Compact, yet cosmopolitan - attractions
abound in Alicante
For such a compact Spanish city, Alicante has everything
on offer. The Mediterranean Sea and its beautiful beaches
are looking you straight in the eye, just a short step from
the city centre. The sands of Saladar and Postiguet beaches
have even been award the prestigious Blue Flag designation.
The city itself is no less special, with a series of historic
buildings and interesting museums (one of which was recently
nominated for European museum of the year) lurking in Alicante's
crooked old lanes - the El Barrio (Old Quarter) is fantastically
atmospheric. Watching over it all from the summit of Monte
Benacantil, whose rocky precipices tower over town, is the
medieval Castillo de Santa Bárbara.
de Santa Bárbara
This medieval fortress looms large over Alicante,
its golden walls hovering in the blue Spanish heavens,
some 550 feet above El Barrio (town's historic old
quarter). At night, floodlit and almost glowing in
contrast to the black sky, the sight of Castillo de
Santa Bárbara stops most people in their tracks.
No matter how beautiful you think it
is to look up at the fortress, the view down is always
more profound. Wander through the well-preserved structure,
which dates back to the 9th century, and discover
spectacular vistas overlooking the Mediterranean.
Remnants dating back as far as the Bronze Age have
been found here, along with evidence of fortifications
from the Iberian and Roman periods.
In a stark but stunning contrast, the
weathered ramparts play host to a brilliant exhibit
of Spanish contemporary sculpture. The Colección
Capa, which is the largest exhibit of its kind in
the world, displays hundreds of works from Spain’s
most talented sculptors of the late 19th and 20th
centuries. Dalí’s magnificent Newton
is the collection’s signature piece.
If you don't feel like huffing it up
to the top, there's an elevator accessed through a
205m-tunnel near Postiguet beach.
MARQ (Museo Arqueológico
Provincial de Alicante)
Although located in the ancient hospital of San Juan de
Dios, this is one of the most modern museums in the region
and was recently nominated for European museum of the year.
Inside you'll find Islamic treasures, Iberian ceramics and
Roman artefacts magically displayed with lights, shadows,
sounds and interactive images - you'll be spellbound. Bus
Nos 2, 6, 9, 20 and 23 all have a stop out front.
MUBAG (Museo de Bellas Artes Gravina)
Hosted in the 18th-century palace of Earl of Lumiares, this
splendid fine arts museum's walls are adorned with an astounding
collection of 16th to 20th century works. Thanks to it hosting
celebrated travelling exhibitions (a large Picasso exhibition
was here recently), there's always reason to come back over
and over again.
Museu de Fogueres
This museum recently opened in El Barrio and does a fabulous
job of depicting the importance of the Fiesta de Sant Joan
Museo de la Asegurada
Opposite the gorgeous Iglesia de Santa María, whose
ostentatious 18th-century façade conceals a gorgeous
baroque portal and golden rococo alter, this museum beautifully
houses works from 114 artists, including Dalí, Gris,
Chillada, Picasso and Miró. The 177 works, most of
which were donated to the city by the Alicante painter and
sculptor Eusebio Sempere, are divided into geometric, abstract
and figurative realms and are shown on a rotation basis.
It remains one of Spain's most important contemporary art
If Iglesia de Santa María's baroque portal wet your
appetite for amazing architecture, you'll love the Ayuntamiento
(City Hall). Designed in the late 17th century by the Lorenzo
Chápuli, it took almost 80 years to construct and
boasts a brilliant baroque façade. Two spiralling
solomonic columns bracket the main entrance and two of the
building's famed doors (they were the cover photo of Lonely
Planet's Spain guidebook - edition 4). Inside, at the foot
of the main stairs, is the cota cero. What is cota cero?
It's the reference point to measure the height above sea
level in all Spanish towns. You'll also find one of Alicante's
wonderfully helpful tourist information offices inside.
Plaza de Toros
Constructed in 1849, this is one of the oldest bullrings
still in use. If you're not up for witness what must be
one of the most beautiful and ugly spectacles of Spain (the
bullfight), you can slide in and simply see the Bullfighting
Puerto (The Harbour)
What is there to say about Alicante's grand harbour? It
is oozing with bars, restaurants and cafés, and is
just a great place to while away the day doing lots of nothing
(with a small smile on your tanned face).
