Situated along the sun-kissed Costa Blanca, Alicante beckons travelers with its stunning azure Mediterranean waters, golden beaches, and rich history and culture.
Bordered by mountains, Alicante is a city with roots tracing back to the ancient Romans. Nicknamed ‘The City of Light’, on account of one of their settlements, it boasts a vibrant atmosphere, picturesque charm and a lovely promenade by the marina. Alicante also has plenty of culture in the form of theaters and museums.
Moreover, as the sun sets, its bustling Old Town comes alive. It is the best time to explore its narrow cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and an array of tapas bars where you can savor authentic Spanish flavors. When darkness comes, Alicante’s happening nightclub scene enables visitors to dance the night away.
Overall, there are plenty of things to do in Alicante for those wanting to explore centuries of history and tradition, indulge in delectable cuisine or relax on pristine beaches. It promises an unforgettable journey through Spain’s radiant coastal culture, which will stay with you for the rest of your days.
In this post, we'll cover:
18. Concatedral Sant Nicolau de Bari
Visiting the Concatedral Sant Nicolau de Bari while in Alicante takes you on a fascinating historical and spiritual journey.
Located in the heart of Alicante’s Old Town, the Gothic-style co-cathedral, initially built in the 17th century, is a testament to the city’s religious heritage. Its awe-inspiring façade, adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures, captivates visitors from first sight.
Inside, the co-cathedral’s ornate interior showcases elaborate Baroque and Neoclassical elements, creating a harmonious architectural blend while offering a tranquil space for exploration and reverence.
One of the main highlights is the intricately designed altarpiece dedicated to Saint Nicholas, which exudes reverence and artistry. The stunning, richly adorned chapels and significant religious artifacts further enhance the grandeur of this impressive co-cathedral.
17. Museo de Hogueras
One of the most interesting things to do in Alicante is a visit to the Museo de Hogueras which showcases the cultural heritage of the Hogueras de San Juan Festival.
Established in 1924, the museum celebrates the annual festival – also known as the Bonfire Festival – where enormous satirical figures are set ablaze to mark the summer solstice.
Housed in an elegant 18th-century mansion, the museum boasts a rich collection of ninots, the elaborate and artistic sculptures that form the centerpiece of the festival. These figures, saved from the fiery fate by popular vote, convey the remarkable creativity and craftsmanship of the local artists.
Visitors can explore the museum’s various sections, each representing different aspects of the Hogueras Festival. The museum narrates this centuries-old tradition’s history and delves into the intricate process of creating these towering sculptures.
16. Rambla Méndez Nunez
Rambla Méndez Núñez is a dynamic urban promenade that reflects the city’s history and modernity.
This charming boulevard dates back to the 19th century and is lined with towering trees, vibrant flowers and stylish cafes. It offers a lovely scenic walk, making it a popular spot for leisurely strolls, window shopping and people-watching.
Historic landmarks like the Teatro Principal and the Central Market can be found along the Rambla, adding a touch of heritage to its lively ambience. The street also regularly features cultural events, markets and performances, making it a constant source of entertainment.
Overall, a visit to Rambla Méndez Núñez provides an authentic urban experience. So it gives a terrific insight into the local way of life.
15. Puerto Deportivo
Alicante has a rich maritime experience which you can explore at Puerto Deportivo. This modern harbor combines leisure, nautical charm, and stunning coastal views and is a testament to Alicante’s deep connection with the Mediterranean Sea.
Dating back to the mid-20th century, Puerto Deportivo has transformed from a simple fishing port into a bustling marina, attracting sailing enthusiasts and tourists in their droves. The marina boasts a picturesque setting against the backdrop of the Santa Bárbara Castle and the city’s skyline.
With its vibrant promenades, stylish restaurants, and bustling bars, Puerto Deportivo exudes a lively atmosphere day and night. Visitors can stroll along the docks, admire the luxury yachts and sailboats, and enjoy the comely sea views.
As well as being a hub for maritime activities, the marina is also a gateway to Alicante’s coastal wonders, facilitating visits to nearby beaches and water sports activities.
14. Playa del Postiguet
If you want to spend some time at a place embodying the Mediterranean way of life in terms of sun, sea, and city culture, head to Playa del Postiguet.
