Alicante or Valencia is a decision between two exciting destinations on the eastern Spanish coast. Valencia is bigger, with more historical and cultural sights to see, but Alicante has plenty of sandy beaches just a stone’s throw away from the center. Both offer fantastic nightlife, great hotels, and an array of interesting day-trip opportunities, so the choice isn’t easy.
On one hand comes Valencia, a vast and vibrant Spanish city with oodles of attractions, cool modern and historical architecture, bustling restaurants, and great nightlife on top. Then there is Alicante, a seaside resort town with a quaint old quarter, a bustling promenade, and sandy beaches right on its doorstep.
This guide to Alicante or Valencia will talk you through the ins and outs of traveling to both these destinations. We’ll compare things like the ease of travel, the nightlife, beaches, and the costs of planning a vacation. So, where should you head this summer?
Alicante or Valencia for the ease of travel
Alicante is one of the most popular destinations on the sunny Costa Blanca, so getting here isn’t much of a problem. The easiest way to reach this sun-soaked resort is via Alicante Airport, which is a little less than seven miles away from the center. It has lots of direct, low-cost connections to destinations all over Europe. The downside is that many of those flights only run in the summer.
You can also get here on one of the fast train services that run daily from Madrid and Barcelona. And there’s a convenient tramline that goes up and down the coast between Alicante and Benidorm for those coming in from somewhere a little closer.
When it comes to Valencia, the city is up there with the most important and populous cities in Spain. That means there are many ways to get in, whether you’re coming from other destinations in the country or further afield. Valencia Airport is only about six miles away from the center and you can easily reach it on frequent buses. You will find plenty of direct flights from European cities and a couple of connections from some North African destinations to boot.
You can also get to Valencia overland by high-speed trains from Madrid, Barcelona, and many other Spanish towns. There’s an extensive bus network with stops here, too, which is a good choice for budget travelers. Plus, there are a couple of ferries that arrive from the Balearic Islands of Ibiza and Mallorca.
Winner: Valencia, but Alicante isn’t far behind.
Alicante or Valencia for sights and attractions
There is no shortage of sights and attractions in bustling Valencia, so filling your itinerary shouldn’t be a problem. The city is dotted with landmarks and architecture that reflect its long and diversified history and culture, so you might need more than one day to enjoy what it has to offer.
We recommend visiting the magnificent Valencia Cathedral, which is in the heart of the buzzing El Carmen district. That’s the oldest part of town, with winding, cobbled alleyways and medieval stone buildings. You also shouldn’t miss the UNESCO landmark of La Lonja de la Seda, a building where the silk trade took place in the 15th and 16th centuries. Then there’s the most iconic piece of modern architecture: The City of Arts and Sciences. It’s a full science museum with cinema screens and planetariums and more!
While Alicante may not be as packed with attractions as Valencia, there is still plenty to see and do in the resort town. It’s a much smaller city, which means it’s usually possible to walk between the major sights. Make sure to spend some time wandering around the enchanting core of the old town before heading to the bustling promenade, which is lined with tall palm trees and buzzing bars and restaurants.
Perhaps the highlight of Alicante for us is the Castillo de Santa Barbara, a fort that stands up on a mountain above the city. It offers panoramic views over the old town and the turquoise Med. It’s also a lovely spot to enjoy the sunset.
Alicante or Valencia for beaches
Unlike Valencia, Alicante is a beach city with pristine, golden sands right on its doorstep. Clean and pretty, Playa del Postiguet, is only about 15 minutes’ stroll from the old town. It can be a little crowded, but that’s what you’d expect from being so close to all the bars and restaurants. Then there is a long stretch of white sand at Playa San Juan. It’s backed by tall resort hotels and condos, which are in abundance in that part of town. It’s also very popular, but it’s big enough to never feel overly crowded.
If you’re willing to travel a little further, you’ll be rewarded with picturesque, turquoise bays at Platja del Portet in Moraira and Platja de la Granadella. Both are over an hour’s drive from Alicante, but well worth the effort.
If you opt for Valencia, you won’t be as close to the beaches as you would in Alicante. That’s unless you stay in the colorful El Cabanyal district that has a lovely sandy beach right in front of the promenade. Las Arenas and La Malvarrosa are the southern and northern parts of the shoreline there, with golden sands and buzzing cafes in the background.
The best beaches in the Valencia region are to the south, where long stretches of wild, unspoiled shores are only a few miles away from the city. Expect soft sands backed by grassy dunes and plenty of space to laze in the sun at both El Saler and La Devesa.
