Visiting Alicante – A City Guide
Alicante is a busy resort city on Spain’s Costa Blanca, famous for its nightlife and white-sand beaches. It’s steeped in Moorish history, with an atmospheric Old Town and imposing mountain-top castle. Lively Catholic festivals and fresh Valencian seafood add colour and flavour to a weekend break or family holiday in the sun.
Alicante: city layout
Alicante lies between the mountains of the Costa Blanca and the Mediterranean Sea. El Postiguet beach runs along the seafront, with the marble-tiled, palm-lined Explanada de España connecting the modernised port to the Gran Vía, Alicante’s stately central thoroughfare.
Barrio Santa Cruz occupies the busiest quarter of the Old Town, with its tranquil Renaissance chapels and vibrant all-night bar scene.
Narrow, winding streets lead you up the slopes of Mount Benacantil to Santa Bárbara Castle, a ninth-century Moorish stronghold overlooking the city and harbour to the islands beyond.
Alicante’s main attractions
An ideal place to get your bearings, Santa Bárbara Castle has panoramic views and a free museum, a helpful primer on Alicante’s rich history. You can follow a morning at the bustling Central Market with a visit to busy El Postiguet beach or a short boat ride to the quiet coves just offshore on Tabarca Island.
The nightlife of the Old Town, or El Barrio, is an attraction in itself. Known as la marcha alicantina, it promises a welcoming atmosphere in the pubs, clubs and tavernas between the Cathedral and Rambla de Méndez Núñez.
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Hotels in Alicante
Alicante is one of the busiest resorts on the Costa Blanca, with hotels in the city and along the adjoining Mediterranean coastline.
If you’re coming for sand and sea, San Juan beach is an ideal place to stay. You’ll find family-friendly accommodation a short walk from that expanse of white sand, with central Alicante less than eight kilometres away. If your idea of fun is more than just lying on a beach, hotel staff can help you book a round of golf or an action-packed day of watersports.
A little farther inland, the area between Alicante and Elche is handy for business travellers attending meetings in nearby industrial parks or trade fairs at Alicante Exhibition Centre (IFA). Elche draws history buffs with its Moorish-built city walls, and you can laze in the shade of the vast palm grove at El Palmeral, a nearby plantation and nature reserve.
Eating Out in Alicante
Alicante is a part of the Valencian Community, a region renowned for its cuisine, particularly its native rice and seafood dishes. Paella, popular all over the world and served all over Spain, is said to have originated here.
Alicante is packed with international dining options, from Italian trattorias to British-style pub grub. Cafés and beach bars along the seafront and Explanada de España make for ideal snack breaks and leisurely al fresco lunches.
The renovated harbour or El Puerto is now home to upmarket seafood restaurants, including stylishly customised boats serving dinner at anchor. The business quarter around Plaza Gabriel and the narrow streets and lanes of Barrio Santa Cruz host plenty of local tapas bars and neighbourhood tavernas specialising in authentic Valencian dishes.
Tip: Typically, lunch is eaten between 2pm and 4pm, and dinner starts at 9pm or later. There are plenty of restaurants in Alicante catering to visitors who prefer to eat earlier.
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Shopping in Alicante
A historic Mediterranean port, Alicante has been a major trade hub for centuries. The modern city is home to familiar European brand outlets, but you’ll also find plenty of independent retailers selling local wines and oils or arts and crafts.
Alicante’s Central Market is housed in a grand Art Nouveau building from the early 20th century. It’s a hive of activity every morning as residents, visitors and restaurant owners shop for fresh fish. Colourful street markets occupy Campoamor, Carolinas, Benalúa and Babel, and craft stalls line Explanada de España.
The main shopping district is centred on Avenida de Maisonnave, but if you prefer offbeat, old-fashioned stores, try Rambla de Méndez Núñez. For contemporary fashions, head to the air-conditioned malls and supermarkets on the Gran Vía and in Plaza Mar 2.
Gifts and souvenirs from Alicante
Culture & Nightlife in Alicante
Alicante’s cultural heritage is defined by its art and architecture, from galleries inside 18th-century palaces to museums inside Moorish castles. A buzzing holiday hub on the Costa Blanca, the city is also packed with bars and clubs that stay open until the sun rises over the Mediterranean.
By day, El Barrio draws admirers to its well-preserved Renaissance Cathedral of San Nicolás and the Gothic Basilica of Santa María. After dark you can enjoy a quiet glass of Spanish sherry in a backstreet taverna, or take your pick of local dancefloors.
Parties also run late at the chiringuitos – kiosk-style bars – along the beaches of El Postiguet and San Juan, while waterfront venues around El Puerto attract a well-heeled clientele.
Alicante’s busy calendar of fiestas, parades and street parties includes the revels of Carnival in February and St. John’s Bonfires around the summer solstice.
Alicante museums and galleries
Visiting Alicante with a Family
Alicante is a prime spot for family holidays, with long, safe white-sand beaches in the centre of the city at El Postiguet, and just out of town at San Juan. You’ll have no trouble finding child-friendly restaurants or green spaces to play and relax in the shade.
If you’re staying near San Juan, you need only walk a few minutes in flip-flops to begin sandcastle-building and splashing in the surf. It’s a short tram ride up the coast toward the seaside resort of Benidorm and the roller coasters of Terra Mitica, a theme park with decorations inspired by ancient mythology.
The neighbouring wildlife park of Terra Natura is home to more than 1,500 animals. Children can spend a cooling, thrilling afternoon on the waterslides and flume rides of the nearby Aquopolis Torrevieja.
Tabarca Island, an hour by boat from Alicante, has quiet coves for family picnics and clear blue waters for snorkelling.
Family-friendly parks and gardens in Alicante