ALICANTE Spain

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Alicante (Valenciano: Alacant) sits on Spain’s Mediterranean coast and boasts one of the country’s best climates all year round. Due to the great quality of life that Alicante offers, the city has a large expat community which accounts for almost 25% of the population! Although Alicante is not very large, it has one of Spain’s busiest airports. It saw more than 15 million passengers in 2019 who flock to the Costa Blanca to enjoy its endless beaches.

But you don’t have to go far to get your feet wet since the city even has its own beach (Postiguet) and nearby is the famous Playa de San Juan where most of the beachfront resorts can be found. Alicante itself has a beautiful waterfront promenade known as the Explanada de España, the hilltop castle of Santa Barbara, the charming old town of Santa Cruz, the bustle of the city center and lots of nightlife. Check out our list below of the top things to do in Alicante and our recommendations for the rest of the coast.

Top 5 things to do in Alicante

1

SANTA CRUZ NEIGHBORHOOD

Visiting the Barrio Santa Cruz is one of the top things to do in Alicante
Barrio Santa Cruz - One of the top things to do in Alicante

Stretching across the hillside below the Santa Barbara castle stands the Santa Cruz neighborhood, the most bohemian and picturesque quarter in the city.

Barrio Santa Cruz is very different from the rest of Alicante. It is made up by narrow winding streets and 2-story white buildings with colorful flowerpots, maintaining an authentic small village vibe. Locals know it as simply “el barrio” (the neighborhood), Barri Vell or Barri Santa Creu.

Views of the Santa Barbara Castle from the Santa Cruz neighborhood, Alicante
Views of the Santa Barbara Castle from Santa Cruz

Get lost wandering its charming streets and make sure to visit the Villavieja Street, which was the main axis of the Alicante medieval. On it you will discover the MACA (Contemporary Art Museum of Alicante) and the Basílica de Santa María (free access). The basilica is actually the oldest church in the city. It was built in the 14th century over Alicante’s main mosque.

During the month of May, Santa Cruz is taken over by a multitude of crosses made of fresh flowers to cerebrate the famous “Cruces de Mayo” (May Crosses) festival.

For all these reasons, we think visiting Barrio Santa Cruz is one of the top things to do in Alicante.

2

EXPLANADA DE ESPAÑA

Explanada de España, one of the absolute top things to do in Alicante
Explanada de España, one of the top things to do in Alicante
© Dreamstime

Any visit to Alicante wouldn’t be complete without going for a stroll along its iconic Explanada de España. Running along the oceanfront, this lovely palm lined promenade features a beautiful mosaic floor made up by over 6 million pieces!

The iconic palm lined promenade of Explanada de España in Alicante, Spain
The iconic palm lined promenade of Explanada de España

A building that stands out particularly at the Explanada is the impressive Casa Carbonell. This residential mansion was built in a beaux arts inspired style between 1922-25 and has become a local landmark. Although it isn’t open to visitors, simply admiring it from the outside is worth it.

3

POSTIGUET BEACH

Alicante's Postiguet Beach (Playa del Postiguet) with the Santa Barbara Castle in the background
Alicante's Postiguet Beach with the Santa Barbara Castle in the background

Although not the longest (600m) in the city, Playa del Postiguet is the closest beach to Alicante’s center. You can walk to this beach from the old town in under 10 minutes! As such, it is also very popular and, without a doubt, visiting it is one of the top things to do in Alicante.

Postiguet Beach is frequented by both locals and tourists, from young to old, but also particularly families with children due to its tranquil crystalline waters.

There is always a lively atmosphere at this beach, which has all facilites and amenities you might think of as well as a variety of beach bars and restaurants. The port is also very close.

If you want more fun and sun during your holidays, check out the section beaches around Alicante below.

EXTRA TIP

If you want to go for a boat ride while in Alicante, check out this 3-hour coastal catamaran cruise with snorkeling.

