Along with ridiculously intricate cathedrals, Spain offers some pretty epic castles as well. I took a trip to Alicante and there you will find one from the ninth century. The history of Alicante is basically just like any other city in southern Spain. First it was conquered by Romans until eventually it was taken over by Muslim troops, called Los Moros in ancient times, who built a magnificent stronghold. However, there are no traces of the original structure built by the Moors.
It was reconquered by King Alfonso X (kingdom of Castilla) on the day of Saint Barbara in December of the early 13th century giving the castle it’s new name. In 1296 King Jaime II, who was the king of Aragon, attacked the castle to claim it for his kingdom from Nicolas Peris (Castilla). Nicolas ordered for the battle to be just between the two men but ended up losing. He was holding his sword in one hand and the keys to the castle in the other. There is an old tale that on a full moon you can hear the keys clicking when Nicolas haunts the castle. ((I’m wishing there was a full moon when I was there!))
In the 16th century which is donned “The Golden Age” of Spain, Phillip the II changed the castle to be a mighty fortress by enlarging the walls so that the people of the city can be protected from war.
From 1701-1714 French and British troops occupied Alicante to see who would become the next king of Spain. French troops started digging a tunnel underneath the castle and filled it with gunpowder. The British army got word that the French were digging a tunnel which they called a mine and started digging from the other side. Then the French troops told the British general that they would blow up the mine if the British didn’t surrender. The Brits found no trace of the gunpowder so they figured the French were bluffing but as they said, the French blew up the mine which resulted in tremendous damage to the castle. The British then retreated and the French Bourbons took control over the castle and the city.
There is a legend that surrounds the area of the castle still today. If you walk down Postiquet beach and look up to the castle you can see a face carved in the rock called the face of the Moor. Locals (or people who believe in this story I should say) claim that two Arab men were in love with this princess. The father of the princess told the two men that they had to complete a mission to earn the right to marry his daughter. One man traveled all the way to India to bring back spices and the other decided to stay and write poems. The father granted the man who went to India the right to marry his daughter even though she was in love with the other man. Both the princess and the man she loved threw themselves over the castle and as they were falling their bodies changed the hills appearance. Funny part of this story is that the man’s name was Ali and the princess’ name was Cantara and when you put them together you get Alicantara which got changed to Alicante. Legends I tell ya…..
Now for more recent times. Eventually the castle was dismantled and no longer was used for military protection so it was abandoned. Beggars found shelter within it’s walls and it was used as a prison during the Spanish Civil War. There is still graffiti on the floor of where the prisoners were kept! After the Civil War the castle was restored and opened up to the public. In 1963 an elevator was installed so that castle was much easier to access. Now it is officially a protected monument and in 2011 it underwent its latest restoration. They’ve also included a museum within the walls of the castle.
You can take guided tours which will get you access to parts of the castle that are hidden from public access. This is where you’ll be able to see the dungeons (dun dun dunnn). They have guides that speak Spanish, Valencian, and English. You can also rent an audio guide for 2 euros.
As if that wasn’t enough the castle offers dramatized tours and exhibitions which are live interactive sessions that take you back in time. I haven’t taken this tour or anyone of this kind so I can’t give details but I’m sure it’s one crazy experience.
There are many different prices for the tours which you can check out here. The elevator ride is 2,70 euros per person and the hours are 10:00am to 7:30pm or free from 7:45-midnight.
Let me know if you’ve been here or any castle in Spain!