Lying on Spain’s sunny east coast in the middle of the Costa Blanca, Alicante offers plenty to do for culture- and nature-hungry travelers.
Gastronomy is big in Alicante, with Mediterranean-fresh produce filling the city’s Central Market and lining the tables of tapas bars. Alicante also offers a string of golden beaches and pretty coves for visitors to enjoy.
Many of the best things to do in Alicante are central to the city. You could take shade in sun-dappled squares, peek inside centuries-old churches, and peruse the city’s old and new museums, most found near the old town, Barrio de la Santa Cruz.
Discover the best things to do in Alicante on your next Spanish getaway.
Stroll La Explanada de España
Enjoy the warm Mediterranean breeze as you stroll along La Explanada de España, Alicante’s palm tree-lined promenade.
Adorned with a wave-design mosaic floor, this picturesque spot perfectly combines with a walk around the city’s yacht-filled marina or a relaxing stint on the shore of Playa del Postiguet.
During summer, you might catch the Alicante Craft Fair, which stretches out on the promenade, with vendors selling leather goods, handmade jewelry, nougat, and other gourmet sweet treats.
Look out for the gleaming Casa Carbonell, a landmark Beaux Arts–inspired building dating from the 1920s.
You’ll find plenty of sun-dappled spots to enjoy a coffee, glass of wine, or bite to eat on La Explanada de España, with everything from tapas to chocolate-covered churros and ice-cream available.
Wander Barrio de la Santa Cruz
Barrio de la Santa Cruz is the eye-catching old pocket of Alicante located on the southwest slope of Mount Benacantil.
Barrio de la Santa Cruz’s tapered streets are steep, scenic, and romantic, lined with soft-hued buildings adorned with balconies.
Handsome squares with tall palm trees and restaurants with outdoor seating are dotted around the old district, including the prime people-watching spot of Plaça de la Santissima Faç.
The old town boasts some of Alicante’s most beautiful architecture, including the 1616-built San Nicolás Co-Cathedral. Designed in the late-Spanish renaissance style on the site of a medieval temple, the church is shaped like a cross with a 148-foot blue-domed roof and a separate bell tower.
Nearby, at the Gravina Fine Arts Museum within the 18th-century Gravina Palace, browse art collections created in Alicante ranging from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century.
Barrio de la Santa Cruz is one of the best places to shop and dine in Alicante, with upmarket boutiques nestled among the many restaurants and tapas bars that Spain is famous for.
Try La Tasca Del Barrio on Carrer Llauradors for the fried Andalusian bay squid, wild mushroom with truffle croquette, and squid-ink rice with clams.
Visit MACA, the Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art
Visit the Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art next to the grand Basilica of Santa Maria for its thrilling collection of modern 20th-century Spanish art.
The museum was established in 1977 after the local artist Eusebio Sempere donated his collection of works to the city, which can now be viewed inside the gallery. There are three permanent collections to explore, consisting of around 800 paintings, sculptures, drawings, graphic works, lithographs, and engravings.
Admire the works by some of Spain’s most prominent 20th-century artists—Sempere, Picasso, Dalí, and Miró—on the stark, white walls.
Gaze at the Basilica of Santa Maria
One of the best things to do in Alicante is to gaze at the extraordinary Basilica of Santa Maria, the oldest church in the city, on the edge of the old district.
Constructed in the 14th century on the site of the city’s largest mosque, the Basilica of Santa Maria was rebuilt in the 16th century following a devastating fire.
The basilica features two towers and displays both gothic and baroque architecture, including an extravagant facade of the main entrance seen from Plaza Santa Maria. Step inside the entryway, passing ornate sculptures by Juan Bautista Borja, into the tall, single nave.
Marvel at the 18th-century Rococo main altar, the enormous 16th-century Carrara marble font, and the 17th-century Valencian Baroque organ inside the Chapter House.
Lose Yourself in the Palm Grove of Elche
Located in the ancient city of Elche, just outside of Alicante, this alluring UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest palm grove in Europe.
Over 200,000 luscious palms fill this gargantuan grove. They were first laid out to form vast orchards—including the Municipal Park, Huerto de Abajo, Huerto del Cura, and Huerto del Chocolatero—during the region’s Muslim period.
Wander through the leafy Municipal Park to stumble upon the 18th-century Molí del Real flour mill. In operation until the 1940s, the mill’s western façade features 12 Renaissance-style arches. There’s a central café with outdoor seating, fountains, and small ponds with ducks.
While towering palm trees dominate the park, you’ll also find blushing bougainvillea, fig trees, rosewoods, banana trees, and the rare tulip tree from Gabon.
Also in Elche, you could step inside the peachy-pastel Palmeral Museum in the Huerto de San Plácido Garden, which explores the history of the Palm Grove.
Marvel at Villena’s Atalaya Castle
The stately Atalaya Castle looms over the ancient city of Villena, a short distance northwest of Alicante.
Built on a hill by the Almohad empire in the late 12th century as a refuge for Villena’s Muslim residents, Atalaya is one of the most beautiful places in Spain.
Weave through Villena’s handsome narrow streets to arrive at the imposing medieval fortress. There’s a double curtain wall—the inner wall taller than the outer wall—with 12 defensive towers and a square keep.
Gaze at magnificent panoramic views as you climb the three-story keep. After exploring the Spanish castle, set aside some time to wander Villena’s atmospheric winding lanes.
Stop by the 15th-century Santiago Apóstol and 16th-century Santa María Gothic churches.
Explore artifacts from the Late Bronze Age at the Municipal Museum of Archaeology, located within Villena’s City Hall, and admire the colorful balconied buildings in Plaza Santiago and Plaza Santa Maria.