BOOK TRAIN, BUS & FLIGHT TICKETS
4

SANTA BARBARA CASTLE

The Santa Barbara Castle with the city of Alicante at its feet, Spain
The Santa Barbara Castle with the city of Alicante at its feet

The Castillo de Santa Bárbara (free access) is a symbol of the city and one of the top things to do in Alicante. It is located atop the Benacantil Mountain, 166m above sea level, at a strategic defensive position.

The castle was originally built by the Moors in the 9th century. Although the Castilian forces captured it in 1248, the Moors took over once again and it wasn’t finally conquered by the Aragonese until 1296. Throughout the centuries, it suffered damages and went through renovations and expansions. During the Spanish civil war, for example, it was used as a detention center.

FUN FACT

The side of the mountain where the Santa Barbara Castle stands is locally known as “the Moor’s face” (la cara del moro), because it resembles the shape of a face! Although it can be admired from some parts of the city center, the best spot to look at it is the Postiguet beach.

Today, it is possible to enjoy great views over the city from the castle. It is especially beautiful at sunset.

Gorgeous views of the city of Alicante and its coastline from the Castillo de Santa Barbara
Gorgeous views of the city and its coastline from the Castillo de Santa Barbara

The Castillo de Santa Barbara also houses the city museum, known as MUSA (Museo de la Ciudad de Alicante) (free access). The museum is divided in five rooms of permanent exhibition about the history of Alicante.

HOW TO GET TO THE SANTA BARBARA CASTLE

There are several options to get to the Castillo de Santa Barbara. You can get there on foot, using the elevator in Avenida Juan Bautista Lafora (in front of the Postiguet beach), by microbus from the Plaza Gomez Ulla (in front of the MARQ museum) or by taxi (5-10€ from the city center). Note that passengers can be dropped off at the castle, but cars aren’t allowed to park at the top.

Another great option to visit the castle is taking part in the Seven Secrets of Alicante Discovery Tour, which apart from the castle, will give you a great overview of Alicante’s most important monuments.

5

SANTISIMA FAZ SQUARE & TOWN HALL

The charming Santisima Faz Square, one of the top things to do in Alicante, Spain
The charming Santisima Faz square, one of the top things to do in Alicante

Alicante’s town hall, also known as Palacio Municipal de Alicante, occupies a beautiful Baroque building from the 18th century in the heart of the city.

During some renovation works, the ruins of a medieval city were discovered under it. Today they are exhibited under the name “Alicante la ciudad descubierta” (free entrance, Mon-Fri: 9 am - 2 pm). Access is done through a modern building annexed to the town hall.

Alicante's city hall also known as Palacio Municipal, Spain
Alicante's city hall also known as Palacio Municipal

Another interesting fact is that the city hall’s staircase is Spain’s “cota cero,” the exact point used to measure the height above sea level anywhere in Spain.

Right behind the town hall is the Santisima Faz Square, a charming plaza with large trees and a variety of bars and restaurants. There is always a great atmosphere at this square, together with the adjacent Calle Mayor (Main Street).

More things to see in Alicante

6

CENTRAL MARKET

Colorful florists shops next to Alicante's Central Market
Florists shops next to Alicante's Central Market

Alicante’s central market occupies a beautiful modernist building erected around 1911-12 on top of the defensive wall that previously surrounded the city. It is open from Monday to Saturday from 7am til 2:30pm and offers a large variety of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, sweets, etc.

This market was, however, the scenario of a very tragic event during the Spanish Civil War. On May 25th 1938, one of the deadliest aerial bombings of the war took place here, killing between 300 and 400 people.

To this day the square behind the market is named after the date of the bombing (Plaza del 25 de mayo) in remembrance of the traumatic events. Today, however, it is a beautiful and lively square, framed by the market itself, a colorful row of florist shops and a lovely outdoor café.

EXTRA TIP

If you are interested in learning more about the local gastronomy (and savoring it!), we recommend you to take part in this Alicante: Secret Flavors Food and Tapas Tour.

7

CARRER CASTAÑOS

The lively Carrer Castaños in Alicante's city center
The lively Carrer Castaños in Alicante's center

Calle Castaños or Carrer Castaños is one of the main pedestrian streets in Alicante’s city center. It’s famous for its bustling atmosphere, always full of groups of friends occupying the terraces of the many bars, restaurants and pubs on it.

