BENIDORM holidays are beloved by countless Britons eager for sun, sand and sangria
Indeed, it’s become almost synonymous with drunken, disorderly behaviour over the years – but what do the British expats who live out there think?
Benidorm is a resort that has attracted hordes of Britons looking to call Spain their new home. Express.co.uk spoke to one expat about his experience of party-loving ‘Brits abroad’ in the town. Tony Harrison shared his angle on how Benidorm has evolved over the years.
“Benidorm was, up until the late 1990s, a predominantly family resort, holiday brochures marketed it as a typical sun, sea and sand resort for all the family,” he said.
“However, with strong competition from other destinations within Spain and other countries offering cheaper more up-market choices, Benidorm began to suffer a decline and the burgeoning stag and hen market became an alternative.
“As this segment developed, many bars, hotels and venues adapted to serve these customers; the concept of cheap booze, loud music and party until dawn was born.”
It’s this emphasis on booze and boogieing that changed Benidorm.
“Bars and clubs in Benidorm, predominantly down the ‘New Town’ are open until 7am and it is possible to drink 24 hours a day,” Harrison explained.
“This of course has attracted the usual issues including drugs, prostitution, and occasional violence within a small pocket around what is known as the ‘British Square’.
“The majority of the Brits are well behaved and have a great time, most look to party at beach bars and the hundreds of bars offering cheap booze down the side streets.
“Recently, issues around drunkenness have been addressed more stringently more by the local police.”
The expat revealed there is a crucial point that tourists don’t understand.
The Spanish love to holiday in Benidorm too
“What many Brits don’t know is that thousands of Spanish tourists also holiday in Benidorm and aren’t used to seeing drunken stag parties throwing up in streets and exposing themselves,” he said.
Harrison, like many British expats, steers clear of the rowdy areas – although he appreciates the importance of tourism.
“Personally, I avoid this area as do many Brits who live in Benidorm,” he said.
“It is often featured on TV programmes including the popular ITV show called Benidorm. I understand the need for such tourism and whilst I don’t particularly like it, the money it brings to the local economy is significant.
“Famous bars like Tiki Beach and Café Benidorm are a mecca for Brits and are well known for their party atmosphere, I have known people that have partied nonstop for three days and never went to bed.”
For Harrison and many others, it’s the old town that has “charm and tradition.”
Benidorm old town has a thriving gay scene
“Most of my time is spent in the old town which has a large gay population and many gay bars which are small, quaint, and far more friendly and are located in cobbled streets close to the church,” he explained.
“The old town has become a big party town for gays, straights and many seeking a mixture of traditional Spanish food in the many tapas bars along with a more vibrant night scene with small nightclubs open until 4am.
“There is also a more eclectic mix of people and nationalities and reminds me of Ibiza from years ago.”
As for recommendations for those heading to Benidorm, “walking down cobbled streets and stopping in the many small bars and restaurants who serve some amazing traditional Spanish cuisine [in the old town] is a must,” Harrison advised.
“The late bars are safe and attract many couples and solo travellers as they are friendly and safe, most of these bars are located in once what used to be stables so some are minute.”
Harrison went on: “Watching the sun go down in the old town is amazing and places like Dove Park which is lined with palm trees is the perfect spot.
“On the other side of the old town is Poniente Beach which is far more sophisticated and attracts many different nationalities from across Europe who love the long clean beach, high-end restaurants and some very cool bars which rival those in the south of France.
“It is far more relaxed and chilled vibe in Poniente with most bars closing before 2am. Hotels are smaller and the whole area is tree-lined and a lot greener.
“Benidorm has reinvented itself many times and now attracts some amazing events including cycle races and marathons, it hosts one of Europe’s largest gay prides and even has an annual Elvis competition where hundreds of Elvis lookalikes compete for the title.
“There are also many amusement parks including Aqualandia, Terra Mitica, Terra Natura and others.”