Roman Lucentum, Arab Medina Laqant
The city that saw me growing every summer for almost 20 years as my parents used to have a flat there; is always nice to return. Would not matter if I would return even every year as it is actually the current trend or even more than once; I do still enjoy it a lot, obviously for the beaches and for the memories that I have for so many years. To my personal opinion, the beaches here are by all means the best ones in Spain and even rank higher than many other beaches with a much more fancier name or location as Ipanema or Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, which are almost one to one to those you see in Alicante, or Boracay in the Philippines and Belize. Only missing are more palms, as for buildings and architecture, it is the same.
Truth is that the city itself is not very pretty as most Spanish cities tend to be. Instead the architecture is severely influence by the holiday boom which started from the 1960’s and in fact, many monstrosities were built occupying the place of beautiful 19th and 20th century buildings that once stood. Fortunately not all was lost and yet small, the old town still retains the old flair and beautiful blend of Moorish with Spanish architecture. After all, Alicante was one of the major Moorish cities back in the invasion times.
But something that won’t change is the weather. Humid and hot during the long summer, mild during the short winter months. If heading more to the north direction to Catalonia, the sea water turns colder; heading southwards direction of Andalusia, and the weather gets warmer. Alicante lies just in the middle, and benefits from this.
In the list below for what to see and do in Alicante I have also included some of the nearby villages which personally, are a must do should you be staying for longer than 2 days. As many people do and stay 1 or 2 weeks on holidays, it is something they all include in their plans and they clearly do well. Those places are very easy to reach, in short time and very cost efficient public transportation. Of course there are many more villages not along the coast precisely but towards the interior, very historical with strong Moorish influence and architecture, and even that I have been in pretty much all of them over the many years holidaying here, I could write and write on each of them which is not the appropriate case now. The list below concentrates mostly on the must visit coastal villages.
Alicante city itself is very compact and you can visit most of the sights on foot, but I would not recommend you climbing up Santa Barbara Castle on foot. You can of course, and would be free of charge this way, but with the summer heat upon you and the hundreds of steps up…I would think twice unless you want to ha a hard cardio session. The best way is by taking the lift for a small fee, or if you have a car, it is also free to enter if driving. The rest of city, the old town, is at the foot of the castle with very charming colourful streets and colourful houses; and farther ahead around it, the “newer” city, extension of late 19th and 20th centuries. The main Avenue crossing this area of the city is Maisonnave and now it is served by the newly opened underground tram section apart of the many buses. Very handy to move faster and save you from a bit longer walk along here.
In the night, all the areas around the old town and City Hall and harbor are thriving with terraces, bars and discos, yet during the day most of it remains closed. After all, people enjoys the day at the beaches, and go out later in the evening and night when temperatures drop.
For more information about Alicante check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Spain’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Alicante
- Santa Barbara Castle The sight number one in the city, the largest medieval fortresses in Spain built in the 9th when the city and whole region was under the Muslim rule. You have three options to reach the top; either by car where a car park lot is at the top and you will have to pay nothing to enter, by foot over a lengthy hike and hundreds of steps, also free; or by using the lift which is located at Juan Bautista Lafora Avenue for a fare of 3 Euros round trip. This is definitely the quickest and effortless way. From the top you will have great views of the entire city and well beyond, plus the Island of Tabarca, and on a very clear day you can see Ibiza Island.
- MARQ Museum of Archaeology Founded in the 1930s is now a large institution and the best museum with displays of archaeological sites findings in the region. Located on the northern side of the castle hill.
- Santa Cruz Neighborhood Right by the west side of the Castle is this very popular area among the tourists for the beautiful old houses all painted in different colors and with spots. Narrow bending streets also filled with flowers.
- Old Town Unfortunately not as big as once was though still retaining beautiful narrow streets and old buildings, many of them nicely refurbished.
-Town Hall Square One of the prettiest squares in the city is where you will find the City Hall, a 18th century Baroque style building among others around it.
-Basilica of Santa María In origins was a mosque while the current Gothic style building was built over it during the 14th and 16th centuries.
-Co-cathedral of Saint Nicholas of Bari Also built over a mosque during the 15th and 18th centuries. It is the main church in the city, and the bishop’s seat.
