Located in the Southwest of Spain, Alicante is the gateway to the Costa Blanca, an area synonymous with sand, sun and sky. Situated on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea, this port city has an intoxicating balance of lively activities and beautiful landscapes. Delight in white, sandy beaches stretching as far as the eye can see buffeted by the Sierra Mariola mountains. This heady mix makes the city a popular destination with Spanish and international tourists alike.
In recent years, Alicante has gained an unfortunate reputation for being full of tacky bars and stag dos. Thankfully, the city government has worked hard on an image rebrand. Yes, the hoards of drunk bachelors and bachelorettes still abound, but If you avoid the main strip, where they tend to congregate, you’ll find a city with a host of cultural and natural delights.
From the grand esplanade’s wavy mosaic floor lined with towering palm trees to the Barrio de la Santa Cruz with its white townhouses and terracotta roofs, Alicante is the perfect place for a sunny city break.
Start the day the Spanish way. Head to a small breakfast bar around 11 a.m. for a coffee and some tostada (freshly baked bread rubbed with olive oil and vine-ripened tomatoes). You’ll find plenty of bakeries and cafes throughout the city offering this typical Spanish dish but Bardin Bakery, just off the Explanada d’Espanya, is a special oasis. Sporting mismatched furniture in pastel colors and floor-to-ceiling windows, Bardin is the place to get comfortably ensconced with a good book and great food.
For a leisurely lunch, make your way to the harbor and over to Dársena. Since 1961, this unique restaurant has sported a strong nautical theme that embraces its seaside location. Polished wood and lantern lights abound as do circular windows that overlook the marina. Dársena boasts fresh seafood, most of which is caught that very morning, so treat yourself to steamed mussels with laurel or salted cod croquettes. Before you leave, savor one of its rice dishes—rice is an essential part of the Alicantese diet—and with 25 different choices on the menu, it’s hard to pick just one. We are partial to the carnaroli, which is made with plankton and squid.
A visit to Spain wouldn’t be complete without a tapas bar and La Taberna Del Gourmet will certainly sate your cravings. With leather chairs, industrial fittings and local produce proudly on display behind glass walls, the restaurant is a celebration of Spanish food and culture. Offering a large menu of tapas classics, La Taberna’s black rice paella is the showstopper.
If you’d like a sweet treat before bedtime, make a pitstop at Horchateria Azul, a local favorite near Panteó de Quijano. It’s the local hotpot for a late-night gelato or a freshly made Horchata.
From historic sites to modern art museums to glorious beaches plus a few good bars, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy in this Mediterranean city.
The Castle of Santa Bárbara, built in the 9th century and located more than 500 feet above sea level, is one of Spain’s largest medieval fortresses. Access is available via a lift near El Postiguet beach within the rockface. If small spaces aren’t your thing then you can also get to the castle via foot or car. The castle is a fascinating cultural site that offers vistas of aqua-colored seas and endless blue skies.
The Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art (MACA) boasts a plethora of local and Spanish artists. Reopened in 2011 after extensive renovations, the stone building houses three permanent exhibitions that include the works of Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and Juana Frances.
After a day of pounding the pavement, it’s time to hit the beach for some sun, sand and surf. San Juan Beach, stretching along the coast for nearly two miles, is one of the most popular plays in town and with white sand and calm, shallow waters, it’s not hard to see why! For a more relaxed beach experience—i.e. without the crowds—take a detour to La Almadraba, just four miles up the coast.
Alicantese nightlife is a singular attraction. The bar scene is vibrant and bustling, no matter the season. Locals start the party at 3 p.m. on Saturday so you should, too. Head to El Barrio and you’ll find plenty of bars ranging from dark and dingy dives to sleek, upmarket cocktail boites. Our favorite? The stylish and innovative Nic Combinados Y Cocteles, where cocktails are an art form.
Hotel Les Monges Palace
Hotel Les Monges Palace, in the middle of the old town, it’s just minutes away from Alicante’s main attractions and the beach. The hotel itself has an old-time decadence—think dark, heavy wooden doors that guard the entrance flanked by opulent glass porch lights. Once you step inside you’ll notice the tiled floors that run throughout the establishment and that change style on every floor. Each bedroom is unique, with tiles in different colors or and a variety of wallpapers cascading from the ceiling. All rooms come with an ensuite bathroom and have beds that are simple but comfy. With a small but perfectly formed terrace, Les Monges is one of those spots that allows you to fully relax and take a breather after a long day of sightseeing.
Smile & Co.
Located just five minutes from Paseo de la Explanada, Smile & Co. affords guests a mix of the modern and traditional. Owners Cristian, Audrey and their cat Loulou run the place and aim to make their guests feel right at home. This welcoming vibe is appreciated and repeated via personalized touches such as a small lending library and bright flowers in glass vases. Rooms are painted in pale greys and accented with white furniture, cute trinkets and plants—the light and airy feeling makes for many Instagrammable moments. Best of all, it’s pet-friendly (even cats!)!