Unlike so many other resorts around the Costa Blanca, Alicante has tried to market itself for what it has to offer culturally, in addition to its famous beaches and glorious weather. Sandwiched between the coast and mountain ranges, it is a city of beauty as well as culture. Located on Mount Benacantil, the Castillo de Santa Bárbara is a reminder of Alicante’s Moorish past. Even though it has developed into a modern tourist city from a small town in need of rejuvenation, Alicante has not forgotten its history and traditions. Local festivals are held throughout the year, and the traditional paella, available in almost every restaurant, is the dish to try if you want to sample a taste of the Costa Blanca.
Alicante lies on the Mediterranean coast between Elche and Benidorm. To the west and north are mountain ranges, while the southern areas consist of valleys, through which the Segura River flows. The Alicante province is split into the Upper Marina, which takes in Teulada, Javea and Calpe, and Lower Marina, centred around Benidorm but also including Villajoyosa and Altea. The most visited beach in Alicante, which is considered to be amongst the best Spanish beaches, is the San Juan. Inland are Aspe and Movelda, while Guardamar and Torreveija are further along the coast.
There is a huge amount to see and do in and around Alicante, which in years gone by was called Lucentum, meaning City of Light. For example, the Tabarca island is not far from the coast and makes an ideal day trip. Alicante’s palm-lined boulevard is heaven for shoppers, while in the middle of the town is the Castle of Santa Barbara, amongst the largest of the medieval Spanish fortresses. Make your way to the summit of Mount Benacantil, on which the castle stands, for a breath taking panorama of Alicante. If you stand on El Postiguet beach and turn towards the castle, a strange section which juts out appears to take the form of a human face. This has been called the Moor’s Head. Another castle with fabulous views is the 200 year old Castillo de San Fernando, which stands on Tossal Hill.
San Juan Beach (La Playa de San Juan), situated about 7km from the centre of Alicante, is the best sandy beach in the area. Better still, it has been designated a Blue Flag beach by the EU. Everything a sun spotter could wish for is here; sunbathing, safe swimming and water sports, shopping, and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat and/or get a refreshing drink. The gothic St Mary’s Church, built in the 14th-16th centuries, is a very popular sightseeing spot. It stands on what remains of the foundations of an ancient Moorish mosque. It contains many priceless artworks, and inside has been decorated in the Baroque style. The Ayuntamiento (Town Hall), near La Explanada Park, features gorgeous 115 ft double towers as well as a blue room, meeting room and an oratory.
The main attraction of the Co-Cathedral of San Nicolas, built during the 1600s, is its majestic blue dome and its peaceful gardens. At the Alicante Theatre, ballet, opera and theatre performances are held. At the luxurious Alicante Marina, visitors are treated to a host of shops to suit all tastes and budgets, gourmet eateries and leisure facilities as well as much, much more. The 19th century Canalejas Park is the oldest of its kind in Alicante. Designed by architect Gonzolez Altus, the entranceway features sculptures of lions and dogs. Tourists can take in the serene ambience while admiring the ornate fountains and a stone map of Spain.