanks to the almost perfect east-west alignment of the beach, the beach stays sunny and free of shadow from the buildings all day.

The official population is around 70,000 people, but it is estimated that on any given day, there can be up to 300,000 people within the city limits. This is partially because Benidorm has around 40,000 hotel beds, putting it in third place in Europe. Only London and Paris can beat that. In addition, lots of climate refugees from Northern Europe, mainly retirees, own apartments here and frequently visit.

A slow day on the beach in Benidorm.

The only way the beach in Benidorm can compete with more famous places like Bondi or the Copacabana, is if you measure them by the combined age of the people on it. In that aspect, Benidorm will never be beaten. It’s still a great place for people watching. These guys don’t feel like they have to follow any conventions. They’re way too old for that shit. Embrace it, and know that whatever you will ever feel like wearing to the beach, you can definitely do that here.

Walking the dog on Benidorm Beach, in style.

For reasons of privacy, I won’t post many photos of the interesting people that walk up and down the beach promenade. I’ll just point out that this place easily compares to for example Venice Beach when it comes to displays of human weirdness. Many revel in it, some enjoy being looked at, others prefer to have their pets be admired.

Benidorm is low cost, but at what price?

One selling point of Benidorm is that it comes at a relatively low cost. You can get incredibly deals from cities all over Europe. You fly to nearby Alicante and you stay at a decently indecent hotel near the sunny beach. You spend your days getting nasty drunk in countless bars and pubs, while also amassing plenty of body fat from a plethora of fast food joints.

If that’s your idea of rest and recreation, this is your holiday heaven. Just be prepared to be surrounded by vast crowds of bachelor party weekend tourists. Bring a helmet and be ready to run at any moment.

Drive-in shopping in Benidorm.

Shopping opportunities are also plentiful in Benidorm. Especially if you’re looking for the kind of clothes that elderly people love to wear. Leopard print clothing, any floral pattern, as well as 1960s psychedelia dresses and shirts are readily available.

Thanks to the failing legs of the main clientele here, you can do drive-in shopping while seated in a rental mobility scooter. 40 Euros per week will save you an awful lot of walking, and maybe you’ll even be accepted into the geriatric, yet rugged scooter gangs that roam the sidewalks.

This man will let you know that The Lazy Cow is the best place for you to get drunk today.

When walking the streets of Benidorm, you must accept constantly being recommended a stop at some restaurant or drinking establishment. People who have no chance of getting any other job whatsoever anywhere else, can always go to Benidorm and be sure to find a job as a bar promoter. There’s happy hour somewhere at any hour of the day or night in this city.

British tourists with that special glow in Benidorm.

The White Walkers of Benidorm are way scarier than the ones in Westeros. After stumbling out of the plane from somewhere far to the north, pale as a corpse, they will throw away their shirt and restlessly patrol the beach and nearby pubs from dawn till dusk.

It is quite unnerving to watch, but it gets worse. This activity will by the next day transform them into Red Sitters. If encountering a group like these guys doesn’t scare you into a life in the shadows, you’re a braver person than me.

Classic Benidorm.

They’re not all monsters, of course. Most of the tourists in Benidorm are smiling, happy people. While they may be noisy, they are also friendly and peaceful, and they can’t think of any other place they’d rather be right now, or ever, than at Jumping Jacks, Big Ben Bar, Penny Farthing, Tartan Shamrock, or, of course, the Red Lion.

Kitch table and clients in a Benidorm bar.

There’s a wide range of kitsch drinking holes in Benidorm. I find most of them amusing, yet also quite frightening. Apart from the occasional Eastern European dancer performing at some flamenco show, you won’t find anything related to the history or culture of Spain in this city. Pretty much anything else is on offer, though.

Either way, no matter how exotic the wardrobes and preferences of the tourists here are, they do inject a considerable amount of money into the local economy. That is an important effect of tourism. This makes them valuable tourists, fulfilling their role quite well. As long as the Spanish are happy with their payment for tolerating and cleaning up after the tourists, I say this is good. All in all.

It's funny because it's true.

Still, I almost got this t-shirt to give to my faith in humanity.

I will never recommend that you go to Benidorm. Unless you really, really want to, and you know what you’re in for. Then you definitely should visit. And I hope you will enjoy yourself there.

I sincerely mean that.

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