Nestled along the heart of Alicante’s coastline, this captivating urban beach is the place to visit for a quintessential sun-soaked Mediterranean experience.
Named after the small Postigo fortress that once stood nearby, Playa del Postiguet offers a stunning blend of golden sands and crystal-clear waters. It has plenty of amenities, including loungers, umbrellas, and beachside bars, making the beach a haven for sunbathers, swimmers, and beach sports enthusiasts.
The bustling Paseo de Gómiz promenade flanks the beach with cafes, restaurants and shops. It is an ideal spot to enjoy local seafood cuisine and browse for clothes and souvenirs while enjoying breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.
13. Boat trip to Tabarca
Not far from the Alicante mainland resides the charming island of Tabarca.
Accessible by boat, the island boasts abundant natural beauty and a rich history. Formerly a haven for Barbary pirates, it transformed into a quaint fishing village in the 18th century. Today the island features cobblestone streets, colourful houses, and a charming ambience that transports you back in time.
Part of the fun of visiting Tabarca is the actual boat journey from Alicante, which provides stunning views of the Mediterranean. Once there, Tabarca’s clear waters make it a paradise for snorkelers and divers, with its Marine Reserve hosting a variety of marine life.
The island is also renowned for its exceptional cuisine, particularly the fresh seafood, which is a treat for the taste buds. Additionally, its historic fortifications and charming church are fascinating attractions.
12. Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (MACA)
Another cultural point of note worth visiting in Alicante is the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (MACA).
The museum was founded in the late 1970s and currently resides in the beautifully restored Casa de la Asegurada, a historic building dating back to the 17th century. It showcases a diverse collection of contemporary artworks by renowned Spanish and international artists, spanning various mediums such as painting, sculpture, photography and installations. Its exhibits capture the evolution of artistic trends and social commentary over the years.
The good thing about MACA’s dynamic collection is that it is organized chronologically, allowing visitors to trace the development of contemporary art movements. As well as permanent displays, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions and cultural events throughout the year, championing the talents of local artists.
11. Museo the Ocean Race
If you are a fan of sailing, you’ll want to check out the Museo The Ocean Race.
Located in the port of Alicante, this museum showcases the famous Volvo Ocean Race (now known as The Ocean Race), a grueling round-the-world yacht race that starts in Alicante.
The museum’s interactive exhibits and multimedia displays offer visitors an immersive exploration of the daring world of ocean racing and maritime adventure. They take you on a captivating journey through the history of the race, showcasing the technology, teamwork, and personal stories that define this challenging event.
During your visit, you can experience the thrill of sailing through realistic simulators and relive the excitement of past races via video installations. You’ll also understand Alicante’s maritime heritage and connection to the global sailing community.
10. Hogueras de San Juan
Undoubtedly, one of the year’s major highlights in Alicante is the Hogueras de San Juan festival. This traditional event dates back to the 19th century and takes place every June, paying homage to Saint John the Baptist and welcoming the summer solstice.
The highlight of Hogueras is the creation of massive satirical sculptures called ‘hogueras’ or ‘ninots’. Elaborately crafted, these sculptures often reflect current events, politics, and pop culture. During the weeklong celebration in June, the city streets transform into an outdoor museum, as these sculptures line the avenues for public admiration.
The event’s finale involves setting most sculptures ablaze in a spectacular display of fireworks and flames on the ‘Night of Fire’ (Noche de la Cremà). All except one ninot are burned, with the survivor displayed in the Museo de Hogueras.
9. Canelobre Caves
The Canelobre Caves offer an incredible journey into the depths of the earth.
These caves boast a history dating back millions of years and derive their name from their resemblance to a candelabrum when illuminated. Visitors can explore expansive chambers adorned with intricate formations, ranging from delicate icicle-like stalactites to towering stalagmites. The grandeur of the caves is accentuated by a central chamber that reaches an astonishing height of 70 meters, making it one of the tallest cave vaults in Spain.
The Canelobre Caves are a great place to visit because they allow you to witness the artistry of nature hidden beneath the earth’s surface. Guided tours provide fascinating insights into the geological marvels and the history of the caves, while special lighting enhances the beauty of the formations.
8. Mercat Central
The Mercat Central (Central Market) is a vibrant and bustling hub established in the late 19th century. It proudly showcases the region’s culinary delights and local culture and has been a cornerstone of Alicante’s gastronomic scene for generations.
