Alicante castle is the beach city’s main emblem. A glorious golden fortress standing 166 metres above sea level, the Santa Barbara Castle makes a stunning backdrop to the city centre.
Sitting on top of the Benacantil mountain the castle dates back to the 9th century, when the Moors were ruling the peninsula so here are many Arabic influences in the architecture and layout. The Santa Barbara castle is one of the best examples of medieval fortresses in Spain as well as being one of the largest. The climb to the very top is definitely worth it as here you will find the iconic tower which stars on many photos with its fantastic views down to the marina.
Legends & History
Many people have remarked that the mountain on which the castle sits looks like a person’s face when seen from Postiguet beach, so they called it La Cara del Moro (The Moor’s face). It is said that many years ago a princess lived in the castle and fell in love with a Moor. Her father disapproved and forbade her to marry her sweetheart. She was so heartbroken that she threw herself over the castle wall, down the mountain and died. When the Moor found out, he did the same for love and it is his face that you can see on the side of the castle. Whether or not the legend is true is debatable but no castle is complete without legendary tales of star-crossed lovers.
Int terms of documented history, the castle’s story is full of events. In 1248, it was captured by forces led by king Alfonso XI of Castile, who renamed it Santa Barbara as it was conquered on her feast day, December 4. The Aragonese won control in 1296 during the reign of James II, who was also King of Valencia, and he ordered it to be rebuilt. More reconstruction was ordered during the next 400 years. The castle fell into foreign hands in 1691 when it was bombarded by a French squadron. It was then held by the English during the War of Spanish Succession, and later its military role to protect the city became less important and it was used as a prison in the 18th century.
The iconic castle was abandoned until 1963 when the city opened it up to the public. It is now a great place for a walk, a meal in the restaurant or for the far-reaching views over Alicante marina, Postiguet beach, the city centre and the nearby mountains. There are three main areas from different epochs. The top level, La Torreta, where you can enjoy fabulous views over Alicante bay and where the oldest remaining parts of the fortress are found. On the next level down are some of the castle’s most important buildings. The lower level dates from the 18th century. You can park here and walk up to the top or take the lift. There are large cannons poking through the thick castle walls, the exhibition centre and the dungeon on this level. Also the Alicante museum MUSA can be found in the castle.
In the summer evenings, Alicante council organises special concerts on Fridays and Saturdays in the castle courtyard. They start at about 10pm so you can enjoy a star-lit, outdoor concert with the castle in all its majesty in the background. The castle also has an exhibition centre and this year you can see a fabulous Star Wars exhibition with a collection of hundreds of figures and memorabilia from these sci-fi films.
On Saturdays, there are dramatised guided tours so you can really immerse yourself into the spirit of medieval life. It is also possible to hire an audio guide so you can discover the history of the castle at your own pace.
At the foot of the castle is the Ereta park, a beautiful green space in the city centre with a restaurant and exhibition hall. It is a great place to relax and have a picnic or meal in the café after spending time walking around the castle. The park has some beautiful native flowers.You could also treat yourself to a meal in La Ereta restaurant, where you can enjoy fine cuisine with fantastic views of the castle and Mediterranean.
Cover photo via Alicante Turismo