Villena’s location on a crossroads has forged its history and its rich heritage, the legacy of the Bronze Age peoples, the Moslem culture and the feudal lords, such as Don Juan Manuel, the author of Conde Lucanor, or the famous Marquises of Villena, the Pacheco family. To this must be added the extensive natural surroundings where visitors can enjoy numerous open-air activities, without forgetting the wines and traditional gastronomy inspired by the produce of its fertile soil. As a high-point, visitors can take part in the multitudinous celebrations of its fiestas and traditions, among which the Moors and Christians festival stands out.
VILLENA, AT THE CROSSROADS
Located at a prime site in the north-west of the province of Alicante, Villena sits at the crossroads between the Castilian plains and the east coast of Spain.
Villena has a very varied heritage to offer, one of the highlights being the 12th-century Atalaya Castle and its imposing keep with vaulted Almohad ceilings. This impressive fortress stands high above the historical city centre, declared a Site of Cultural Interest, with its narrow, colourful streets. Here we find the main square, the Plaza Mayor, the political and social hub of Villena throughout its history, and the 16th-century Churches of Santiago and Santa Maria. The former is one of the most important Gothic churches in the region, with its exceptional helicoidal columns, and the Church of Santa Maria was built on the site of the old main mosque.
The Sanctuary of the Virgin of Las Virtudes, an old Renaissance monetary dedicated to the patron of Villena, is also worth a visit. The city also has a range of museums, including the Festero Museum, dedicated to the Moors and Christians Festival in the city, the Navarro Santafe Museum, dedicated to the sculptor of works such as the “Oso y el Madroño” to be found in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid, and the unforgettable Jose Maria Soler Archaeological Museum. This museum is housed in the beautiful Renaissance palace of the City Hall and among its exhibits is the famous Treasure of Villena, which is over 3,000 years old and is the most important prehistoric treasure found anywhere in Europe.
Villena enjoys excellent connections with the main neighbouring cities, thanks to the fact that the Vinalopo Valley has historically been a route of passage between the coast of Alicante and the plains of inland Spain. This is why it was chosen for the new high-speed train station, to which must be added the station on the Valencia-Alicante line. Furthermore, Villena is also on the A-31 Madrid-Alicante highway with a link to the A-35, which connects Madrid with Valencia. Alicante Airport, one of the leading domestic airports in Spain, is only 30 minutes away.
Villena has a vibrant cultural life, headed by the Moors and Christians Festival, held from 4 to 9 September, and which is the most participatory of its kind in Spain, with around 12,000 persons taking part in the fabulous processions, a grandiose spectacle of light, music, colour and fireworks which can be enjoyed both day and night. In mid-March, the historical city centre relives its mediaeval past when the people decorate their houses and dress up in period costume. This is the Mediaeval Festival, with a surprising programme of entertainment and a great mediaeval market. There are also more recent events, such as the famous summer festival, ¡Aupa Lumbreiras!, and the Muestra Villena, a fair with exhibitors, shops, exhibitions and many more activities, held in September.
Villena also has leading cultural centres, such as the Chapi Theatre, a monumental building of the early 20th-century dedicated to the renowned zarzuela composer from Villena, Ruperto Chapi, and which is today one of the most active theatres in the Region of Valencia, and the Casa de la Cultura, with exhibitions, talks and events, as well as cinema and theatre. Another outstanding venue is the Plaza de Toros, the bullring, which dates back to the early 20th century, and is one of the few bullrings to be found in the province. As well as many leading bullfighters, it has received famous visitors, including the American Nobel prize-winner, Ernest Hemingway.The ring was refurbished in 2011 to be able to host any kind of show.
The gastronomy of Villena mixes the traditions of the Mediterranean and La Mancha. As well as dishes such as gazpacho manchego (bread with a meat stew), arroz y pata (rice with meat) and trigo picao (a rice, bean, meat and vegetable stew), there are succulent delicacies like the zarangollo (vegetable stew), cured sausages, pelotas de relleno (spiced meatballs) and the simple, delicious gachamiga (a flour and garlic tortilla). All these dishes can be found in any of our many restaurants and bars.
When the good weather arrives, it is time to enjoy our street cafes and local tapas, such as the beans or the delicious snails, local delicacies that must not be missed. And do not forget to visit our bakeries to enjoy the tastiest traditional sweets: sequillos (baked doughnuts), rollicos de vino (wine-flavoured cakes) and almendrados (almond shortbread), accompanied by liqueurs like cantueso (thyme-flavoured), herbero (camomile, cat tail, sage, fennel, thyme), anise or the exclusively autochthonous Kataki (a sweet anise). Villena is the city with the highest number of wineries in the province, with wines made from grape varieties including the autochthonous Monastrell, as well as Fondillon, the most famous wine ever made in Alicante. All this has earned the city’s inclusion in the Alicante Wine Route, where visitors can enjoy the best in eno-tourism in our bodegas and restaurants.
If you are here for shopping, Calle Corredera, Calle Joaquin Maria Lopez and Avenida de la Constitucion offer great variety where you can find, among other things, the famous Villena footwear, with a long, high quality tradition. Since the 13th century, Villena has held a market every Thursday. And as well as all this, you can also visit one of the artisan workshops preparing for the Moors and Christians Festival, where you can see first-hand the process of creation of these fabulous costumes.