Villajoyosa is a charming Mediterranean seaside town located on the Costa Blanca in Spain. Locally known as La Vila Joiosa (meaning ‘the joyful city’) or just La Vila, this hidden gem lies 32 km north of Alicante and just below the popular resort town of Benidorm. A visit to Villajoyosa is worthwhile, even if it’s only to experience how different the atmosphere is compared to the buzzing nearby Benidorm.
Villajoyosa is a laid-back working class coastal town with around 34.000 inhabitants of which mainly Spanish residents. The town has managed to maintain its authenticity of a traditional fishing village, receiving fewer tourists than most other seaside resorts on the Marina Baixa. Laid out along a long stretch of white sandy beach, the town offers a fishing port, delicious seaside restaurants, a lovely beach promenade and a maze of small narrow streets. The main economical focus of the city is on the production of chocolate and tourism.
History of Villajoyosa
The history of the first settlements in Villajoyosa dates back to the Bronze Age. In Roman times, the town of Alonis was established. It is not very clear where exactly the town of Alonis was in relation to the current town, but it is thought that it was probably situated where the old town is now. Some proof is in the discovery of the remains of hot springs and a military settlement around the Amadorio riverbed.
The area was mainly deserted during the middle ages. In the year 1300, however, Bernardo de Sarriá, admira of King Jaime II of Aragón, founded the Christian city of La Vila Joiosa on this location as a strategy to control the attacks from the Muslims via sea.
Villajoyosa started to play an important role during the 16th century in countering the numerous attacks from pirates along the coast of Alicante. For this reason, King Felipe II ordered the building of a defensive wall which was finished mid century. Parts of these walls can still be seen nowadays in the old town. Villajoyosa officially became a city in the year 1911, granted by king Alfonso XIII.
What to do in Villajoyosa
Marvel at the colourful painted houses
The main attraction of Villajoyosa are the iconic multicoloured painted houses in the old town. The fisherman’s houses are beautifully painted in all hues of the rainbow making the old town appear bright and joyful. The reasons why the fisherman painted the facade of their houses in the brightest colours are many, but nobody seems to know the correct version. However, one of the stories is that since every fisherman had painted their boats in a specific colour they used the leftover paint for the facades of their homes. A more romantic version is that the fisherman after having been at sea for a while would recognise their homes from far out at sea by the colour.
Whatever the story, the beauty is that these quaint painted houses are still perfectly maintained to this day which makes Villajoyosa one of the most picturesque and colourful towns along the Spanish coast.
Get lost in the narrow streets of the Villajoyosa old town
The old town of Villajoyosa is surrounded by the remains of the defensive walls from the 16th century. Walking through the maze of narrow streets past the colourful houses and lovely squares will show you a beautiful part of La Vila. Right outside the defensive walls, next to the Amadorio riverbed, one can see the hanging balconies of the old houses.
The Western, or Poniente defensive wall is adorned with the colourful hanging balconies of the old houses, overlooking the Amadorio riverbed. The best viewpoint to adore these ‘Casas Colgantes’ or hanging houses is from the Puente Rio Amadorio, the bridge over the Amadorio river on the avenida de País Valencia.
The Levante defensive wall can best be explored when going down from the main road towards the sea via the ‘carrer Costera de la mar’
Enjoy the Villajoyosa beaches
Villajoyosa has a mild Mediterranean climate with lots of sunshine nearly all year round. Such excellent weather conditions make a visit to the beach even in winter time very attractive. Villajoysa is home to various beaches which never really get very crowded, apart from a few weeks in mid summer when Spanish holiday makers flock from the inland cities to the coast.
The main beach in Villajoyosa is la Playa Centro. This golden sandy beach stretches over 1300 metres along the city front until the colourful houses of the old town. Shade can be found between the various palm trees that decorate the beachfront. Various bars and restaurants are also dotted along the promenade of this Blue Flag beach.
Further to the southern and northern part of the town, various other smaller and unspoilt beaches can be found, some hidden by rocky outcrops. One beach that is worth mentioning is Racó del Conill. This official nudist beach is situated to the north of Villajoyosa and is small and secluded. The road to get to this beach is very narrow, so drive carefully. The view from the top just before reaching this beach makes the trip worthwhile. However, you may not visit the beach itself with your clothes on as nudity is obliged.
Walk the beach promenade
The main beachfront has a lovely promenade which runs from the harbour all the way to the old town stretching just over 1,2 km. Along the beachfront there are plenty of bars and restaurants to have a refreshment, eat some Spanish tapas or enjoy a dinner of some delicious Spanish food.
Stroll in the park along the Amadorio riverbed
Opened in 2010, the park in the riverbed of the Amadorio river is a true oasis. Most of the year the riverbed is dry, but when we visited there was a small trickle of water. It also has a playground and some training equipment. Looking up from the riverbed you see the colourful hanging houses built on the defensive walls of the old town. Down by the riverbed you have a good view of the bridge that connects the old part with the new part of the town.
Visit the chocolate museum of Valor Chocolates
Belgium is famous for its chocolate, so why would a Belgian visit a chocolate factory in Spain? Well, for the very reason that Villajoyosa has a rich history in the production of chocolate and the town is famous for its currently 3 chocolate factories. The museum tells the history of how chocolate was brought to Europe as well as the history of the Chocolates Valor. Started in 1881, the company still belongs to the same family and has been making chocolate ever since.
The museum also shows the evolution in the production process and machinery used from the beginning till recent times. Due to Covid-19, we could not enter the factory and were only allowed to see the final packaging part of the chocolate before entering the shop. And for chocolate lovers it will be very difficult to leave the shop without purchasing some of their delicious chocolate. We even decided to try the 99% chocolate.
With this chocolate, you can make your own authentic Spanish hot chocolate, perfect to have alongside some delicious churros.
The visit is free of charge and there are no less than 14 tours per day, both in English and Spanish language. More information about the schedule and timing can be found on their website.
Apart from the Valor museum, which is the largest and most famous, there are 2 other chocolate museums in town, Chocolates Perez and Chocolates Clavileño.
Fiestas de Moros y Cristianos
Every year in the last week of July the ‘fiestas de Moros y Cristianos’ takes place in Villajoyosa. It is the commemoration of the Christian victory over the Muslim conquerors who attacked a fleet in 1538. The Christians waited for the Moors on the beach and together with the support of neighbouring towns the attack was repelled. What makes this celebration so unique is the disembarkation on the beach in town, together with fireworks, music and processions.
Practical information for visiting Villajoyosa
Best time to visit Villajoyosa
Due to the temperate climate with little rainfall, the town of Villajoyosa is a year-round destination. However, in mid summer, especially during the month of August it can get very hot. During winter though, from the end of November until March, temperatures do drop together with the temperature of the seawater, but still nowhere near freezing. The best season to visit is during spring and autumn when there are less people, temperatures are comfortable so you can enjoy some mild, uncluttered beach time.
How to get to Villajoyosa
Villajoyosa is located in the communidad autonoma of Valencia or the Valencian community in the province of Alicante on the East coast of Spain. The closest main city is Alicante, a mere 32 km south of Villajoyosa and the international airport of Alicante is a short 50 km away, mostly all freeway. Benidorm is about 12 km north, Calpe 35 km and Denia 60 km, which is where some of the ferries to Mallorca and Ibiza depart and arrive.
When visiting by car, follow the AP-7 or the smaller N-332, either from Benidorm, Calpe or Denia from the north or Alicante from the south.
From both Benidorm and Alicante, Villajoyosa can also be reached by means of the TRAM. More information about time and schedules can be found on their website.