Lately I flew over from Hungary to Alicante to get a taste of the beautiful Costa Blanca in Spain. Not only in the UK holidays to Alicante are popular there are many direct flights landing on Alicante Airport from Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia. For many reasons the Alicante province became a favorite weekend city break from travelers from Northern Europe. In this blog post I will take you with me on what to do in Alicante. A complete guide to make the most of your weekend break.
Because of the many affordable flights arriving at Alicante Airport the city became a magnet for people looking for short breaks. But it can’t be only the cheap flights to Alicante that draw so many tourists to the Costa Blanca, there must be more. I roamed around Alicante old town and the city center for a couple days and also hired a car to explore the best places to visit around Alicante for you. There are many things to do and places to see, that in fact an Alicante weekend break is not enough.
On my trip I found out that Alicante is an amazing place to visit, but there are also fabulous day trips from Alicante you can take. Check out the 10 best places near Alicante in the link.
Stay connected and buy a sim card for Spain on your trip to Alicante.
Little history about Alicante
Back in the days Alicante was just like any other medieval Spanish town a walled city, but because of its strategic location on the Costa Blanca coast it has been fought over a lot. Therefore Alicante has been built, destroyed and rebuilt many times over the last couple hundred years. Some facts to show you the importance of Alicante in history:
- The first long distance train in Spain went from Madrid to Alicante.
- Alicante was the last remaining republican city that Franco took over in times of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
- Napoleon took over Spain except two cities: Cadiz ánd Alicante.
Because of all this fighting over the city there are not many ancient buildings left in Alicante Old Town. Nevertheless it is a beautiful place to stroll through.
12 things to know when you travel to Alicante
1. Best time to travel to Alicante
Any time of the year is a good time to visit Alicante. Of course if you want to avoid the crowds you don’t travel to Alicante in the summer months June, July and August. But even winter is a great time to visit Alicante. All the photos taken in this Alicante travel blog are from mid December. To me it was the perfect time for my holidays in Alicante, because of the mild temperatures and the deserted streets. As I found Alicante almost deserted at the end of autumn I listed it in a list of off the beaten track destinations in Europe.
2. From Alicante Airport to Alicante city center
May you decide to spend your Alicante weekend break just in the city then you can either take a taxi from the airport to your hotel or the Alicante airport bus. The bus only cost €3,85 per person, taxi’s easily ask €25. The bus from Alicante Airport to Alicante city center leaves just outside the arrivals hall and is called C6. It has several stops along the Explanada de Espana, the main boulevard in the city.
3. How to get around in Alicante
Rent a car
You can either rent a car at the airport and pick it up on arrival or rent a car at the Alicante city center. At the airport you can’t miss the rental car companies in the arrivals hall. It is very simple and straight forward. I recommend you to book a car to see the best places to visit around Alicante.
You can also rent a car in Alicante city center. Almost all the car rental companies have offices next to the train station. I rented my car in the city center and dropped it off at the airport with no extra fee.
For cheap car rentals in Spain, check out this website. I already rented a car with them for less than €20.
From Alicante to Benidorm
There are busses and trains from Alicante to Benidorm that run every hour and take 1,5 hours only. But to make the most of your holidays in Alicante I would recommend renting a car. One of the best places to visit in Alicante is Altea and you won’t get there unless you have a car.
4. Alicante weekend break
For those people that are only able to enjoy a weekend in Alicante I think it is best to rent a car for one day and visit some places near Alicante. The other day you can explore the Alicante city center with all its things to do.
5. Museums are free
A great thing about a trip to Alicante is that all the museums are free. You can just walk in. Which museums are cool to visit? Scroll down to the places to see in Alicante section.
6. Things to do in Alicante
6.1. Hike up to Santa Barbara Castle
If you are reasonably fit or have the time anyway, please walk up to the top of the Santa Barbara Castle. To me it is one of the best things to do in Alicante. There are many path to lead to the castle on top of the hill. It is 166 meters above sea level but the views from up there are obviously impressive. During the hike up you will constantly be spoiled with fabulous views in all directions over Alicante city center.
