Before we begin: The town of Peniscola can be spelt in 3 ways. Peniscola (English), Peñiscola (Valencian) and Peñíscola (Spanish). I am using the Valencian spelling in this article because that is what people are searching on Google for, and if I want to tell the story of La Casa de las Conchas Peñiscola, I have to make sure people can find me!
So let’s begin!
La Casa de las Conchas Peñiscola | A Love Letter to the Sea
When I visited Peñiscola recently, I was eager to visit one of the seaside town’s biggest curiosities – La Casa de las Conchas, or the ‘House of Shells.’
Going to see this peculiar little house is often cited as one of the main things to do in Peñiscola, and while most tourists simply stop, take a photograph and move on, I was curious to know more about the story behind La Casa de las Conchas Peñiscola.
However, when I started to research it, I was surprised at how little information is available online – most travel blogs just give it the briefest of mentions and continue on, despite the fact that actually, Peñiscola’s House of Shells tells a story of love, the emergence of tourism, and one family’s dedication to their dream.
La Casa de las Conchas Peñiscola
Just inside the walls of Peñiscola’s medieval old town, perched 64m high and surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea sits an unusual building.
Unlike every other building in the town, painted white with blue shutters like a Grecian dream, this one is decorated from top to bottom with sea shells, giving it a magical appearance. Indeed, my first thought when I saw it was wow, this looks like a mermaid’s house!
With its turquoise doors, arabesque windows and beautiful flowers and plants potted in pots covered in shells, La Casa de las Conchas is one of the most unusual houses I’ve seen, not to mention an Instagram influencer’s dream.
But what is the reason behind this unique façade? Is the house a museum? Does somebody live there? Why is it the only house in Peñiscola to be decorated this way?
The Story Behind La Casa de las Conchas Peñiscola
It all started back in the 50s when, due to an economic downturn, a married couple, Timoteo and Justa realised that they would have to look for different jobs in order to support themselves and their family of three children, Agustín, Gloria, and Joaquín.
Seeing that tourists were just beginning to discover Peñiscola, Justa took it upon herself to learn the history of every corner of this little town, educating tourists about it in exchange for tips, making her the first ever tour guide that Peñiscola had seen.
Slowly but surely, a steady income began to trickle in, and so Timoteo and Justa bought a plot of land and decided to build a three-storey house to live in. Due to their love for Peñiscola and the sea, they decided to decorate the entire façade of the house with shells native to Peñiscola, acquiring the shells by giving the local sailors tobacco in exchange for the best shells that they could find!
They also paid homage to Papa Luna or Pope Benedict XIII, who lived in Peñiscola castle in the 1400s, by featuring a coat of arms in his honour, as well as stunning blue arabesque windows.
And so, by 1961, La Casa de las Conchas was born.
As soon as La Casa de las Conchas was finished, Justa cemented her reputation as the only tour guide in Peñiscola by opening Peñiscola’s first ever souvenir shop, right in front of the house.
La Casa de las Conchas Peñiscola | Final Thoughts
While most tourists visit La Casa de las Conchas just to take a selfie in front of its elegant façade, the house becomes all the more special when you take into account that, thanks to the love and determination of one woman, the sleepy fishing village of Peñiscola was well and truly put on the map, and now, 60 years later, La Casa de las Conchas is still one of the main attractions in Peñiscola.
So, if you find yourself visiting Peñiscola, don’t skip La Casa de las Conchas!
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