Best Things To Do in Alicante
Alicante can almost be summed up in two words: beaches and bars. But the museums – including the award-winning MARQ Provincial Archaeological Museum... READ MORE
Alicante can almost be summed up in two words: beaches and bars. But the museums – including the award-winning MARQ Provincial Archaeological Museum – and other sites like the Castillo de Santa Bárbara and the nearby Palmeral de Elche, give this several-thousand-year-old city an indescribable depth. Plus, you're only about an hour or two away from other prized Spanish regions like Valencia and the Guadalest Valley.
Updated July 29, 2020
- #1View all PhotosfreeSan Juan Beach#1 in AlicanteBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
You'll find this stretch of shoreline just about 6 miles northeast of Alicante city. Playa de San Juan is known as one of Spain's best beaches; in fact, many recent travelers said it offers a better beach experience than Postiguet. The beach offers designated area for sports like volleyball and football. There's also a skateboarding area if you want to show off some tricks or just watch others. Not to mention, there are plenty of places to rent water sports equipment for surfing, kayaking, windsurfing and jet skiing. The beach also stretches about 2 miles, so you'll surely be able to carve out your own little space in the sand. It's accessible by tram or bus. Visitors recommend taking the L4 tram line to the Londres stop or the L3 tram line to El Campello; if you're on a bus, Costa Blanca, Costa Blanca-Milan and Plaza Coruña are all bus stops close to the beach.
Just behind the beach are restaurants, nightlife venues and even an 18-hole golf course. On a sunny day – most days – the strip is filled with people strolling. A bike path behind the beach makes it easily accessible; there is also a tram line that connects the beach with the city center and Dénia – a nearby coastal town. Public parking spaces and beachside hotels abound in this area as well. Access to the beach is free.
- #2View all Photos#2 in AlicanteFree, Castles/Palaces, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Castles/Palaces, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Situated on a mountaintop overlooking Alicante, Castillo de Santa Barbara is one of the largest medieval fortresses in the country. Those who make the climb (or choose to drive or take the elevator) to the top will be greeted with sprawling views of the bay. Carthaginians built the first incarnation of this fortress in 400 B.C. Romans and Arabs later used the fort and added to it with drawbridges, battery, hospitals, dungeons and more. Today, the complex is solely used for tourism. Visitors can explore the three levels of the castle. On the bottom level, you'll find a statue to a war general, and, now, a parking lot area. The middle level was completed in the 16th century and features a hall and the Patio de Armas. The top level houses the Homage Tower and offers the oldest remains dating back to the 11th century. Within the fortress, there is a museum with 10 rooms that showcase the city's history.
Admission is free, but you'll have to pay a small fee if you want to take the elevator up to the castle from the Avenue de Juan Bautista Lafora. If you'd rather walk to the top (and burn off a few paella calories), you can head east from Plaza del Carmen. There are also parking lots if you choose to drive to the castle; it's accessible by bus as well. Previous visitors recommend taking your time walking up and around the castle, so you can soak in the scenery for as long as possible. They agree the grounds are well-kept and the panoramic views at the top are priceless.
- #3View all Photos#3 in AlicanteFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Although many visitors head straight to the beaches when they arrive in Alicante, you would be remiss to skip out on a stroll through the city's Old Town. Old Town Alicante's boundaries are roughly drawn by Rambla de Méndez Núnez and Explanada de España, and Mount Benacantil, which is topped by the Castillo de Santa Bárbara. Ideal for meandering, Old Town's narrow streets will also give you a true feel for this city. The Barrio de Santa Cruz is a must-see for its colorful buildings, quaint shops and outdoor restaurants. It's not a large area, but the pedestrian-only streets are filled with enough antique charm and lively chatter that you may want to stay for a while. The two most well-known streets are Calle San Rafael and Calle San Antonio. You should also stop at Mirador de Santa Cruz – the highest point in the barrio – to soak in the sunset.
On your wander around Old Town, you'll also happen upon the city's town hall – which you can enter to marvel at its Baroque architecture and its famous Blue Room – as well as many cathedrals, including the San Nicolás Co-Cathedral, which was constructed in the 1600s. The Old Town is also home to a convent and a handful of museums, including the Gravina Museum of Fine Arts, which focuses on traditional art and sculptures by artists from the local area. Visitors also enjoy the Museu de Arte del Siglo XX Asegurada, which showcases modern art that juxtaposes its location in the city's oldest building.