-Museum of Contemporary Art of Alicante Known by the acronym MACA is housed in the oldest civil building in the city, the baroque Casa de La Asegurada, dating from 1685.
-San Fernando Street Is one of the main streets cutting through the old town with many beautiful old buildings, running parallel to Paseo de la Explanada de España.
-Paseo de la Explanada de España Is the number one avenue in Alicante, the landmark sea promenade world famous for its mosaic paved marble floor, composed of over 6.5 million pieces in the form of waves. It runs all the way parallel to the port and up to the beginning of the Postiguet Beach.
- 19th Century Extension Surrounds the Old Town to the north and to the west, were broad avenues were built with elegant buildings. Unfortunately, not many of those grand buildings are left and instead 70s and 80s blocks occupy their space yet still there are key locations and important monuments around.
-Ramba de Mendez Nunez Is the main avenue running from Plaza Puerta del Mar by the sea front upwards to Maisonnave Avenue on the left edge of the Old Town.
-Maisonnave Avenue Is the main avenue cutting through the extension of the city all the way from near where the castle hill starts on the east to the west where the train station is. It’s the principal transport node and shopping area with nice roundabouts along the way.
-Central Market A beautiful Valencian art-nouveau style building housing the main city market where fresh vegetables, meat and fish arrive every day.
-Plaza de los Luceros Is the most monumental square along the avenue where the famous monument by Alicante artist Daniel Bañuls Martínez stands since 1930.
-Train Station Although much of it deformed from its original classic design, is still one of the most important railway stations in Spain.
- Beaches Probably the main reason why so many people come to Alicante on holidays. Those are regarded as some of the best in Spain, all blue flag for their cleanliness and safety yet still be careful when there are waves as strong currents do occur. Always pay attention at the color of the flag if either green (meaning totally safe for bathing), yellow (which is warning and precaution) or red (meaning currents and possible danger if you enter too far).
-Postiguet Beach Is the main beach of the city. Alicante is in fact one of the few big cities in Spain having a beach right in the city itself. Although nice it is packed during high season, plus it’s not too long therefore the space is limited.
-Albufereta A smaller and quieter beach than Postiguet located to the north. Easy to reach by bus 22 from Plaza Puerta del Mar for example or by tram.
-San Juan Beach To the north of Albufereta, at over 7 kilometers long it’s by all means the best one. Plenty of space even if high season, and plenty of areas, plus easily communicated by bus from the center of Alicante (bus 22 from Plaza Puerta del Mar for example), or by trams.
-El Campello Right after San Juan is this smaller beach and more crowded because of limited space yet very nice with nice promenade. Trams and light rail are the easiest and quickest way to get here.
-Calas Many small and quiet beaches can be found to the north of Campello in direction towards Benidorm. A bigger beach is that by Villa Joyosa before reaching Benidorm. All those can be access by light rail.
-Benidorm There are 2 great and long beaches, Levante and Poniente, but be aware they can get seriously packed in high season with barely space for a needle. At night in the other hand the sea promenades at both are a must see and do.
-Farther north After Benidorm the beaches get much more quiet any time of the year. To mention some nice are Altea, Javea and Denia, all of them reachable by light rail train.
- Other villages and cities by the coast Easily reachable by the light railway connecting through the center of Alicante which runs underground towards the north up to Benidorm, and farther to the north previous change to the diesel trains (although this will change once electrification upgrade of the line is implemented, meaning no need for change of trains), or by frequent buses. For anyone coming longer than 2 days to Alicante, visiting any of the beautiful Mediterranean villages are a must. To name the best ones from near to farther the city of Alicante are:
-Villa Joyosa (Vila Joiosa in Valencian) Famous for the beautiful colourful hanging houses at both sides of a gorge with a small river in the middle. Also featuring a Moorish castle and beautiful port and beach.
-Benidorm One of the most thriving cities in Spain, day and night, 365 days of the year. Terribly crowded during high season, much quieter during low season but always people and always party. The beaches are famous and the so called “castle” although nowadays no castle remains, it is the best viewing point in the city where to admire the impressive skyline. No wonder why the nicknames of “Beni York” and “Little New York”. The tallest apartment tower and tallest hotel in Europe are located here (as of September 2014).
