Planning The Perfect Alicante City Break



For years I associated Alicante, Spain, as the gateway for all beer-loving, football-shirt-wearing Brits to their beloved Benidorm – a concrete jungle of high-rise hotels built in the decade architecture forgot. So why would anyone book an Alicante city break? The two-hour flight with orange pensioners and hen parties could absolutely strike fear into the un-informed but we assure you, you’re going to love what’s in store. After a 15 minute bus ride from the airport you’ll be stepping off into a town that is so far removed, culturally, from the above. And, there are plenty of Alicante attractions to fuel a really decent weekend visit.

An Alicante City Break

Alicante town is a thriving metropolitan community and you’ll be hanging with the locals from the off. With equal parts history, culture, and pizazz you’re in for an Alicante weekend of endless opportunities. Whether you end up in the Alicante Old Town bars, taking in a birdseye view of the city from the castle walls, or people-watching along the beautiful Explanada Promenade, we’re confident you’re going to fall in love with Alicante.

But first of all..

Where To Stay In Alicante

Alicante city isn’t exactly massive but you can find yourself walking miles so choose your hotel wisely. We have two suggestions on where to stay – we’ve been several times and have picked them for their locations specifically, but also because they’re awesome Alicante hotels.

Hotel Sercotel Suites Del Mar is our favourite hotel in the marina – it’s sleek, ultra-modern and has amazing views from all of the balconies. Our first Alicante weekend break was in February so we chose this hotel because of the spa – an option in case we had any bad weather. We hadn’t realised Alicante only gets 13 days of rain a year, but we still frequented the spa and loved the outside hot tub vistas over the sea.

For the best deals at Sercotel Suites Del Mar, click here.

Hotel La Milagrosa, we think, is one of the best hotels Alicante Old Town has to offer. We initially found this hotel searching for Alicante rooftop bars but we had a look around some of the rooms whilst we were there and booked immediately. It’s such a good value hotel for Alicante Old Town, but being able to eat breakfast on the roof terrace with views of the Santa Barbara Castle was one of the highlights. We love the Old Town at night so this location was perfect for us. The Old Town is actually a very convenient location for loads of Alicante attractions, no matter what is on your Alicante itinerary.

For the best deals at Hotel Milagrosa, click here.

What To Do In Alicante – Weekend Break Ideas

An Alicante city break is the perfect choice for a weekend away any time of year. In fact, we’ve often visited in the winter months when it’s quieter, and for a break from the British weather. There are so many places to visit in Alicante and cool places to hang out, here are a few of our favourite fun things to do in Alicante…

Visit Alicante Old Town

In the shadow of the castle, Alicante Old Town, or ‘El Barrio’ (The Neighbourhood) as it’s known locally, is like a storyboard of history. For thousands of years, Alicante has suffered from its strategic military position on the Mediterranean Sea and has been invaded countless times. But settlements of Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Goths, Moors and Spaniards have done nothing if leave a beautiful imprint in architecture. El Barrio is definitely worth a wander, and there are a few key places to visit.

The San Nicolas de Bari cathedral was built over an old Islamic mosque and is one of the few important buildings that weren’t destroyed by the French Armada in 1691. It has a beautiful blue dome, recognisable from any rooftop around the city of Alicante, and a painted ceiling to rival the Sistine Chapel. Whilst the outside approach has a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ kind of issue, you possibly will notice the writing on the wall. We learned that through a clever mix of organic inks, these words were centuries old – but what do they say? Well, when local men left Alicante to better themselves at ancient schools and later returned with law degrees and medical qualifications, the town proudly celebrated their accomplishments by writing their names and other details on these walls for everyone to see. They were the celebrities of their day!

The writing on the wall at one of Alicantes greatest churches

Alicante’s Town Hall might not be as old as some of this area but it’s also worth a visit too. It’s beautifully Baroque and just climbing the elegant red marble staircase to the Blue Room designed purely for Queen Isabel to reside in is a treat in itself.

