Liz and her husband have visited Spain many times. The experiences from several trips to the Costa Blanca are the basis for this article.
Why Visit Denia?
Visitors to Spain are spoilt for choice with a vast number of interesting locations to visit, so what made us choose Denia as a winter holiday location? The clue partly lies in the question. Denia is located on the Costa Blanca, roughly translated as the White Coast. It has one of the mildest climates on the Spanish mainland, with temperatures in the mid-50s Fahrenheit and often higher in the winter. The photo above was taken in January.
Denia lies halfway between Valencia and Alicante. Both have airports, which increases the chance of finding a good flight deal.
There are many hotels on the Costa Blanca. Keen to fill their rooms in the quieter months, these hotels often offer good deals to out-of-season travelers.
This article draws on our experience of a January holiday in Denia, as well as other holidays we have taken in the surrounding area during the winter months.
Our Top 10 Things to See in and Around Denia
Here's our list of places to visit around Denia. The first 6 are reasonably local and the last 4 are further afield.
- The center of Denia
- The port of Denia
- Denia castle
- A walk along the coast
- Cap de Sant Antoni
1. The Center of Denia
When we arrive in a new place, we start off by exploring the area nearby and gradually move further afield. The first stop is the hotel reception for a map of the local area and a few pointers and recommendations. The second stop is the local Tourist Information Office, although opening times can be a little variable, especially in the winter months.
Suitably equipped with maps and information we headed into the center of town. Denia is a working town with a port, so it differs slightly from other more tourist-orientated towns along the Costa Blanca. We found this quite refreshing. It is good to be where the locals outnumber the visitors (at least in the winter months).
We started our tour by heading to Plaza Constitucion, the heart of the old town. The square is bordered by the Gothic-style town hall with its Baroque facade. On another side stands Iglesia de la Asuncion. The church dates from the mid-18th-century. It was so damaged in the War of Independence, that it had to be rebuilt and rededicated in 1816. It suffered further in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 when many movable items were taken. Overlooked by the castle walls, Plaza Constitucion made a pleasant stopping place especially as we were pleased to find a favorite Spanish eating place here, '100 Montaditos' offering drinks and snacks at very reasonable prices.
On our way back towards the coast, we came across Iglesia San Antonio de Padua, set in the Plaza Convento with cafes on the square outside. Dating from the late 16th-century, the church was built to go with a Franciscan convent complex. This church had to be remodeled over several decades in the mid 18th century after suffering damage in the War of Succession. It too had many items removed during the Spanish Civil War.
To complete our walk around the town we headed to the Museo del Juguete. The entrance was free. It doesn't take long to look around (15-20 minutes), but it gives an insight into the toy manufacturing industry in Denia in the past and takes everyone on a trip down memory lane.
2. The Port of Denia
Denia's working relationship with the sea goes way back. The Romans established a naval base here in the 1st century BC. Denia's working port is adjacent to the city and within easy walking distance of the center. It is multifunctional, incorporating a fishing port, two marinas, a superyacht shipyard, and a ferry terminal with sailings to Mallorca, Ibiza, and Formentera.
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It is a pleasant walk to head out along the quay, separating the port from the beach to a stretch of cafes, bars, and shops selling sailing supplies. Sitting outside a bar in the warm winter sun and gazing back across the water towards the city and the castle is a great way to relax.
In the summer there are boat trips along the coast from the port of Denia.
3. Denia Castle
Evidence of human habitation in the area near Denia has been found from prehistoric times. In the 4th century BC, it was a Greek colony and later became part of the Roman empire, named Dianum after the Roman goddess Diana. The castle, perched on a large rocky crag, overlooking the sea and the city, was originally built by Moorish Arabs in the 11th–12th centuries. The Arab name for the city, Daniyah means 'lowland'.
The castle area has been partially restored and the Governor's Palace is now an archaeological museum, displaying artifacts from the surrounding area. Those who make their way up to the castle from the center of the city are rewarded with stunning views over the surrounding area. For a nominal entrance fee, a visit to this high point of Denia is highly recommended.
4. A Walk Along the Coast
As our hotel was located on the south-western edge of Denia, near the port, we started our coastal exploration by walking away from the city in this direction. Looking from the boulders marking the edge of the port, we could see the sweeping curve of a bay, bordered by a beach. This was Marineta Cassiana. There was a wide walkway running by it and from the other side of the bay, we had a good view back towards Denia across the water.
As we headed further on into an area called Les Rotes, the coastline became more rugged and scenic. This is part of the marine reserve of Cabo San Antonio, a rocky promontory further along the coast. The path varied, it became a quiet coastal road for a while and we came across the odd restaurant and bar along the way. The coastal path returned as we walked around rocky coves. Although it was January we saw several hardy swimmers, clambering over the rocks into the sea for a refreshing dip.
This was a very pleasant walk, with an ever-changing vista. If you prefer long sweeps of sandy beaches, it is best to head in the opposite direction. There are long sandy stretches, popular with families especially in the summer months, to the other side of the port, northwest of Denia.
5. Cap de Sant Antoni
A visit to Cap de Sant Antoni, a sight of great natural beauty, was recommended by the Tourist Information in Denia. It is over 11km from Denia to Cap de Sant Antoni, so we opted to take a taxi, agreeing with the driver that he would wait for us and then take us on to Xabia, the next coastal town.
This area was declared a nature reserve in 1993. The cliffs reach heights of 175 meters. The area around the base of the cape is a marine park. There has been a lighthouse here since 1855. To the north lies Denia and the Gulf of Valencia, to the south the bay of Xabia.
Our taxi driver took us to a viewpoint from where we could look down towards the port of Xabia and across the bay. The views did not disappoint and I recommend a visit here.
We had been told that Xabia was an interesting place to visit, but no one had mentioned how spread out it was. So, when our taxi driver asked where we wanted to be dropped off, we assumed that the beach would be fine and within easy reach of the rest of the town. Our driver suggested Playa del Arenal. It certainly was a very pleasant beach, with a wide expanse of sand and a few palm trees backed by a selection of bars and small tourist shops. The water was clear and we saw a swimmer in January. It was a pleasant location for coffee.
Arenal turned out to be over 3 kilometers south of the port. As we walked towards Xabia port, the sandy beach at Arenal was replaced by a much rockier, shingle coastline. We found a pleasant seafront promenade along Av. Mediterraneo, which was lined with shops and bars, another great location for a drink. Beyond the port, we could see the headland of Cap Sant Antoni.
Realizing that the historical center was inland, we headed away from the coast uphill to try and find it, making a few wrong turns along the way. The center of old Xabia is over 2 kilometers from the port. Our walk in the heat of the day was made more pleasant by the sights around us. We noticed the buildings becoming older and more traditional as we came away from the coast and we could see a line of old windmills up on the hill above the town.
Mid-afternoon in January, the old town of Xabia was surprisingly quiet. We headed for the town hall square and, in need of refreshment after the uphill walk in the sun, found a bar nearby. It was good to view the medieval buildings from the outside, but none were open in the afternoon. The town was built with walls around to keep out pirates. The Iglesia Fortaleza de San Bartolome dates from the early 16th century. when it performed a dual defense and religious role.
After wandering around the old town, we found the bus station down the hill, where we discovered that there was quite a wait for a bus to Denia. Luckily we had spotted a supermarket, so we used the time to stock up on a few provisions.
Tip: When planning trips, try to gather as much information as possible. A map of the area, before arriving, would have been useful for us to plan our visit more efficiently, as well as details of places of interest and opening times. Likewise, a bus timetable would have helped us plan our return trip.