Benidorm History Facts and Timeline

(Benidorm, Costa Blanca, Spain)

Known today for its thriving holiday resort scene, the Costa Blanca resort of Benidorm has a history tied primarily to fishing.

From its Moorish roots to the legendary fishermen of Benidorm, this town on the sea epitomises the character of most coastal towns along the Iberian Peninsula. In recent years, it has followed the well-worn path from traditional industries to tourism, catering to millions of visitors annually.

Ancient Times

Little remains of the ancient people who once lived along the coast near today's resort of Benidorm. Evidence of the earliest settlements includes an Iberian village, as well as burial grounds atop the mountain at the end of Poniente Beach at Montbenidorm. Archaeological discoveries here include fishing nets dating to the 1st century BC, attesting to the town's heritage as a thriving fishing spot.

The Founding Moors

Though remnants of Punic and Roman settlement date all the way back to 3000 BC, it wasn't until the Moors moved into the Iberian Peninsula that the known history of Benidorm begins. The Moors gave the town its Arabic name and greatly influenced the local culture. Centuries after the Moors were expelled from Iberia, the fishermen of Benidorm were still famous for their use of Arabic fishing techniques.

A Town Charter

Even after James I the Conqueror, King of Aragon, took back the region around Benidorm from the Moors in the middle of the 13th century, many remained in and around the town. The modern history of Benidorm can reliably be traced to 1325, when it was granted a town charter from the Kingdom of Valencia.

The charter was granted by Admiral Bernat de Serria of the municipality of Polop de la Marina, who based himself at the castle of Polop under the protection of the Kingdom of Valencia. At the time, granting town charters was the diplomatic way that the Spanish forcibly removed the remaining Moors from their land. This protocol continued until the 17th century, helping the Christians to re-establish themselves in these towns.

The Fishermen and Pirates

Like most coastal towns along the Mediterranean, Benidorm was plagued by Barbary and Turkish pirates for centuries following the recovery of Iberia from the Moors. It wasn't until the 17th century that conditions notably improved for the people of Benidorm. An ambitious network of irrigation channels successfully brought vital fresh water to the region in 1666, helping to pave the way for future development.

During the period, the fishermen of Benidorm became legendary throughout Europe for their skills and catches. They had mastered the ancient Arabic fishing techniques passed down from the Moors, allowing them to thrive at deep-sea fishing. Tuna was one of their most sought-after and valuable catches, fuelling the local economy for decades.

The Rise of Tourism

By the 1950s, the fishing industry was in decline, as was the case in much of coastal Spain. At this point in its history, Benidorm turned to tourism to invigorate its dying economy in 1952, opening up large pieces of land for development. By the 1960s, Benidorm was one of Europe's top beach destinations, a position that it continues to enjoy today.