48 Hours In: Alicante

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The sun is shining in the gateway to the Costa Blanca, and with more flights, it's even easier to enjoy this historic Mediterranean port city, says Nick Boulos

Travel Essentials

Why go now?

The gateway to the Costa Blanca will become even more accessible with new British Airways flights from Gatwick, starting tomorrow.

Many use the city as a jumping-off point for Benidorm (45km to the north-east), but those who linger a little longer are inevitably won over by Alicante's medieval history, rich cultural calendar and year-round sunshine.

There's never a bad time to visit, but it's now that Alicante starts to shine, with balmy temperatures nudging 24C. Visit around 20 June and you'll witness one of Spain's most exuberant festivals: the Fogueres de Sant Joan (hogueras.org). For four days the city is ablaze with bonfires and fireworks in a tradition dedicated to John the Baptist, celebrated since 1928.

Touch down

Alicante is well connected from almost every corner of the UK. I travelled with easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com), which flies from Belfast, Bristol, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Stansted and Southend. Other options include Flybe (0871 700 2000; flybe.com); Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com); Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com); Monarch (0871 940 5040; monarch.co.uk); British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com); and Vueling (0906 754 7541; vueling.com).

Alicante's airport is a handy 12km south-west of the city centre. Bus C6 leaves from outside Departures on the second floor every 20 minutes from 6.40am to 11pm. It stops at the bus station (1) on Calle Portugal, the train station (2) on Avenida Salamanca and Plaza Puerta del Mar (3). Journey time about 30 minutes; €2.75 one way.

A taxi costs €19 and takes 15 minutes.

Get your bearings

Located on Spain's sunny south-eastern coast and lapped by the Mediterranean, Alicante is a bite-sized city, sandwiched between the capes of Cabo de las Huertas and Santa Pola. Rising to the east is Mount Benacantil, a 166m peak of white limestone that forms an impressive backdrop to Playa del Postiguet, a popular beach in the heart of the city.

To the west is the harbour and the parallel Explanada de España (4), a promenade of mosaic cobbles, palms and century-old fig trees.

The tourist office (5) (00 34 965 200 000; alicanteturismo.com; 9am- 8pm weekdays, 10am- 8pm Saturday, 10am-2pm Sunday) is at Rambla Méndez Núñez 14.

Check in

Dominating the harbour is the sprawling Meliá (6) at Plaza del Puerto 3 (00 34 965 205 000; melia.com). The hotel's 544 rooms all have sea views and free Wi-Fi. Doubles from around €100, including breakfast.

The Hostal Les Monges Palace (7) at Calle San Agustín 4 (00 34 965 21 5046; lesmonges.es) provides a more intimate option. It is housed in a century-old mansion, and the 22-room property oozes character, thanks due in large part to its eccentric owner, Pedro Picazo. Don't miss the original Dalí sketch in the lobby. Doubles from €60, room only.

Mediterránea Plaza (8) at Plaza del Ayuntamiento 6 (00 34 965 210 188; eurostarsmediterraneaplaza.com) is a good budget option with friendly staff, spacious rooms and a rooftop terrace. Doubles start at €45, room only.

 

Day One

Take a view

Sitting atop Mount Benacantil are the ruins of Castillo de Santa Barbára (9) (00 34 966 377 034; castillodesantabarbara.com; 10am to 8pm daily; free), an impressive ninth-century fortress. Take the lift (10) from Calle Juan Bautista Lafora (€2.40; 10am to 7.30pm) to the El Macho area at the top of the castle for 360‑degree city views. Tours of the complex take place daily at 11am and 12.30pm from beside the second floor lift; €3.

Take a hike

It's a gentle 20-minute stroll back to town. At the entrance of the castle, look for a clearing on the first bend of the road and follow the rocky trail along the western walls and along a series of steps leading into La Ereta Park (11) (10am to 11pm daily), with its pine trees and fine views. Colourful houses appear at the bottom where the trail splits. Veer right down a series of zigzagging stairs to the Water Museum (12). Continue straight, passing the 18th-century Convento de las Monjas (13) on Plaza de la Virgen del Remedio. Turn left on to Calle San Agustín, cross Plaza de la Santísima Faz, and pass under the archways into Plaza de Ayuntamiento, site of the Baroque Town Hall (14). It was bombed by the French in 1691; the Solomonic columns and 35m twin towers were built in the 1700s.

