The Grao of Castellón is a marine and port district of Castellón de la Plana (Spain), 4 km from the centre of the city, and with a history and celebrations that distinguish it from the capital of the Province of Castellon.
The discovery of Iberian and Roman remains along the coast confirms the hypothesis that the coast of El Grao Castellon has a historical tradition of a port of more than two thousand years antiquity.
During the centuries of Muslim domination it must also have been a trading port proven by the the construction of the Old Camino del Mar, ordered by King James I after his conquest of the region, to join Castellón with the coastal area of the Grao.
Commercial activity developed sine this time, as evidenced by various documents and remains. The first fishermen documented in the area was in 1398 and they resided in the parish Santo Tomas, located in the street Sculptor Viciano de Castellón, while the first census of the Grao as independent district dates back to 1865 with 428 inhabitants.
The Grao was originally formed by a series of ponds could not drain into the Mediterranean due to the Serradal, a sand bank that formed an elevation between the sea and the marshland, thus creating a large area of a marsh land. Since the nineteenth century it was attempted to drain this area in order to convert the land into n area for farming, and nowadays virtually the entire coastal strip is exploited not only for growing but also as a residential area.
The Pinar Tower: The Torre del Pinaret was very similar to the Tower of San Vicente de Benicassim, which is still preserved in good condition. Both towers also had two turrets on top, which can still be seen in the tower of Sant Vicent. The biggest difference between the two was that the tower in Benicàssim had stables that do not appear on the Pinar Tower. However, these stable blocks have now disappeared, so the current image of the tower of Benicàssim is even more similar to that of the present day Torre del Pinaret.
Nowadays the port is a thriving commercial and fishing port which has been developed over recent years to incorporate attractive port side boulevards, bustling restaurant lined squares and contemporary bar and cocktail terraces.
The area when entering from the roads leading from Castellón has a slightly scruffy aspect typical of a port area, however the redevelopment which continues has resulted in an attractive area for visitors and locals alike. The main leisure areas of the Port are La Plaza del Mar and El Puerto Azahar although there are many other bars and restaurants dotted around the portside streets of El Grao.
Plaza del Mar -Sea Square:The main hub of leisure activity of the Port, this square adjoins directly to the Yacht Club so it’s a good spot to watch the yachts entering and leaving the port as well as the occasional practice game of canoe polo, a kind of water polo but with canoes. The majority of the restaurants in this square, as you can imagine, are focused on fish and seafood with the fishing port being metres away.
El Puerto Azahar: is a modern development adjoining La Plaza de Mar combining landscaped portside boulevards, children’s play areas, an open air theatre, bars, restaurants, shops, a cinema and a Casino.
El Parque del Pinar – Pine Park:The park is over 2 km long and is divided into 2 parts, one open to the public and used for recreational purposes and the second area is a municipal golf course with 9 holes run by The Club de Golf Costa Azahar.
Located 20 minutes walk away from the Plaza del Mar the park has been at the centre of local life for hundreds of years when it was originally used as a source for firewood, now protected, it is a great place for picnics and family get togethers in the shade of the pine trees, it boasts areas to make paellas, picnic tables, a swimming pool, restaurant and the local authorities organize events for children, sporting cultural events especially during the summer months. Sundays are generally very busy and a great people watching occasion.
The Planetarium: well worth a visit, is situated at the beginning of the Parque Litoral – the Litoral Park just outside the main Port area.
Playa Del Pinar – Pine Beach:1.75 kilometres long – this is the ‘official’ beach of the Grao area. It is the nearest beach to the port area and in front of the Planetario de Castellón (The Castellón Planetarium). Apart from the large wide stretches of fine sandy beach, the area has been developed over the last few years and now incorporates El Parque Litoral, an attractive landscaped area of dunes, palms and sea grasses with winding walkways and large expanses of grassed areas. During summer the beach has shower facilities, sports zones (beach volley ball and football nets), children’s play areas and lifeguard services as well as various beach bars.This is very much a locals beach with the main tourist beaches towards Benicássim.
The Festivities of Saint Peter:The main fiestas of El Grao celebrate their Patron Saint, San Pedro, Sant Pere in the Valencian language, Saint Peter in English of course. They were established for the first time in 1956 by a group of locals in the café bar Tío Nasi, now the Restaurant Brisamar. The fiestas take place with the 29th June during the week and last for a week.
The Ports streets are full of colour & the whole district is a hive of activity and events during the week. During these fiestas apart from the usual drinking, dancing and partying other notable activities are; La Cabalgata del Mar – The Sea Parade, Bull Running, Traditional music, modern discos at night, processions and firework displays.
The main gastronomic events are the preparation & eating of Torrá de La Sardina, a traditional dish with its base being sardines cooked over wood and accompanied with bread & wine. Another interesting event is the cooking of paellas on the main street usually on the last Friday of the fiestas.
The Carnival: is a small local affair, never the less if you are in the area it’s well worth checking. In the Valencian language it is known as Carnestotles. The Carnival dates change due to the fact that they must correspond to the 7 Sundays before Easter Sunday, with this Sunday changing so do the Carnival dates.
The Carnival follows the traditional format with fancy dress processions, music, dancing, combined with plenty of drinking and eating. If you are going in fancy dress remember that at this time of year the nights can be very chilly to say the least.
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