Located in a stunning modernist building, the Mercat Central boasts a captivating architectural design featuring intricate ironwork and colourful tiles. You’ll find a treasure trove of fresh produce, meats, seafood, spices, and various local specialities inside its vibrant confines.
Visiting Mercat Central allows you to engage with local vendors, sample authentic Spanish flavors, and explore the region’s diverse range of products. If you are a foodie, the market is a must-visit destination. It’s a sensory delight that is sure to captivate you with its aromas, colors and bustling atmosphere.
7. Take the tram to Benidorm
Taking the tram from Alicante to Benidorm offers visitors a scenic and convenient way to travel between and see more of the stunning Costa Blanca coastline. The tram system, known as the Tram d’Alacant, has been integral to the region’s transportation network since the early 20th century.
The journey takes you through picturesque coastal towns, offering breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea and the rugged landscape. As you travel towards Benidorm, you’ll pass charming beaches, quaint villages and scenic vistas that encapsulate the beauty of the Costa Blanca.
Benidorm, a renowned tourist destination, greets you with its towering skyscrapers, sandy beaches and vibrant nightlife. Conveniently, the tram drops you off in the city center. Making it easy to explore its attractions, relax on its beaches and enjoy its various entertainment options.
6. Basilica Santa Maria
The Basilica Santa Maria is a stunning church that stands prominently in the heart of the Old Town.
Combining Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance styles, its intricately carved façade and majestic bell tower will instantly impress. Its interior boasts ornate altars, exquisite stained glass windows, and elegant chapels with a real ‘wow’ factor.
The highlight of the Basilica Santa Maria is the breathtaking blue-domed ceiling adorned with intricate gold detailing, which adds an ethereal touch to the interior. It also houses a valuable collection of religious art and artifacts.
As it is one of Alicante’s most popular tourist attractions, it gets busy. So it is worth visiting the Basilica as soon as it opens to enable you to enjoy your visit away from the crowds.
5. MARQ Museo Arqueologico de Alicante
The MARQ Museo Arqueológico de Alicante is a fascinating archaeological museum that takes you on an engaging and informative journey through the area’s rich history.
Designed by renowned architect Juan Vidal, the museum’s modernist building provides an impressive backdrop for the cutting-edge displays and interactive exhibits that showcase the city’s ancient past.
From the Iberian period to the arrival of the Romans and Moors, the MARQ offers a comprehensive exploration of the region’s history, complete with multimedia presentations and state-of-the-art technology.
Visitors can marvel at the intricate artifacts and reconstructions that offer a glimpse into the daily lives of these ancient societies. At the same time, they can also witness exciting archaeological excavations currently in progress.
4. Playa de San Juan
Playa de San Juan is a stretch of pristine coastline in Alicante that provides beach lovers with a sun-soaked paradise.
Originally a humble fishing village, this beach is now one of Costa Blanca’s most popular and iconic seaside destinations. Its enduring popularity lies in its natural beauty, relaxed atmosphere and proximity to other tourist attractions. Thus it is a terrific place to visit to top up your tan.
With its vast expanse of golden sand, Playa de San Juan provides ample space for sunbathing, beach sports and leisurely walks along the 7km long shore. Its crystal-clear waters are perfect for swimming and water activities.
The beach also has amenities like sun lounges and umbrellas, and you will also find several excellent bars and restaurants dotted on the promenade that flanks it. Conveniently, several tram lines connect the city center with Playa de San Juan.
3. Barrio Santa Cruz
Barrio Santa Cruz is a captivating neighbourhood that offers a nostalgic glimpse into the city’s history and traditional Spanish architecture.
Nestled within Alicante’s charming Old Town, it was initially a Jewish quarter during medieval times. But today, it’s characterized by narrow cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings adorned with colourful flower pots and quaint squares.
Wandering through Barrio Santa Cruz feels like stepping back in time. Its winding alleys lead to hidden plazas where locals gather and enjoy the tranquillity. The neighborhood’s medieval layout is a maze of discovery, featuring historical sites such as the impressive Convent of the Holy Communion.