Nearby to the town hall is our favourite little square in all of Alicante city, La Plaza de Santa Faz. It’s perfect in the early evening to sit beneath the palm trees a watch the world go by with a beer in hand.

And another Alicante arraction in the El Barrio district is MACA (Contemporary Arts Museum). We’ve made a point of visiting this free art museum every time we’ve been and it’s always so wonderfully curated and a fine collection of modern art – a real Must See in Alicante.

There are lots of other museums, churches and pretty streets in the Old Town, it really is a great spot to spend a few hours wandering. It’s also the best place in Alicante for cute little tapas bars, many serving complimentary tapas with your drinks.

See The Santa Cruz Quarter

The whitewashed cobbled streets of the Santa Cruz Quarter are reminiscent of Cadiz or Ronda in the South of Spain. The narrow streets and intricate urban plan are an inheritance of the original Moorish town that began here called Al-Laqant – it was a design that supposedly kept the desert sun out of their homes. Today it is a pleasant, if not steep, discovery of floral displays, painted tiles and hanging washing blowing in the breeze.

You will want to see Santa Cruz both in the day time, for all its colours, and in the evening too. It’s a great place to sample some authentic Alicante dishes like arroz a banda and paella alicantina, or have a drink or two. Wherever you end up it always seems to feel like you’re in somebody’s living room or front step!

If you were planning on visiting the castle at all you can incorporate the neighbourhood of Santa Cruz into your descent back down into Alicante. Or, you can approach it from the Old Town.

Visit Alicante’s Santa Bárbara Castle

No matter where you are in Alicante city, you’re always aware of the looming presence of the Santa Bárbara Castle sat high above on Mount Benacantil. Starting life in the 9th century this place has got some tales to tell! Including the love story about how Alicante got its name.

Surprisingly, entrance is free to this Alicante attraction, as are the guided tours (although you do have to check timings for your language). The only cost is the lift to the top if you choose not to walk the 166 meters.

Go Shopping At The Central Market

You probably want to sample some local produce whilst you’re here on your Alicante holiday, right? Well, what better place to go than the Mercat Central. Alicante has a unique climate which means things taste different in these parts – the strawberries aren’t a patch on the British varieties but everything else we tried was incredibly tasty.

There are a couple of tapas bars inside the market and a cafe on the square just outside. And, if you are spending the weekend in Alicante, on a Saturday between 11 am and 3 pm, youngsters and families alike congregate with their plates of cured meats and glasses of local wine, on this very square. If you wandered by unwittingly you’d perhaps presume it was somebody’s wedding or family occasion but the Tardeo was just something that evolved one day! And why not – an open space, so close to the market and an opportunity to catch up with friends and family. A quick weekend rendezvous to stroke and stoke the relationships of neighbours and friends.  By 3 pm the square is quiet again and the world goes on like nothing has happened.

You might want to take an Alicante food tour of the market if you fancy finding out about the local cuisine.

Cocktails In the Alicante Marina

When the sun goes down the views of the city lights reflected in the still waters of the marina make for the most romantic backdrop for a cocktail or two. It’s home to a couple of nightclubs if that’s your thing, but we love SOHO MAR right on the front for the laid-back vibe. In fact, when we stayed at Sercotel Suites this is where we drank our coffee every morning – it really is the most chilled-out spot!

Saunter Along La Explanada de Espana

At some point on your Alicante city break you’re going to want to wander slowly down the beautiful La Explanada de Espana. 6 million tricolor tiles create a stunning walkway where old people saunter and healthy lycra-clad enthusiasts add mileage to their inline skates. Parallel to the port and sheltered by a myriad of palms, food stalls and street performers take advantage of the visitors. If your holiday in Alicante is during summer you will also be greeted by market stalls selling artisan handicrafts.

