Benidorm – Travel Review
By Roger Crow, November 2023
“Welcome to The Twilight Zone,” remarks actress and comedian Crissy Rock as she prepares to host a quiz in Mateo’s. It’s around 5pm in the actual Benidorm, the place which inspired the hit sitcom which inspired Derren Litten’s themed pub named after Jake Canuso’s Lothario.
Derren is busy doing other things, so Crissy has gone from stand-up to stand-in, though it’s clear she’s not 100 per cent on the questions; one about Todd Carty should be a two-partner, but winds up crashing into a Larry David question. It matters little. Arrive before opening time if you want to get a table, and have plenty of Euros for cocktails, beers, and merch as it’s cash only.
Benidorm itself has been something of a joke with the media, and it’s not hard to see why. The endless waves of stags and hens that arrive daily at Alicante airport don’t need much persuading to strip down and soak up those glorious Spanish rays. Who can blame them?
It’s late September and it feels like the height of summer. The beer is cheap, the locals speak excellent English, and there are more bars and clubs than you can shake a stick at.
“Beating those winter blues”
I’d never watched the show Benidorm during its decade-long run on ITV. I’d reviewed the live stage show in Hull for ON before I saw the TV version, but the long winter of 2022/23 meant I needed sunshine, and if it was via a Carry On Abroad-style sitcom, then that would do. And it worked wonders for beating those winter blues, so little wonder when the thought of seeing the real Benidorm arose, I decided a mini break would be a good sampler.
Here are a few tips for those first-time visitors who are planning a break in the coming weeks or months.
Getting there: We flew from Manchester Airport, which took around 2.5 hours. Last-minute flights became more expensive the longer we left it, so grab a good deal when you can. A transfer shuttle to the heart of the region takes 45 mins to an hour.
Where to stay: there’s no shortage of hotels, but we opted for the Helios, not realising how perfect it would be. Aside from boasting great staff, a decent buffet-style breakfast and dinner area, there’s a gym, a decent pool, and our room ticked all the boxes, from the Jacuzzi bath with standard shower, to decent balcony with a panoramic view of the mountains and the bustling streets.
What to see: if you are a Benidorm (the series) fan, then Morgan’s Tavern is a must. Not only is it the same bar you see in the show (though Neptune’s is it’s more familiar moniker), but it boasts some of the best live acts you’ll see in town. Be warned, you will get to hear umpteen versions of Proud Mary, and the noise levels are near deafening, but the beer is cheap, the acts are free, and the atmosphere is electric.
“The name of the game”
Tribute acts are the name of the game, and some are naturally better than others. MrC, a laid back solo act, does a terrific turn, encouraged by the audience on some all-time classics. Like that staple for most live shows, good times never felt so good.
If you like Bruno Mars, then Morgan’s Tavern also has you covered with a full on lookalike who belts out all the classics while a couple of terrific dancers provide back up.
Kudos also to the Oasis tribute, who brought all the swagger and attitude of the Gallagher brothers, and never broke character during their set. Best of all was the band Chess, fronted by Charlie Joss, an Argentinean singer and pianist who never claimed to be a Freddie Mercury lookalike, but a guy channelling the great pretender. Like Rami Malek in the film Bohemian Rhapsody, he channels the much-missed Mercury, and along with his three fellow band members, generates one of those electrifying performance you’ll never forget.
On the last night, we see Joss do a solo tribute to Freddie and Queen in another club, Philippines 101, and once more he brings the house down. No mean feat as it’s a smaller venue and he doesn’t get the chance to show off his piano skills. Oh, and ‘Adele’ is also a must. Aside from a great voice, her banter between songs is priceless.
“Worth every penny”
The aforementioned Crissy Rock does a terrific stand-up act at The Talk of the Town. The place was packed to the rafters when we went, and Crissy takes no prisoners, so hecklers be warned. She also belts out a song which is almost worthy of Shirley Bassey. Take a few euros, as she does like to have a whip-round for the waiters, and as admission and the act is free, it’s worth every penny.
If you like big, Vegas-style shows, then Benidorm Palace, around half an hour’s walk from Helios, is an absolute must. For around £35, you get a show that lasts a couple of hours, and boasts a live band, escapologists, stunning dancers, magic turns, the whole nine yards. Pay extra and you can have a meal too. Again, the drinks won’t break the bank, and if you fancy a dance at half-time, then the ever shifting main stage accommodates Strictly fans. (Naturally there’s always one couple that loves to show off their skills, so make way for them).
The beach: a five-10 minute walk from the Helios, and you can be kicking back on a sun lounger while that iconic panoramic view of Benidorm greets you. Towels can be rented from the hotel, while sun loungers are rented via official-looking folks who come round checking that you’re not enjoying yourself under their umbrellas, or on their loungers. A couple of loungers and an umbrella cost around £16-£20 for the day. A walk along the crashing surf is a must, but just remember where you left your lounger, as it’s easy to get disoriented, and many of the hotels/landmarks look the same from the shore. Yes, okay, I got a bit lost, but on the plus side, my tan looks terrific, though I don’t recommend risking it without sun lotion.
What to see: Get the number 10 bus from the main high street near the beach to Altea, and for two or three quid round trip, you can experience one of the most picturesque regions in the area. It’s around 10 miles from Benidorm, and the sights are breathtaking. There’s plenty of elegant shops, cafes, eateries, and a train station to whisk you off wherever.
That big rock on the horizon: Take a trip across there on a glass-bottomed boat. Scale the steps on the rock for a great view of Benidorm, and make sure you have enough time for a quick beverage before the return journey.
The verdict: Okay, there is a seedy side to Benidorm; some notorious acts will probably live with you a lifetime. However, if you fancy sun, sea, sand and sangria without spending hours in the air, then it’s well worth the trip. We wouldn’t need much of an excuse to return one day.