Benidorm is a city and municipality in the province of Alicante in eastern Spain, on the Mediterranean coast.
Benidorm has been a tourist destination within Spain since 1925, when its port was extended and the first hotels were built. However, the real “boom” of Benidorm as a coastal resort did not happen until the 1950s, when it became a famous summer destination for people coming from inland Spain, especially Madrid. Today it is known for its hotel industry, beaches and skyscrapers and receives as many or even slightly more foreign tourists as Spanish ones. According to the 2014 census, Benidorm has a permanent population of 69,010 inhabitants, making it the fifth most populous town in the Alicante province. Benidorm has the most high-rise buildings per capita in the world.
It is thought there were settlements in the Benidorm area possibly as far back as 3000 BC, including evidence of Roman and Punic remains. However, settlements in the area were small and it was not until the arrival of the Moors (from whom the town derived its Arabic origin name) that the local population began to grow. The Christian King James I of Aragon reconquered the region in 1245 and Benidorm first officially became known in 1325, when Admiral Bernat de Sarrià of Polop awarded it a town charter as a way of removing the Moors and allowing Christians to inhabit the area.
Benidorm’s history for the next few centuries was plagued by attacks from the sea by Ottoman and Barbary pirates. The 17th century saw conditions improve for Benidorm and its people, most notably with the construction of an advanced irrigation system in 1666 to channel water to the region. By the 18th century, Benidorm fishermen had become famous and sought after all over Spain and beyond. Tuna was their main catch and they perfected the ancient almadraba technique dating from Islamic times. The success of the fishing industry, together with improved local agriculture, helped to fuel a strong local economy. Coastal traffic increased too, bringing more wealth to the region with the town becoming a base for sea captains and the building of their vessels.
In 1952 Benidorm’s fishing industry went into decline; this was a factor in encouraging the town council to approve any new development plans aimed at the tourist market. Today the town is Europe’s and Spain’s biggest holiday resort and responsible for a significant chunk of Spain’s large tourist industry, with five million tourist arrivals per year.