What to see and do in Alicante? Discover the Mediterranean jewel of the Costa Blanca and its special spots

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Are you wondering what to see or do in Alicante? From being a holiday destination, this city presents itself as the ideal setting for a new beginning. Its charm lies not only in its landscapes, but also in the warmth of its people, the wealth of its traditions and the promise of a better life.

Beyond its sun-drenched coasts, Alicante dazzles with its gastronomy that combines the best of the sea and the land, and with a climate that is the envy of many other regions. In fact, this isn’t just another Mediterranean coastal city; it’s a mosaic of experiences, flavours and sounds waiting to be discovered.

That’s why – if you’re considering settling down under the warm Alicante sun or simply making a visit that goes beyond the typical tourist itinerary – you’ve come to the right place. Explore this guide by Quadratia and discover all the treasures that Alicante has to offer you!

Alicante, the Mediterranean splendour of the Costa Blanca and Spain

Map to find out what to see and do in Alicante.

Alicante – co-officially called Alacant in Valencian – is the capital of the province of the same name located in the region of Valencia. Originally called Lucentum, its name derives from the Greek Akra Leuké, which translates as “white promontory” or “white fortress”. Later, under the name of Al-Laqant during the Moorish era, it grew into a commercial and agricultural centre, evolving into the city and the name we know today. It has been a strategic point on the Mediterranean coast since ancient times.

Located in southeast Spain, on the emblematic Costa Blanca, Alicante has established itself as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain. What’s more, it’s not only notable for its majestic beaches and Mediterranean climate, but also for its rich heritage, its natural coves and its golf courses. The Santa Bárbara Castle – built on Mount Benacanti – is evidence of this, with remnants of the city’s first settlements.

In addition, the city has a number of festivities and a vibrant nightlife that seduces residents and visitors alike. Alicante’s economy is based on tourism, but it also has a strong industrial and commercial component. Its port is one of the most active in the region. It serves not only as a point of commerce but also as a starting point for ferries that connect with nearby islands and other Mediterranean destinations.

How many inhabitants has Alicante got?

The data collected as of 1 January 2023 make Alicante one of the ten most populous cities in Spain. With this demographic increase, Alicante has outpaced Bilbao, which holds the eleventh spot in the national ranking. 

In terms of geographical size, Alicante covers an area of 201.3 km². If we consider the ratio of population to area, the city’s population density is approximately 1,733 inhabitants per km².

What is the climate in Alicante like?

Alicante enjoys an arid Mediterranean climate, characterised by mild winters and warm, dry summers. Average temperatures in winter range from 12°C to 18°C, while in summer they usually range from 26°C to 32°C, although they can occasionally reach warmer temperatures. Rainfall is scarce and is mainly concentrated in autumn and spring, with summer being the driest season.

The sea breeze from the Mediterranean Sea moderates temperatures, especially in the coastal areas. Although this breeze is cooling, it also brings humidity, which can intensify the feeling of heat on the warmest days, giving rise to what is commonly called “muggy heat”.

What to see in Alicante in a single day?

If you’ve only got one day to explore Alicante, here’s a simple tour:

  1. City Hall: Start your day by visiting the City Council, an emblematic building that recounts the region’s history.
  2. Explanada de España: Then, stroll along the Explanada de España, a beautiful promenade with palm trees and mosaics that will lead you to the port.
  3. Port: Cross the promenade and from there, enjoy the impressive views of the Mediterranean Sea.
  4. Playa del Postiguet: Finish up with a lovely walk on the beautiful Playa del Postiguet beach and relax on the sand or enjoy a refreshing dip.

*Bonus: If you have a bit more time, start the route by first visiting the Santa Cruz district, which is highly recommended!

This route will allow you to enjoy a brief experience that fuses history, natural beauty and relaxation on the beach. Make the most of your day in Alicante!

Tourism in Alicante: explore the city of light

Picture from the Castle of Santa Barbara, one of the best views and things to do in Alicante.

Alicante – known for tourism reasons as the “city of light” – is a destination full of charm and culture. If you’re considering moving there or just visiting, we suggest you start your trip at the Alicante Tourism Office. This is strategically located on the Explanada de España, right where the port ends, and opposite the emblematic Playa de Postiguet beach.

The tourism office’s staff – who are experts and trained to communicate in various languages – will provide you with all the information you need about Alicante. They’ll help you with recommendations, interesting facts and advice on the monuments and leisure activities this lovely city offers.

