Alicante: The Complete Guide


Alicante is a city in Spain situated along the Costa Blanca. It serves as the capital of the province of Alicante and the comarca of Alacantí. Historically, it has been a significant Mediterranean port. As of 2016, the city of Alicante had a population of 330,525, making it the second-largest city in the Valencian Community. The greater Alicante conurbation, which includes nearby municipalities, had a population of 452,462. The metropolitan area, with an estimated population of 757,085 in 2014, ranks as the eighth-largest in Spain.

History of Alicante

Early History of Alicante

Alicante’s history dates back to ancient times when the area was inhabited by Iberian tribes. The town, originally known as Akra Leuka, meaning “White Summit,” was founded by the Greeks in the 4th century BC. It later became an important trading post for the Carthaginians.

Roman Era in Alicante

During the Roman period, Alicante was known as Lucentum. It flourished as a Roman town, benefiting from its strategic coastal location and becoming a significant center for commerce and trade. Remains of this era, including the Roman city of Lucentum, can still be seen today in the Tossal de Manises archaeological site.

Alicante Under Moorish Rule

In the 8th century, the Moors conquered Alicante, renaming it Al-Laqant. The town prospered under Moorish rule, with advancements in agriculture, architecture, and trade. The construction of the Castle of Santa Bárbara during this period provided a strong defensive fortification, which remains a prominent landmark.

The Christian Reconquest of Alicante

In 1246, Alicante was captured by King Alfonso X of Castile during the Christian Reconquest. The town was officially incorporated into the Kingdom of Castile in 1308. This period saw the construction of significant Christian structures, including churches and the expansion of the Castle of Santa Bárbara.

Alicante in the Modern Era

The 15th and 16th centuries marked a period of growth and development for Alicante. The town became an important port, facilitating trade with the rest of Europe and the Mediterranean. In 1490, King Ferdinand II granted Alicante city status, further boosting its economic and political significance.

The War of Spanish Succession and Alicante

During the War of Spanish Succession in the early 18th century, Alicante faced significant turmoil. The city was besieged and heavily damaged, particularly during the siege of 1709. However, it quickly recovered and continued to grow in the subsequent years.

Alicante in the 19th and 20th Centuries

The 19th century brought industrialization to Alicante, with the development of industries such as textiles, agriculture, and tobacco. The construction of the railway in 1858 connected Alicante to the rest of Spain, enhancing its role as a major port and trade center.

In the 20th century, Alicante continued to expand, with significant urban development and modernization. The city’s port became one of the busiest in Spain, and tourism emerged as a vital industry, driven by Alicante’s beautiful beaches and favorable climate.

Contemporary Alicante

Today, Alicante is a vibrant and modern city that seamlessly blends its rich historical heritage with contemporary amenities. The city is a major tourist destination, known for its cultural festivals, historic sites, and stunning coastline. The annual Hogueras de San Juan festival, with its spectacular bonfires and fireworks, is one of the most significant cultural events in Alicante.

Alicante’s history is a testament to its resilience and adaptability, making it a fascinating destination for those interested in exploring Spain’s diverse historical and cultural landscape.

Visiting Alicante for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Alicante on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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Best Time to Visit Alicante

Visiting Alicante in Spring

Spring, from March to May, is an excellent time to visit Alicante. The weather is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). This season is perfect for exploring the city’s outdoor attractions, such as the Castle of Santa Bárbara and the Explanada de España, and enjoying the blooming flowers and vibrant greenery.

Visiting Alicante in Summer

Summer, from June to August, is the peak tourist season in Alicante. The weather is hot and sunny, with temperatures often exceeding 30°C (86°F). This is the best time to enjoy Alicante’s beautiful beaches, such as Postiguet Beach and San Juan Beach, and take part in water sports and outdoor activities. The city’s lively nightlife and festivals, including the famous Hogueras de San Juan in June, make summer a vibrant and exciting time to visit.

Visiting Alicante in Autumn

Autumn, from September to November, is another great time to visit Alicante. The temperatures are cooler, ranging from 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F), making it comfortable for sightseeing and outdoor activities. The crowds from the summer have dispersed, allowing for a more relaxed exploration of Alicante’s historical sites and cultural attractions. The autumn colors add a picturesque backdrop to the city’s landscapes.

Visiting Alicante in Winter

Winter, from December to February, is mild in Alicante, with temperatures averaging between 10°C and 15°C (50°F to 59°F). This is the off-peak tourist season, offering a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere. Winter is a good time to explore indoor attractions such as museums and historic buildings without the crowds. The festive holiday decorations and events, including Christmas markets and celebrations, add a charming touch to the city during this season.

Average Temperatures in Alicante

  • January 17°C 4
  • February 18°C 1
  • March 21°C 6
  • April 22°C 4
  • May 25°C 3
  • June 30°C 1
  • July 32°C 0
  • August 33°C 1
  • September 29°C 6
  • October 25°C 4
  • November 21°C 4
  • December 18°C 3

How to get to Alicante

By Air to Alicante

Alicante is served by Alicante-Elche Airport (ALC), located approximately 9 kilometers southwest of the city. The airport offers numerous domestic and international flights, making it a convenient entry point. From the airport, you can reach the city center by taxi, car rental, or the C6 bus line.

By Train to Alicante

Alicante has a well-connected train station, Alicante-Terminal, with regular services from major Spanish cities. High-speed AVE trains from Madrid take about 2.5 hours, while trains from Barcelona take around 5 hours. The train station is centrally located, providing easy access to the city’s main attractions.

By Bus to Alicante

Several bus companies operate routes to Alicante from various cities across Spain. The main bus station, Estación de Autobuses de Alicante, is located near the city center. Buses from Madrid, Valencia, and other cities offer a convenient and cost-effective way to travel.

By Car to Alicante

Driving to Alicante is a convenient option, especially if you plan to explore the surrounding region. From Madrid, the drive takes approximately 4-5 hours via the A-31 highway. From Valencia, it takes about 2 hours via the AP-7 and A-7 highways. The city is well-connected by road, making it easy to navigate by car.

By Ferry to Alicante

Alicante has a port that receives ferries from various Mediterranean destinations. While it is not the most common way to reach the city, it is an option for travelers coming from the Balearic Islands. The port is close to the city center, providing easy access to accommodations and attractions.

By Local Transportation in Alicante

Once in Alicante, you can explore the city by walking or using the local bus and tram network operated by TRAM Metropolitano de Alicante. Taxis are also readily available for getting around the city. Walking is particularly enjoyable in Alicante due to its compact size and the close proximity of major attractions.

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