The magic of cinema has once again transformed the castle of Santa Barbara in Alicante. This time, in the palace of King Herod. The production company Monarch Media has been commissioned to produce the international blockbuster “Journey to Bethlehem”, a musical that promises to become a new Christmas classic. A director with high expectations and a group of talented young stars are shaping this musical, along with award-winning actor Antonio Banderas from Malaga.
Alicante Film Office has played a key role in the management of the castle so that the castle could host this filming. This initiative is part of the Tourist Board’s strategy to promote Alicante as an attractive setting for film and television productions, with the aim of promoting the city and generating economic activity throughout the year.
Santa Barbara Castle: from Greek temple to Roman palace
“Road to Bethlehem” tells the story of the birth of Jesus through an exciting musical suitable for the whole family, where Antonio Banderas plays the role of King Herod. He is joined by Fiona Palomo, known for her role in the Netflix series “Control Z”, as the Virgin Mary, and Milo Manheim, known for his role in the Disney Channel film “Zombies”, as Saint Joseph. Filming is being directed by Adam Anders, who is making his directorial debut, but already has experience from his work on the production of such hits as the musical “The Prom” (2020), starring Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, as well as his work on the legendary “Glee” (2009-2015).
The castle of Santa Bárbara was chosen for this filming because it is an imposing fortress, towering over the city, offering panoramic views of the entire bay of Alicante. During the filming of “Camino a Belén”, both the interior facilities – the Philip II hall and the dungeons – and the exteriors of the castle were used.
Exteriors of the castle of Santa Barbara / Alicante Film Office
Another curious detail about this musical is that this journey to Bethlehem also stops in Almeria, specifically in the finca El Chorrillo, in the Sierra de Alhamilla. This place also has a long tradition of superproductions, in 2014 Ridley Scott filmed “Exodus” and in 2016 “Assassins Creed” and “Game of Thrones” were filmed. Now these sets have been recovered and restored to represent Palestine in the 1st century.
Although its original construction dates back to the Andalusian period, Santa Bárbara has undergone several extensions and restorations. Today the building is still very much alive as the castle has been transformed into a cultural centre of interest. Concerts, KM 0 gastronomic experiences and thematic events take place inside the castle on weekends. In addition to these special activities, guided and dramatised tours are offered to explore the history of the site and the city. It also houses the Museum of the City of Alicante (MUSA), where you can learn more about local history. For more information on how to enjoy an extraordinary day at this fortress, don’t hesitate to visit the official website of the Castillo de Santa Bárbara.
But this is not the castle’s premiere as a film set. Perhaps few remember that this was the home of Count Dracula himself. In 1970, the Madrid director Jesús Franco filmed “Count Dracula” here, one of the most faithful adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel, starring the incomparable Christopher Lee, the actor who has played the character most often in the history of cinema. The same director returned in 1972 to shoot “Dracula vs. Frankenstein”, a production that was a tribute to the classic horror films of the 1940s produced by Universal, in which the stories of Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man were intertwined.
In 2008, it was used as the setting for the film “Asterix at the Olympic Games”, an international production with such well-known actors as Gerard Depardieu, Alain Delon, Elsa Pataky and Santiago Segura, among others. For this occasion, the exterior of the castle was transformed into a Greek temple.
Continuing with the most recent successes, in 2020 the castle was the setting for the miniseries “Dime quién soy”, a production based on Julia Navarro’s novel of the same title that takes us back to the Second World War and the beginnings of Franco’s regime. On this occasion, the castle became the headquarters of the Nazi occupation, decorated with party flags and Wehrmacht trucks.
So, from Dracula’s abode to Greek temple to Nazi headquarters to Herod’s palace, Santa Barbara Castle has proved to be a versatile and unique set.
Alicante, city of cinema
Alicante offers much more than its castle, bringing together many other ingredients to experience a few days of film. We invite you to discover the city through different eyes, with the help of the most famous filming locations the city has hosted.
The picturesque Barrio de Santa Cruz at sunset / Alicante Film Office
The whole of the old town, in the Santa Cruz district and at the foot of Mount Benacantil, forms a beautiful network of small streets, with whitewashed houses. A good place to start your visit is the Town Hall, an imposing baroque building. Ridley Scott used it in “The Counselor” (2013).
Behind the town hall, you will find one of the most picturesque squares in the city, the Santísima Faz. John Irvin transformed it into a picturesque village on the French Riviera for the filming of “The Garden of Eden” (2008).
Very close by, the Teatro Principal is an excellent place to spend the evening, which will also allow you to see first-hand one of the locations chosen for filming “Camilo superstar”, the biopic about Camilo Sesto that Atresmedia is preparing.
Without leaving the centre, head for the Central Market. This is a building with modernist elements, which has been one of the locations for a peculiar film by director Ramón Margareto, entitled “Bollywood made in Spain” (2015). From there, you can head to the port along Rambla Méndez Núñez, one of the city’s main streets and one of the most recognisable settings for the new Amazon Prime series, entitled “Sin huellas” (2023) by Zeta Estudios. It is a Spanish thriller with humorous overtones and social criticism set in Alicante.
The Esplanade of Spain is the most iconic promenade in the city / Alicante Film Office
Once in the port, you will find yourself at one of the most important points of your visit to the city. It is a very old port, of Carthaginian origin, where small fishing boats coexist with luxurious pleasure boats. This is where a large part of the city’s leisure activities are concentrated, as well as being the setting for the new RTVE and À Punt series “La ley del mar”, starring Luis Tosar and Blanca Portillo. The series tells the story of the controversial rescue in 2016 of a boat of immigrants by the Santa Pola fishing boat “Francisco y Catalina”.
As you can see, Alicante has a lot to offer screen tourists, from its most emblematic locations to its excellent gastronomy and magnificent beaches. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience what you see and discover Alicante through the magic of cinema.
By Víctor Cervello
Barcelona, 14th century. Sailors, harbour waiters and other inhabitants of the Ribera district decide to build a temple to compete with the great Gothic capitals of the time. This is the plot of Ildefonso Falcones' novel "La catedral del mar". As building a cathedral...
Who hasn't fantasized about leaving the city for the countryside? Isabel Coixet presents us with this possibility in "Un amor", her latest film about the process of personal reinvention experienced by Laia Costa. Although the idea of a new beginning away from the...
The inhabitants of Mundaka boast about their left wave. And no wonder, because it is considered the best wave in Europe in this category. We are talking about surfing, of course, as this small fishing village offers us a unique image of the sea rising up in front of...
In recent years Galicia has become a leading film set as well as a powerful television studio. Prime-time series have reinvented some of the local scenery for filming. The local scenery also reigns supreme as tourist destinations, with more and more visitors coming...
Is Asturias a mystery lover’s paradise? If we take a look at the films and series shot there in recent years, it seems that the answer is emphatically yes. The mountains, the isolated villages, the solitary manor houses, the grey skies, and the constant rain are all...