It was 2 years ago when we discovered the charming medieval town of Peñiscola. I must admit that it’s one of my favourite towns in the Valencian Community. As well as having a vast amount of history, it also offers pristine blue beaches and an ancient castle. Here you will find the typical Spanish narrow streets, whitewashed houses, and the views… well, simply breathtaking!
During the summer months, Peñiscola is a known holiday destination for 80% of Spaniards. However, the numbers of foreign visitors have increased over the years, thanks to The Game Of Thrones! Yes, this place was used as the city of Meereen on season 6, and when you see it’s impressive grandeur, you’ll understand why it’s so popular with filmmakers. But it’s not just about The Game Of Thrones; El Cid, París Tombuctú and Chiringuito de Pepe were filmed here too.
Located about an hour and a half drive the north of Valencia, this unspoilt area is fairly distributed between woodlands, orange, almonds and olive fields. As you drive along the parade, you will see the outline of the impressive castle, strategically perched 65 metres above the Mediterranean sea overlooking the Costa Del Azahar.
Peñiscola pronounced ‘pen-yis-cola’ comes from the Latin word for peninsula. The castle was built between 1294 and 1307 by the Templar knights over the ruins of an ancient Arab citadel. Many empires have inhabited Peñiscola over the centuries, including the Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Byzantines and Arabs.
This was also the home of Benedict XIII (Papa Luna) from 1417. Papa Luna was elected pope during the Great Schism, that divided the Catholic Church. Which resulted in Benedict XIII being ousted by the Council of Constance. He still maintained his right to the papacy and he lived in Peñiscola castle for six years until in his death in 1423.
Peñiscola is one of those places that can be explored on a long weekend. So in June, the whole family decided to return and spend a couple of nights to enjoy what the town has to offer. Of course, the beach was on the kids agenda, but exploring the old town is equally as exciting.
The narrow cobbled streets, white houses and tall walls are full of history of centuries gone by. You can’t help but think that you have been transported back in time. While walking through the streets you’ll often see a glimpse of the Mediterranean sea over the horizon. This is a good time to take in the views because it’s something that’s truly amazing!
We arrived on Saturday and stayed in a small hotel called Pension Chiki. We booked two adjoining rooms, the main room consisted of a double bed and a small kitchen.
Our room had a balcony which was a nice bonus. The hotel is situated by the castle and has plenty of steps and high inclines, so not so ideal if you have difficulty with stairs or walking. It’s in a convenient location and very near all the points of interest and within walking distance of the town centre. Here you will find a lot of shops, enough to cater for visitors as well as the locals.
If you don’t know already, Spain is very family-friendly. The boys wanted to spend a day at the beach on our first day, during the month of June, the temperature is just right and of course, there are not many tourists around. We had the beach to ourselves!
The shallow and wide beach means that its suitable for the kids. There are parks, volleyball areas and tall palm trees, perfect if you want some shade if it gets too hot. There are also plenty of ice cream bars, cafes and a wide choice of restaurants that serve typical Spanish and Valencian cuisine.
Once the boys have had enough of the beach, we explored the old town during the night. It was something I that I really want to do. As I imagined it looked beautiful, there were bands playing, people of all ages having a great time, and the castle was lit up like something from a fairytale. Like many places in the Mediterranean, Peñiscola caters to families. No need to feel awkward if the kids are still running around until midnight, even restaurants are very welcoming no matter how many kids you have in tow!
If you are visiting Valencia for a few days, I would recommend heading over to Peñiscola. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. It’s an idyllic location to spend a few days with or without the kids. A place where you will find a perfect balance of beach, sunshine, family time and culture. My youngest son told me that it’s one of his favourite town and beach in Valencia, and you know what? I have to agree.