Peñíscola, the Mediterranean dream

Peñíscola is a Mediterranean dream. It is history on a rock along the white and blue narrow streets of the upper old part surrounded at north and south by two awesome long beaches. There, its water is at a warm temperature for bathing for almost half of the year. It remains in Peñíscola still a good portion of local identity on the top of the tourist development, with plenty of summerhouses. But you can find still fishermen and grandmas spending afternoons on the shadowy side of their streets sat on old chairs just in front of their home gates.

Peñíscola’s Old Town and South Beach from Cerromar

The visitor could enjoy this local vibe in restaurants, many of them family businesses, where they use only fresh products and a local accent. For the visitor, greeting the locals while taking a stroll amazed by the character of every corner is a sweet routine. Just go there and get lost, feeling on the walls lime the reflected light of the very blue Mediterranean Sea.

Once you reach there the first thing you see from the road in the ancient on the rock. Walls, a castle and white rows of houses, perfectly done as a cinema set for a historic movie. Recently we have visited Peñíscola twice. First, in from late June until the beginning of July, where the mask was not mandatory yet on the street and there were no restrictions on the borders and, one more, in middle August, when there were again a lot of hassles. Mandatory masks on the street no matters the distance you could keep from any other human, border restrictions, quarantines and limitations on night leisure has kept the place mainly for internal tourists and locals. Overall, there were no crowds; prices have been more than reasonable, especially on restaurants where you get good value for money.

Where to eat and drink?

Food is fresh and great in Peñíscola, actually, you will be on the Route of Rices. For tapas or a complete meal D. Jaime Sanz Street and San Roque Street are the most popular. For drinks and cocktails all along the walls of the upper town will be the best choice.

Restaurante Casablanca: Nice place for fresh product tapas and awesome rice.  It’s in a very good location in Calle D. Jaime Sanz. The staff is helpful and trustworthy, just let you recommend what is the best choice in the day you go. You won’t regret it.

Brizza: It is in an excellent location in Calle Principe just along the walls. It seems a bit posh but the staff is friendly, quick and the atmosphere is nice. During the day you can eat good pizzas or seafood for reasonable prices with sea views. During the night, it is charm and cocktails are nice. I recommend tasting Agua de Valencia cause even though the identity of the place is Italian they prepare an excellent local recipe with proper fresh squeezed orange juice.

Cerveza Artesana Badum: It’s and store of a local brand of craft beers. They have a terrace and you can taste them there hearing the sea. For beer fans who want to taste something they rarely will find somewhere else.

Restaurante Los Maños: It is located in front of the North Beach in Avinguda del Papa Luna, 109. It is a multifunctional restaurant for tapas, local dishes and all kind of paellas. The staff is nice and the prices reasonable. It is a safe option for all tastes or ant kind of group.

Blue Dream: Perfect location in Calle Farones where the sea views are simply the best. It’s a bar for beers, glasses of wine or cocktails. Nothing to say about their drinks, just correct. But the atmosphere, the minimalist decoration, the light music and its location make this place really worth to visit.

It reminds Ibiza somehow, because of the fun and beauty, but especially cause you can smell immediately a deep meaningful history.

The first settlement was the Greek Chersonesos and the oldest written reference on the name of the city from the 4th century BC. Greeks had an awesome instinct to choose locations, right?  Later on the Latin translation of the Greek name was “Pene Iscola” which means “Almost Island” in English and from there it went to the current name of Peñíscola. That is giving a clue about the oldest settlement and its shape, seen like that from more than two thousand years ago, with no walls or castle yet.

The 500 years of Muslim domination made “Banaskula” (the Arabic name of Peñíscola) an important port, which was even improved by the Christians afterwards. From 1294 to 1307 the castle was built, under the presence in the city of the all-powerful order of the temple, on the remains of the old Arab fortress. It was a very conflictive time and in addition a century after it arrived the main character of the town: Pedro Martinez de Luna, called Pope Luna and known as Pope Benedict XIII. After several elections and deaths of successive Roman popes, Pope Luna took refuge in Peñiscola from 1411 to 1423. He died abandoned by all with no supports to claim that he was the real Pope in front of their competitors. The castle the visitor can admire nowadays is a product of those conflictive times.

Where to Stay?

Ananda Beach Rooms:   Cosy place with small beautiful rooms with balconies to admire the patters of the narrow street. Excellent views from the rooftop terrace. The staff is really friendly and helpful. Good value for your money.

Later, it was Felipe II who prepared the walls against piracy on Spanish eastern coasts. With the War of Succession, the War of Independence and the Carlist wars, the Artillery Park that you can visit with the castle entrance ticket made sense. However, in 1890 Peñiscola lost its military importance, as its arsenal was dismantled and transferred to Cartagena.

Centuries of history upon the rock have given to it that narrow streets, those colourful patterns, blue on the windows, white on the walls, those medieval little squares, the churches, the walls, bastions on the castle itself. It has been still mainly a fishermen town till the arrival of tourism in the 1960s. That changed dramatically the town but fortunately, it did not transformed it into anything different. It just made it wider taking profit of its two wonderful beaches, specially the northern one that is the longest. Peñíscola has known how to adapt to the new times by offering a heterogeneous and quality offer of restaurants and accommodation options along the shoreline, becoming one of the most valuable tourist references for its extensive cultural, historical, environmental and landscape values.

A Besides the Obvious tip

El Bufador is one of the singularities of Peñíscola. It is a natural monument, a kind of hole between the rocks, between the walls and the houses, which communicates directly with the sea. It is quite a spectacle when there is a storm or on stormy days since the waters emerge with great pressure through this deep hole.
El BUfador and a cute bar next to it

In addition, that has been the main point: the beauty of the views of the old town from the beach. Peñíscola is so iconic that the residents have been getting used to the spotlights since the town has been scenery of many films and series. Hollywood chose Peñíscola to shoot “El Cid” with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren and more recently as a set for Game of Thrones, where we can see the town as Meereen, the largest city in the Bay of Slaves. Some Spanish films like “Calabuch” of Berlanga, “Paris Tumbuctú” or the popular series “El chiringuito de Pepe” have been shot there.

How to get there?

By land

Peñíscola is located in the North of the Valencian Community, in the province of Castellón, halfway between Valencia and Barcelona. You can get there by the N-340 road or by the AP-7 Highway. You need to reach exit 43 Peñíscola-Benicarló, located at km 365 of the highway. At this point just leave the AP-7 and take the N-340 road until CV-141. From there, follow the road to find the CV-140 which leads directly to Peñíscola.

From Madrid start on M-30 highway to N-III highway. Continue to reach A-31 highway and connect with AP-3 and, later on, with the AP-7. When you reach exit 43 Peñíscola-Benicarló of this highway (Km. 365) turn off to N-340. From there reach CV-141 and after CV-140 till Peñíscola.

By train

It is possible to arrive from Benicarló-Peñíscola Railway Station, where the main long-distance trains stop.

By bus

There are some transport companies covering this destination by bus: Avanzabus, Hife o Amsa

The pick-up point for buses in Peñíscola is in Plaza de la Constitución, close to South Beach.

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