The walk up is pretty steep, but once you reach the top you will appreciate it even more. You can also drive up to the entrance of the Santa Barbara Castle.
There are some places to have a drink along the way with good views over the city center and the ocean.
There are some expositions halls, but I was just mostly interested in the view. There is no Santa Barbara Castle entrance fee. When you visit Alicante make sure to put this on your things to do list!
Watching the sunrise is not possible as there are opening hours. From April till September the castle is open from 10am to 10pm, in the winter months the castle is only open till 8pm.
Watching the sunset from Santa Barbara Castle, a romantic thing to do in Alicante.
6.2. Stroll through Old Town Alicante
One of my favorite things to do on a city break is to get lost. This time I ended up somewhere in Alicante Old Town and I was blown away by its beauty. Perched in the slopes of the Santa Barbara Castle there are these cute little streets and stairs. Houses are painted in different colors and all have flowers in front. If you are looking for romantic things to do in Alicante then stroll through Old Town.
6.3. Sunbath on El Postiguet Beach
There are several amazing beaches around Alicante. I cant tell you which one is the best as I did not try them all. The beach in the city center is called El Postiguet. A little North you can find a huge beach called San Juan Playa. For people staying in Alicante City Center I would recommend going to El Postiguet.
This is El Postiguet on a Wednesday in December just before sunset.
6.4. Visit the fish market
The local food in Alicante mostly always contains fish. Because of its dry climate there never really were opportunities to grow something so historically dried food and fish has always been part of their menu. In Alicante city center there is Mercado Central, this bustling place is cool to walk around. You will be amazed what they all sell here.
6.5. Bring your own fish restaurants
Fresher than this it can hardly get. Around the markets there are some restaurants where you can bring your own fish and they cook it for you. Buy it at the market, present it to the restaurant and let them prepare a meal for you with your own fish. Just outside the market there is a restaurant called La Rotonda who also does this. If I were you I would ask in advance before you get there and say: but Traveltomtom told me it was possible… ;)
6.6 Try Turron
When on an Alicante city break you surely have to try Turron. Originally from the Alicante region it is a kind of nougat sweet made from egg white, honey, sugar and toasted almonds. It comes in many different variations. There are shops dedicated to Turron. I walked into Turrones ESPI at Calle Tomas Lopez Torregrosa and they let me try different kind of Turrones. Definitely something you have to try when you visit Alicante. They claim to be making Turron since 1820, so I assume they know what they are doing.
The liquor of Turron taste a bit like Baileys.
Did you know that every city you visit has free walking tours? In Alicante you can also find one and I honestly think it is one of the best things to do. Not only do you get to see all the best places to visit in Alicante, you also get a little slice of history and some cool anecdotes about the city. The free walking tour takes about 2 hours and is tip based. They meet every day at 11am at the beginning of Explanada de Espana and you recognize them from of the purple umbrella.
If you look closely on the picture you can see the purple umbrella.
During the free walking tour in Alicante we learned that the rock above Alicante has a face, the one who protects Alicante from Evil.
6.8. Segway tour
Have you ever tried riding a segway? It is just as easy as walking trust me. An hour city tour cost about €40. You get a little Segway lesson and once you are comfortable you are ready to explore the city on a segway.
6.9. Snorkel at Tabarca Island
From the beach in Alicante you can see a little rocky island in the ocean. During summer there are many boats going to Tabarca. This inhabited island is a protected marine reserve since 1986. It is a great place for snorkeling
6.10. Stroll up and down La Rambla
Just like in Barcelona the main street in Alicante is called La Rambla. Stroll up and down and sample food and look for souvenirs in typical stalls from street vendors.
6.11. Explore the marina
Marinas are always great to walk around, especially around sunset. It always gives me such a calming feeling to see all these boats perfectly lined up. There is a nice terrace at SOHO Mar to have a drink with views over the marina. You can also find a Volvo Ocean Race Museum, but I did not go inside as well as a casino.