-Altea Just minutes away to the north of Benidorm is perhaps, the most beautiful Mediterranean village in the region of Alicante. Perched on the hill is the ancient Moorish town, with all houses in white and blue roofs, quite similar to Santorini style.
-Calpe (Calp in Valencian) Is the next village after Altea, famous for the “Penyal de Ifach”, a large rock, part of the national park, with sharp large cliffs and great bird sanctuary. The views from the beach and port towards the rock are great known.
-Jávea (Xàbia in Valencian) Is the next village north, with nice beaches although not sandy anymore. Nearby are the famous Cap de Sant Antoni windmills.
-Denia Is the last village within Alicante region. Farther north is already the region of Valencia. There is a nice large sandy beach much quieter than any other at the previous villages.
- Tabarca Island A tiny island off the coast of Alicante where time seems stopped years ago. A small portion of the area is the walled village itself and the rest a protected wilderness. There are boats from the port of Alicante by the sea promenade, those are the Kon Tiki company, and will take around 1 hour to reach.
- Elche (Elx in Valencian) Included within the metropolitan area of the city of Alicante, and also in the name of the airport “Alicante-Elche” is world famous for having the largest palm forest in Europe, an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Alicante airport, named Alicante-Elche or El Altet is 10 kilometers to the south of the city center and easily communicated bus C6 which is a circle line connecting the most important areas of the city center like the Bus Station, Plaza Puerta del Mar, Central Market, Luceros Square and Train Station. With frequencies of a bus every 20 minutes taking 20 minutes to the city and for a cost of 1.25 Euros, is by all means the cheapest and most reliable way of moving to/from the airport. If arriving well in the night after the last buses depart, the only possible way is to take a taxi which cost between 20 and 25 Euros.
Arriving from anywhere in Spain is quick if by high speed train from Madrid or Barcelona, and of course any intermediate cities. Regional trains connect with Valencia to the north and Murcia to the south, with commuter trains linking the nearby metropolitan cities. A much longer travel time is by bus, although pretty much every regional capital city is linked to Alicante by bus.
Within the city, if just staying in Alicante and not moving elsewhere then you don’t need to take any public transportation. Distances are short and the old town small. You can easily walk the sea promenade and the whole length of the Postiguet Beach in short time. But if intending to go to the nicer beaches to the north such as San Juan Beach, then you can take buses or trams, being the later the easier if you are new to the city since only 1 or 2 lines head on that direction.
For any farther destination towards Benidorm or farther ahead, there is a light rail train all the way to Benidorm, where you need to change for a diesel train should you wish to continue farther up to the terminus at Denia.
Being one of the cities with the most amount of hotels and apartments in Spain, finding a good deal is notoriously easy but of course all depends on the area and most important, influenced by high and low season. As for any other place, during high season months it can be quite expensive because it is one of the most popular beach destinations in Spain for Europeans specially the English, French and Germans.
Also as mentioned, it really depends where you really want to stay, if in Alicante city itself, or at the many beach villages along the coast, north or south of Alicante. Benidorm for instance ranks number 1 in hotel rooms capacity in Spain, and only Paris and London surpass this number, although considering the enormous difference in size from Benidorm to the others, it is still the smallest city with the greatest number of hotels anywhere in the world.
Other more traditional villages are Denia, Javea, Altea and Villa Joyosa, all north of Alicante, while to the south there is Santa Pola or Torrevieja. All of them offering plenty of accommodation from luxurious hotels to apartments. Yet still, if your plans for visiting Alicante are just for a weekend or few more days, consider stay in the area around Alicante and commute from there to anywhere you like. The beach of San Juan will be the best bet to get accommodation since it’t the nicest and longest, just minutes away from the center of Alicante.
A good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engines such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms, Ebookers or TUI. Unfortunately there is not any specific property I could recommend since I’ve never been in the need of booking a hotel as we used to have a flat, and then every time I’ve returned and stayed at my friends. The only hotel I do personally know very well from the inside-out is the Melia by the port and Postiguet Beach. Still ranking as one of the top hotels in the city, but beware this won’t come cheap.
Album for the city of Alicante
Album for Calpe and Altea