Visiting Benalmádena in winter is a different experience. It gives you a chance to better appreciate what the town has to offer.
If the first thing you think of when you hear the words “Costa Del Sol” is a bunch of tourists on vacation, you would be right. But only partially so. We spent a winter day in the beachside town of Benalmádena, which is located about 20 minutes away from center city Málaga, and is home to lots of tourists, expats, and a surprisingly interesting public park.
To begin our visit we parked the car next to the BilBil Castle. The “castle” is a building with Arabic influences built from red brick by a family in 1927 as a kind of beach front palace. Eventually, around 1980, the city hall bought the property and converted it into a sort of cultural space. We did not go inside the BilBil Castle, but to me it seemed a bit too modern to have any sort of charm left over for visitors. The views of the beach, however, were gorgeous on a sunny winter day.
We continued walking down the board walk where we passed by loads of restaurants selling fish and advertising their great deals on a pint of beer. It was not uncommon to see the terrace filled with tables and red faced tourists sitting their sipping a pint while looking out at the sea. We were enjoying the weather as well, but while the visitors were dressed in summer wear, we had on sweaters and were carrying our winter coats. Another thing we noticed were the prices- if you are used to paying for your lunch in Madrid, almost all the lunch specials offered seemed cheap- less than 10 euros in most places. Considering the fact that we were walking next to the sea, this seemed ridiculously low! We decided, however, to hunt a bit further for our meal, and wound up eating lunch at a bar a few streets back from the beach. It was nothing special, but they had a decent lunch special for a good price.
After lunch we made our way to the port, which was on the other end of the board walk. There were bunches of yachts and expensive looking boats parked in the port, as well as expensive looking apartments for rent. It was a gorgeous afternoon, and lots of people were out strolling and enjoying the good weather. What was a shame about this area was that it had become so commercialized. It reminded me of Porto Banus, which is another famous place along the Costa del Sol for rich vacationers to come and spend money, as well as name drop. Although the commercialism robs the port of some of its beauty, there are still some gorgeous views with the mountains in the background, and the sea right at your feet.
Before leaving Benalmádena, we wanted to make one last stop: the Parque de la Paloma (Park of the Dove). This park is famous for having different kinds of animals running free. When we first entered the gates, it reminded me a lot of the area around the boat house in Central Park. There was a place to rent bicycles, as well as a cafeteria to have a snack. We began by walking around the perimeter of the lake, and I was very surprised to find live chickens walking around. I had no idea why the park was special when we arrived, but I soon realized that it was quite normal to see the chickens, as well as other animals walking about in a surreal sort of zoo setting.
Among the other animals we saw in the park were rabbits, a peacock, swans, and various forms of chickens and ducks. It was hilarious to see others, as well as ourselves, scrambling after the peacock as if it were a famous movie star to snap its picture. I was also surprised to see how calm the animals were around people. In Pennsylvania, squirrels tend to get bold after a while when they know that the humans won´t hurt them, and I suppose that it’s the same idea with these animals.
By this time, as it was winter, the sun was beginning to set, and we decided to head home. It was a picture perfect day, however touristy the setting, and the beaches looked spectacular with their white sand and the many stands selling food right along the shore. We ruskommend a visit to Benalmádena with 4 boquerons,(and make sure not to miss the animals in the Parque de la Paloma; it is truly a unique public park!)