If the MARQ museum peaked your archaeological interest,
you must make take in the vestiges of the ancient city of
Lucentum. Although the city reached its peak during the
first century of Christianity, materials on the site have
been found dating back to the 5th century BC. Amazingly,
only 6500 square metres of the 30,000 square metre Ibero-Roman
archeological site have been excavated to date. Wandering
through the remains of its ancient streets (1.3km worth!),
thermal baths, homes and pavoirs, while dodging shadows
cast by modern high-rise buildings is rather surreal indeed.
Lucentum is 6km north of Alicante and is easily reached
by bus Nos 9 or 21.
The Island of Tabarca
Although you'd be forgiven for never having heard of this
island before, it has been talked about for millennia, even
being mentioned by the Greek historians Strabo and Ptolemy.
The island was a refuge for Berber pirates in the Middle
Ages before King Carlos III instructed the construction
of a fort here in 1760. Eight years later it was settled
by 600 Genoans who'd been released from the Tunisian port
of Tabarka (near Algeria), thanks to a settlement made by
Carlos III. While exploring the island, you can't help but
notice the Italian influence... most people still carry
the old surnames of the original 600 settlers!
There are some decent beaches and numerous buildings to
check out, including the fortified enclosure (a National
Historic Artistic Complex), 18th-century Church of St Peter
and St Paul and St Joseph's Tower. One thing you won't find
on the island is the automobile - how refreshing! The company
Kontiki operates daily boat trips to Tabarca from Alicante's
Soft sands and superior services - a beach at your beckon
There is one big problem in saying that the Blue Flag beach
of Playa del Postiguet is only a stone's throw from Alicante's
city centre: These fine white sands are lovely and gently
arc northward for almost 1km from Alicante's vibrant port.
With an average width of 45m, there will be no trouble finding
a spot to drop the towel after a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean.
There's a great promenade backing the beach and plenty of
Tiny trips - terrific tracks of
There are a few other great beaches within a few kilometres
of Alicante's city centre. Playa de San Juan, just north
of Alicante and Cabo de las Huertas, is perhaps the areas
best beach. Its sun-bleached golden sands stretch an impressive
3km in length and average an astounding 90m in width. There
are plenty of facilities and it's all too easy to get here
from town. Hop on bus Nos 21 or 22, or ride the Ferrocarriles
de la Generalitat Valenciana tram that trundles along the
coast from Alicante's port to El Campello.
Playa del Saladar is another Blue Flag option and sits
just south of the city. It's golden sands aren't as nice
Playa de San Juan, but it's not backed by a big urban environment.
There are some rather nice dunes nearby, and it's usually
less busy too! It's easily reach in a few minutes by car
or by public bus from town.
Between Alicante and Cabo de las Huertas is Playa de la
Albufereta. Set in a residential area, it's backed by palms,
flowers and cacti... easily the nicest setting of all Alicante's
beaches. Its only downfall is it lacks the abundance of
services seen at the other beaches. It's also accessed by
Brilliant beaches for kids
Although all the beaches mentioned so far have lifeguards,
playgrounds and gentle seas, Playa de San Juan and Playa
de la Albufereta are the only two with floating swimming
platforms (always good fun for kids!).
Sunbathing missing from your vocabulary?
- beaches for sports
Playa de San Juan, Playa del Postiguet and Playa del Saladar
are all perfect places to dig into some beach volleyball
action, while windsurfing and sailing are possible at all
the beaches (except Playa del Postiguet - sailing only).
Full access - beaches for those
with reduced mobility
Although all of Alicante's beaches offer safe access to
the beach and sea for people with reduced mobility, the
Blue Flag beaches of Playa del Postiguet and Playa del Saladar
have the best facilities. Facilities include special walkways
to the seashore, amphibian chairs, rest areas with sunshades
and special furnishings, and showers with bathing chairs.
Forgot your swimming kit? - nudist
Cala Palmera, Cala Cantalares and Cala los Judíos
are three secluded sandy coves on the south side of Cabo
de las Huertas that offer a safe place to sun the areas
where the sun doesn't usually shine. They are harder to
access, but this just means you'll have less company.
The healthy, laid back Spanish lifestyle and wonderful
climate continues to attract people to this part of Spain.
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