The Ultimate Travel Guide to Alicante, Spain
Alicante, or Alacant in the local Valenciano language, is a vibrant port town on Spain’s Costa Blanca. It’s also a popular cruise-ship stop, and approaching passengers are greeted by a splendid panorama: the massive Castle of Santa Barbara high up on mount Benacantil overlooking city and port, sparkling white beaches, and an elegant promenade Calle Esplanada with hundreds of palm trees and an intricate mosaic pavement.
Alicantinos love to eat, drink, and party and are already looking forward to their most important festival: Hogueras de San Juan in June, when the city becomes one great celebration. Fireworks, bonfires, parades, and dances make for three days of non-stop entertainment.
A colorful old town, world-class museums, and very fine restaurants add to Alicante’s many attractions, a destination often overlooked for the more famous and nearby Valencia. If you can’t make it for San Juan, plan two days to explore this typically Spanish city and enjoy a day trip to the pirate island of Tabarca from Alicante’s lively port.
In this Alicante Travel Guide Blog, we listed some tips on making your own DIY Day trip to Alicante, Spain. We also included Alicante Itinerary, Things to do and see, how to get there, and more.
Best time to visit
Alicante’s Mediterranean climate means approx. 300 days of sunshine a year, warm temperatures year-round, and not much rainfall. It can get very hot in July and August, but a breeze from the sea always makes it bearable.
Alicante is famous for her abundance of almond trees in the surrounding countryside, so if you would like to see the almond blossoms, come in spring. Summer is also a cruise ship season, so it can get crowded; Alicante is not a big city; therefore, spring and fall are better.
How to get there
Alicante/Elche is the city’s international airport, mostly serving low-cost airlines but a few regulars like Iberia and KLM. A bus from the airport takes you to the city center, and there are others to the beach resorts of Benidorm and Torrevieja.
The main train terminal serves Spain’s high-speed trains AVE to Madrid and Barcelona and regional lines mostly to the north. From the central bus station, coaches run to Spain and even as far as France, Italy, and Greece.
It’s easy and best to explore Alicante on foot. Otherwise, there are plenty of buses or trams. A little train runs along a scenic route from Alicante to Altea and ends at Denia. There are plenty of taxis too, but they tend to be quite expensive, especially at weekends and at night.
Places to stay
For a city of just about 400.000 inhabitants, Alicante offers a lot of accommodation suitable for all budgets.
My favorite is Hospes Amerigo, a 5star hotel in the middle of Alicante’s Old Town. Located in a converted 19th century Dominican Convent in Rafael Altamira 7, the stylish rooms have high ceilings and big windows with views of the cathedral and the castle of Santa Barbara. Apart from all the amenities you can expect from a hotel of this category, you can also enjoy a free spa on the rooftop.
Explananda Hotel Alicante
For the middle budget, there is another great hotel in a historic building, the Expalanada Hotel Alicante, in c/San Fernandez 18. Located just a short distance from the popular Postiguet Beach and the sea promenade, the ample rooms have great suite bathrooms and a delicious breakfast buffet included in the price.
If you are on a lower budget and don’t mind simple but clean accommodation, then the Hotel Cervantes in Medico Pascual Perez 19 might be a good choice for you.
The rooms have AC and TV and a private bath. The location is very convenient for exploring the Old Town and even for a trip to the beach. Continental breakfast is included in the price.
If you plan a visit to see the San Juan Festival, you are well-advised to book as soon as possible.
Best places to eat
As we have already said, food is very important to Alicantinos. Therefore you can find plenty of restaurants that serve excellent food, from seafood and meat to paellas and the best of the ever-present tapas, which in Alicante are called pintxos or montaditos.
Talking about tapas: the best place to try out a great variety is Lizarran in Rambla Mendez Nunez 18. Hot and cold tapas are lined up at the counter, you just point. The waiters also come around with freshly made hot pintxos, which you can add according to how hungry you are.
