Love them or hate them, the out-of-town commercial centre is here to stay. Their presence in Spain has gradually increased over the past ten years. They do have their advantages. You can leave your car in one place whilst you browse amongst all the major high street shops. Parking is easy and usually free and in some cases it can be the saving grace on a rainy day when you have visitors who need entertaining.
However, they have their down side too. Out-of-town centres have drained the reserves of the town centre itself and have undermined the feasibility of the local shop. What is perhaps most unfortunate about commercial centres in Spain is that they all seem to have the same shops. In spite of the size and the increasing number, variety is limited.
However, each commercial centre does have its strengths and weaknesses. In this article we review some of the main ones in the Costa Blanca South.
This is one of the smaller of the ‘large’ commercial centres in the region. However, it contains a good variety of the major stores and shopping there can be leisurely and enjoyable. The top floor houses a number of cafés and restaurants and provides good views across the surrounding area.
Habaneras is located close to other leisure facilities including a sizeable bowling alley, cinema and additional restaurants, facilities and shops that are immediately adjacent. This means you are not just stuck in the centre and there is more to explore within close walking distance.
The centre is open on Sundays and bank holidays and provides various promotional events at different times of the year.
There is no roof to the centre so it isn’t a good option if it’s been chucking it down. The growth of Zenia Boulevard a little further out of town has drawn trade away and one or two shops have closed as a result. However, most of the main shops remain and it continues to be a very relaxing day out.
Location: Torrevieja-Crevillente CV-905, accessible from the N332
Size: More than 60 shops
Main shops: Aki, forum sport, Zara, H&M, C&A, Mango, Massimo Dutti, Guess, Decimas, Intersport, Jack Jones, Pull & Bear, Bershka, Marypaz, Di Marco
Opening times: 10 am to 10 pm Monday to Sunday (low season) 10 am to 11 pm Monday to Sunday (high season) It is open bank holidays excluding the 1st and 6th January, 1st May and 25th December
Accessibility: Free car parking below the centre on two levels and outside parking adjacent to the centre shared with Carrefour.
Zenia Boulevard is perhaps the last to join the family of commercial centres. For a newcomer it has quickly attracted a lot of regular customers and it is easy to see why. It offers all the advantages of the older commercial centres but has branched out into being a family venue where window shopping really can be an enjoyable experience.
There is quite a sense of a family day out here. A stage in the centre of the complex provides a focus for regular entertainments including live music. There are a number of added extras for children and a recreational area upstairs includes plenty of activities that younger members of your crew can enjoy. There is a small bowling alley within the centre and a casino close to it.
The centre is so situated that from certain points you have clear views of the sea. There are a large number of restaurants on the top floor which offer a range of different types of food often at set menu prices. In the winter they have had a small outside ice skating rink which provides a slightly different addition to a shopping day out. In the summer children love to jump between the fountains of water that jet out of the floor.
Again, there is no roof on the centre so it’s not an alternative when the beach is rained off. It can be a little complicated to access if you don’t know where you are going, but once you’re familiar with its location this isn’t a problem. In spite of its size the shops, by and large, are what you would expect to access in all the big shopping centres. Overall, it’s the same but bigger!
Location: The centre is located in the Orihuela Costa close to La Zenia and Punta Prima. It can be easily accessed via the N332
Size: 150 shops
Main shops: Primark, Alcampo, Leroy Merlin, Decathlon, Media Markt, Zara, H&M, C&A, Massimo Dutti, Benetton, Adidas, Santos Ochoa and many more
Opening times: Monday to Sunday 10.00 am to 10.00 pm (winter hours) 10.00 am to 11.00 pm (summer hours) Open everyday except for 25th December, 1st and 6 January. Shops and restaurants do vary so it is a good idea to check the website if you’re not sure.
Accessibility: There is extensive free parking both within the complex and outside. It can get a little chaotic at peak times but overall there are plenty of places to park.
Located on the outskirts of Murcia, this is another large commercial centre that has the additional advantage of being undercover. That said, the biggest challenge can be ensuring that you get the right motorway exit to reach it.