There are plenty of cafés, bars, and restaurants dotted around the ancient town. Try Restaurante La Teja Azul, tucked away to the northwest of the castle. The rice with monkfish, shrimp, and green artichoke is divine.
Graze at the Central Market of Alicante
The block-wide Central Market of Alicante is one of the best places to delve into the region’s smorgasbord of gourmet produce.
Set in a two-story early 20th-century building, the Central Market is lined with vendors selling fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, cured ham, dairy, and olive oil. Spanish wine, jars of olives, candy, and jellies fill shelves, while wedges of juicy watermelon and bunches of plump grapes hang from stalls.
Drop by Jorge Ramos for all of your charcuterie needs, Salzillo for outstanding coffee, spices, and herbs, and Juan Lloret for delicious cheeses.
You’ll also find a selection of tapas bars inside the Central Market. Perch on a bar stool to savor plates of life-changing gamba roja (red shrimp), tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelet), and patatas bravas (spicy potatoes).
Unwind on Alicante’s White Beaches
A string of long, sultry sands and heart-stopping coves make up the Costa Blanca’s enviable shoreline, making a trip to the beach one of the best things to do in Alicante.
Flanked by palm trees and Santa Bárbara Castle, Playa del Postiguet is unbeaten for its central location and swathe of powdery sand.
Playa de San Juan, one of Spain’s best beaches, leads onto Playa de Mutxavista, forming a sprawling palm tree-lined shoreline with sun loungers and umbrellas, watersports, and a buzzy promenade.
Northeast of the city, Playa del Bol Nou is a secluded cove with sea caves and clear aquamarine water, flanked by tall cliffs.
Embark on a Boat Trip to Isla de Tabarca
Tabarca is a little-known islet, part of a four-island archipelago off the Valencian coast, just south of Alicante and once occupied by Berber pirates. King Carlos III ordered the construction of a fort and town on Tabarca in the 18th century.
You can walk from the westernmost to the easternmost point of the island in under 30 minutes, though you’ll want to spend time exploring the pretty whitewashed old town.
Tabarca’s main beach, Platja de Tabarca, is perfect for snorkeling. The waters around the island are part of a designated Mediterranean Marine Reserve—all crystal clear and teeming with marine life. Pack swimwear, a towel, and snorkel gear to go in search of barracudas, stingrays, lobsters, and moray eels.
Try a Tabarca specialty—grouper meatballs, lobster and rice, or caldero, a fish dish served with garlicky tomato rice or sliced potato—at one of the island’s quaint restaurants.
To get to Isla de Tabarca, take a water taxi from Santa Pola, a suburb south of Alicante. A service operates every 30 minutes during summer, with the crossing taking 20 minutes.
A boat and catamaran service also operates from Alicante’s marina, though it takes longer and is less frequent. Some boat trips from the mainland incorporate snorkeling into their program.
Admire the Seaside Town of Villajoyosa
Framed by the Sierra de Aitana, Villajoyosa is a postcard seaside town a short distance north of Alicante.
This former fishing village is known for its photogenic seafront of brightly-colored houses. Wander through the backstreets, where the same vibrant theme continues. Washing hanging from balconies three and four stories high only adds to the charm of this enchanting town.
Sunbathe on a slither of the two-mile beach and enjoy a swim in the warm Mediterranean Sea and after relaxing on the soft sand, pick out a seafood restaurant from the cluster lining the promenade.
Ultra-fresh fish comes straight from Villajoyosa’s harbor and into the kitchens of restaurants Hogar del Pescador and Vilajoiosa.
Climb Monte Benacantil to Santa Bárbara Castle
One of the best things to do in Alicante is to climb Monte Benacantil to Santa Bárbara Castle for fantastic views of the city.
This sun-baked fortress has stood over Alicante since the ninth century, though it has been reconstructed by its various owners, including Philip II in the 16th century.
If you’re up for a challenge, walk to the top via the glorious Calle San Antonio. This pedestrianized street is one of the prettiest in Alicante, lined with traditional blue and white houses adorned with vibrant doorstep flower ports, cactus plants, and olive trees.
Take a break to soak up the views from Parc de la Ereta, overlooking El Postiguet Beach. Continue to the castle to take in the far-reaching views of the sizzling Mediterranean Sea.
You also have the option to take an elevator to the summit from Avenida Juan Bautista Lafora, opposite El Postiguet Beach.
Explore the castle grounds, including the upper enclosure, La Torreta. It’s here where you’ll find some of the remains of the fortress, dating back to the 14th century. Visit the Museum of the City of Alicante inside the castle, too; it traces Alicante’s past from prehistory to the present day.
Reward your climb with a feast at Restaurant L’Ereta in Parc de l’Ereta. One of the best seats on the Costa Blanca, La Ereta boasts remarkable views from the slopes of Benacantil.
Explore Biar Castle
Pack in 800 years of history at the 12th-century Biar Castle, 40 minutes from central Alicante, in the foothills of the Sierra Mariola.
Built by the Almohad dynasty, this hilltop fortress shares many similarities with Atalaya Castle.
Tracing the shape of the hill, Biar features a double enclosure topped with battlements, seven circular towers, and a central square tower rising above the castle walls.
On the first story of this three-floor castle, visitors will find a sublime ribbed vaulted ceiling in the traditional Almohad style. It’s the only one of its kind found in Spanish military architecture.
You can see for miles in every direction from the castle’s courtyard, including the sweeping pine forests of the Sierra Mariola and the old town’s sea of terracotta rooftops.
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