10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Alicante
With the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean lapping against its sandy shores, Alicante is understandably a popular summer and winter resort destination on the Costa Blanca. The sunny locale was named Lucentum (the "place of light") by the ancient Romans who settled here. Visitors are still drawn by the pleasant climate and seaside setting. From every angle, the coastal views are sensational, especially from the hilltop Castillo that presides over the city. Tourists enjoy a combination of leisure and cultural attractions. Popular pastimes include sunbathing on the sandy beaches, strolling along the waterfront promenades, and visiting historic monuments and fascinating museums with renowned archaeology and fine arts collections. Alicante has many high-rise buildings and hotels for tourists to choose from, and luckily, lush gardens and elegant palm-fringed boulevards break up the urban sprawl.
See also: Where to Stay in Alicante
1 Castillo de Santa Bárbara
In a commanding position above the town, the Castillo de Santa Bárbara seems to sprout from a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea. The hilltop location is a testament to the castle's military purpose and has been a strategic asset as far back as the Carthaginian era. The original ninth-century Islamic Alcazar was captured from the Moors by the Christian Prince Alfonso of Castile. The victorious battle was on the feast day of Santa Barbara, explaining the castle's name. During the reign of Philip II, the castle was renovated in Renaissance style.
The castle is open to the public for self-guided visits as well as guided tours. Tourists are astounded by the castle's ancient halls, its fascinating history, and the stunning panoramic views. From this vantage point, the outlook stretches over the town, along the coastline, and to the hills in the north. Visitors can see La Torreta, the old keep; the splendid reception hall of Philip II; and the Revellín del Bon Repós rampart. Temporary exhibitions are also held at the castle throughout the year.
Location: Mount Benacantil
2 Museo Arqueológico
This superb archeological museum takes visitors on a journey through 100,000 years of history. The collection covers prehistory; the classical period of antiquity with Greek, Roman, and Iberian artifacts; and the Middle Ages. Specific rooms are dedicated to Iberian culture, Roman civilization, and the medieval period. Highlights of the collection include the assortment of ancient coins, a figure of the goddess Tanit, and the Iberian ceramics. The medieval exhibit is especially impressive with an assortment of more than 300 objects. Another interesting feature of the museum is a display that recreates a scene of Roman daily life. The museum also presents educational information about the archaeological sites of Lucentum and Illeta where many of the artifacts were discovered.
Address: Plaza del Doctor Gómez Ulla, Alicante
3 Museo de Bellas Artes Gravina (Museum of Fine Arts)
The Museum of Fine Arts is in the atmospheric historic center of Alicante, the Barrio Santa Cruz. This museum occupies the 18th-century Gravina Palace that once belonged to the Count of Lumiares. A unique collection of art created in the Alicante region, the works on display range from the medieval period until the early 20th century. Among the historical and social realism are paintings by Vicente Poveda, Ricardo Navarrete, and Heliodoro Guillén. The collection also includes exemplary portraits, such as the masterpieces by Emilio Sala, Antonio Gisbert, and Joaquin Agrasot. Be sure to see the paintings by Joaquín Sorolla, the famous Spanish Impressionist painter. Sorolla is renowned for his artworks featuring outdoor subjects and his use of light and color. The museum also hosts interesting temporary expositions throughout the year.
Address: 13 - 15 Calle Gravina, Alicante
4 Basilica de Santa María
In the historic Santa Cruz quarter, the Basilica de Santa María is the oldest church in Alicante. The church was built by the Catholic monarchs in the 13th century on the site of a former mosque. Originally Gothic in style, the church was remodeled in the 18th century with a Baroque facade and interior. On the main front of the exterior, notice the Virgin sculpture by Juan Bautista Borja. Step inside the church to admire the richly decorated sanctuary. Highlights are the Rococo high altar and exquisite Baptism chapels.