Carrer Castaños is a super lively street pretty much all day long: from lunchtime til late at night. However, it’s particularly known for its vibrant nightlife.

Other bustling streets in the area are Rambla Méndez Núñez, Calle San Isidro, Calle Mayor, Plaza de la Santísima Faz and around the co-cathedral of San Nicolas.

8

PORT

Historic vessel moored in Alicante's port, Spain
Historic vessel moored in Alicante's port
© Dreamstime

Throughout history, the sea has been very important for Alicante, not only economically, but also culturally and strategically. As such, the city is home to a large port with commercial (transport of goods and passengers) as well as fishing and recreational activities.

While in Alicante, make sure to go for a stroll along the harbor, checking out the local fishing boats and some impressive yachts. The port is also home to a variety of inviting bars and restaurants. This is a particularly great area to enjoy a drink at sunset.

Located in Alicante’s port is also The Ocean Race Museum (free access) which is dedicated to competitive sailing. In this interactive museum visitors learn first-hand about the maritime world, intrepid sailors and the history of the regatta.

9

CO-CATHEDRAL OF SAN NICOLAS

Impressive interior of the Co-cathedral of San Nicolas – Alicante, Spain
Impressive interior of the Co-cathedral of San Nicolas

The Concatedral de San Nicolás (free access) is Alicante’s most famous religious temple. It is located in the city center, very close to the town hall and the Carrer Castaños.

The Co-cathedral of San Nicolas was built in the 17th century over the remains of a medieval temple that was most definitely a mosque.

On the exterior, the Concatedral de San Nicolás is characterized by its 45-m high blue dome and its austere Renaissance facade. Its large interior features Gothic (cloister) and Baroque (chapels) styles. The temple is also home to an impressive 16th century organ which is one of the oldest in all of Spain.

10

MACA (CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM)

Exterior of Alicante's Contemporary Art Museum in the Santa Cruz neighborhood
Exterior of Alicante's Contemporary Art Museum

Alicante’s Contemporary Art Museum (free access) is also known as MACA (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Alicante) and was opened in 2011. It occupies a beautiful Baroque building from 1685 at the base of the Santa Cruz neighborhood, right next to the Basílica de Santa María.

It houses a permanent collection of 20th century art with works from Chillida, Picasso, Dalí, Miró, and more.

11

MUBAG (FINE ARTS MUSEUM GRAVINA)

The MUBAG or Museum of Fine Arts Gravina (free access) is located in Alicante’s center and occupies the Gravina Palace. This splendid 4 story building was erected during the second half of the 18th century and once belonged to the Count of Lumiares.

The museum exhibits nearly 500 works from medieval to modern Spanish art. Special focus is given to the most prominent Alicante artists from the 19th century, particularly local painter Emilio Varela Isabel. There are also temporary exhibitions and music performances.

12

MARQ (ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM)

Objects on exhibit at Alicante's Archaeology Museum (MARQ)
Objects on exhibit at Alicante's Archaeology Museum

Alicante’s Archaeology Museum (3€ entrance fee), also known as MARQ, houses an interesting collection of objects from the Paleolithic to the Modern Age. Since 2002, it occupies the former San Juan de Dios Hospital, which is a 20 minute walk away from the town hall square.

At the MARQ, visitors are taken for a journey through the history of Alicante. With the help of modern audiovisual techniques, the visit is interactive and entertaining.

Beaches around Alicante

1

PLAYA DE SAN JUAN

The famous Playa de San Juan, one of the top things to do in Alicante – Spain
Playa de San Juan, one of the top things to do in Alicante
© Dreamstime

Playa de San Juan is Alicante’s most famous beach. It is made up by over 3 km of fine golden sand, surrounded by a seaside promenade full of bars, restaurants, etc.

Although it is located 8 km east of the city center, it’s possible to easily get there by tram (about 20 min ride).