If you fancy a typical Alicante coffee ask for a Bombon Coffee, its a layered coffee with condensed milk. Not my taste, but worth a try.
If you want to send your wife shopping tell her to go to the area around Avenida Maisonnave. It is right in the Alicante city center and there are endless shopping opportunities. Make sure she brings her own credit card!
Check out a leather bag store called Cala. It’s really cool if you need some gifts. The leather shoes in Spain are cheap and amazing quality compared to most of the world!
7. Places to see in Alicante
7.1. Explanda de Espana
The main tourist spot in Alicante is its Explanda de Espana. The main boulevard made out of more than 6.5 million marble tiles is something the people from Alicante are really proud of. It has a long history but nowadays tourists on their Alicante weekend break stroll up and down through the massive palm trees before they sit back and relax. There are many terraces and people watching is a popular thing to do in Alicante. The marble tiles of the Explanada have three colors: white and blue are the city colors of Alicante and red. Alicante Red is an official color marble and expensive all over the world, it is marble that comes from this region.
7.2. Basilica Santa Maria
Nestled in Alicante Old Town next to the Museum of Contemporary Arts you can find the Santa Maria church. The Baroque entry is pretty impressive and still in tact. They renovated the square and the church about 10 years ago and it looks beautiful from the outside. To peak inside you gotta come at the right time. The basilica is only open from 11.00-12.00 and from 19.00-20.00. During this time there are also church services, but taking photos is allowed. Therefore plan a visit to the Santa Maria Basilica carefully as it is one of the best places to visit in Alicante.
7.3. Alicante Cathedral
The San Nicolas de Bari Cathedral is located in Alicante city center in front of Plaza del Abad Penalva. The cathedral has a 45 meter high blue cupola that towers out above the city skyline. The interior is pretty impressive too. Inside there is a second floor to get to by a staircase for a different perspective of this amazing cathedral. Definitely among the best places to visit in Alicante.
On the right side of the picture you can see the cathedral. Sad that they allowed one skyscraper to be build in Alicante city center. After they realize it was not a good idea and they did not permit any more of these buildings to be build.
7.4. Contemporary Art Museum
Located next to the Santa Maria Basilica is the Museum of Contemporary Art. It is free to enter and it was one of the first times I walked into a museum like this. I like the free museums concept!
7.5. Water Museum
At the bottom of the Santa Barbara Castle you will find the water museum. It basically is a cave in where there is al little exposition about how people back in the days used techniques to save rain water. The entrance is free, it is a 5 minute visit. Not the most exhilarating place to see in Alicante, but nice to peak inside when you pass by.
7.6. MARQ Archaeological Museum Alicante
The only museum in Alicante where you have to pay an entrance fee. It is only €3 and it is used for preservation and research. It won the European Museum of the year award in 2004, so who would I be to not list it as one of the best things to do in Alicante. It was nice to walk around, surely worth €3. Taking photos without flash is allowed. I loved that the MARQ Archaeological Museum is an interactive museum.
8. Places to eat in Alicante
When you walk out of the Alicante Cathedral and turn left there is the Calle de Munoz, a lovely little passageway with a couple lovely restaurants. If you are looking where to eat in Alicante I could recommend you one of the restaurants in this little alley.
Anywhere along Explanada is good to eat outside on one of the many terraces.
For evenings I liked the Plaza Santa Faz where you find many terraces under big palm trees.
9. Where to go out in Alicante
From what I found was El Barrio the best place to go out in Alicante. There are a dozen restaurants and bars located in the narrow streets. Havana is a lively place where tourists and locals mingle.
10. Best coffee places in Alicante
As part of my working holiday visa in Australia I did a barista course and since then a standard coffee is not good enough anymore. Therefore I always roam around to find the best coffee places anywhere I go. In Alicante Old Town I found three amazing places.
Choose your favorite coffee roast from Costa Rica, Rwanda or Colombia. This place knows how to make excellent coffee, thumbs up! A very inviting interior as well, a place where you just want to hang out.
