Things to Do in Alicante
Sitting atop Mxadount Benacantil, on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Alicante plain, the 9th-century Castle of Santa Barbara is as one of Europe’s largest medieval fortresses, with three different enclosures from three distinct periods of time and artifacts dating back to the Bronze Age, and the Iberian and Roman empires.
The historical highlight of the palm-fringed city of Elche, just a short hop from Alicante, the Basilica of Saint Mary is best known for hosting the annual Mystery of Elche play, a theatrical interpretation of the death of the Virgin Mary and her assumption to heaven. Climb the bell tower for panoramic views of the city and the coastline.
As one of Spain’s most popular Mediterranean resorts and the gateway to the famous Costa Blanca, Alicante has long been an important cruise destination, with an average 88,000 cruise passengers passing through its port each year.
Built around a natural harbor, the Port of Alicante is ideally situated for visitors, linked to the city by the scenic Esplanada de Espana and just minutes’ walk from top attractions like the Castillo de Santa Barbara, the Santa Maria Basilica and El Postiguet Beach.
Atop a hill in Villena, dominating the Alicante horizon, the massive Atalaya Castle possesses a long history of resistance before becoming a royal possession. Built in the early 12th century during Spain’s Islamic period, the fortress commandeers the former frontier between Castile and Kingdom of Aragon, and is widely considered to be one of the region’s most important attractions.
Running parallel to the seaside, from Alicante Port in the east to Canalejas Park in the west, the magnificent Explanada de España looks out over the marina’s yachts and fishing boats, offering a scenic introduction to Alicante. Landmarks like Casa Carbonell, the Royal Casino de Alicante, and Hotel Gran Sol line the promenade alongside cafés, bars, and restaurants.
Built in the 1920s under the orders of a wealthy textile manufacturer, Enrique Carbonell, Casa Carbonell, with its striking white facade and towering blue domes, has become the most emblematic landmark in Alicante. Located along the maritime promenade, its old-fashioned iron, sandstone, glass and marble work is an elegant contrast to the more modern buildings in the city center.
Precisely every 15 minutes, the sound of chiming bells emanate from the twin towers of the Alicante Town Hall, casting a romantic soundscape on the oceanside town. Holding court at the center of Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the stately Baroque building has a meticulously ornate interior, filled with art works highlighting the history and culture of Alicante.
Some 66,000 people call the rocky hillsides of the municipality known as Alcoy (or Alcoi) home. Its deep historic roots which date back more than 60,000 years draw travelers in search of connecting to an earlier time. Ancient rock paintings near la Sarga and Iberian settlement ruins are part of what makes Alcoy a unique destination.
In addition to shadowy caves and plains dotted with Greco-Roman pottery fragments, the city is home to a number of significant architectural structures. The Barchell Castle, hermitage of St. Anthony the Abbot, the Archeological Museum and the convent of Sant Agusti are all popular stops on a tour of the past in scenic Alcoy.
Like neighboring Basilica of Saint Mary, the 17th-century San Nicolás Cathedral in the heart of Alicante was erected atop a historic mosque. Designed by Agustin Bernardino, a student of celebratedxa0 Spanish architect and mathematician Juan de Herrera, the cathedral’s interior is marked by a soaring dome, a raised pipe organ, with intact Valencian Gothic cloisters from the 15th century.
Some 300,000 protected date palms rustle above ancient Elche (Elx), the legacy of 6th-century Phoenician gardeners, though the city is older still. They line the banks of the Vinalopó River, along with Elche's most magnificent buildings.
This is an exotic spot of archaeological treasures, fine museums, Moorish domes, and beautiful churches. Meaningful places, such as the soft-lit stone arches of the Arab Baths (which probably date to Roman times), artistic gardens of the Huerto del Cura, and evocative ruins of La Alcudia are the attractions, rather different from those of the rest of the coast.
Still, just 15 minutes from the city proper, pale beaches await sun lovers, and there are certainly fine dining and nightlife options aplenty. This is also, by the way, the self-proclaimed "Footwear Capital of the World," or at least Spain, producing half of the nation's shoes.
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