However, at Quadratia, we are aware of how useful and quick it is to search for information on the internet, so we’ve invested time and effort in designing an exceptional guide to Alicante’s cultural and tourism-related treasures. Discover the most emblematic spots and the most authentic experiences in the luminous city of light.

Find out what to see and things to do in Alicante together with Quadratia!

10 things to see and do in Alicante city

The Santa Bárbara Castle and the famous history of the Cara de Moro

Image of the Castle of Santa Bárbara in Alicante.

The Santa Bárbara Castle is one of the most representative emblems of Alicante, soaring majestically 166 metres above sea level on Mount Benacantil. This strategic location not only offers panoramic views of Alicante Bay and its surroundings, but, historically it allowed the city to control and defend itself against possible threats, both at sea and on land.

The archaeological remains found on its slopes date from the Bronze Age to the Roman era. Nevertheless, the castle as we know it has its roots in the Muslim rule of the 9th century. It was on 4 December 1248 when – coinciding with the festival of Santa Bárbara – Prince Alfonso of Castile conquered the castle and gave it its current name. Subsequently, the castle would be handed over to Jaime II and would be remodelled and fortified during successive reigns. However, the castle remained abandoned until 1963, when it was opened to the public. 

As far as access is concerned, visitors can access the castle via two lifts that run through the mountain’s interior. The starting point for these lifts is located on Avenida de Jovellanos, opposite the Playa del Postiguet beach. For more information on prices and ways to access it, we recommend you visit the castle’s official page.

The Moorish face of Monte Benacantill at the Castle of Santa Barbara, one of the things to see and do in Alicante.

The fascinating history around the Cara del Moro of Benacantil mountain

No less fascinating than the castle itself, is the story behind the iconic “Cara del Moro”. This rock formation, visible on Mount Benacantil, resembles the profile of a human face. The best-known legend recounts the tragic love story between Zahara – the daughter of the Arab governor – and a young Christian man. After a series of unfortunate events and betrayals, the desperate Zahara jumped from the top of the mountain, and her father was turned into rock by Allah, leaving his face on the mountain as a reminder of the promises he had broken. Isn’t that fascinating?

Among the top attractions to see in Alicante, the Santa Bárbara Castle and the “Cara del Moro” stand out not only as monuments, but also as silent witnesses to the rich history and legends of a city that has seen civilisations come and go and has been a spectator o tragic love stories and epic battles.

La Explanada de España, the world-famous promenade in Alicante

People strolling along La Explanada. One of the things to do in Alicante.

Also known as Paseo de la Explanada, this iconic seafront avenue is located in the heart of Alicante and runs parallel to the city’s port. Considered one of the city’s historical symbols, it was designed in 1959 by the architects Miguel López and Alfonso Fajardo, and its construction promoted by the mayor of the time, Don Agatángelo Soler Llorca.

One of the most outstanding aspects of the Explanada de España is its impressive floor, made up of 7,480,000 marble tiles that create a tri-coloured mosaic in red, blue and white tones. This design, which evokes the waves of the sea, was inspired by the pavements of the Plaza del Rossio in Lisbon, Portugal.

Alicante esplanade promenade with the Castle of Santa Bárbara in the background.

Flanked by elegant palm trees, the esplanade is almost 600 metres long, making it the perfect place for a stroll, especially during the afternoon and evening hours. In addition to being a space for relaxation and enjoyment, the esplanade becomes a hub of activity during the summer, playing host to the Alicante Craft Fair

Throughout the year, it’s also home to the city’s traditional “hippie” stalls, ideal for purchasing souvenirs and hand-crafted items. Lastly, the area is full of gastronomic and leisure options, which makes it a can’t-miss for people looking for what to see in Alicante.

The Santa Cruz district: colourful streets and traditional charm

Santa Cruz neighbourhood in Alicante, one of the things to see and do in Alicante.

In the heart of Alicante’s historic centre, you’ll find the charming Santa Cruz district, a picturesque spot home to the essence of the city. With its narrow cobbled streets, vibrantly hued houses and flowers that adorn every corner, this district is a gem that invites you to wander and enjoy.

One of the main attractions in this district is the Ermita de Santa Cruz (Hermitage of Santa Cruz), a church dating back to the 18th century that stands majestically in the heart of the district. Its white and yellow façade is an iconic symbol of Alicante and a must for visitors.

Strolling through the narrow streets of the Santa Cruz district is a pleasure in itself. Here, you can discover small workshops run by local artists, craft shops and boutiques with unique products. What’s more, you’ll find bars that offer authentic Mediterranean cuisine, where you can sample traditional dishes from the region.