Winner: Alicante, for better beaches within a walking distance of the city.
Alicante or Valencia for nightlife
Alicante is up there with the best summer party destinations on the Spanish coast. So, if you’re after good nightlife, you’re in the right place. This resort town is dotted with buzzing nightclubs, lively discos, hip bars, and stylish cocktail joints. That’s one of the reasons why Alicante is so popular with stag and hen dos. El Puerto and the historical downtown both have oodles of nightlife, so stay in those if you’re looking to party. You can also head to San Juan beach. It’s lined with beach bars that stay open well into the night.
Valencia, on the other hand, is Spain’s third most populated city. That means there is no shortage of party-hungry youngsters that head out to town every weekend. There is also no shortage of bars and clubs scattered across the vibrant metropolis. The central part of town has loads to offer, from craft beer bars to glitzy nightclubs and stylish cocktail joints. Barrio del Carmen and Plaza de Xúquer are only a few of the districts where you’ll find those. Summertime visitors, meanwhile, might enjoy the open-air drinking spots dotted along the Marina Real.
Winner: Valencia – because it’s locally driven nightlife.
Alicante or Valencia for day trips
Alicante is perfectly located if you want to explore other parts of the sunny Costa Blanca, even if you don’t have a car. You can take advantage of the convenient and inexpensive tram that runs along the coastline all the way to another popular resort: Benidorm. You could also use it to get to famous beaches along the way, such as Playa de la Albufereta or Platja del Paradís. Having a car opens many more day trip opportunities, though. You could visit the beautiful mountain village of Guadalest, or head south to enjoy the tranquil city of Murcia.
Valencia, on the other hand, is a much bigger city, which means it has loads of convenient bus and train connections to many nearby destinations. For starters, Albufera Nature Park is only a few miles away from the center. It’s a perfect place to get a breath of fresh air, away from the hustles and bustles of the downtown. There is a huge lagoon ideal for boating and kayaking, surrounded by fields and woods. You can also visit the mountainous Serra Calderona Park, which offers plenty of hiking and biking trails only an hour away from the city.
Winner: Alicante, for the convenient coastal tram line.
Alicante or Valencia for hotels
Being some of the most popular places to visit in Spain, both Alicante and Valencia have stacks and stacks of fantastic accommodation. You won’t have much trouble finding the right stay, whether you’re looking for a five-star seafront resort or a backpacker hostel.
If you’re not short on cash in Valencia, Only YOU Hotel Valencia ($$$) is not a bad choice. It’s a stylish, five-star hotel in the heart of the historical quarter, with the top attractions right on your doorstep. If you’re on the other end of the budget scale, Home Youth Hostel by Feetup Hostels ($) offers cheap accommodation in a great location. Families with children might appreciate Sea You Apartamentos Valencia Port Saplaya ($$), which offers spacious apartments near the beach with access to an outdoor swimming pool.
While in Alicante, we recommend elegant Odyssey Rooms Alicante ($$$) for those who are after something truly top-notch. They have chic apartments with access to a rooftop pool. However, if you don’t want to splash the cash, you could stay in lovely LIA Habitaciones ($) homestay a little further away from the center. If you’re travelling with children, Hotel Boutique Calas de Alicante ($$) is a great option. They have well-priced family rooms close to the beaches.
Alicante or Valencia for prices
Alicante is one of the most popular spots on the sun-soaked Costa Blanca, which means that prices can be a touch inflated. You should expect to pay a little extra for things like food and drinks in the restaurants and bars than in rural parts of Spain. That said, there is an abundance of hotels, so it’s possible to score some really good bargains on accommodation. Overall, the average daily budget for holidays in Alicante is around $100.
When it comes to holidays in Valencia, there is not much difference in what you should expect to spend each day. The typical budget that includes hotels, food, transportation, and entertainment should also add up to around $100 a day. However, this is a much larger city, so finding budget diners and cheap hostels should be a little easier, making it a better pick for proper shoestring backpackers.
Alicante or Valencia – the conclusion.
If you’re planning a holiday on the Spanish east coast, you might wonder which is better, Alicante or Valencia. The good news is that both these places have lots to offer. Valencia is a better option for those who like to explore cities. It’s packed with interesting attractions, which usually take at least a couple of days to check off. Alicante, on the other hand, is heavily influenced by tourism. There are lots of big resorts, shops, restaurants, and bars within a short walk from the sparkling beaches.