In the southeast corner of Spain, the small city of Elche in the province of Alicante is famous for the UNESCO-inscribed Palmeral of Elche, a 10th-century manmade oasis that boasts some 45,000 date palms spread out between 67 orchards. But the Palmeral oasis is far from the only wonder the medieval Arab inhabitants of Elche left behind. Nestled in the city’s center, buried underground is an elaborate medieval bath complex known as the Arab Baths (Baños Árabes) or Hammam.
While it’s not the only bath complex in Elche, the Arab Baths (built around 1150) are the most remarkable and important in the city, situated close to the medieval mosque and main gate of the town. Today, the baths are located beneath the La Merced Convent (or “Convento de la Merced”), which Clarissa nuns occupied until the city moved the sisters into a new convent in 2004.
Since the 13th century, the baths have been repurposed many times. Most recently, the sisters housed a convent store and storage room in the medieval baths. Despite this, the bath themselves have remained remarkably unaltered and are a rare architectural example of Islamic public buildings from the former Islamic territory of Al-Andalus.
Know Before You Go
Tuesday to Saturday, from 10:00 to 14:00 and from 15:00 to 18:00. Sundays and holidays, from 10:00 to 14:00. Closed Monday. General admission 1 Euro / Free entry on Sundays.
The entrance to the Arab Baths is through the Eres de Santa Llúcia promenade via the convent. Don't forget to visit the convent patio!