While most tourists party away in frenetic clubs on their Alicante holidays, travellers seeking a different kind of adventure flock to Castillo de Santa Barbara, one of Europe’s largest medieval fortresses. The castle’s dungeons, moat, cannons and lookout tower conjure images of dragons and Halflings. But Santa Barbara Castle is not about medieval fantasy; it’s a monument to Alicante’s meaningful past and a symbol of its exceptional beauty.
Castillo de Santa Barbara hugs the summit of Benacantil Mountain and peers over Alicante from a height of 166 metres. King Alfonse the Wise named it after St. Barbara, whose feast day, December 4, also happens to be the day he recaptured the castle from the Moors.
Visitors can take any one of two entrances to the site. One is through a long, winding, and steep path to the castle. The less energetic can take the elevator for a small fee (except for senior citizens and persons with disabilities). Every nook and cranny of the castle offers amazing views. The east wall looks down to the beach. Various medieval sentry boxes, attractions in themselves, watch over the Alicante Marina, while cannons look out from the south wall’s little gaps to the sprawling city below.
The castle’s past is as fascinating as the beautiful surroundings. The Sala Noble (Hall of Nobles) once served as a hospital, and there are numerous ‘murder holes’ from where defenders poured boiling oil on attackers. The Baluarte de los Ingleses (Rampart of the English) and palace and church ruins are must-sees, too. There are two cafés, each offering splendid panoramic views to accompany each sip of excellent coffee. On summer weekends, catch the concerts called ‘Castle Evenings’ in the courtyard.
Before leaving, examine the rocky outcrop just below the lookout point. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you; there really is an outline of a Moor’s face there!