Lunch on the run

There's an abundance of tapas restaurants along Paseo Explanada de España; one of the best is La Terraza del Gourmet (15) at No 2 (00 34 692 994 025; latabernadelgourmet.com). Jamón ibérico, hake tempura and montaditos – grilled sandwiches with fillings such as roquefort, cured beef and rocket – start at €3.50.

Window shopping

The main shopping streets are Avenida Maisonnave (16) and Avenida de Alfonso X El Sabio (17). For fashion, head to Plaza Calvo Sotelo (18), where you'll find Purificación Garcia at No 13 (00 34 965 204 629; purificaciongarcia.es) and Bimba & Lola (00 34 965 203 026; bimbaylola.com). Those with a passion for interior design will enjoy Azul Tierra (19) (00 34 965 140 230; azultierra.es), around the corner at Angel Lozano 2 (most stores open 10am to 9pm Mon-Sat). On Sundays, head to the weekly antiques market from 9am to 2pm on Plaza de Ayuntamiento (14).

An aperitif

With outdoor tables, the harbourside Soho Mar (20) at Muelle de Levante 1 (00 34 965 204 411; sohoalicante.com) is the hippest bar in town. Sip a glass of local chardonnay (€3.50) while the setting sun basks the boats in a soft amber glow to the sounds of chill-out music.

Dining with the locals

Hollywood stars have been won over by the rustic dishes – oxtail ragout and pork stew with lentils – at Piripi (21) on Avenida de Oscar Esplá 30 (00 34 965 227 940). Booking is essential. If it's full, try sister restaurant Nou Manolín (22) at Calle Villegas 3 (00 34 965 200 368; noumanolin.com). For a more formal experience try Alderbarán (23) at Muelle de Poniente 1 (00 34 965 123 130; www.maestral.es). Chef Roberto Jimemet specialises in paella-style dishes such as rice with cuttlefish and artichoke (€12). Closed Sunday night.

 

Day Two

Sunday morning: go to church

Alicante's original place of worship is named after its patron saint. The Cathedral San Nicolás (24) at Plaza del Abad Penalva 1 (00 34 965 212 662; concatedralalicante.com) has been welcoming devotees since the 1600s. Beyond its Spanish Renaissance façade of pale sandstone, excavated from the nearby mountains, is a striking Baroque interior. The colourful altarpiece is the handiwork of Nicolás Borrás. Open 7.30am to 1pm, 5.30pm to 8pm daily. Tourists are welcome at Sunday mass, which takes place hourly between 9am and 1pm.

Cultural morning

The Archaeological Museum (25) at Plaza Dr Gómez Ulla 3 (00 34 965 201 039; www.marqalicante.com; €3) has a collection of 15,000 pieces from 300 sites in the region with a special focus on underwater and urban archaeology (10am to 2pm Sunday, until 7pm Tuesday to Saturday, closed Monday).

Elsewhere, the Museum of Contemporary Art (26), housed in a former prison dating back to 1685 at Plaza de Santa María 3 (00 34 965 213156; maca-alicante.es; 10am to 2pm Sunday, until 8pm Tuesday to Saturday, closed Monday; free), displays pieces by Picasso, Gargallo and other artistic greats.

Out to brunch

The scrambled eggs with asparagus and freshly caught prawns (€12) at Ibéricos Luceros (27) (00 34 965 125 464; ibericosluceros.es) are worth the detour across town. This cosy restaurant at Plaza de Los Luceros 12, run by the Alamo family, overlooks the circular plaza at the centre of which stands an ornate fountain based on four horses.

Icing on the cake

Escape the city and enjoy a little pampering at the Asia Gardens & Thai Spa resort (28), a peaceful resort on the outskirts of Benidorm (00 34 966 818 400; asiagardens.es). Rooms have touches of Bali and Japan, and hidden within the quiet landscaped gardens are waterfalls, infinity pools and more than 300 exotic plant species. The spa's therapists have all been trained at Bangkok's Wat Pho massage school. Pure bliss. Doubles from €240, B&B.

The 25-minute cab ride costs €60, and buses to Benidorm leave from the station (1) all day (returns from €8). A taxi from Benidorm costs €10.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living