Also boasting a selection of traditional tapas bars, artisan shops, and quaint boutiques, The Barrio is a lovely place to explore on foot. As you do so, take the time to soak in its authentic Spanish atmosphere and admire the architectural beauty that harmonizes with the past.
2. Walk the Explanada de Espana
One of the best things to do when visiting Alicante is to walk along the Explanada de España. This iconic promenade, stretching along the waterfront, is characterized by its unique mosaic pavement, creating an incredible sea of color that mirrors the Mediterranean waves.
Built in the late 19th century, the Explanada de España was designed by architect José Guardiola Picó, featuring over 6.6 million marble tiles in a wavy pattern. Lined with tall palm trees, it offers shade and a picturesque backdrop for strolling and relaxing by the sea.
The promenade is a hub of activity, with local artists displaying their works, musicians performing, and stalls offering handicrafts and souvenirs. The lively atmosphere is complemented by a selection of cafes and restaurants, offering a chance to enjoy local cuisine whilst taking in tremendous sea views.
1. Castillo de Santa Barbara
The Castillo de Santa Bárbara in Alicante is arguably the most enduring symbol of the region. Perched atop Mount Benacantil, it is a majestic sentinel overlooking the city and the Mediterranean Sea. With a history spanning over a millennium, this historic fortress offers a captivating blend of heritage, panoramic views, and architectural marvels for visitors to explore.
Initially established by the Moors in the 9th century, the castle was named after Saint Barbara, the patron saint of artillery. It has served as a strategic defense point throughout various eras, leaving behind layers of history within its walls.
Visitors can explore the castle’s three main sections. They include the lower area with its military history and the midsection that houses a 16th-century church. It also incorporates the upper part, where the panoramic terraces provide breathtaking vistas of the city, coastline, and surrounding landscapes.
Where to Stay in Alicante
Alicante offers travelers a range of enticing neighborhoods to stay in. However, for a perfect blend of beachfront bliss and cultural immersion, you can’t beat the Explanada de España. This bustling promenade grants easy access to the iconic Postiguet Beach, historic Old Town, and several excellent restaurants and shops.
For a touch of luxury, the Melia Alicante stands out. It is situated right by Postiguet Beach and offers stunning sea views and convenient proximity to top attractions in Alicante like Santa Bárbara Castle. The hotel’s exquisite amenities, including a pool overlooking the sea and an exceptional spa, ensure guests have a rejuvenating stay.
For those wanting a more tranquil escape, consider Hotel Maya. Nestled between the beach and the lush La Ereta Park, it offers guests a more peaceful ambience while still being close to the action. The hotel presents comfortable and well-appointed rooms. However, its highlight is its rooftop terrace which boats magnificent panoramic vistas, where you can unwind at sunset with a cocktail.
How to get to Alicante
Getting to Alicante is a breeze from most parts of Europe and further afield.
As the gateway to the Costa Blanca, Alicante-Elche Airport is well-connected to major European cities. EasyJet, Finnair, Lufthansa and Ryanair are among the many airlines that fly directly to the area. Once you arrive at the airport, you can take a short bus or taxi ride to the city center.
For those who would prefer not to fly, the city is also accessible by train and bus, with networks serving national and international routes. Alternatively, those wanting to drive should head to the A-7 motorway along the coast. There is also a tram that runs along the coast from Alicante to Benidorm.
Best Time to Visit Alicante
Located along Spain’s southeastern Costa Blanca, Alicante is very popular to visit thanks to its attractive beaches, old town and hilltop castle. While it boasts year-round good weather, June to September are the best for sunbathing, swimming and watersports.
During these months, average temperatures range from 27 to 31°C (80 to 88°F) with July and August being by far the busiest and most expensive. Its beaches get quite crowded as do its restaurants and bars.
June and September are a bit quieter and cheaper with the former also hosting the Bonfires of Saint John; the city’s most important festival. Colourful processions and reenactments of battles also take place in Alicante for the historic Moors and Christians festival.
Either side of summer, so April, May and October, are also fantastic times to visit. While the weather remains warm and sunny, spring is just a bit too early for swimming and autumn is the rainiest time of the year. Prices are generally cheaper though and there are fewer crowds. The exception is around Semana Santa (Holy Week) and all its impressive parades in April.
As it is still 17°C (62°F) in December, Alicante can make for a lovely, warm winter break with Christmas festivities taking place all around town.