The “gateway to the Costa Blanca”, Alicante is not just a package holiday airport but a stylish city break destination… And the beach isn’t far away.
While tourists usually head straight to Costa Blanca resorts like Benidorm and Torrevieja, Mike Sammels stops for a stroll around Alicante. From food to festivals, here are his top 10 things to do in the historic Spanish port.
10 best things to do in Alicante this summer
1. Mercado Central
If you’re a fan of browsing your local farmers’ market, then the Mercado Central is a must. Housed in a grand 100 year-old building, you’ll find dozens of stalls with wares ranging from bar snacks to entire rabbits. This is not for the squeamish, as there are a large number of butchers displaying their goods; making eye contact with a skinned rabbit can make some people quite wobbly. However, in other sections the aroma of florists and fruit stalls lingers in the air, creating an incredibly pleasant atmosphere.
2. Santa Barbara Castle
Castell de Santa Bàrbara is hard to miss. This 9th Century fortress looms over the city from its hill-top position. The imposing structure offers unrivalled views of Alicante and the surrounding coastal areas. The walk up to the castle can be tiring, so fortunately there are other options for reaching the summit, such as the bus. A day ticket also gives you unlimited travel around Alicante. There’s also a lift, which is free for retirees.
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3. Explanada de España
The beautifully-kept, palm-lined Explanada de España stretches along Alicante’s seafront. Dozens of cafés and bars line the walkway, for example, Restaurante La Terraza del Gourmet, where mains range from €10 to €40. The walkway itself has a somewhat mesmerising pattern laid in marble and is more than wide enough to accommodate tourists and locals alike. So, although it is busy, it never feels crowded.
4. Rambla de Mendez Nunez
Rambla de Mendez Nunez is the main shopping street in Alicante, wide, dotted with trees for shade, bars for snacks and cafés for food. A favourite place to refuel is the fig tree-festooned Plaza Portal de Elche. It’s hard to miss, but it’s on the bottom half of the street, on the east side.
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5. Guardamar Beach
If the sun, sea and sand are calling, regular buses go to 1.5km-long Guardamar Beach, 40km from Alicante. Cafés and restaurants back the beach, like Restaurante Valenti Playa 1964, on the north end, with open sides and chairs right up to the sand.
Guadelest is one of Spain’s most spectacular villages, and one of its busiest tourist attractions. It’s an hour’s drive from Alicante, but there are also fairly regular buses (depending on the season), leaving from outside Alicante marina. Look up, or down, to spot rock climbers on the pillars and crags of its eagle’s nest castle.
7. Plaza Portal de Elche
Alicante has many wide plazas in which to kick back in the sun with a cerveza. One of the loveliest is Plaza Portal de Elche, an ideal place to take life as slowly and enjoyable as possible on one of the year’s 300 days of sunshine.
A city on the sea, the seafood in Alicante doesn’t get any fresher. Paella dishes can be found throughout the city’s restaurants, but the Taverna Dell’ Artista on Plaza de San Cristobal does one of its best.
This one takes a bit of forethought, but there are a number of festivals throughout the year in Alicante. Semana Santa is a religious event running from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday; if you don’t mind being woken up by marching bands. Alicante does festivals in a big way, closing off large sections of the city to traffic to allow for bands, floats and parades.
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10. Basílica de Santa María
Although it’s not a particularly colourful building, both the exterior and interior of the Basílica de Santa María (Santa Maria Church) are impressive. Intricate stonework in a baroque style outline the door into the small church, which was built between the 14th and 16th Centuries. The extravagant doorway leads to an even more lavish interior, the far wall being the focal point for your awe.
This building is still used for regular religious services, so bear that in mind should you wish to visit. During large religious events, such as Semana Santa for example, parade groups start from this church or the square outside. So if you want a good view, then the plaza is a good bet.
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*Updated May 2019. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.