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Photograph: MARQ

11 fun things to do in Alicante

Gorge yourself on montaditos before lazing it out on a perfect beach when delving into the best things to do in Alicante

Written by
Mary-Ann Gallagher

It might sound strange (or read strangely, in this case), but Alicante feels like an underrated gem. The mad dash to the resorts of the Costa Blanca means it can be overlooked, but that just means more magic for those who visit. The best things to do in Alicante are a microcosm of the best things to do in Spain, from gorgeous beaches to fascinating cultural attractions via electric nightlife and more.

The city also has an excellent festival calendar, and we are happy to get behind that. Throw in a fabulously diverse population, and you’ve got a marvellous city. 

Best things to do in Alicante

Santa Bárbara Castle
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Santa Bárbara Castle

What is it? You can take the lift or stroll through the modern Parque de la Ereta to reach this mighty cliff-top castle. Built over a ninth-century Arabic fortress, the current construction dates to the eighteenth century and is home to the city’s history museum. 

Why go? The views from up here are truly extraordinary, and all the more worth it if you’ve opted for the sweaty climb uphill rather than the lift. You can march across parade grounds, soak up the views, and stop for a well-deserved cold drink at the café.

Photograph: MARQ


What is it? This is Alicante’s ultra-modern archaeology museum, which brings the city’s history to life with lots of interactive bells and whistles. It’s located near the Roman ruins of Lucentum, on the edge of the city, and handily placed for a trip to the Albufereta beach afterwards.

Why go? This is a great way to get an overview of Alicante’s history, with dramatically lit displays of ancient bones, amphorae, coins and ceramics that make the past come alive. Plus, you also get to see how archaeological digs work.

Kiosko Peret
Photograph: Kiosko Peret

3. Kiosko Peret

What is it? Alicante’s prettily tiled esplanade is a perennial favourite for the evening paseo: the moment when the sun finally loses its heat and everyone comes out for a stroll. Stop for a chilled horchata – the creamy summer drink made of chufa nuts – at this 90-year-old institution.

Why go? There’s nothing nicer than joining in with the evening paseo, and nowhere is better than Alicante’s seafront Kiosko Peret. The spot, with its breezy little terrace, is ideal for delicious ice cream or a glass of ice-cold horchata.

Tabarca Island
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Tabarca Island

What is it? Take the boat to the scrubby, windswept island of Tabarca, which was once a pirate lair. The two-kilometre-long island is a marine reserve, and its rocky coastline is perfect for exploring with a snorkel. 

Why go? Pack a picnic and explore this tiny island, a designated marine reserve famous for its crystal clear waters and bird life. Relax at a café in the miniature town, then scramble around the coast to find your own secret cove.

Concatedral de San Nicolás de Bari
Photograph: Concatedral de San Nicolás de Bari

5. Concatedral de San Nicolás de Bari

What is it? Alicante’s grandest church is a restrained, late-Renaissance affair built between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries over the remains of an older church and mosque. It’s dedicated to Alicante’s patron saint, whose statue occupies a lavishly decorated baroque chapel. 

Why go? This beautiful co-cathedral, with a huge dome punctuated by an oculus, was designed by Agustín Bernardino, a disciple of the great Juan de Herrera. It features the master’s pure, graceful lines and lack of adornment – although if that’s your bag, you’ll also find some giddy baroque chapels.

Cervecería Sento Rambla
Photograph: Cervecería Sento Rambla

6. Cervecería Sento Rambla

What is it? The smaller and most atmospheric of two neighbouring outposts of this popular tapas bar, this tiny spot is always packed to the rafters with a friendly local crowd. Some of the city’s best and most creative tapas are dished up by wise-cracking waiters.

Why go? Get there at opening time to be sure of a spot in one of Alicante’s best-loved institutions. The montaditos (slices of baguette with all kinds of toppings) are a staple, and the award-winning version with beef loin, foie gras and rocket is simply divine.

Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art

What is it? Alicante’s oldest civil building – the seventeenth-century Casa de la Asegurada – has been spectacularly extended and renovated to hold an excellent collection of modern and contemporary art. Its fabulous twentieth-century collection includes works by Miró, Picasso and Dalí.

Why go? The core of this museum’s collection – twentieth-century artworks by all the major Spanish greats – was donated by Eusebio Sempere, whose own extraordinary kinetic works also form a large part of the exhibits. They have recently been complemented by the beautiful paintings of Juana Francés.

Mercado Central
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Mercado Central

What is it? A gorgeous turn-of-the-twentieth-century covered market, this has an eye-popping collection of stalls selling everything from fresh fruit and veg to just-caught seafood and much more. But perhaps best of all are the counter bars and cafés, a cult spot for afternoon tapas with young locals.

Why go? Stock up on picnic goodies and souvenirs (maybe some Iberian ham, olives or cheese – most places will vacuum-pack it for you), or just enjoy a browse through this colourful, local institution. Then relax with some tapas at one of the cafés – the Tapeta del Mercat is a top choice.

Santa Cruz
Photograph: Santa Cruz

9. Santa Cruz

What is it? Alicante’s Casco Antiguo is an appealingly higgledy-piggledy maze of narrow, mostly pedestrianized squares and lanes. Its most delicious corner is the Santa Cruz district. It’s charmingly run-down, with steep stairways and alleys winding past colourful houses spilling over with flowers.

Why go? The Santa Cruz neighbourhood is one of Alicante’s most authentic, and its narrow lanes are dotted with atmospheric spots for drinks and tapas. Locals parade with crosses decorated with flowers for the Cruces de Mayo (early May), and its eighteenth-century sanctuary is a focal point of the Easter Week celebrations.

Basilica de Santa María
Photograph: Basilica de Santa María

10. Basilica de Santa María

What is it? Alicante’s oldest church sits pretty on a charming square in the old town. Behind its fanciful baroque façade is a vaulted Gothic interior that dates from the fourteenth century and contains a much-venerated sculpture of Santa María. 

Why go? Escape the crowds in the busy little old town and step back in time at this gorgeous basilica. The portal is a masterpiece of Baroque (you can admire it from the terrace of the Sampa Picnic bar opposite), and inside you’ll find a gilded rococo altarpiece and a beautiful white Carrara marble font.

Cabo de la Cuerta coves
Photograph: Cabo de la Cuerta coves

11. Cabo de la Cuerta coves

What is it? Alicante boasts a gorgeous coastline with scores of pale sandy beaches to choose from. Playa del Postiguet is the handiest for the city centre, and the endless Playa de San Juan is where you’ll find all the nightlife, but the little Cabo de la Cuarta coves are perfect for escaping the crowds.

Why go? These rocky inlets are not really beaches at all. They are a series of coves fringed with flat rocks where you can spread your towel or slip into the sea. Popular with nudists or anyone who wants to escape the hurly-burly, they’re also a romantic spot to watch the sunset.

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