City Guide to Alicante, Spain
The ins and outs of this Mediterranean paradise.
Alicante, the fifth largest city in Spain that resides on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is the best vacation getaway without the hustle and expense of Barcelona, but still rich with cultural. When one comes to this city, they will see the influences of the Arabian culture during their ruling in the 8th century, to how the Spaniards have cultivated it into their home. From hiking castles to lounging on the beach, Alicante has all the reasons why it should be on everyone’s bucket list.
What to See
Castillo de Santa Bárbara: Built in the 9th century by the Arabs, the castle offers a variety exhibits to show its rich history. Although the hike takes about an hour to get to the top, the view of the city and the sea makes it worth it. Best of all, it is free to go up (unless one would like to use the elevator, which costs around five euros).
Beaches: Alicante is a coastal city, so of course, having a beach day is a must. Playa de Postiguet is within walking distance of downtown Alicante, but all the tourists like to visit this beach. To escape the noise of the city and busyness of crowds, hop on the tram and visit Playa de San Juan or Muchavista, these beaches are larger, quieter, and have great views of the mountains.
Plaza de los Luceros: In the heart of the city lies Plaza de los Luceros. This plaza is the image of Alicante. Around the plaza, you can shop at a multitude of stores like El Corte Inglés or Bershka.
Explanada: Down by the beach, a boardwalk with blue-red-white tiles wave through the palm trees. Street vendors sell their scarves, jewelry, and paintings. The elderly, dressed up in suits and dresses, sit on wooden chairs and people-watch. Musicians play their songs, hats anxiously sitting and waiting for a euro or two. The Explanada is great to take a stroll and chat with friends after a long day.
Calle San Francisco: Not too far from the Plaza de los Luceros, you will stumble upon Calle San Francisco. Although it is only a street, it is not an ordinary street. The tar is painted with green and yellow circles and huge mushroom statues splatter down the road. It feels as if one has entered Mario Kart’s world.
Fun for Free
Mercado Central: To see the food from the countryside and local seafood, one must stop in the Mercado. Mondays will not have the fish because the fishermen do not capture fish on Sundays. To get the full experience of the food of Alicante, attend the market between Tuesday and Saturday. Make it earlier on your schedule because the market closes at 2 pm every day.
Other Castle: Alicante does have another castle called el Castillo de San Fernando, it is not as large nor as iconic as the Castillo de Santa Bárabara, but one can still get fantastic views of the city with less of a hike (about 20 minutes).
Where to Eat
Cafeterias: Alicante is full of coffee shops, or cafeterias, on every street. Cafeterias are a great place to relax, drink some coffee, eat a pastry or order a sandwich. Some favorites are Zoom, La Coquette, or Mil Historias y un Café.
Livanti: The best gelato in Alicante, hands down. Get a cone full of the most delicious flavors for a couple of euros and take it with to enjoy on the beach.
Cien Montaditos: A popular restaurant because their montaditos, little sandwiches, cost a euro (some more expensive sandwiches are on the menu, but most are a euro). Bring in a group of friends, order several different dishes, and a cheap, yummy dinner is ready.
What to Eat
Cañas y Tapas: From about 5-8 pm, Spaniards snack on cañas y tapas, beers and appetizers. Tapas can be anything–croquetas, a mini corndog look with a mushy interior of any sort of meat to tortilla de patatas, an omelette made with potatoes and onion. Stop in at any bar and one will not be disappointed.
Paella: A rice dish that Spaniards put whatever they like into it–vegetables, chicken, beef, seafood, etc. Paella is native only to Spain, so one has to enjoy this dish before leaving the country.
Sangria: The typical beverage of the country, filled with fruits, juices, and red wine. Any bar or restaurant will serve it, so order it along with a meal.
El Barrio: This is a part of the city where a good chunk of the bars are located. If one would prefer to stay amongst the foreigners or more of the English speakers, bars like Havana or Austin are a good choice. To experience how the Spaniards party, check out bars like Callejón or the Underground.
Tram: The easiest way to get around Alicante. The tram has four different lines that go all over the city; line one goes to Benidorm, line two goes to the university, line three goes to el Campello, and line four goes to playa de San Juan. The tram is great because it announces its stops, an easy ride and it is cheap–1.45 euro each trip.
Bus: The bus is another way around the city. The bus has more stops within the city, but the ride is a little chaotic and can be nerve-racking since they do not announce stops.
Train: To get out of the city to other cities, Renfe, the train service, is the best option. Trains are highly popular in Europe, so its prices are low and the trains run frequently. The trains in Alicante can run as far as Barcelona and Madrid.
Walk: The best way to get to know a city is to walk around. Majority of the attractions in Alicante is within walking distance. Besides, it’s a great way to get some exercise during the day.
Siesta: Between 2 and 5 pm, shops close down in Alicante. The bigger corporations, like El Corte Inglés or H&M will be open, but the smaller shops close. People come home to eat lunch with their families and if they choose to, nap. Businesses reopen around 5 pm.
Exact change: Businesses prefer if the customer has exact change or close to it. They will ask the person if they have something smaller or if they have change to complete the transaction. Businesses can say they will not accept a twenty for a four euro purchase, so make sure to carry smaller bills and change.
English Usage: Don’t speak Spanish and worried about getting your way through the city? Most tourist locations have employees who speak both Spanish and English. A lot of restaurants have individuals who speak some English. Even if the worker does not speak English, it is pretty easy to find other means of communication to get a point across.
Meals: Spain does meals differently. They eat breakfast like Americans do, right after they wake up. Breakfast is not a big meal though, they usually have a cup of coffee and a slice of toast–that’s it. Around noon, they have a light snack, usually a fruit. Lunch is not until 2 or 3 pm. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, so be prepared to eat a lot. Spaniards have a snack again around 5 or 6 pm, and do not eat dinner until 9 or 10 pm. Dinner is lighter than lunch.