Alicante, the sprawling port city and provincial capital on Spain’s southeastern Costa Blanca, is best known for its gorgeous weather, expansive beaches, exquisite food, and breathtaking scenery. Alicante receives more than 300 days of sunshine every year, so it’s no surprise that over three million tourists flock to the region annually, but is a long weekend enough time to spend in this Mediterranean gem?
Its inhabitants have dubbed Alicante “el millor terreta del món”, meaning “the best land in the world”, and it’s not hard to see why. Miles of Mediterranean coastline, diverse restaurants, and medieval landmarks can all be found within the city limits. You’re probably wondering if you can see it all in just three days, and we’re here to answer that.
From the bustling old town to the golden shores, our guide has the ultimate 3-day Alicante itinerary to ensure you get the best out of your short trip to this coastal metropolis. Let’s get into it.
Day 1: Morning
One of the best things about Alicante is the plentiful scenery and nature reserves of the surrounding area, which are all within reach of the city, but it wouldn’t be the first day in a new town without familiarizing yourself with the center. Start your morning with a stroll around the old town, Barrio de Santa Cruz, the most beautiful quarter of Alicante.
The narrow streets, white houses, colorful doorways, and hanging plants will transport you back to centuries gone and give you a taste of authentic Alicante. There are plenty of boutiques and quaint cafes to grab a coffee or a bite to eat. Once you’ve got sufficiently lost in charming Barrio de Santa Cruz, meander down the Paseo Central General Marvá in the direction of the ocean.
The leafy walkway is tranquil and scenic, and you can’t miss the Plaza de Los Luceros along the way. The square is sat on a large roundabout and is emblematic of Alicante. An ornate fountain lights up come evening time and the central landmark is surrounded by bars and cafeterias.
Day 1: Afternoon
After a morning strolling around Alicante, it’s time for a history lesson. Alicante is steeped in heritage and the region has been inhabited for over 7,000 years. Around 5,000 to 3,000 BC saw the first tribes of hunter-gatherers moved down from Central Europe into southeastern Spain. Some of the earliest settlements in the country occupied Mount Benacantil’s slopes which loom over Alicante. Today, the Castillo de Santa Bárbara stands in their place and the medieval fortress is a must-see attraction in the city.
The Castillo de Santa Bárbara was first established in the 9th century by the Moors, but much of the structure that still stands was resurrected in the 16th century. The castle perches on Mount Benacantil at a height of 167 meters. Castillo de Santa Bárbara is now a museum dedicated to the history of the fortress, its occupiers, battles, and renovations.
If you don’t make the trek for the history, do it for the views. Strategically looking over the whole city, harbor, and glistening Mediterranean sea, Castillo de Santa Bárbara harnesses the undoubted best views in all of Alicante. And fear not, you don’t have to hike to its medieval walls. An elevator transports visitors from the foot of Mount Benacantil up to the fort for just €2,70.
Day 1: Evening
Once you’ve made your way back down from Castillo de Santa Bárbara, you’ll be just in time to enjoy the sunset over the Med. Head to the main port, or El Puerto de Alicante, and watch the yachts bob in the harbor as the sun goes down before making your way to dinner.
El Puerto de Alicante was established in 1,000 BC by the Phoenicians and helped put Alicante on the map 3,000 years ago as a major center for trade in Europe. Tucked away in the corner of the harbor is La Escalera de la Reina, or “The Queen’s Staircase”. Steps lead from the water up to the “Return of Icarus”, a bronze statue depicting the mythically Greek figure, surfboard in hand. The statue looks particularly majestic against the candy floss skies of a summer sunset.
Next, head to La Explanada del Puerto, Alicante’s waterfront boardwalk, for a bite to eat nearby. La Explanada extends the length of the harbor with wonderful views of the sea and Mount Benacantil. Restaurants line the walkway serving up seafood delicacies and great tapas. These restaurants are pricier than those in the center, but it’s worth it for a dinner over the water to conclude your first day in Alicante.
Day 2: Morning
You’re sure to have worked up an appetite from all the exploring the day prior, so first on the agenda of Day 2 should be breakfast. Alicante is brimming with great foodie spots and the outdoor cafe culture is alive and well.
If you want something hearty and filling, check out Baker and Co., just off Avinguda Goleta for an “American Style” breakfast which is otherwise hard to source in Spain. Their brunch menu includes egg benedict, avocado toast, and even pancakes. For something more traditional but still with plenty of variety, check out El Molí Pan Y Café near the harbor for fresh pastries, sandwiches, and the best coffee in town.
Day 2: Afternoon
A day on the beach is always deserved. After a tasty brunch, it’s time to check out Playa del Postiguet, the main public beach in Alicante with its own promenade and plenty of bars and cafés. Playa del Postiguet is often compared to Barcelona’s Playa de La Barceloneta with a similar sprawling, urban atmosphere. Still, with calm, clear waters, clean white sands, and lofty palm trees swaying in the breeze, you wouldn’t believe it to be a city beach.
Playa del Postiguet is located right in the center of Alicante, just next to the marina at the foot of Mount Benecanti. The beach is well-maintained and even holds Blue Flag status thanks to its pristine shores and inviting waters. Alicante is always soaked in sun and you can swim in the sea from springtime, well into autumn. Water temperatures hover in the mid-70s through the high season and water sports like kayaking, paddle boarding, and windsurfing are popular year-round.
