The mesmerizing port city of Alicante on Spain’s Costa Blanca is a sizzling vacation destination and deserving addition to any travel bucket list. Brimming with history, culture, and legendary nightlife, Alicante is definitely worth visiting, and we’re here to show you why.
Alicante has something for everyone, from quaint city charm to epic nightlife and bustling beaches. With a real mix of action and relaxation, it represents the best of the Spanish Med. So it’s no surprise that over three million tourists flock to the provincial shores every year. Whether you’re debating a European holiday this summer or trying to choose the perfect Spanish destination for your next winter vacation, we’ve got you covered.
This guide looks at seven reasons to visit Alicante, from the food to the medieval architecture, attractive prices, and the 300 days of scorching sunshine. This vibrant city is waiting to be discovered, so let’s get into it.
With almost 250 kilometers of sumptuous coastline, the beaches in the Alicante province are a huge pull factor to the city and are among the best in the country. From wide golden sands to protected coves, and dozens with Blue Fag status, there’s something for all sea lovers in Alicante.
Playa Postiguet is the main city beach and the golden shores are lined with cafes, bars, benches, and greenery. Perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling, you’d hardly know that this sandy haven is practically located in the old city. Sat at the foot of the Santa Barbara Castle, the beach provides sweeping views of the marina and is accessible by the sprawling Explanada de Espana, Alicante’s tiled promenade.
You’ll also find highlights like San Juan, a three-kilometer stretch of sand eight kilometers from Alicante, brimming with activities like sailing and windsurfing. And just 40 minutes from the city is Benidorm, the bubbly beach resort city with its own plethora of bustling beaches.
Spanish food is unique and iconic, and a reason as good as any to visit the colorful country. Taking traditional Mediterranean ingredients, and putting their own spin on them, Spaniards sure know what they’re doing in the kitchen, and Alicantians are no different.
Like much of southern Spanish gastronomy, traditional Alicantian food revolves around the sea. But the eastern coast is also a vegetable growing region, and rice, legumes and fresh produce are at the center of most local dishes. Take Arroz con costra for example, which is vastly different from Paella Alicantina, the sautéed seafood and rabbit variation of the popular Spanish rice also native to the region. Taking cold cuts and beaten egg, Arroz con costra is cooked in a clay pot and finished off in the oven to achieve its characteristically crispy crust or costra. Arroz con costra is enjoyed all year round in Alicante and can be enjoyed in most local restaurants across the city.
Tapas is also a signature plate in Spain, but these tantalizing appetizers differ by region. National favorites like mojama de atún come from the region, and the oily fish isn’t the only salt-cured delicacy. Offal and roe are preserved the same way and these plates are often served with thin slices of ham and a generous glug of olive oil as bar snacks.
Alicante is also the birthplace of Turrón, a distinctive sweet nougat snack that is a traditional Spanish Christmas food. It is textured by grinding almonds with honey, both of which thrive in the warm Mediterranean climate. Turrón is so important to the town from which it originates, Jijona, located 30 kilometers north of Alicante city, that turrón production is protected by the Spanish Council and Geographical Indication of Jijona.
All of these national staples can be savored in Alicante’s dynamic restaurant scene. Lively tapas bars, international fusion restaurants, and cozy local eateries share the street space from the Old Town to the harbor. Don’t miss L’Atelier for traditional Mediterranean seafood dishes and a laidback atmosphere. Or El Canto, tucked in the side streets near the beach, for phenomenal tapas and cheap beers with outdoor seating.
The city might be best known for its sprawling public beaches, lively nightlife, and great restaurant scene, but Alicante is brimming with heritage and is a fantastic vacation spot for history buffs.
Alicante’s history spans thousands of years and it is one of the longest inhabited cities in Spain. Iberian tribes built the first settlements in around 5000 BC before Alicante was officially founded by Phocaean Greeks in 325 BC. First crowned “Akra Leuke”, meaning “White Summit”, Alicante later became “Lucentum” when it was captured by the Romans in 201 BC. Successively inhabited by Arabic Muslims and then Christians, this eclectic mix of cultural influences still lingers in the city and is reflected in the architecture.
The Castillo de Santa Barbara is an undoubted highlight when it comes to Alicante’s heritage landmarks. Built on Mount Benacantil, a rocky outcrop overlooking the city where the first settlements once stood, the medieval fortifications are among the largest in the country. The first fortress has its origins in the late 9th century, built during Muslim rule, but most of today’s surviving structure was built in the 16th-century and stands at 166 meters above Alicante.
You can reach the castle on foot if you’re willing to brave the climb, otherwise, there is a public lift and the entrance to the castle itself is free. There’s also the Basilica de Santa Maria, located in a beautiful square in the old town. Built between the 14th and 16th centuries with a Valencian Gothic facade, it’s the oldest active church in the region and sits on the site of the Great Mosque from Muslim rule.
History aficionados should also check out the interactive Archaeological Museum of Alicante which documents all digs completed in the surrounding regions and the fascinating Roman artifacts uncovered. Also be sure to get lost in the Barrio Santa Cruz, the official name for Alicante’s Old Town, to properly enjoy the city’s baroque architecture.
Spain is Europe’s most climatically diverse country and the weather is temperate for the most part. Hot, muggy summers and cool winters dominate inland areas like Spain’s capital of Madrid, but when it comes to the south and southeast coastline, the Mediterranean sun blesses the sultry shores.
