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What to see and do in Alicante – a guide to notable attractions and landmarks

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Alicante’s picturesque sandy beaches coupled with many hours of daily sunshine are the main attractions for the millions of passengers who fly into this Spanish destination each year. However, Alicante offers imposing buildings and a multitude of cultural events and exhibitions to entertain. The historic old town takes centre stage for many of Alicante’s finest fiestas while swanky yachts sail into the chic marina lined with top restaurants and bars.

Sarah Farrell

My Destination local expert on

Alicante

Take a step back in time when walking through Alicante old town, where the impressive castle, historic buildings and churches tell tales of the city’s important part in Spanish history. Traditional Spanish bars with legs of succulent hams hanging from the ceiling and wines straight from the barrel jostle for attention alongside restaurants offering creative cuisine. Alicante’s art collections are also among the finest in the country with works from some of Spain’s greatest painters.

 

San Juan bonfires

 

Alicante celebrates the summer solstice and the feast of San Juan with a spectacular fiesta of noise, fire, food and satire. About 200 giant papier-mâché statues poking fun at celebrities and politicians are put up around the city before being burnt. The feast is accompanied by noisy firecrackers called mascletas.  On the magical night of San Juan, the beaches are packed with revelers lighting fires. At midnight, they jump over the bonfires to bring good luck. A museum dedicated to the history of the fiesta with examples of the magnificent statues and costumes can be found in the old town.

 

Santa Barbara Castle

 

Head for the hills for a dramatic reenactment of the rich history of Alicante’s emblematic castle with tales of battles, conquests, dungeons and high drama. The castle dates back to the ninth century when the Muslims ruled Spain. It was captured by Castilian forces in the 13th century, bombarded by a French squadron in the 17th century and occupied by the English in the 19th century. Guided tours and dramatic enactments personify the extraordinary characters who lived in the castle. Enjoy far-reaching views of the crystal-clear Mediterranean, marina and Alicante city from the castle’s lofty position 166 metres above sea level.

 

Art galleries and museums

 

One of the finest art collections in Spain is in Alicante. Works by influential 20th century artists such as Picasso, Dali, Miro and Cocteau along with contemporary Alicante artists can be found in the MACA Museum of Contemporary Art in the old town. A former palace has been turned into the MUBAG Museum of Fine Arts with an impressive collection from the 16th century to the present day. The award-winning MARQ Archaeological Museum offers a journey through Alicante’s rich past. More unusually, Christmas can be enjoyed year-round in Alicante at the Belenes Museum, with its fabulous collection of nativity scenes.

 

Cathedrals and churches

 

Alicante’s oldest church is found on the slopes of Mount Bencantil; Santa Maria Church dates from the 14th century and was built on the site of a former mosque.  The renovated communion chapel in the San Nicolas Cathedral is said to be one of the most beautiful examples of Spanish Baroque; the 17th century cathedral with its glittering blue-tiled dome reigns over the old town.  Spain’s second most important pilgrimage, to Santa Faz, starts from this very cathedral, and the Baroque monastery guards a piece of cloth which Veronica is said to have used to wipe Jesus’s face on the Way of the Cross.

 

Marina and port

 

Day and night, the place to be seen in Alicante is the vibrant marina with its luxurious yachts, fine restaurants and classy bars. Flashing lights, rolling dice and gourmet dining also attract crowds to the casino at the end of the marina. Nearby is a full-size replica of the 18th century wooden gun-ship Santisima Trinidad. At night, the promenade is buzzing with both locals and tourists - head for one of the marina’s fine seafood restaurants, bars or clubs to enjoy an evening out. From here, there is also a one-hour boat trip to tiny Tabarca Island, a popular spot for snorkelers and swimmers because of the intense color of the crystal-clear waters.