The palm trees may appear to stand proud along Alicante’s Explanada but unfortunately, their eminence belies a tragic fate. Look carefully and you will notice each tree has a little green plastic button on it: apparently all the palm tree’s in Alicante are dying! And in many other parts of Spain too. Unfortunately, the 80’s property boom in Spain progressed at such a pace that all the new housing estates built for an evergrowing expat influx were requiring more palm trees for landscaped areas than the country could keep up with. Palm trees were brought in from other countries and with them came pests and diseases. The property market collapsed and Spain was left with a mass of palm trees nobody wanted. Many towns created similar areas like this spot in Alicante, they put the trees to good use and beautified public squares and waterfronts. Several years later when a particular beetle had knawed its way through the inside of the trunks, palm trees started falling left, right, and centre. How sad. So, what are the little green buttons on the palm trees? Botanists are eagerly searching for a cure and they administer the plant medicine via tubes into the heart of each tree underneath the little green buttons. As of yet, no cure has been found.

If you’ve wondered what to do in Alicante for breakfast at all, we can highly recommend the local delicacy of Almond cake and horchata and some of the cafes adjacent to La Explanada are a fine place to take it. Horchata is a sweet milky drink made from the chufa nut plant – a tuber variety that survived its journey from Egypt and is grown locally in the Valencia area since the geographical conditions are almost identical. It’s so refreshing and very high in iron and potassium, along with a low-fat content – leaving more room for another portion of almond cake! The Valencians claim their almonds to be the best in the world and who are we to argue?

Explore Costa Blanca Coastline

A holiday in Alicante isn’t necessarily your average city break – the beautiful beaches of the Costa Blanca are a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the city. A 5 minute walk from Alicante old town is Playa del Postiguet where you can expect bathers, body-builders and banana boats all within the same square mile. It’s a gorgeous spot for morning coffees and evening cocktails, or even just a stretch of the legs and a session of people-watching on the promenade. Alternatively, Playa San Juan a couple of miles away is a beach lovers’ dream with its expansive stretch of white sand and blue waters.

There is a tram from Alicante city which runs all the way to Denia in the north, passing remote little towns and villages if your Alicante short break allowed for some days trips. We fell in love with Villajoyosa – Spains most colourful beach resort about an hour away up the coast.

Some Of Our Favourite Bars and Restaurants in Alicante

We have never had a bad meal in Alicante and this is actually quite the foodie city. One of our favourite places to eat, and one that can be either rammed with locals or completely dead, is Vino y Mas Teatro. The locals really know what they’re onto here and it was initially the crowds that piqued our attention, but if you choose earlier eating times to the Spaniards you’ll have no problem getting a table. The wine is incredible, mostly regional, and the dishes are typically small plates with a couple of larger options. This is tapas at its finest, with a cool and trendy vibe and excellent value for money (most plates are around €3/4). Make sure you order the wings and the octopus.

Another favourite of ours is La Tasca Del Barrio, especially for the arros a banda and squid, but also for the fantastic atmosphere.

We like to drink the local wine and usually pick one of the bars in Plaza Santisima Faz or on the VERY lively Carre de Castaños. Or you could head up Alicante’s 2nd tallest skyscraper, The Grand Sol Hotel, to the sunset cocktail bar that’s part of Restaurant Convistas. We’ve never eaten up here but we have enjoyed a sunset cocktail or two – it’s probably the best place to watch the sun go down over the Sierra del Maigmo.

Or, if you do choose to stay at Hotel La Milagrosa, you will have your own rooftop terrace to take advantage of. It has spectacular views of the castle, which is all lit up at night, and the blue domes of the cathedrale.

So there you have it, some Alicante tips to create the perfect break in this wonderful Spanish city. There are so many more fun things to do in Alicante town though, no matter how many days in Alicante you book. And, with cheap flights from several UK airports, a holiday in Alicante definitely doesn’t have to break the bank. So, what are you waiting for? Book that Alicante weekend break today!