Alicante is warm and dry for the majority of the year. Average temperatures hover around the 80s from June to September, reaching as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit in July and August. Hot and humid with a welcomed sea breeze, Alicante is a dreamy summer vacation spot but also fantastic for winter sun.
The winters are long, cooler, and windy, but Alicante experiences very little rainfall and temperatures rarely dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest month is January but you can expect averages of 54 degrees making it an all-year holiday destination.
The weather is a definite pull factor to Alicante and Costa Blanca on the whole, and the region fully embraces its climate. The weather will rarely hinder your experiences, as long as you stay hydrated and protect yourself from the strong rays in July and August. From the delicious Mediterranean ingredients and local tapas to the unlimited beach activities, outdoor markets, and hikes in nature, Alicante is a great place to soak up the sun.
Spain is great for snapping up a deal, with plenty of charming undisturbed towns and all-inclusive resorts lining the coast. Despite being a thriving provincial capital, Alicante is among Spain’s cheapest holiday destinations and you can get by on a shoestring budget if you know how.
The average cost of a holiday to Alicante for a solo traveler is around €1,041 ($1,149), €1,870 ($2,064) for a couple, and €3,506 ($3,869) for a family of four. Still, these prices can be halved if you have some money-saving tips at your disposal. One of these tricks is to book all-inclusive accommodation, of which Alicante and the surrounding regions have plenty. Hotels range from €34 ($38) to €141 ($156) per night, averaging at €62 ($68). But you can go all-inclusive at a three-star hotel with breakfast, lunch, and dinner included for as little as €80 ($88) per day.
Sampling the local restaurant scene in Alicante can also be done cheaply. Inexpensive meals come in at around €10 ($11) per dish in the city, and it costs around €50 ($55) for two people to eat at a mid-range restaurant. This means you can get by on €40 ($44) a day for food, and there are plenty of free activities to keep budget travelers busy. Alicante doesn’t need to break the bank, and if penny-pinching is on your agenda the city is widely accessible.
The nightlife in Alicante is buzzing all year round. Populated by tourists, but also a university town with plenty of young professionals, Alicante’s diverse party scene appeals to a variety of audiences and is among the best in Spain.
You’ll also find much more authentic nightlife here than in some of the surrounding resort areas like Benidorm where entertainment is catered towards a British crowd. From the bustling tapas bars to the classy terraces and local discos, which don’t really kick off until the early hours, hordes of international tourists can soak up the evening entertainment among well-versed locals.
The port of Alicante, set below the Castillo de Santa Barbara, provides a unique backdrop for open-air bars, upscale lounges, and lively restaurants. While in the summer, the San Juan and Postiguet beaches come alive with chirinquitos (kiosks), where revelers can enjoy a sun-downer and street entertainment to sunset views. There’s also a “strip” of sorts in El Barrio Antiguo, where pubs and bars line the street, teeming with party-goers until the early hours. Check out Brruge Night Club for late-night dancing and craft cocktails, or Code Social Club if stand-up comedy and live music is your thing.
Another reason that Alicante deserves to be on your summer holiday bucket list is the impressive museum and gallery scene where iconic works spanning the centuries are housed in the city’s ancient buildings. We told you it’s not just sun-soaking and partying that Alicante is good for.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MACA) is especially notable, situated in a 17th-century baroque mansion. You’ll find the works of 20th-century Spanish-born geniuses like Picasso, Dalí, Miró, Tápies, and Chillida within these gothic walls. There’s also MUBAG, the Gravina Museum of Fine Arts. Housed in the 18th-century Palacio del Conde de Luminaires, the palace is as much a feature as the artwork, recently declared a historic monument. You’ll find sculptures by Francisco Salzillo and a portrait of Ferdinand VII by Vicente Lopez Cortana here. The gallery also houses a number of regional works by important nineteenth-century painters like Antonio Gisbert and Joaquin Agrasot and is a must-see for art lovers.
And for contemporary expressionists, art can be found all over the city. From the graffiti to the commissioned murals, and the Explanada de Espana, Alicante’s colorful tiled promenade which is lined with lofty palms, Alicante is a walkable art feature in itself.
How many days do you need in Alicante?
Alicante is a compact city but there are sights to see and flavors to savor at every turn. You could easily spend months in Alicante and not uncover all its mysteries, but three to five days is an ideal amount of time to tour the castles and cathedrals, check out the nightlife, and spend some time on the beach. Still, as well as being a holiday hotspot in its own regard, Alicante is also a great vantage point for exploring the province and greater Costa Blanca coastline. One week in the region will give you enough time to check out the surrounding nature and resort towns to get a real taste of eastern Spain.
When is the best time to visit Alicante?
Alicante is a year-round vacation spot, with warm Mediterranean summers, mild winters, and little rainfall. If a beach holiday is what you’re after, head to Alicante in the summer months for the best weather and calmest seas. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit outside the school holidays and book for May or September when highs can still reach the late 80s. Alicante is also great for winter sun, and although January is the coldest month, you’ll find attractive low season deals and more bearable temperatures with clear blue skies. A winter vacation in Alicante is perfect if you want to explore the culture, food, and nightlife scene.
Is Alicante worth visiting?
Whether you want a quintessentially Spanish city break steeped in history, art, and culture or a relaxing holiday on the beach, Alicante has something for everyone. Better yet, it doesn’t have to break the bank. The city and surrounding regions are definitely worth visiting and the warm Mediterranean climate means you can do so all year round. Nightlife, great food, and sprawling beaches, you’ll find it all within this 7000-year-old city.