Address: Plaza de Santa María, Alicante
5 Concatedral San Nicolás de Bari
In the heart of the city near the town hall is the 17th-century church of San Nicolás de Bari (also known as the Concatedral or Co-Cathedral). The church was dedicated to the town's patron saint. While the exterior is plain, the interior is an impressive and awe-inspiring spiritual space. The sanctuary features notable retablos and a fine cloister. This unique historic monument exemplifies Herrerian style, an architectural school of 16th- and 17th-century Spain. Herrerian buildings are distinguished by austere facades and precise geometrical lines.
6 Playa del Postiguet: A Beautiful City Beach
This beautiful, expansive beach is prized for its fine golden sand and excellent facilities including public toilets, showers, and watersports rentals as well as sun parasols and lounge chairs for rent. In the center of Alicante at the foot of the Castillo de Santa Barbara, the beach offers the serenity of gentle waves and deep turquoise waters. The calm waters are ideal for swimming. Safety hazards are signposted on a daily basis. Families will appreciate the children's play area designed for little kids.
The Playa del Postiguet is next to the marina where the Club Náutico Alicante (yacht club) is found. Also nearby is the Explanada de España, a lovely palm-fringed seaside promenade that invites leisurely strolls. This promenade runs into the elegant Parque de Canalejas, a pleasant park shaded by ficus trees.
7 The Marina
Alicante has a lovely and spacious harbor, with large breakwaters to protect it. Many yachts and private boats are docked at the harbor, and the yacht club is a hub of activity. The marina is an enjoyable area for tourists to explore, with its stylish restaurants and inviting shops. During the day, the seafront promenade is a perfect place for a scenic stroll in the sunshine. At night, the ambience is lively with many people out and about. For a romantic and relaxing dinner, choose one of the waterfront restaurants overlooking the marina.
Address: Muelle 8 Zona de Levante, Alicante
8 Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (Museum of Contemporary Art)
The Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art presents a superb collection of 20th-century Spanish art. Opened in 2011, the museum has three separate departments in its permanent collection: an overview of 20th-century art with works by Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Juan Gris, and Julio González; the Juana Francés collection; and the Eusebio Sempere collection. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and admission is free.
Address: 3 Plaza de Santa María, Alicante
9 Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)
Just behind the park of the Explanada de Espana and near the Plaza Puerta del Mar, the town hall of Alicante makes a striking impression. This grand Baroque building has a beautiful Churrigueresque facade and two imposing towers that soar to 35 meters. On the staircase leading up to the building is an instrument used in Spain as a reference point to measure the height above sea level. The building is open to the public, and visitors should be sure to see the Salón Azul (Blue Room), which is particularly dazzling. The building also displays some interesting Dalí art works.
Address: Plaza del Ayuntamiento, Alicante
10 Plaza de Gabriel Miró
Pleasantly shaded by leafy trees, this charming and romantic square is a tribute to the renowned author of Alicante, Gabriel Miró. A gorgeous fountain with classically inspired statues adorns the center, and a bust of Gabriel Miró is at one end of the square. Lining the borders of the square are magnificent Art Nouveau and other monumental buildings. Close to Alicante's Old Town, the Plaza de Gabriel Miró offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Visitors can relax on the terrace to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere or take an unhurried stroll through the beautiful grounds.
Where to Stay in Alicante for Sightseeing
Most of the tourist attractions and things to do in Alicante are in or close to the old town and the adjoining harbor and marina. Catch the lift to hilltop Castillo de Santa Bárbara from beautiful Postiguet beach, an easy walk from anywhere in the old town. Here are some highly-rated hotels in Alicante:
- Luxury Hotels: Occupying a former convent in the old town, close to restaurants, shops, and the port, Hospes Amerigo has smartly decorated rooms and a rooftop pool with a stunning view of the Santa Barbara Castle. Melia Alicante is a resort hotel with a pool at the marina, overlooking the beach and Mediterranean and an easy walk to old town attractions. Also at the marina and beach and five minutes from the old town restaurants, Hotel Spa Porta Maris & Suites del Mar has outdoor and indoor pools, saunas, and whirlpools.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Abba Centrum Hotel has a rooftop terrace, sauna, and steam room, on a residential street within an easy walk of the old town area and waterfront. Near the lively market at the northern side of the old town, 10 minutes from the harbor, Eurostars Lucentum is opposite an airport bus stop and has free, fast Wi-Fi. Almost opposite the bus station, which is also an airport bus stop, and about a 15-minute walk from the old town and harbor, the green AC Hotel Alicante has a small pool.