Alicante made it into our recent post “The 10 Best Weekend Breaks in Europe You’ve Not Thought of Yet” – you might want to take a look if you’re wanting some inspiration for your next European short break.

pin for later…

22 Comments Add yours

  1. Linda Bibb says:

    You had me at horchata. I’ve not made it to Alicante yet and I’m intrigued; never tried a chuffa nut before. It must be different from the Latin American versions I’ve enjoyed. Have you tried those versions yet?

    1. Alex says:

      No, I’ve only ever been to Costa Rica so not tried anything much from Latin America. Not sure what the but itself is like but the milk from it was lush! Alicante is a lovely place.

  2. Katie says:

    Alicante looks lovely, especially as a nice weekend get away in the sun!

  3. Ahila says:

    Sounds like a fun tour. Guess I need to take it to find out about the writing on the wall 🙂

  4. Oooh you tease us with your newly acquired Alicante knowledge, Alex! Looks like I’m going to have to go and do the tour! Sounds awesome. And yes, a bit more to their cuisine than mushy peas & mint sauce (although that has its merits). I adore all those insider tips that give life and colour to the area. Thanks for sharing on #citytripping

  5. Dropping by from #citytripping first time. We spend the winter away and are considering Spain and/or Portugal for next winter so will be reading more of your posts.

    1. Alex says:

      How lovely. We hope to do that too once the kids have fled. Have a good read.

  6. Ruth says:

    This sounds very nice. I think under the radar towns can sometimes surprise us. Seems like Alicante is a foodie paradise (not a rarity in Spain). I have always associated Alicante with turron. I use to eat a lot of turron Alicante when I was a kid. Just because of that, I want to visit. Thanks for giving me a peek of the city. #citytripping

    1. Alex says:

      We got to try turron too Ruth!!

  7. I’ve never done a food tour while traveling before..what better place than Spain! Very intrigued by the palm trees..#citytripping

  8. Nicky Kentisbeer says:

    Loved this review Alex. I’m a big fan of seeing the real thing when visiting new places and it sounds as though you really got to grips with the local life. What a wonderful insight. I have to see I rather like the sound of this. Like you, I would have associated Alicante with the former description you mentioned. Just shows how wrong you can be!

  9. Well that certainly doesn’t look like the concrete jungle I was expecting and the food tour sounds great, I was sold right at th start with the almond cake! #citytripping

  10. I love taking food tours, you learn so much about the history and culture at the same time. I have to admit, I had thought Alicante was another Benidorm so you’ve really opened my eyes to this part of Spain. I love the Saturday tradition too, what a lovely idea. #citytripping

  11. Alex, this tour looks fantastic. I love how it combined food with culture and history – the perfect combinations in my view and you clearly found out so much about Alicante along the way. Thanks for taking me on the tour with you. #citytripping

  12. Sally says:

    Love it. I have a friend who lives in Murcia, which I think is not far from Alicante. So now I have even more reason to visit!

  13. Jane Taylor says:

    Okay, next time I see you, I’m going to tickle you until you tell me about the green buttons!!! Brilliant as always. Love the colourful pin!

  14. Arianne says:

    How fun this looks!!! I have never visited Spain and it is time I go! This is so inspiring!

    1. Alex says:

      No way!?! You’ve gotta go. Especially the little traditional Spanish towns and old cities. Marvellous country.

  15. Jurga says:

    Those green buttons on palm trees, mysterious strawberries and even the 30EUR tuna tin – I’m definitely taking the tour if/when we get to Alicante! It’s incredible how much you get to learn about the place when you visit it with a local!

  16. Sounds like a great tour! I was getting hungry just reading it – I really want to know why the strawberries taste different??? And how interesting to find out all the secrets and history of Alicante! I have never been – pinning for future use!!! Would definitely want to book this tour too!

    1. Alex says:

      I ca t recommend it highly enough tracy.

  17. melbtravel says:

    What a fun food tour and it is so great that your guide was able to share so much (inside) knowledge about the products and the area. I do love a good food tour and I would be happy to do this after your post.

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