Cool off in the ocean, don your snorkel mask, or sit back and bask in the sun with a glass of sangria – no holiday in Spain is complete without a beach day. And if you can’t sit still, you can finish off the afternoon with a trip to the Archaeological Museum of Alicante or the Gravina Museum of Art for a dose of history, out of the sun.
Day 2: Evening
After an undemanding afternoon, it’s time to turn things up a notch. Alicante is a lively city, renowned for its great nightlife and unbeatable energy. Whatever suits your fancy, there’s something for every crowd once the sun goes down.
After an authentic tapas dinner in the center where the tavernas are much cheaper than by the marina, you can head to Paseo de la Explanada de Espana, the main promenade through the center of Alicante. La Explanada follows the shoreline and comes alive with street performances, flamenco dancers, and live music after sundown.
Or perhaps it’s some real partying you are after? If sampling the nightlife is on the agenda, consider partaking in a hostel bar crawl. The city has a vibrant university community as well as attracting backpackers from all over the world. A bar crawl will take you from trendy lounges to raging discotecas. Parabarap is one of the most exciting bars in the city with good music and 50-cent shots. Or there’s Barrio Havana for more of a club scene, where they blast hip-hop, rap, and Reggatón until the early hours.
Day 3: Morning
You might want a slow morning if you enjoyed one too many bebidas the night before, but Creperie El Molino de Paris will serve up the goods to soak up any hangover. Savory pancakes with salmon and cream cheese fillings, and even Iberian ham, are all on the menu here. Or you can make your way to Mercado Central de Alicante which opens at 7 am and is brimming with local vendors, fresh food, and plenty of carby treats.
After breakfast, it’s time to head out of the city to visit another landmark that is symbolic of Alicante. Unique to Spain, Las Salinas de Torrevieja in the Parque Natural de Torrevieja are two large salt lakes that are most recognizable thanks to their distinct colors. Laguna Rosa, meaning The Pink Lagoon, is one of them, and if you were to take a dip in the water you’d seamlessly float on the surface thanks to the high salt concentration.
The lakes contain around 350 grams of salt per liter, which is close to that of the Red Sea and makes the lakes the most potent in Europe. The pink pigment comes from the high temperatures of the area that have created the ideal ecosystems for species of microalgae and halobacterium to thrive. These organisms release red dye, but be warned that it can stain your body and clothes, although only temporarily. The other lake in the park is bright green, but the area is reserved for salt mining.
These natural wonders are around an hour south of Alicante and you can reach them by car or bus from Alicante to Torrevieja, where you can change to the line B service to Torretas. The bus costs around €4,65 for a one-way trip.
Day 3: Afternoon
Head back to Alicante for the afternoon, but not before you’ll stroll around Torrevieja where the bus station is located. The seaside town has its own restaurant-lined promenade and sandy beach. Check out the small Museo del Mar y de la Sal for a brief history of the town’s fishing and salt-mining heritage and grab a bite to eat on the boardwalk.
Once you’ve got back to Alicante, spend the rest of the afternoon in el Parque de Canalejas which is entirely dedicated to ficus trees. The leafy square is dotted with these incredibly majestic species, some dating back 400 to 500 years. The trees are huge and it’s hard not to stare at their twisting trunks. Have a stroll or chill out under the foliage with a book. Head back to Casca Antiguo, or El Barrio, the true old quarter of Santa Cruz, to finish the day. Check out the baroque Cathedral and dip in and out of the souvenir shops before heading out for a final dinner.
Day 3: Evening
The restaurants in the center of town are the most authentic and inexpensive, and we recommend El Garaje Bar if you’re after a great atmosphere and true tapas. Although, if you want something a bit different, check out La Tia Juana Mexicano with its decadent interior, glassware, food, and margaritas. Every inch of the restaurant is Instagrammable, but the tacos are even prettier.
There’s also Restaurante Italiano Bigoli if you’re craving some good pizza or ravioli, and a charming outdoor dining setup can be found on their terrace. Be sure to grab some drinks at Portal de Elche, if you’re not ready to head home after dinner, where you can enjoy jugs of Sangria and chilled Spanish wine among Alicante’s ficus trees.
Before you head back to your accommodation for the last time, satisfy your sweet tooth at Heladería Borgonesse, the best ice cream joint in Alicante. With such a diverse selection of flavors, they offer every combination under the sun, and you’ll have to pile on the scoops to get a taste of them all.
How do you get around Alicante?
Alicante is very accessible on foot and all the main attractions like the Castillo de Santa Bárbara, the old quarter, the main beach, and the boardwalk are within a mile or two of each other. Still, the city also has an efficient metro system and city trams. If you want to visit the rest of the region, you can hire a car or get the bus which goes to most of the cities in Alicante.
How many days do you need in Alicante?
Alicante is an exciting university city with plenty of attractions and a great atmosphere. In order to tour all the sites and spend some time on the beach and savoring the local cuisine, we recommend spending at least two to three days in Alicante. However, if you want to check out some more of the Costa Blanca and Alicante provincial towns, at least one week in the region is a better idea.
When is the best time to visit Alicante?
Alicante is most popular from June to August, with the hottest weather and tourist facilities in full swing. However, it is also the busiest and most expensive at this time of year thanks to school holidays and consistent highs over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. With just 20 days of rain annually and 3,000 hours of sunshine, Alicante is a year-round destination and you shouldn’t rule out the shoulder seasons for your Spanish getaway.