We’ve said it already. It’s undercover so proves to be a very good alternative if the weather is inclement and you’re stuck for something to do. It also hosts one or two extra shops including an ‘Apple’ store, Disney Store and Mothercare. If you do get bored or don’t find what you want then you are not very far away from another commercial centre, Thader, which is literally across the road and where you will find IKEA too. http://www.thader.net/
It doesn’t have the same family feel as Zenia Boulevard and its layout doesn’t really encourage much of an atmosphere. It hasn’t got the views or the setting, but then if it’s pouring with rain you’re not too concerned about that anyway.
It’s also not open as often as some of the other commercial centres. It is closed Sunday and bank holidays.
Location: It can be reached from the A7 motorway and is located on the outskirts of Murcia town centre. On the other side of the motorway is the Thader commercial centre with IKEA very close by.
Main shops: Adidas, Apple Store, Benetton, C&A, Décimas, Disney Store, Primark, Desigual, Fnac, Foot Locker H&M, Media Markt, Mothercare
Opening times: 10.00am until 10.00pm Mondays to Saturdays (closed Sundays) You would be advised to check the website around holiday times.
Accessibility: Plenty of free car parking space – but can be easy to miss the turning from the motorway
L’Aljub is one of the older commercial centres (2003) and can be found outside Elche about 20 kilometres from Alicante. It probably doesn’t provide anything different to the other commercial centres but will be a better location for some. It is close to El Corte Inglés and Salvador Artesano which provide a slightly different shopping experience. El Corte Inglés is a very popular department store than can be found in many of the main cities in Spain. Salvador Artesano is reputed to be the biggest shoe shop in the world.
It has the advantage of being a covered shopping centre so makes a good alternative when it’s pouring with rain. It has a cinema onsite and is open at peak times in the run up to Christmas. It is a comfortable size and has all the main shops that you would expect from a commercial centre. It prides itself on its strong ties with the local area and collaborates in cultural activities and sporting events.
It’s not always open on a Sunday. This would have been the norm a few years ago but in this part of Spain with tourist areas so close, it is normal now for commercial centres to be open every day including bank holidays.
Location: L’Aljub is on the outskirts of Elche.
Size: It has 120 shops spread over 60,000 m2
Main shops: Includes Eroski, H&M, Sport Zone, Desigual, Gerry Weber, Primark, Pull and Bear, Zara, Swatch, Décimas,
Opening times: From 10.00am until 10.00pm Monday to Saturdays, although it is open some Sundays during the year for example, around Christmas and sales times. For details, access the website.
Accessibility: With 3,200 free car parking spaces available, car parking isn’t a problem. There is no direct access from a motorway and you will need to check your route a little more carefully before setting out.
This is one commercial centre that is located very close to the city centre of Alicante. This centre is also one of the older centres and as such hasn’t perhaps got quite the level of attraction and added extras as some of the others.
However, Gran Via is undercover and contains most of the major shops you would expect. It has leisure zones and a cinema complex with plenty of free parking. On its website it has a rather nice interactive plan with shops that ‘pop up’ as you click on them. However, it would be good if their opening times were more clearly outlined too.
If you are not familiar with the area it can be difficult to find this commercial centre as you come out from Alicante. In some respects it can be easier to access straight from the motorway.
There are fewer shops than you might expect from some of the newer commercial centres. With one floor taken up by the cinema, another by restaurants and places to eat, shopping can seem relatively thin on the ground.
Location: On the outskirts of Alicante town centre.
Size: Around 100 shops
Main shops: Carrefour, Foot Locker, H&M, Massimo Dutti, Marypaz, Primark, Stradivarius,
Opening times: Monday to Saturday 10.00am until 10.00pm, Sunday 12.00 until 10.00 pm
Accessibility: It has plenty of free car parking spaces. It is quite difficult to find if you don’t know your way around and you’re coming from Alicante. It’s at the top of the hill, as long as you are travelling upwards you are probably on your way there.
For a video introduction to some of these shopping centres you can watch this YouTube video from Eurotourguide. It gives you a good overview, just be aware that some changes have taken place since it was made. For example, the casino which it refers to by Habaneras is now located by Zenia Boulevard.