With a reputation as the party capital of the Costa Blanca, and long history as one of Spain’s most popular tourist resorts, Benidorm is certainly THE place to go for a guaranteed good time. And November has even more to offer to thrill seekers, as we look forward to the feisty fiestas!
Benidorm’s annual fiestas take place in honour of the town’s patron Saints “la Virgen del Sufragio” and “San Jaime Apóstol” and are always held from the Friday of the second weekend of November, officially ending the following Wednesday. Therefore, this year’s flamboyant festival starts on 6th November, continuing through to its crescendo on 11th when it is officially closed with a street parade and spectacular firework display on the Playa de Poniente. Aside from all of the usual side shows and activities you would expect to find in this colourful town that never sleeps, the fiestas will also bring you street parties, open air theatre, sporting contests, religious gatherings and all manner of music events with something to suit visitors of all ages.
The Benidorm fiesta tradition can be traced back to March 1740 when a ship was allegedly washed up on the shore during a terrible storm, much to the dismay of the local people who were afraid of where it might have come from. Legend has it that they decided to burn the ship in a bid to eradicate any danger, as not knowing of its origins it could be the source of infectious diseases. But this was not the end of the mysterious ship, as in the ashes which remained appeared an image of the virgin, which they then read as a sign of prosperity rather than evil. They carried the remains to the church where a small chapel was built in her honour, and a reconstruction of the tale is still staged each year on Playa de Poniente as part of the celebrations. The reason that the fiestas are held in November as opposed to March is that the fishermen, who were historically out at sea catching tuna during springtime, would have missed out on what is essentially their celebration, so the fun was delayed until their return or “Almadraba.”
As you can imagine, the Benidorm fiestas are not for the faint-hearted and come with the serious disclaimer that if you choose to stay in the town at any time during that week do not expect to get much sleep! Whilst the fiesta programme varies slightly each year, certain trends have remained, including the poignant flower parade which takes place on the Saturday, when hundreds of beautiful blooms are carried through the streets on carriages and on foot, before being laid at the church of San Jaime to honour the Virgin. Her statue is dressed in a golden and blue period costume and carried by the procession to the plaza in front of the church. More flowers and bouquets are scattered in the streets and special flower walls and arches erected, whilst music is played wildly by the brass bands accompanying the marching throng. Meanwhile, various midnight concerts are scheduled to take place within the large auditorium in Aigüera Park, featuring all manner of bands and artists from a wide spectrum of genres. There are a plethora of activities provided for younger visitors, including parties, puppet shows and clowns. On the Wednesday the celebrations culminate in a flamboyant street parade featuring brilliant costumes, lavishly decorated floats, an abundance of music and hours of dancing. The participants sling thousands of sweets into the crowds, which are excitedly gathered by the awaiting children who often bring carrier bags with them to collect their treats. The fiesta week is brought to a close with an almighty bang, when crowds gather in the harbour beside Poniente Beach for a breathtaking firework finale.
BRITS GET INVOLVED
Whilst the official fiestas may come to a close on the Wednesday, the British community has added its own special element to the fiestas, in the form of a fabulous fancy dress party which takes place the following day. This is a time when British residents and tourists alike come together to celebrate their love for the town and indeed Spain as a whole. The number of bars and restaurants which take part in the extended international fiesta grows year on year, whilst costumes are becoming ever more original and elabora
te. It is certainly worth attending the British Fancy Dress Bizarre, which starts around midday in Calle Gerona and the international square zone; and booking time off work the following day is highly recommended as getting extremely drunk is an essential part of the celebrations!