10.2. Bunatic Slow Coffee
Another little coffee gem in Alicante Old Town. Great coffee and although the interior is a bit minimalistic, this is where you want to come for breakfast. Start your Alicante city break at Bunatic Slow Coffee as their breakfast deals are delicious. You should definitely try the homemade granola with fresh fruits. The toasts are also yummy. Coffees €2,00, breakfast deals €5,00.
If you are looking for things to do in Alicante when it rains this is a good place to go. Coffee is world class and the homey atmosphere will make you smile. There are sofas, lounge chairs and it is filled with foreign students studying. Dogs are allowed inside and every time I hang out there I saw a bunch of dogs. The avocado sandwich is delicious. Coffees €2,00, avo on toast €5,00.
11. Festivals in Alicante
The number one festival that I would love to go to myself is the Carnival. Im from Southern Holland where we celebrate Carnival big time as well and I have also celebrated Carnival in the Caribean and South America. Street parades, happy people, costumes, smiles, drinks and warm weather and I am 100% sure this is a good festival to attend. Carnival is held mostly around mid February or beginning of March.
11.2 Running with the bulls
This is exactly what it implies. The brave are able to run with the bulls through the main street. Spectators are behind wooden fences as bulls run through the streets ending up in a temporary bullring at the fishing port. The Running with the Bulls festival is yearly held in July. In 2016 two people died.
11.3 Start of Volvo Ocean Race
There is a reason why there is a Volvo Ocean Race Museum in the port of Alicante as since 2008 the start of the Volvo Ocean Race is in the Alicante port. It is a big happening every time. There is another Volvo Ocean Race to be scheduled in October 2020.
11.4 Start Vuelta
The Vuelta is the Tour de France of Spain and the 3th biggest cycling event in the world. This year the first 3 stages will be held in and around Alicante. PLaces like Torrevieja, Benidorm, Calpe and Alicante are all either start or finish places. When? Book your Alicante hotel for Augustus 23 - August 27.
12. Day trips from Alicante
As you can see there are many things to do and places to see on your Alicante holidays, so no need to even leave the city. But there are some amazing places around Alicante that are definitely worth a visit.
- Canelobre Caves - a big cave inside a mountain, with guided tours.
- Busot - a charming village on top of a hill.
- Benidorm - a popular beach town.
- Altea - one of the best places to see in Alicante Province.
- Guadalest - a lovely village with a castle on top of a hill.
- Villajoyosa - colorful coastal town.
To visit these places I recommend you to take day trips from Alicante. Click on the link to read the full blog post about all the amazing places to visit around Alicante.
My trip to Alicante
As you have been able to read I have explored the city quite extensively. This lead to the above information about holidays to Alicante. The vibe in the city is super chilled especially in the winter season. People are more relaxed and it is not at all crowded. Flights to Alicante are cheaper and hotels too. You can already find Alicante hotels for as less as €50 per night. Every morning I made my way to one of the coffee shops mentioned to get a good cup of coffee and a healthy breakfast. Then walked around the city taking photos and sampling some Jamon Iberico and of course some ice cream. Life in Alicante was good… I will definitely be back!
Where to stay in Alicante
5 star hotel in Alicante
4 star hotel in Alicante
Boutique hotel in Alicante
Hotel Boutique Alicante Palacete - charming boutique hotel in the city center. With over more 700 reviews it scores a 9.4.
Apartment in Alicante
Wellrenting Alicante CS - close to the train station, spacious 1 bedroom apartment for under 50 a night. 300 reviews - 8.3 score.
Budget hotel in Alicante
Habitaciones Engel - Super central, shared bathroom but only €30 a night. 9.1 score out of 130 reviews.
Hostel in Alicante
Smile & Co Hostal Boutique - On the west side of Alicante city center clearly a favorite with almost 1,000 reviews and a 9.6 review score.
Thank you for reading my Alicante travel blog. I hope all the information I provided was helpful for your holidays in Alicante. Would you please help me a little in return? Would you mind posting the link on Facebook or in a Facebook Group? Or tweet it on Twitter? It would mean a lot to me! Massive thanks in advance.