The Santa Barbara Castle in Alicante is one of the largest medieval fortress in Europe.
High on top of the Benacantil Hill in Alicante and proudly boasting the title of the largest medieval fortress in Europe, sits the enthroned Castillo de Santa Barbara. For over 7000 years, Alicante had been occupied by civilizations of various origins, providing the region with diverse cultural richness and jaw-dropping architectonic structures. The first known civilization to settle in today's Alicante were the Iberians, hence Spain being referred as the “Iberian peninsula”. However, many centuries of settlers eventually led to the Roman conquest and their building of “Lucentum” - what is known today as the nucleus of the city of Alicante: el barrio de Benalua.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city fell into the hands of the invading Moors, who settled and ruled Spain for the next 5 centuries. They are the imaginative builders of the Castillo de Santa Barbara. The castle received its name after the event that took place on 4th December, 1248: on the day of Santa Barbara, King Alfonso X “The Wise” expelled the Moors from Alicante in the name of Christendom and declared it part of the Kingdom of Valencia.
Centuries passed and Alicante became a thriving commercial port city, bringing about an economic solvency that allowed the city to grow and expand. However, this expansion was truncated when the castle suffered several bombardments throughout the XVII, XVIII and XIX centuries, the most damaging of which took place during the War of Succession, in which French and English troops continuously attacked the city for seven consecutive days; the effects of the attacks can still be witnessed on the castle walls today. The castle was in fact a prison until 1893, when King Alfonso XIII handed over the fortress to the town. The reformations made to the castle by the different occupying members of society eventually altered her original facade completely.
However, the castle, long a symbol of Alicante, maintains its fairytale essence: the castle walls, turrets, drawbridges, stone passages, hidden tunnels, a real dungeon and a beautiful garden, all representing degrees of architectural styles from Gothic to Renaissance, and breathtaking views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea.
The castle's three enclosures are built on differing levels on the bare rock. Each holds a unique feature: the upper is the original medieval fortress enclosing the ancient Torreta (turret), the medieval walls and the King's Bastion; the middle is from the Bourbon era and encompasses important rooms such as the Hall of Nobles, the Room of Phillip II, the Queen's Bastion and the Troops Wings'; and the lower is a XVIII rampart used today as a car park.
El Castillo de Santa Barbara first opened to the public in 1963. A 143 meter tunnel dug into the side of the hill offers you 2 convenient lifts that, for a small fee, can take you up to the castle. The castle may also be reached by car through a winding road of beautiful pine trees.
Today, the province of Alicante sustains a population of more than 1.825.264 who, along with cultural and gastronomic richness, popular festivals and perfect weather, have made Alicante a stand-out tourist destination and a perfect place to learn Spanish!