- #4View all Photos#4 in AlicanteFestivals, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFestivals, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Las Hogueras de San Juan (the Bonfires of Saint John) is a festival that occurs each year in late June, and it's one of the most important events in Alicante. There are mixed notions about the festival's history but many believe it began as a tribute to the summer solstice where bonfires were created to ward off any evil spirits. Nowadays, it's a celebration where family, friends and visitors come together to witness massive bonfires and make merry. The Museo de Fogueres, which is located in the city center near the MACA and MARQ, lets guests experience the festival year round.
The festival features street parties, food stalls, a market, a beauty queen, flower offerings and a lot of drinking. A daily fireworks competition means lots of excitement as well. Similar to Valencia's Las Fallas event, Alicante's version includes a huge parade with elaborate ninots (effigies). The effigies are usually created from papier maché and wood, and they're fed to the massive bonfire's flames at the end of the festival. However, the best ones are saved and preserved in Alicante's free Museo de Fogueres.
- #5View all Photos
The ideal place to people-watch, the trademark Explanada de España is a marble-laden promenade, constructed from 6.5 million mosaic tiles. Lined by benches and several rows of palm trees, the walk is hemmed in by the shore on one side and several blocks of restaurants and nightclubs on the other.
Recent visitors said it's a great idea to stop for a drink or a bite to eat at one of the nearby restaurants and simply watch the world go by. They also agreed it's a safe place to walk, and it's especially peaceful in the early mornings before people begin flocking to the surrounding shops and eateries. In the summer months, you'll find many vendors selling souvenirs and food, as well as musicians and street performers bringing a cheerful vibe to the area. However, in the offseason, the stalls will usually only appear on weekends.
- #6View all Photos#6 in AlicanteFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
One of the oldest churches in the city, the Santa Maria Basilica sits in the heart of Alicante's Old Town across from the Museum of Contemporary Art of Alicante (MACA). Construction on the Valencian Gothic church began in the 14th century, and some of its most memorable features include the ornate sculptures at the entrance and the two towers. Inside, the golden altar is striking as are the various paintings and high ceilings.
The land on which it was constructed previously held a mosque, but when the city changed hands from Moorish rule, this new church was built. The Santa Maria Basilica now symbolizes the city's many Roman Catholic residents. Mass is usually held each day but times can vary. If you don't want to attend Mass but still want to venture inside the structure, you can walk through the church between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. or between 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. It's free to enter, but be sure to be respectful while visiting as it's an active place of worship.
- #7View all PhotosfreeGuadalest Valley#7 in AlicanteFree, Neighborhood/Area, HikingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/Area, HikingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Once you've gotten your fill of Alicante city, consider taking a daytrip to the Guadalest Valley. This valley, which sits about an hour's drive north of the city, draws visitors with its turquoise blue reservoir and surrounding mountains. There are popular hiking trails for different viewpoints. Though it's a rural area, there is a village in the valley with quaint restaurants and shops as well as ruins of ancient city walls. Hiking trails are accessible from the town, so visitors can use it as a home base for their adventures.
A must-see landmark in the Guadalest Valley is the hilltop castle, which was made extremely secure in its construction and can only be reached by walking through a tunnel. According to past visitors, the views are worth the walk.
- #8View all Photos#8 in AlicanteFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Palmeral de Elche (or Palm Grove of Elche) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognized for its grove of more than 11,000 palm trees – the largest in all of Europe. It has roots that are "traditionally attributed to the Phoenicians and Carthaginians in the 1st millennium BC," according to UNESCO. The Moors then expanded upon the area and created a type of oasis with a meticulous and complex irrigation system that would help bring water even in times of drought.
Nowadays, this park of palm trees makes for a picturesque stroll. You can walk through Municipal Parc of Elche where your walk will be accompanied by shade, spurting fountains, blossoming flowers and maybe even a dove or two. Many recent visitors agreed you should end your walk by the Huerto del Cura – arguably one of the most beautiful sections – where you'll be in awe of the many ponds among the palms. This area is considered a National Artistic Garden, and it's home to the Imperial Palm Tree – a massive and nearly two-centuries-old palm.
- #9View all Photos#9 in AlicanteZoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDZoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
This zoo and aquarium is a fun, kid-friendly daytime activity, and it doubles as an educational experience. Through shows and exhibits, the theme park helps teach visitors to respect wildlife and natural resources as well as the importance of conservation. At Mundomar, visitors can admire a diverse array of aquatic animals, mammals, reptiles and birds.
Past travelers highlighted the animal shows, some of which feature parrots, sea lions and dolphins, as the chief reasons to plan a visit. Mundomar seeks to design the penguin homes and dolphin habitats with each species' happiness and comfort in mind. The healthy animal environment also makes for a pleasing – not to mention ethical – visit for humans.
