Once upon a time a beautiful princess called Zahara, the daughter of a Moorish king, fell fatefully in love with a young Christian man. Furious with his daughter’s infidel suitor, the king locked Zahara in a castle tower overlooking the southern Spanish seaport he ruled. The mid-summer weather was sweltering hot and the king angrily told Zahara that unless it snowed, she’d never be allowed to see her lover again. What happened next, was both miraculous and tragic.
Santa Bárbara Castle Lore
You can hear the ending to this ancient legend if you visit Alicante’s Santa Bárbara fortress! The castle sits on Alicante’s emblematic hill, the Benacantil, which is locally known as la cara del moro, or “the Moor’s face”. If you stand on the beach below, you can clearly appreciate the silhouette of a man’s profile in the rocky outline of the hill. The legend tells us that the features belong to Zahara’s cruel father, the Moorish king…
The original part of the fortress was built and occupied by Islamic settlers in the 9th century, until Spanish King Alfonso “The Wise” took it in 1248. The day the Moors were conquered was dedicated to Saint Barbara in the Christian calendar and so the castle got its name. Further structures were added to the fort during the 16th century and it was finally finished in the 1700’s and 1800’s.
Visiting the castle
Santa Bárbara Castle was opened to the modern public in 1963. Since then, the visitor experience has been greatly enhanced. You can enjoy a quality museum with constantly changing exhibitions or book dramatized tours where actors in medieval costume reenact the castle’s history. Santa Bárbara has three main parts, which are set on different levels and are best appreciated if you walk through the fortress.
1) The Turret. Located on the highest part of the hill, The Turret was constructed during the 9th-13th centuries and it is therefore also the oldest section in the castle’s overall structure. Here you will find several chambers, like the English Bulwark, the Noble Chamber and the Governor’s House.
2) The Middle. Dating back to 1580’s, the middle part of the fortress contains the ruins of the castle’s chapel, dedicated to Saint Barbara. It also houses Philip II’s chambers and the Queen’s Bastion.
3) The Bon Repós Reveille. This last part of the fort was finished in the 18th century and contains the Bon Repós Reveille courtyard and a monument in honour of a famous Alicante military figure, Félix Berenguer de Marquina.
Enjoy the views
After your visit to the castle, you have a choice of two onsite cafés, as well as staggering panoramic views of Alicante’s port, beaches and the glittering Mediterranean. Stroll through the castle’s gardens and enjoy a cold drink or an ice-lolly on one of the benches set in the shade.
- By foot: Climb the castle hill early in the morning to avoid the heat.
- Disabled lift: Access at Postiguet beach, Avenida Juan Bautista Lafora.
- Driving: Locate Avenida Alfonso El Sabio in central Alicante. Follow it northeast until the street turns into Carrer de Vazquez de Mella. The castle turning is on the right and parking is free.
- Bus: Alicante’s blue tourist busses move all around town and will take you to the main entrance.
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.