Best Things To Do in Alicante
Alicante can almost be summed up in two words — both start with "b:" beaches and bars. But the museums, one of which is award winning, and other sites like the Castillo de Santa Bárbara and the nearby Palm Groves of 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 or the Guadalest Valley.
Updated April 2, 2014
- #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 piece of shoreline just about 6 miles north of Alicante. Playa del San Juan is accessible by bus or tram, and it's known as one of Spain's best beaches, in fact, many travelers say it offers a better beach experience than you'll find at Postiguet. It's also pretty long (a little more than 4 miles), so you'll surely be able to carve out your own little space in the sand. And just behind the beach are restaurants, nightlife venues and even an 18-hole golf course.
One TripAdvisor user describes it like this: "Lovely soft, pebbleless sandy beach with all the facilities and safety anyone could want."
- #2View all Photos#2 in AlicanteCastles/Palaces, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDCastles/Palaces, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Carthaginians built the first incarnation of this fortress in 400 B.C.; Romans and Arabs later used the fort and added to it — drawbridges, battery, hospitals, dungeons, and more. Today, the complex is solely used for tourism. Admission is free, but you'll face 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.
"What an interesting place and the views were stupendous. We could see right along to coast and to the distant mountains," said one TripAdvisor user.
- #3View all Photos#3 in AlicanteFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Old Town Alicante's boundaries are roughly drawn by the streets 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. On your wander, you'll probably happen on the city's town hall, cathedral, a convent and a handful of museums, including the Gravina Museum of Fine Arts and the Museu de Arte del Siglo XX Asegurada. Frommer's recommends checking out the Barrio de Santa Cruz, which is "a colorful section with wrought-iron window grilles, flowers, and a view of the entire harbor."
- #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 an annual event that takes place around June 24. Similar to Valencia's Las Fallas event, Alicante's version includes a huge parade with elaborate ninots (effigies), street parties, fireworks, a market, a beauty queen, flower offerings and a lot of drinking. And although most of the effigies are fed to the massive bonfire's flames, the best ones are saved and preserved in Alicante's free Museo de Fogueres. If you're traveling to Alicante between the dates of June 19 and 24, keep in mind that the city will be overrun with festivalgoers. For more information, visit this website.
- #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.
You'll find it between Puerta del Mar and the Canalejas Park.
- #6View all Photos#6 in AlicanteParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Palmeral de Elche (or Palm Grove of Elche) has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its grove of more than 11,000 palm trees — the largest in all of Europe. It also has roots that are "traditionally attributed to the Phoenicians and Carthaginians in the 1st millennium BC," according to UNESCO.
A TripAdvisor user says: "If you want to take a little break from the Alicante seaside this is the perfect day trip. The 'Huerta del Cura' of Elche is an amazing garden [with] the largest diversity of palm trees in Europe. It offers the visitor a nice stroll in the shade." Another TripAdvisor user gives some advice, "start the exploration from the Municipal Parc of Elche." Here, your walk will be accompanied by shade, spurting fountains, blossoming flowers and maybe even a dove or two.
- #7 in AlicanteZoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDZoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
This zoo and aquarium is also "a park devoted to leisure, defense of the environment, teaching respect for animals and nature, conservation and breeding of species." With that said, Mundomar seeks to design the penguin homes to 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.
One TripAdvisor user, a fan of the park's meerkats, says, "The park is well laid out, not too busy and is very visitor friendly." Travelers also highlight the animal shows, some of which feature parrots, sea lions and dolphins.
- #8View all Photos#8 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. In 2004, it won the esteemed European Museum of the Year Award by the Council of Europe. Plus it contains artifacts that date from the Paleolithic era to the contemporary, including the remains of a sunken Roman ship. It also has interactive exhibits, popular among older children and adults.
Tickets cost several euro, and you can visit this museum Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For further information, visit the official website.
- #9 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. But the Museo de Arte del Siglo XX Asegurada (or the 20th Century Art Collection) has nearly 200 works displayed in the 17th-century baroque building.
Admission is free, and it's open Tuesdays through Sundays with varying hours depending on the season. You'll find this museum on the Plaza de Santa María. For more information, visit the museum's website.
- #10View all PhotosfreePostiguet Beach#10 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. Backed by a promenade (aka a "boardwalk") and a line of palms, it's also very crowded. However, this local beach doesn't get points for being super picturesque or even that clean. "This is not exactly the beach I was dreaming of. Very crowded, loud, full of seniors ... very dirty, rubbish in the water," said one TripAdvisor user.
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.