In a castle courtyard, at the Fountain of Cats, a beautiful young woman collects drinking water. By chance a young man sees her there and falls deeply in love…
This story of youthful passion is in fact an old Catalonian folk song, but the setting is no figment of imagination! The Font de Gats can still be found inside the Santa Bárbara Castle, Alicante’s grand old landmark. The fountain has been a source of drinking water, and perhaps romance, for hundreds of years.
The Santa Bárbara fortress is a must-see. You’ll not only be able to explore the castle grounds and admire the panoramic views of the city and the sea, but also participate in one of the exciting dramatized tours the castle offers. Watch Santa Bárbara’s turbulent history come to life, narrated by historical characters, who expertly guide you through the turrets, fortresses and chambers.
“The Moor’s Face”
Tours normally start from Alicante’s El Postiguet beach. From here you can get an excellent view of the city’s emblematic hill, the Benacantil, on top of which the Santa Bárbara castle sits. Viewed from this angle it is obvious why the hill is called la cara del moro, or “the Moor’s face”. In the rock outline you can clearly appreciate the silhouette of a man’s brow, nose and mouth.
Saint Barbara’s day
The fortress was built by the Moors, but taken by King Alfonso “The Wise” in 1248. The Christian calendar dedicated that day to Saint Barbara and so the castle adopted its current name. Experts date the earliest constructions back to the 9th century, although much of the castle was built during the 16th century and finished in the 1700’s and 1800’s.
The castle has been open to the public since 1963. A well-run museum with constantly changing exhibitions has since been added to make the visit to the castle more comprehensive. The fortress is divided into three parts:
- The Turret is the oldest and highest part of the castle, from the 9th-13th centuries. The English Bulwark, the Noble Chamber and the Governor’s House are located here.
- The middle part dates back to 1580’s. It holds Philip II’s chambers and the Queen’s Bastion, as well as the remains of the Santa Bárbara chapel.
- The third enclosure was finished in the 18th century. It contains the Bon Repós Reveille courtyard, which now serves as the castle’s car park, and monuments to a famous Alicante military man, Félix Berenguer de Marquina.
After the tour
Santa Bárbara’s various lookout points reveal stunning panoramic views of Alicante’s port, beaches and the glittering Mediterranean. Once you have completed the tour, you can also enjoy a cold drink in the castle’s café or rest your legs on one of the benches scattered throughout the grounds.
- Walking. In the summer you are best advised to climb the hill early because of the heat. There is also a lift to the top, accessible from the Postiguet beach on Avenida Juan Bautista Lafora.
- Driving. If you have decided to rent a car from Avis Alicante, you can drive up to the castle in only 7 minutes from the city’s centre. Just locate Avenida Alfonso El Sabio and follow it northeast until it turns into Carrer de Vazquez de Mella. Then look out for the castle turning on your right. Parking is free.
- Public transport. The Alicante tourist busses will take you to the castle from various pick up points in the city’s centre. You’ll easily spot the blue coaches around town.
Castle opening hours
Every day, April to October, 10am-8pm and November to March, 9am-7pm. Entry free.
Museum opening hours
Every day, 10am-2.30pm and 4pm-8pm. Entry 4€.
Lifts from Postiguet beach run every day from 10am. Last lift up 7.20pm, last lift down 7.40pm. Price 2.40€.
Monday to Saturday, at 11 am, 12 noon and 6pm. Price 3€.
Audio guides are available for hire at 2€.
Sundays at 12 noon. Price 5€. Please book ahead by emailing visitas@castillodesantaBárbara.com or by telephoning the castle museum’s ticket office on (+34) 966 377 034.
All prices quoted April 2013.
About The Author: Sam Browne is an avid traveller who lives in London. She has visited several European destinations, and she likes to relive her experiences through writing about them.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons