Located on Spain’s sunny southeastern Mediterranean coast, the city of Alicante is often overlooked in favour of resort towns such as Benidorm and Calpe. While places like Benidorm may attract the crowds looking for that perfect beachside escape the beaches in and around Alicante are also world class and offer something Benidorm can’t, which is a touch of the real Spain.
Nowhere near the size of Valencia, the region’s largest city with a population of more than just 1 million residents, Alicante is much more compact with just 350,000 people spread out along the coast. Over the years Alicante has seen several civilizations settle in the area, but it was the Romans who first truly colonised the area building a port city called Lucentum just 3 kilometres from Alicante’s modern-day centre.
When the Moors conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century they brought with them oranges, rice, palms and spectacular architecture that is still evident in Alicante’s old town and some of the surrounding towns and cities.
Meaning “City of Light” in Arabic, visitors to Alicante today can expect to find a thriving cosmopolitan city with nightlife to rival that of Madrid and Barcelona. International restaurants and authentic tapas bars are the flavours of the day mixed with historic buildings now housing boutique hotels just perfect for that warm weather weekend escape.
Best coastal resorts in Alicante province
The number one resort in Alicante province has to be Benidorm. Built on a horseshoe-shaped bay facing south, Benidorm has everything you would want in a Spanish beach holiday and then generously shares much more. A transfer from Alicante to Benidorm will save you getting a hire car with the usual insurance excess premiums. What’s more, there are so many activities and facilities all within walking distance of the holiday resorts and hotels meaning you won’t really need a car on your stay here. Although Benidorm may have had a bad rep in the press in the past, the numbers don’t lie with hundreds of thousands of tourists coming back year after year. Benidorm Old Town has some incredible views across the coastline and has a great variety of popular restaurants and local tapas bars. One thing not miss whilst on holiday here is the new generation zoo, called Terra Natura. The park is more like an education centre on wildlife preservation and it boasts almost 1500 animals. The areas are very beautifully divided off into sections of species from Asia, America, Europe and Pangea. Each area provides more of a jungle like atmosphere than a zoo.
With a wonderful mixture of Valencian culture and 21st-century tourist facilities Calpe is regarded as having three of the best beaches in Spain. Dominated by the towing 332-metre high rock of Ifach, a Gibraltar like monolithic limestone promontory rising from the sea Calpe has plenty for you to see and do while on holiday.
With its beautiful blue-and-white tiled church dome overlooking the town Altea when viewed from the sea is reminiscent of Santorini in Greece with its white-washed houses and quaint cobbled streets. An artist and a photographers dream, Altea is full of surprises around every corner. Quieter than either Benidorm or Calpe, Altea is the perfect place to escape if you are looking for a place to chill out and recharge the batteries.
Exploring Alicante City
Santa Barbara Castle
Rising high above the city of Alicante looking down on the marina is the castle of Santa Barbara one of the finest examples of a Spanish medieval fortress. Occupied for several years in the 1700s by the British Navy Santa Barbara castle has a rich and interesting history just waiting to be discovered. Free to get in, the castle is easily reached on foot, but is even easier to get to if you take the lift located opposite Postiguet beach.
Explanada de España
Made up of more than six million tiles all laid out to give the impression of waves, Alicante’s main waterfront promenade is a palm-fringed oasis where people still put on their Sunday best to stroll along the marina. Stop off at one of the many bars for a cooling drink or arrange to meet up with friends for a night on the town.
The Old Town
Just about everything you want to see and do in Alicante is within walking distance of the centre and that includes the oldest part of the city where you will find the Barrio Santa Cruz rising up the slope of Mount Benacantil. During the days walk around and admire the white-washed house and their flower adorned wrought iron balconies, but be sure to come back at night and sample the buzzing nightlife found in the tapas bars and clubs.
Once a base for marauding Barbary pirates, the tiny island of Tabarca located an hour off the coast and has the distinction of being the smallest inhabited island in all of Spain. Today people visit during the summer to spend a day swimming and diving around Tabarca where thanks to its status as a marine reserve fish and wildlife thrive in its turquoise waters.
Inland Alicante Attractions
Littered with castles wineries and many natural wonders, renting a car and exploring inland Alicante allows you to experience the real Spain away from the beaches. Just 35, minutes from Alicante is the former industrial powerhouse city of Alcoy with its famous art nouveau houses, bridges and Moors and Christians fiesta. Drive a little further through the Sierra Mariola national park and you will arrive in Bocairent a medieval town often described as being the prettiest in all of Spain. Nearby you have a local attraction of naturally formed crystal clear mountain river pools for swimming and unique cave houses built into a sheer mountain wall by the Moors. Not quite geographically in Alicante but just over the border in Valencia is Xativa a place referred to as “the town of a thousand fountains”. Once home to the powerful Borgia family, Xativa is a well, worth a visit.
Many airlines now compete to offer affordable flights to Alicante airport, so the cost of a holiday here can be within most budgets. With a little careful planning, you’ll get the opportunity to see some of the diverse and amazing things that Alicante has on offer.
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