VILLENA is just over an hour and half
south of Xàbia by car, a city steeped with a history dominated by the
Atalaya castle, one of the most iconic fortifications in the region which acted
as a prominent stronghold on the northern frontier of the Islamic territories,
and the famous Villena Treasure, one of the most important archeaological finds
in Europe thought to date back some 3,000 years. It's a perfect destination for
a day trip or a weekend trip which could combine a tour of other castles
and fortifications in the area.
TO GET TO VILLENA
Villena can be
reached by motorway, first on the AP-7 heading south passing Alicante before
heading inland on the A-31 towards Madrid. The motorway passes several
spectacular castles, not least those at Petrer and Sax, and both are worth
a brief stopover to explore although access is restricted to requests with
the relevant town halls.
Leaving the A31 at
junction 185, the first impression of Villena is not immediately positive. The
castle dominates the approach but the approach to the historic centre is
through industrial estates and it doesn't seem so engaging. Follow the signs to
[Centro Ciudad], joining the CV-799 which passes under the motorway and then
take the first right at the roundabout [Castillo de la Atalaya]. Follow the
road up the hill to the roundabout. Take the second exit; be careful as there
are two exits right next to each other and you need to take the exit to the
left [SP: Castillo de la Atalaya]. After 150m or so the castle is right ahead
of you and there is a parking zone and the Villena Tourist Information Office.
WHAT TO DO IN VILLENA
Your first point of
call should be the Villena Tourist Info Centre which is open from 10.00am to
2.00pm Tuesday to Sunday (including fiesta days) and 4.00pm to 6.00pm Tuesday
to Saturday. It is closed on Monday. Here you can book a visit to the castle as
well as other attractions whilst there is also an exhibition explaining the
history of the town. There are also toilets.
Castillo de la Atalaya
Guided Tours: 11:00-12:00-13:00 (Tue-Sun) | 16:00-17:00 (Tue-Sat)
Tickets: 3 euros (Tourist Info Office)
The castle dates back to the late 11th / early 12th century, built during the
Muslim period to provide control and defence of the surrounding territory. It
was taken by Christian forces in 1240 and expanded although retaining many of
its Islamic elements. The tour covers the establishment of the castle, walking
around its walls to enjoy spectacular
views across the town and beyond, before
climbing to the top of the main tower
for an even better view. Due to the climb to
the top of the high tower, the tour is not suitable for those with mobility
problems, wheelchair users and families with prams.
Museo Arqueologico José Maria Soler
Ayuntamiento de Villena, Plaza de
Open: 10:00-14:00 (Tue-Sun)
Tickets: 2 euros (Tourist Info Office)
Inaugurated in 1957, the museum tells the story of Villena from prehistoric
days until modern times. However the main attraction is the famous ‘Treasure of
Villena’, some 60 pieces of jewellery made of almost pure gold and several
other artefacts that make it one of the most unique prehistoric collection’s in
Europe. After browsing the modest collection of exhibits, the guide will invite
you to watch a short video – it’s available in English – and then open up a
secure cupboard in which the amazing treasure is securely stored.
Moors and Christians Festival Museum
Plaza de Santiago
Open: 11:00-14:00 (Tue to Sun)
Tickets: 1 euro (Tourist Info Office)
The museum located inside the grand palace of the Selva-Mergelina family hosts
a large collection of costumes and other objects associated with the traditional
Moors & Christians fiesta which takes place each September. It’s one of the
biggest fiestas of its type with more than 12,000 people taking part in its
main parades. The guided visit will include a look at the costumes as well as a
short video presentation.
Iglesia de Santiago
Plaza de Santiago
Open: 11:00-14:00 (Tue-Thu, Sat) | 13:00-14:00 (Fri) | 11:30-13:00 (Sun)
Tickets: 1 euro (Tourist Info Office) although it’s free on Sunday
The church of Santiago, built between the 14th and 16th centuries, is one of the
most important Gothic-Renaissance buildings in the Valencian region. Guided
visits are available to explore the marvellous interior which includes
beautiful spiral columns.
Iglesia de Santa María
Plaza de Santa María
Open: 08:00-13:00 (Mon-Fri) | 09:00-13:00 (Sat-Sun-Fiestas) | 17:00-21:00
The church was built in the 16th century on the site of an ancient mosque. It’s
worth popping in and having a look at the Gothic interior as well as take the
opportunity to climb to the top of the bell tower if it’s open.
Museum – Sculptor Antonio Navarro
Calle Escultor Navarro Santafé
Open: 11:00-14:00 (Sat-Sun-Fiestas)
Tickets: 1 euro (Tourist Info Office)
The artist himself turned the ground
floor of his home into an exhibition hall to display many objects which he
brought to Villena from his studio in Madrid. The exhibition was donated to his
hometown just before his death in 1983.
WHERE TO EAT
Plaza Santa María
Classic Italian restaurant with a rustic feel.
Calle Juan Chaumel
Good quality and very tasty fusion tapas.
Typical Spanish fare with menu-del-día.
Rodeo Diner & Burger
Plaza del Rollo
One for all the family, great burgers for all tastes.
SUGGESTED DAY-TRIP ITINERARY
08:15 – Depart Xàbia
10:00 – Villena Tourist Info Centre (Villena Castle) – exhibition, tickets
10:30 – Walk down through historic centre – Iglesia de Santa María
11:30 – Museum (Treasure of Villena)
12:00 – Moors & Christians Museum
12:45 – Museum Sculptor Navarro Santafé
13:30 – Iglesia de Santiago
14:00 – LUNCH
16:00 – Guided Tour: Castillo de la Atalaya.
17:30 – Head back to Xàbia.
is a special VILLENA TOUR PASS available
from the Tourist Info Office which covers
admission to the Castle, the Archeaological
Museum, the Moors & Christians Music,
the Santiago Church and the Sculptor
Navarro Museum. It costs 7 euros and
is valid for 48 hours.
WHERE TO STAY
Villena is perfect for a day-trip but if you want to stay overnight we can
La Casa de las Aromas
Located just a short walk from the castle, La Casa de la Aromas is a great
option stopping overnight.