For a sit-down meal in an excellent rustic restaurant, you have to drive a bit (or take a taxi) to Vert I Vent, Carretera CV-749 Jalon Valley.
The journey is well worthwhile for homemade typical meat dishes of Alicante and the North of Spain with daily changing menus. You must make a reservation.
Alicante is all about rice, called Arroz, in Spanish. The best known is paella, but there are many more varieties which you should try. Make your way to Restaurante El Buen Comer in Calle Mayor 8.
They have special menus during Easter and San Juan, but every day paellas with seafood or rabbit, Arroz with pulpo, etc.
Bear in mind that many restaurants (except Lizarran) close on Mondays.
Things to do and see
Number 1 on your agenda should be the Castillo of Santa Barbara on top of Benacantil Hill. Reserve several hours for your visit because the castle complex is huge, and there are also two museums to visit.
If you are fit, you can make your way on foot from several points in the Old Town, up some steep steps. They are well maintained and lead you through the beautiful park called La Ereta. Much easier access is via a lift which takes you up inside the Benacantil hill opposite Postiguet Beach. Or you can drive up; ample parking at the foot of the castle entrance is available.
The castle itself consists of several levels, dating from the 9th to the 18th century. La Torreta is the highest and oldest point, from there you can pass by the grotto and statue of Santa Barbara, the patron saint of the city, and also visit a torture museum and MUSA, the museum of the city of Alicante with the exhibition of a major gold treasure that was discovered in a nearby field.
A much more relaxing walk is along the Esplanada de España, which follows Alicante’s seafront. Remarkable is the floor, a mosaic of more than 6.5 million tiny black and white marble pieces, arranged in the shape of waves. Palm trees line the promenade, and on weekends there is an art and food market along its length.
Cross the street and enjoy Alicante’s yacht port and the Volvo Ocean Race Museum, which opened in 2012 and is dedicated not only to the race but also to tall ships’ history.
For museum fans, here is an insider tip. The tiny Museo de Hogueras tells you all about the Festival de San Juan with examples of the fabulous giant paper mache minots participating in the festival. The address is Calle Teniente Alvarez and its tucked away just off Rambla Mendez Nuñez.
If you are fond of Picasso, Dali, or Miro, take a look at the Museum of Modern Art or, for history fans, the Archaeology Museum, voted as the best European Museum of 2004.
Round out your Alicante experience with a visit to the cathedral and, time allowing, go on a boat trip to Isla Tabarca. The boat leaves from the port and takes you to a former pirate island with a church, a lighthouse, colorful houses, and several good restaurants with a pirate scheme in tune with its history.
The local currency is the EURO. Due to the many visitors, credit cards are accepted everywhere, and English is spoken widely.
Wifi is available throughout the city.
On Mondays, many museums and restaurants are closed, so why not make it a beach day?
Best places to shop
Alicante’s main shopping street is Rambla Mendez Nuñoz, with several (mostly Spanish) designer boutiques. Also, there is a big branch of the popular Spanish department store El Corte Ingles.
If you are interested in leather goods and shoes, you might make a trip to nearby Elche, which has the biggest number of shoemakers in all of Spain. If you like an American style shopping mall with fabulous views of Alicante’s port, plenty of shops and entertainment, head for Panoramis.
Whether you come off a cruise ship or make your way to Alicante independently, once you set foot on the Esplanade and begin your very own tour of Alicante, you’ll be charmed by this city full of life and maybe stay another day to see even more or venture further afield to Altea or the coastal resorts. Nothing is very far away.
Alicante Travel and Tour Packages
To help you plan out your visit to Alicante, we listed places to visit and other amazing things in Alicante, Spain. We also listed some of the best travel deals and tour packages and excellent flight deals and accommodation.
Searching for the best hotels, resorts, and affordable flights in the nearby Cities? Check out our list of affordable Alicante hotels and resorts via Agoda, Booking, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.