The gateway to Spain’s Costa Blanca, Alicante is the second largest city in the Valencian Community with over 350,000 inhabitants. Dominated by the imposing Santa Barbara Castle that looks down on the city and its glitz marina, Alicante has until recently been overlooked in terms as a destination with most people just using its airport to get to Benidorm and other Costa Blanca resorts.
The city’s main attraction is its beautiful Explanada de España, a palm-fringed waterfront walkway made up of millions of tiny marble tiles all laid out to resemble the characteristics of ocean waves.
Devoid of foreign tourist Alicante’s beaches have a distinctly local flavour that encompasses the main city beach in the centre and the Playa San Juan in an upmarket neighbourhood just to the north of the city. The Old Town has plenty to offer the intrepid tourist with its Baroque architecture and narrow alleyways where you are sure to find an unassuming bar offering a menu del dia for less than 12€.
Quick Facts about Alicante
Here’s a few interesting tidbits of information about the city of Alicante:
Where is Alicante?
Alicante is located on the Mediterranean Sea in south-eastern Spain a one hour drive south of Valencia and 5 hours south of Barcelona.
History & Architecture in Alicante
With a history dating back 7,000 years to a time when hunter-gatherers moved south from central Europe, Alicante has played host to several civilizations that include Greeks, Phoenician’s, Romans and Moors. Following the Reconquista, Alicante became a battleground between the Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragon before becoming a major port exporting rice, olive oil, and fruit. With its newfound fortunes the city was constantly attacked by Barbary Pirates who had established a base for raiding Spain on the nearby island of Tabarca. During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) Santa Barbara Castle was occupied by the British until they were forced to leave after succumbing to French and Spanish troops. Being neutral during the First World War Alicante prospered up until the Spanish Civil War with the city being the last Republican stronghold to surrender to Franco’s forces.
Architecturally Alicante is a dream for aficionados of buildings and monuments that range from medieval castles to Gothic churches, Renaissance cathedrals and Modernist style. No matter where you wander in Alicante a surprise awaits around every corner.
How to get to Alicante
With Alicante/Elche Airport servicing Benidorm and all the other Costa Blanca resorts the airport welcomes millions of visitors a year from all over Europe. Flying from the UK takes just 2h 35m and has flights from nearly all major and regional airports in the UK. The airport is just 12 kilometres from downtown Alicante and has a dedicated bus service that runs on a loop 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, stopping at various points throughout the city. Alicante is also part of Spain’s high-speed rail network with regularly scheduled trains from Madrid and Barcelona.
When is the best time to visit Alicante?
Situated in a unique microclimate, Alicante makes for a perfect weekend break any time of year. If you are looking to take advantage of the beach time your visit between late May and the end of September is perfect.
Where to stay in Alicante
The city of Alicante is more of a commercial centre than a tourist destination and as such has a limited amount of places to stay. Saying that, however, there are some very nice hotels and pensions available. To really get a feel for the place and to be in the centre of all the action stay at the Hotel Hospes Amerigo.
Once a Dominican convent, the Hospes Amerigo is a 5-star beauty that just oozes Mediterranean charm. Located just 300 metres from Postiguet Beach and with stunning views of Santa Barbara Castle from its rooftop terrace, you would be hard put to find a better location anywhere in the city.
Things To Do in Alicante
To get a feel of how Alicante must have been years gone by, take a stroll around the Barrio de Santa Cruz and visit the Chapel of Santa Cruz and the Brotherhood of the Holy Cross.
For an insight into the various civilizations that settled in the area, the Archaeological Museum MARQ is a must see on anyone’s list of things to do while in Alicante as it will help you to understand how the city evolved over the centuries.
It’s hard to ignore the Castillo de Santa Barbara as it dominates the entire city perched on a hill overlooking the marina. You can get there by either walking, taking a bus, or using a lift located opposite Postiguet beach.
Spend the day on Tabarca Island a former base for Barbary Pirates that now has the distinction of being the smallest inhabited island in Spain. The waters around Tabarca are a marine reserve, making it an ideal place for snorkelling.