This totally urbanized beach features transparent waters as well as all servicies and amenities you might think of. It is a great beach for families and people that are into practicing sports at the beach: there are beach volleyball courts, mini soccer goals, work out areas and of course, space for the practice of nautical sports such as wind surfing.

The golf course Alicante golf is also very close.

2

PLAYA DE MUTXAVISTA

Playa de Mutxavista is just the continuation of Playa de San Juan to the north.

This semi-urban beach stretches over 3 km, featuring a wide seaside promenade and several handy parking areas. It is also possible to get there by tram from Alicante’s center (about 23 min ride).

Due to the quality of its waters, the Mutxavista beach has been awarded the blue flag since 1993. Also, there are easy-access areas for people with reduced mobility.

3

PLAYA DE LA ALBUFERETA

Albufereta beach, next to the city of Alicante, Spain
Albufereta beach, next to the city of Alicante

Playa de la Albufereta is a small sandy beach (300 m long) located in a residential area of Alicante, about 4 km east of the city center, between the neighborhoods of Serra Grossa and Tossal de Manises.

This beautiful sandy beach features tranquil waters and all services/amenities, making it a favorite of many local families, particularly during the summer months.

Strangely enough, several archaeological sites have been discovered in the area: it is actually believed that the city of Alicante was born here.

La Albufereta beach is located next to the Serra Grossa Nature Preserve. If you are up for some adventure, you can climb to the top of the mount (160 m high). You will be rewarded with some marvelous coastline views.

4

PLAYA DE LA ALMADRABA

Playa de la Almadraba is a 700 m long sandy beach located between La Albufereta and the coves around Cabo de la Huerta.

It is a nice quiet beach to watch the sunset. It is also very popular for sailing with small boats, paddle surfing or kayaking, since it is between breakwaters and the cape protects it from the Levante wind.

However, Playa de la Almadraba might not the best beach for bathing. Despite its tranquil waters, the sand is very muddy and the water is usually cloudy. Also, the water is so shallow that to be covered you have to venture out quite a bit.

5

COVES AROUND CABO DE LA HUERTA

Located between the San Juan and Almadraba beaches, Cabo de la Huerta is a rugged coastline stretch that allows visitors to enjoy the Mediterranean sea far away from the most crowded sandy beaches. This area is ideal for those looking for seclusion and tranquility.

Cabo de la Huerta is home to a series of small rocky coves that feature crystal clear waters, perfect for snorkeling and diving. Nudism is common.

If you are into hiking, there is a 4.35km path along the coastline known as “Sendero por el Cabo de la Huerta” that will take you from the Almadraba Beach to the Cabo de la Huerta lighthouse.

6

PLAYA DEL CARABASSÍ

Playa del Carabassí, one of the best beaches of the Alicante province
Playa del Carabassí, one of the best beaches of the Alicante province

Located 15 km south of Alicante’s center, Playa del Carabassí is a long flat sandy beach (over 3km long) that extends below the mountain range of the same name. It is actually considered one of the best beaches of the Alicante province.

Although the urban development isn’t that far from Carabassí, the beach is surrounded by beautiful nature: sand dunes and pine forests. This makes it possible to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are, however, all basic amenities at this beach: lifeguards, beach bars, lounge chairs & umbrellas for rent, etc.

Carabassí is often awarded the blue flag due to the quality of its transparent waters. Nudism is common in some areas.

Although this beach is a bit out of the way, there is free parking less than 5 min walk from it.

7

PLAYA DE SALADARES-URBANOVA

Playa de Saladares-Urbanova is located 5 km west of downtown Alicante. It is made up by over 1.5 km of sand in a semi-urban environment. It is surrounded by a seaside promenade and there are also several shops and restaurants in the area. At its southern end, it features a beautiful string of dunes.

There are several zones designated for the practice of naturism at this beach.

8

PLAYA DE AGUA AMARGA

Playa de Agua Amarga is a 250 m long dog friendly beach, located between Playa de Saladares-Urbanova and Alicante’s center.

Dog bathing is allowed all year round and there are the necessary services to enjoy the beach with your pet.