From the Mirador de Santa Cruz – located at the highest point of the district – you can enjoy impressive panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea, making it the perfect spot for taking memorable photographs.

The Santa Cruz district is a hidden gem that is worth exploring in Alicante, where you can immerse yourself in the city’s authenticity and enjoy its charm and colour. It’s definitely one of the places to see in Alicante and experience the authentic local culture.

The Co-cathedral of Saint Nicholas of Bari: history and architecture

Image of the front of the Co-cathedral of San Nicolás in Alicante.

The Santa Iglesia Concatedral de San Nicolás, located in the heart of Alicante’s historic centre, is an impressive religious building of great historical and architectural importance. It was built over the remnants of a mosque, and we know of the existence of a hermitage at the same site dating as far back as the 13th century.

The construction of the Concatedral of San Nicolás began in 1616 and lasted until 1738. This magnificent building is a prominent example of the Herrerian style, with a single nave and several attached chapels. The gates of the cloister come from a previous church of the 15th century.

A notable feature of this con-cathedral is its façade, which combines Renaissance and Baroque elements. It is notable for its beauty and decorative richness, with details representing religious scenes carved in stone. The name of Saint Nicholas comes from the name of the saint’s day when the Muslim city of Alicante surrendered, a fact that highlights this cathedrals historical importance to the city.

Today, the Concatedral de San Nicolás is a fundamental testimony to Alicante and its history, as well as a place of worship and a tourist attraction that draws visitors wishing to appreciate its impressive architecture. You can check the schedules for worship and visits on the following web portal.

Plaza de los Luceros, an iconic spot in the city

Plaza de los Luceros, a central place in Alicante to stroll around and visit.

The Plaza de los Luceros square is an iconic place in Alicante. It’s located where four important avenues – General Marvá to the north, Federico Soto to the south, Alfonso el Sabio to the east and Estación to the west – come together. Its centre is notable for the majestic fountain built in 1930 by the Alicante-born sculptor Daniel Bañuls Martínez, and it was nicknamed the “Plaça dels Cavalls” (Square of the Horses).

Throughout its history, the square has had different names, such as the “Square of Isabel II” and the “Square of Alfonso XII.” However, in 1934, it was given its current name in honour of the ceramic stars that decorate the fountain.

In fact, this square is famous for its elegant central fountain, which symbolises the Spanish levante and has celestial elements. This sculpture has four horses at its base, a central obelisk with female figures representing the Hesperides and a red star at the top related to the stars.

The Plaza de los Luceros square is a can’t-miss place for a stroll in Alicante, as it connects various areas of the city and is a hub for public transport. In addition, it hosts cultural and festive events throughout the year, such as the mascletàs in Hogueras and the Mascletas en Hogueros fireworks shows or the celebrations when the city’s football club, the Hércules de Alicante C.F., rises in the rankings.

The Playa del Postiguet beach, a heavenly spot that inspired “La manta al coll”, a traditional festival song in Alicante

The famous Postiguet beach in Alicante, a place to see in Alicante.

Located at the foot of the majestic Mount Benacantil and near the iconic Santa Bárbara Castle, Alicante‘s Playa del Postiguet beach combines the natural beauty of the landscape with impressive views of the Mediterranean Sea. This served as the inspiration for the famous folk song “La Manta al Coll” by the Alicante-born composers José Arques Llorens and Manuel García Ortiz.

With its fine golden sand, crystal-clear waters and 900-metre-long beach, Playa del Postiguet is the perfect place kick back and relax, sunbathe and enjoy a refreshing dip. What’s more, it offers a wide range of services, including restaurants and bars in the surrounding areas. In summer, it hosts events and activities for the entire family, from concerts to water sports.

Note that this is a can’t-miss stop, as the Playa del Postiguet is one of the tops spots to enjoy and see in the city of Alicante.

The Port of Alicante: a broad promenade on the shores of the Mediterranean

The promenade of the Port of Alicante, one of the things to do in Alicante if you visit it.

Parallel to and opposite the Explanada de España, the port offers impressive views of the Mediterranean Sea. The seafront promenade of the Port of Alicante is broad and perfect for activities such as walking, running, cycling or simply relaxing on one of the benches while contemplating the blue horizon.

In addition to its promenade, the Port of Alicante has a leisure area filled with restaurants, cafés and pubs nearby that offer delicious local gastronomy and options for enjoying refreshing drinks while enjoying views of the sea.

This port is the ideal starting pointfor starting a route of things to do in Alicante, such as visiting the Santa Bárbara Castle or strolling along the Playa del Postiguet beach, which are located just a short stroll away.