- #10View all Photos#10 in AlicanteMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
It's no wonder that the Museo Arqueológico is many Alicante visitors' favorite museum. Upon entering, visitors will be transported through history with presentations and interactive exhibits about everything from prehistoric archaeology to the Middle Ages. The galleries are designed to each represent different themes, including field, urban and underwater archaeology. The museum also contains artifacts that date from the Paleolithic era to contemporary times, including the remains of a sunken Roman ship. In 2004, MARQ won the esteemed European Museum of the Year Award by the Council of Europe.
This museum is also an educational center and event space offering high-tech features and beautiful spaces. There are consistently changing exhibitions and even programs for kids to help them learn about Alicante's natural history and archaeology in a more exciting, simplified way.
- #11View all Photos#11 in AlicanteBeaches, Hiking, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Hiking, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Located a short boat ride from Alicante, Tabarca is Spain's smallest inhabited island, and it's the perfect place for a daytrip from Alicante. Visitors can stroll around the island admiring the rich biodiversity and unique bird-watching opportunities. The island – which used to be a base for pirates – is home to some Roman ruins and the remains of the 18th-century city walls, which previous visitors recommend checking out.
There are just about 100 people who live on the island, so you can expect a quiet, peaceful day. There are some restaurants and shops scattered about, but the real fun can be found in nature. In the winter months, the weather is cool, and you won't run into many tourists. In the summer however, visitors flock from Alicante to Tabarca for its prime snorkeling conditions and picturesque, albeit rocky, beaches. The island is also a favorite among divers, and it was declared a marine reserve in 1986.
- #12View all Photos#12 in AlicanteMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This museum is a little ironic: Modern art by the likes of Calder, Dalí and Picasso is housed in the city's oldest building. The Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Alicante (also known as the MACA or the 20th Century Art Collection) has nearly 200 works displayed in the 17th-century baroque building. The exhibits showcase art of all media including paintings, sculptures and even lithographs (designs drawn onto stone). Most of the original works were donated by local artist Eusebio Sempere, who wanted art to become more accessible to everyone. Since then, the museum has garnered a wealth of support and a great variety of art from renowned Spanish artists.
There are some permanent exhibits as well as a wealth of temporary ones which help change up visitors' experiences if they stop by multiple times. You'll leave this museum with a greater appreciation for local artists and the country that influences their work, according to reviewers. Recent visitors were especially impressed with some of the three-dimensional art and the unique selection of pieces.
- #13View all PhotosfreePostiguet Beach#13 in AlicanteBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you don't want to travel too far from the city center, Postiguet Beach is the place to go. Visitors enjoy relaxing on the shore and soaking in the views of Castillo de Santa Barbara, which overlooks the popular strip of sand. The waves are typically calm, making it safe for kids to play in the water and the sand. Backed by a promenade, or boardwalk, and a line of palms, there are plenty of places to take a break from the sunshine or grab a bite to eat during your day of relaxation. However, the multitude of surrounding businesses mean the beach can quickly get crowded, especially in the summer months. There are a number of other quieter beaches in the Alicante area, but if you want to stay within the city limits, Postiguet Beach is the best option. Postiguet Beach offers resources to make your beach day more comfortable, such as beach chair rentals, public bathrooms, lockers and foot showers. Ramps to the beach make it accessible for everyone, and refreshment stands are scattered around the strip. There are also opportunities to rent water sports equipment and recreational areas for beach volleyball and other games. If you're already walking around the city, you can reach the beach easily on foot; if you're taking public transportation, get off the tram at the Mercado or the Puerta del Mar stop. There are also a number of bus routes that will take you there. The beach is free to access.
- #14View all PhotosfreeMercado Central#14 in AlicanteFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Located in the city center, Mercado Central provides seemingly endless stalls of fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat, seafood, olive oils, pastries and flowers. The stalls are run by locals – mainly farmers from surrounding towns – whose prices are average and products are fresh. Not to mention, there's plenty of wine vendors as well. Recent visitors raved about the market's organization and cleanliness, and they recommended asking vendors about their products because many are conversational and happy to give information.
The market, which features more than 200 vendors, has an important place in the city's history because it serves to commemorate the resilience of Alicante's people during the Spanish Civil War. It's housed inside a rectangular domed structure built in 1912 with thoughtful architectural design. On the main floor, you'll see meats and cheeses, while on the underground floor – which you can reach via escalator – you'll find the rest of the products. Outside, there are tables for visitors to sit and enjoy their market finds (although the tables fill up quickly in the warmer months, according to reviewers). The market also typically gets crowded on Saturday afternoons as locals have time to go grocery shopping and catch up with one another over food.
Explore More of Alicante
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.