- Budget Hotels: Right by the beach and an airport bus stop, and a short walk from the old town, Tryp Ciudad de Alicante has views of the castle from guestroom balconies. NH Rambla de Alicante is in the old town near the bustling market, a 10-minute walk from the beach. Also a short walk to the beach and attractions, and surrounded by shops and restaurants, Hotel Cervantes has basic air-conditioned rooms, free breakfast, and free Wi-Fi.
Day Trips from Alicante
Cabo de las Huertas
Several small coves just outside Alicante are popular among scuba divers. The Cala Cantalars are small rocky coves found in a quiet residential area two kilometers from the Alicante city center. The Cala dels Jueus coves are in Cabo de las Huertas; some are rocky and others are sandy coves. Both of these areas have calm waters and are excellent for scuba diving. Signposts indicate any safety hazards.
Playa de San Juan
This gorgeous sandy beach lies less than five kilometers from the Alicante city center. With its expansive shoreline, the Playa de San Juan is ideal for sunbathing and relaxation. The beach has been awarded a Blue Flag for water safety; the calm waters are suitable for swimming and water sports. A wide variety of cafés, restaurants, and shops along the beach make it a convenient destination.
Playa de Los Saladares
Los Saladres Beach is seven kilometers from Alicante in a pristine wetland area. The large, sandy beach offers a welcome escape to nature, along with public facilities. The beach is equipped with toilets, showers, and a children's play area. Beach umbrellas and lounge chairs are available for rent. Playa de Los Saladares is a great place for sunbathing as well as nature walks. Moderate waves make the water safe for wading or swimming. Safety hazards are posted on a daily basis.
Cuevas de Canelobre
The Cuevas de Canelobre are a stunning natural cave system 24 kilometers from Alicante in the slopes of the Sierra de Cabeza de Oro mountains, an area with wonderful views of the coastline. One of the caverns has been compared to a cathedral with its awesome 150-meter-long hall filled with a profusion of stalactites and stalagmites. Tourists will enjoy visiting this unique nature site. Guided tours include colored lighting to illuminate the caves and music for ambience. The caves are sometimes used as a venue for concerts because they offer exceptional acoustics and a truly special ambience.
Travelers can escape to a small island off the coast of Alicante and enjoy being surrounded by the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Tabarca Island is the only inhabited island of the region, and the area has been designated a Mediterranean Marine Reserve. The landscape boasts an incredible biodiversity of flora and fauna. Tourists may visit the island for the day by taking an hour-long boat ride from the port of Alicante.
From a distance, the historic village of Altea appears as a small group of buildings nestled on a hilltop. This medieval perched town overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and offers sensational panoramic views. The town is dominated by the Church of Virgin of Consuelo with its striking blue and white-tiled dome. Characteristic whitewashed houses and atmospheric cobblestone streets lend Old World charm. Many areas of the town have shaded terraces and viewpoints for taking in the picturesque scenery. Some of the narrow lanes turn into pedestrian staircases that lead down to the sea. Altea is also renowned for its artisan craft workshops and art studios as well as its summertime festivals. In August the Castell de L'Olla puts on a fireworks show, and in late September, a festival celebrates the old traditions of the Christians and Moors of the region.
The town of Albacete is in La Mancha region about 160 kilometers from Alicante. In the old upper town (el Alto de la Villa) is the 16th-century Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. The building was originally designed by Diego de Siloé in Gothic style and was continued in Renaissance style. It has a fine Churrigueresque high altar, and the sacristy features five grisaille wall paintings of biblical scenes. In the newer lower part of the town in the Parque Abelardo Sánchez is the Albacete Museum with three departments: archeology, fine arts, and ethnology. Among the treasures of the archeology collection are objects from archeological sites in the province, including Iberian sculptures from Cerro de los Santos, ancient Roman dolls made of ivory, ancient Roman mosaics from Balazote, and Gothic religious objects.