The Alicante City Council Building or Council House

Front of Alicante City Hall.

The Alicante City Council building – also known as the Council House – is an iconic Baroque- style building with 18th-century ornamental details located in the city centre. In fact, if you’re interested in visiting it, you can do so. 

The City Council building offers free guided tours that will give you the opportunity to explore this beautiful building and learn more about its history and cultural significance. During the visit, you’ll be able to explore the different areas of the building, including the Blue Room and the Royal Chamber.

On the other hand, the Plaza del Ayuntamiento is a hub for civic and cultural activities in the city, which makes the City Council building an interesting stop for tourists and visitors who wish to learn more about the local history and lifestyle. We strongly recommend that you not miss this square during the festivities of the Hogueras de San Juan or during the Christmas festivities.

Provincial Archaeological Museum of Alicante (MARQ)

The Provincial Archaeological Museum of Alicante – known as MARQ – is the ideal place to explore the history and archaeology of the Alicante region and its surroundings. It offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the past through its permanent and temporary exhibitions, which range from prehistory to the contemporary era.

The most outstanding pieces include Roman artefacts, objects from the Íbero culture and archaeological elements related to sailing in the region. In addition, the museum uses modern technology to make the experience interactive and educational.

The MARQ is a culturally enriching venue and a must for anyone interested in the archaeology and history of Alicante and its surroundings.

Las Hogueras de San Juan

The official bonfire in the Plaza Mayor of the Alicante Town Hall, one of the things to visit and do in Alicante.

Lastly, living in Alicante will allow you to enjoy the Hogueras de San Juan – known as Les Fogueres de Sant Joan in Valencian – a traditional and popular celebration that takes place in the city of Alicante from 20 to 24 June each year. This festival is one of the largest in the region and has been declared to be an Event of International Tourist Interest.

During the Hogueras, the streets are transformed with impressive monuments and sculptures made of flammable materials that are meant to be set fire to on the spectacular Nit de la Cremà on 24 June. On the eve of the festival – which celebrates the longest night of the year – the inhabitants of Alicante gather at the Playa del Postiguet beach to participate in a special tradition: jumping over bonfires at the Nit de Sant Joan festival. 

What’s more, every day at mid-day throughout the festivals, the Mascletàs take place at the Fuente de Luceros. These events include dazzling fireworks and thunderous explosions that are an essential part of the celebrations, bringing excitement and exuberance to this long-standing Alicante festival.

The Fogueres de Sant Joan embody the essence of Alicante, attracting not only locals but also visitors from all over the world. Parades, concerts, cultural activities and a lively nightlife means the city is full of life with monuments, fireworks and the enthusiasm of its people, creating a truly unforgettable atmosphere for anyone who experiences it.

What to see in the province of Alicante?

The province of Alicante offers a wealth of destinations that go beyond its capital city. Here, we offer you some must-see cities to explore in the province of Alicante:

  • Benidorm: Famous for its spectacular line of high-rise buildings, Benidorm is an epicentre of nightlife and entertainment. Its golden beaches, theme parks and vibrant atmosphere make it a prominent tourist destination.
  • Calpe: In the heart of the Costa Blanca, Calpe is notable for the imposing Peñon de Ifach, an emblematic rock formation that rises majestically from the sea. You can explore its trails and enjoy unforgettable panoramic 
  • Altea: Its picturesque old town and cobbled streets full of life and art characterize this charming town.The views from the Plaza de la Iglesia square are iconic, and its Bohemian vibe attracts artists and culture lovers.
  • Villajoyosa: known for its vibrantly hued houses that line the coast. In addition, you can explore its fascinating chocolate-making tradition.
  • Elche: recognised for its Palm Grove, which is a World Heritage Site and for its celebration of the Mystery Play of Elx, a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
  • Jávea: This coastal town offers beautiful beaches and hidden coves, as well as a charming old town.

Homes for sale in Alicante and the Costa Blanca

After discovering all the wonders that Alicante has to offer, it’s natural to be attracted to the idea of settling in this region. The Costa Blanca – famous for its natural beauty, exquisite gastronomy and laid-back lifestyle – has become a highly desired destination for people wishing to purchase property abroad, especially those with high net worth.

If you’re interested in exploring various newly built properties on the Costa Blanca, at Quadratia we have a wide range of housing models. From apartments, to penthouses, duplexes and ground floors around the province of Alicante. In addition, if you’d like to learn more about the best cities to live in Spain as a foreigner, we recommend that you read our previous article.

We hope to make your dream of living in this heavenly corner of Spain come true. Welcome to your new life in Alicante!

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