Explore a city where a storied history and culture meets a relaxed beach vibe
Lovers of art, culture, and architecture will be thrilled in Alicante, Spain where the visual splendor of incredible historical treasures exists alongside a lively beach culture. The city offers plenty of activities for travelers of all stripes, but here are some of the unmissable highlights.
No trip to Alicante is complete without visiting the historic Castillo de Santa Bárbara, or Santa Barbara Castle. Located on top of Mount Benacantil, the fortification dates back to the 8th century, when the Iberian peninsula was still under Arabic rule. There are two ways to get up to the top of the mountain: hiking through the idyllic Parque de la Ereta, or by taking the elevator up the mountain. Either way, the magnificent Castillo de Santa Barbara offers the best views of Alicante and the surrounding beaches. Entrance is free, and the exhibits offer visitors an opportunity to learn more about Alicante. You can also eat at the café or peruse the plaza shop which is filled with handmade artisanal goods.
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Costa Blanca, or “White Coast,” is a 120-mile stretch of coastline known for its clear waters and white, sandy beaches including Playa del Postiguet — the most central, and popular, beach in Alicante. Located next to the center of the city, Postiguet Beach is the perfect getaway (without actually getting away!) for locals and tourists alike. Although it is a popular tourist destination complete with vendors and restaurants, the boardwalk offers an opportunity for a more peaceful walk. This is a Blue Flag beach, which means it is designated by the Foundation for Environmental Education as meeting stringent environmental and quality standards.
Just a few miles off the coast of Alicante proper, Tabarca Island is an amazing snorkeling destination. To get to this serene island, take a 45-minute boat ride from the harbor of Alicante to Tabarca (note: three round trips are made daily). The clear blue waters are designated as a Mediterranean Marine Reserve, making this an ideal snorkeling spot; one can see many different types of tropical fish, as well as loggerhead turtles and lobsters. Once a pirate lair, the now-picturesque town is reminiscent of Old Town Alicante, with scenic whitewashed homes and quaint blue shutters. This small island makes the perfect day trip if you’re spending time in Alicante.
In Spain it is customary to take a leisurely stroll, and the Explanada de Espana allows you to do just that. This colorful marble promenade, composed of 6.5 million mosaic tiles in red, cream, and black, is reminiscent of waves on the beaches Alicante is famous for. The roomy pathway is lined with palm trees and benches that afford the opportunity to take in the view and enjoy the fresh breeze — and nearby restaurants, bars, and shops abound.
Although Alicante has beautiful beaches, it is also known for its museums. The Museum of Contemporary Art (MACA) is ironically located in the oldest, but modernized, civil building in Alicante: Casa de la Asegurada. While the museum was founded in the ‘70s by sculptor Eusebio Sempere to exclusively display his private collection, it currently houses over 800 pieces from numerous artists including famed Spanish painters Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Joan Miro, as well as a fairly recent addition of Juana Frances — making it the premier Spanish modern art museum. And admission is free.
The Mercado Central, or Central Market, is a thriving farmer’s market housed in a historic building in Alicante, which offers a variety of fresh seafood, vegetables, and fruit, plus several kinds of wine and spices. A staple in Spanish culture, central markets often have cafés with bar seating for already-prepared offerings, and Mercado Central is no different: After perusing the colorful offerings, one can relax at one of the many cafés and enjoy tapas and other regional specialties.
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