If you don’t have an animal, however, you can skip this beach.

Excursions from Alicante

1

CATAMARAN EXCURSION

Fun Catamaran Cruise in Alicante, Spain
Fun Catamaran Cruise in Alicante
© Alicante Catamaran

If you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of downtown Alicante, taking part in a boat excursion can be the perfect activity for you. You can choose among several different options, from a 3-hour catamaran ride along the Costa Blanca with a snorkeling stop to a romantic 2-hour sunset cruise. If you want something even more special, we recommend this 3-hour sunset cruise with live music and delicious appetizers.

2

SANTA POLA & TABARCA ISLAND

The charming Tabarca Island near Alicante, Spain
Tabarca Island near Alicante

Santa Pola is a popular seaside resort (30,000 inhabitants) located 30 min drive south of Alicante. It is home to long stretches of sandy beaches as well as more intimate and picturesque coves.

Santa Pola is also famous for its island, the Isla de Tabarca. If you have already explored the city of Alicante, then Santa Pola and the Tabarca Island can be a great little excursion.

From Santa Pola, it is very easy to get to Tabarca island by boat (15 min ride). You can even book a boat ride with a snorkeling trip. If you prefer, you can also get to Tabarca Island directly from Alicante taking part in this 6-hour Catamaran Cruise to Tabarca Island.

Although tiny (300m2), Isla de Tabarca is the only inhabited island in all of the Valencian Community. During your visit, make sure to take in the charm of the place, wandering through the tiny village and stopping to visit the 18th century church, the defensive wall, the lighthouse and, last but not least, enjoy its beaches. Also, make sure to try the local specialty dish called caldero (fish with rice and potatoes).

If you have the time, you can spend the night on Isla de Tabarca. The place truly gains in charm in the evening, after all the tourists have left. Our favorite accommodations are Boutique Isla Tabarca and Hotel Santacreu.

3

VILLAJOYOSA & ALTEA

Row of colorful houses in Villajoyosa near Alicante, Spain
Colorful houses in Villajoyosa

If you want to discover some charming laid-back villages of the Alicante coastline, then you might be interested in an excursion to Villajoyosa and Altea.

This 5-hour excursion will take you to explore the historic heart of Villajoyosa, wandering its colorful streets and admiring its golden sand beaches. The town is famous for its chocolate industry and during the tour, you will get a chance to visit an artisan chocolate factory.

The excursion will then continue at the whitewashed village of Altea. There you will have the opportunity to get lost in its labyrinth of cobblestone streets while enjoying panoramic views of the surroundings mountains and marvelous coastline.

4

GUADALEST VALLEY & ALGAR WATERFALLS

The scenic village of Guadalest & its bell tower, Spain
The village of Guadalest & its bell tower

If you would like to explore some of the gorgeous nature that surrounds Alicante, far from the crowded beaches of the Costa Blanca, then this Guadalest Valley and Algar Waterfalls excursion can be perfect for you.

The tour will take you to visit the scenic village of Guadalest, its fortress El Castell de Guadalest, and the remains of some older fortifications.

The excursion continues at the Fuentes del Algar (Algar Waterfalls) where you will be able to admire a series of crystal-clear spring pools and waterfalls and, if you are up for it, even take a refreshing dip on them!

5

CANELOBRE CAVES

The Cuevas del Canelobre are located in the town of Busot, 23 km from the city of Alicante. During this Canelobre Caves visit, you will get to explore their vast interior, including one of the highest cavern vaults in all of Spain (about 70 m high, similar to that of a cathedral). You will also learn about its stalagmites, stalactites and other prehistoric features.

6

TANDEM PARAGLIDE FLIGHT

Tandem paraglide flight in Alicante, Spain
Tandem paraglide flight in Alicante
© Summer Paragliding

Have you ever wondered how does it feel to fly like a bird? This tandem paraglide flight will allow you to do just that! You will get to see the stunning Costa Blanca from a totally different perspective, accompanied at all times by an experienced pilot. If you are looking for an extreme adrenaline rush during your Alicante trip, this is it!

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