Villena (Alicante)

  • Villena, province of Alicante / Manuel López Francés.
  • Castle of La Atalaya, Villena , in province of Alicante. ALC
  • Villena castle, Alicante / ALC.
  • Castle of La Atalaya, in Villena, province of Alicante / Tourist Info Alicante.
  • Interior of the gothic church of Santiago Apóstol in Villena, province of Alicante / Municipality of Villena.
  • Treasure of Villena, from the archaeological site of Cabezo Redondo, in Villena, province of Alicante / Municipality of Villena.
  • Medieval market in Villena, province of Alicante / Stewart John Mur.
  • During the Medieval Festival of Villena (province of Alicante), the failed meeting between El Cid and king Alfonso VI is played.
  • Moors and Christian Festival of Villena, Alicante. Festivity of National Tourist Interest

 

What you can do and see in Villena

Villena is surrounded by mountain ranges. One of them, Sierra de Salinas, is covered by interesting Mediterranean woodland of pines and holm oaks. Salvatierra Castle, one of the fortresses of the town, is on the summit of Sierra de la Villa, on a limestone crag. However, travellers are undoubtedly struck most by the grapevines. Villena is one of the nerve centres of the Alicante Certificate of Origin. The predominant variety is the Monastrell grape, the beginning of a historical and unique wine: Fondillón.

To talk of Villena is to talk of the ‘tale of two cities’, the Rabal district and the City. The first lies at the foot of the castle. In the 14th century, this district was outside the town walls and was inhabited by the Morisco population: it still preserves the maze-like streets from that time. The City was inside the wall and was the Christian part. The two towns converged in the Main Square, the heart of Villena. From the square, you can see St Mary’s Church, built on the old main Mosque. The peculiarities of the old town led to it being designated a historical-artistic centre.

Santiago Square, with the Town Hall, Tourism Office and Festival Museum, is less than 200m from the Main Square. Villena Moors and Christians Festival is designated as a festival of tourist interest. It is well worth visiting the museum because it helps to understand the particular idiosyncrasy of the festival and the town’s inhabitants.

Nearby, with its characteristic appearance, the archdeacon church of Santiago (14th-16th centuries) is one of the most important Renaissance Gothic churches in the Community of Valencia. Its sober façade dates to the Renaissance. Twelve helicoid columns, characteristic of Valencia Exchange and attributed to the Catalan Gothic, can be seen inside.

The climb up to the castle takes us to the popular Rabal district with its genuinely Islamic twisting and complex streets. Although it has suffered from times of abandonment, today it is re-emerging thanks to the work of its inhabitants and especially of the Neighbours’ Association, with activities like the Medieval festival, which tells the story of the district and the visits of such important people as El Cid and the Catholic Monarchs. In 2018 it was awarded the FÁlvar Fáñez Prize.

The castle, another of the symbols of the town, also participates in the festival. Built in the 12th century, it preserves some Almohad constructive elements, like the rammed earth walls, but its general appearance corresponds to the 14th and 15th centuries. Here lived the daughter of King James II, Constanza, the second wife of Don Juan Manuel (14th century), the author of the classic book Count Lucanor and Prince of Villena, who married her when she was 12 years old (he was 29). In the 15th century, the castle belonged to the Pacheco family until it was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs.

There is a Tourism Office next to the castle and this is also a small interpretation centre for the fortress: it contains a partial replica of the Villena Treasure, an incredible group of bowls, rings, bracelets etc. from the Bronze Age, made of gold, silver and other metals. Over 3,000 years old, it is one of the most important prehistoric treasures in Europe. Its discovery in a dry streambed would be related to the proximate archaeological site of Cabezo Redondo, of the same age and linked to the Argaric culture. The Treasure is now in the Archaeological Museum, a spectacular museum that is highly recommended but which is unfortunately closed (June 2021) while its new premises are being prepared for their use.

Villena was also the home town of Ruperto Chapí (1851-1909), the composer of La Revoltosa, a famous musician and prolific composer of over 150 zarzuelas, operas and operettas, of whom the people of Villena are very proud.

 

You should not miss

  • Fondillón: Wine-lovers have a good reason for coming to Villena, as several wine-cellars in the Alicante Certificate of Origin produce Fondillón there. In the 18th century it was one of the most prestigious wines in Europe, a wine of kings that is mentioned by such writers as Shakespeare, Dumas and Dostoyevsky. It is a sweet red wine made with very ripe Monastrell grapes, grown in the Alicante area. It must have a minimum of 16% volume of alcohol. Unlike sherry and port, which are fortified by adding alcohol, Fondillón reaches that level because of the natural high level of sugar in the grapes.
  • Especially of interest for visitors from Madrid, a small museum near Santiago Church is dedicated to the sculptor Navarro Santafé, whose name will be unknown to many people, but not his work: he was the sculptor of the famous figure of the bear and the tree in Puerta del Sol in Madrid.

Rev.: JGG 21.09.21

Useful information

  • Postal Address of the City Council: Plaza Santiago, 2 (03400)
  • Phone: 965 801 150
  • E-mail: 1067@villena.es
  • Web: www.villena.es
  • Population: 32.151
  • Altitude: 505 m.

Rev. (JGG) 18.1.16