The capital of the Costa Blanca, Alicante is a vibrant Spanish city that doesn’t just rely on tourism – unlike many of the resorts along the coast here. There are some good beaches nearby, lively nightlife with a distinctly Spanish feel, and elegant tree-lined streets dotted with parks and historic plazas.
Life revolves around the port and atmospheric old town, El Barrio, where there’s fun to be had day and night, and culture vultures will love the museums and galleries. There are plenty of inexpensive places to stay and eat, both in town and along the coast, and the friendly vibe makes it impossible to have a bad time.
Getting there/around Alicante
Alicante is well served by charter flights, low-cost carriers and schedule services. El Altet International Airport is just 10km from the centre of the city so transfer times are minimal.
If you’re planning to explore beyond town it’s useful to have a car, if not it’s easy to get around and out to the beaches on local buses and the tram system.
Beaches in Alicante
The main beach in town, Playa del Postiguet, tends to be crowded and can be a tad on the dirty side, though it’s convenient and the tree-lined promenade is full of bars and restaurants.
Head to San Juan instead, about six kilometres along the coast but easily reached by bus or tram. It features seven kilometres of fine white sand and is popular with Spanish families, but it rarely feels too cramped.
Further on El Campello is a lovely place with sweeping beaches, bars, restaurants and water sport facilities – and it’s still only 25 minutes from the city centre.
The most obvious ‘sight’ is the Castillo de Santa Barbara, a fortress which soars above the town beach, and views from the top over the city and coast are fantastic (there’s a lift cut into the rock that takes you straight up).
Alicante prides itself on its culture and there are dozens of museums and galleries. At Museo de la Asegurada, the modern art museum, you can check out work by Spanish greats including Dali, Miro and Picasso.
Just walking around the old town is a fantastic way to take in the city’s sights – the steep, narrow streets are lined with whitewashed houses, historic buildings and picturesque squares.
Family attractions in Alicante
Besides the beach, one of the region’s best-loved attractions for kids is the massive Terra Mitica theme park, just outside Benidorm. The idea is that it commemorates past civilisations – you’ll see Egyptian Pyramids, Roman chariot races and Greek gods – and there are some of the most hair-raising rides in Europe too.
Aqualandia, Benidorm’s huge water park makes a great family day out with dozens of assorted slides, waterfalls and different themed areas. The Mundomar Marine Exotic Animal Park is another winner with kids – dolphin shows are the highlight.
Day Trips around Alicante
There are many interesting places in the area that can easily be visited on day trips from Alicante. The World Heritage Site of Elche, famed for its exotic palm forest, is 20km away, and the train takes just 30 minutes.
The pretty old town of Denia makes another worthwhile trip, particularly if you take the narrow-gauge railway, which hugs the cliffs and crosses beautiful countryside.
The island of Tabarca, just off the coast, is another popular day trip destination with its old fort, quiet fishing village, fresh seafood restaurants and coves lapped by turquoise water. Boats leave frequently from Alicante and Santa Pola.
Eating out in Alicante
Whether it’s fine dining or simple pub fare that you’re after, Alicante has no end of eating options. The city is famous for its rice dishes, especially those based on seafood, and the paella here is about as good as it gets. There are fantastic quality fish and seafood restaurants along the coast, while inland, traditional stews and roasts are menu staples.
Tapas bars are plentiful – you can graze as you go on freshly made dishes, from chorizo in wine to crab wrapped in smoked salmon.
There’s no shortage of bars and clubs in Alicante – and no shortage of young Spaniards and tourists ready to party either. The port area is bursting with watering holes to suit all tastes. Just wander along Explanda d’Espanya and take your pick of places that are open long into the night.
The winding streets of the old town come alive after dark too and it’s an atmospheric place to start the evening – just go with the flow as the Spanish do. Bars line the streets, and there’s often live music too.
Alongside the obvious tourist souvenirs, Alicante offers the serious shopper plenty of opportunity to flash the cash. Typical handmade crafts include ceramic jugs, leather goods, woodcarvings and mosaics.
For mall-style shopping, head to Panoramis east of the port or El Corte Ingles, the city’s best-known department store on Avenida Maison Nave where you’re sure to pick up a bargain.