If all you’ve got is one day in Alicante city then you must make the most of your time as there’s a lot packed into this wonderful small city. The good news is that it’s a compact and very walkable city. In this post, We are going to walk you around an easy to follow path that takes in some of the the main tourist hot spots of the city of Alicante with some time for shopping or Art in the afternoon. The choice is yours.
What are you waiting for? there is so much to do … come on!.. Vamanos!
Where to start: I guess, to some extent this will depend on how you arrive; by air, sea, road or rail but it will also depend on the time of the year and perhaps the weather.
The sun shines in Alicante for most for the time, but in the summer it can get very hot so if we are going to visit Santa Barbara castle then best time to do it is in the morning. So, we may as well start there while we have plenty of energy.
Top tip: remember to carry a bottle of water with you if it’s a hot day.
Santa Barbara Castle
The castle sits very proudly on top of Mount Benacantil (it’s easier to say that you might think…try it!) at a height of over 160 metres. It’s been there since around the 9th century, when Spain was under Muslim control. Christian invaders took it over a few hundred years later and then lots more happened between then and now. The important thing to know is that:… it’s free and the views are amazing!!! There’s definitely plenty of exploring (and walking!) to do once you are at the castle. It’s definitely worth the effort of walking up to the summit. If, however, you don’t fancy the walk then there is a lift that will take you to the top for a couple of euros. You can find the lift opposite Postiguet beach. The lift was shut during the initial covid pandemic but is open again now. For people who really can’t walk far at all there is a handy shuttle bus that picks up from outside the Marc Museum every 20 mins or so on most days for a small each way fee.
There is also a cafe or two in the the castle grounds where you can sit and enjoy a beer while admiring the views or watching the planes take off from Alicante airport and head over the beautiful blue Mediterranean sea. If you like a walk then, we reccomend walking up through the old town of Santa Cruz. You’ll follow lots of steep paths and steps as you steadily climb and you’ll see the view beneath you become more and more open and beautiful. When it’s time to descend, take the path at the back of the castle (the opposite side to the sea) so that you arrive at the next place on our list which is the Central Market.
If you have the luxury of a second day in Alicante, do put some time aside to come back to the old town, where you started your climb, to soak up the Mediterranean atmosphere of the little streets and visit some of the galleries and perhaps the basilica, where you can still see cannonballs wedged into the walls from an attack on the city in the 18th century.
This is simply our favourite place in Alicante, We can be found in here several times during the week to find something tasty for dinner, but at the same time it’s great to just wander and soak up the atmosphere. The market here in Alicante is not a just a tourist attraction like some other markets. The market here is a real and authentic Spanish market, with real character and, of course, it’s a food paradise. There are several great indoor food markets in Alicante too, such as the ones in Benalua and Carolinas but the central one is the biggest and most fun.
The Market has two levels. The top floor is mostly meat while downstairs is split between the fish hall and the fruit and vegetable hall. In amongst the two floors there are also places to buy cheese, dried goods, spices, cakes, wines, teas, pastries and much more.Truly fresh fish has such a wonderful aroma, it has a slight sweetness to it. Here, in the lower level of Alicante market, that smell is found in abundance. The fish here is super fresh, that’s why the Fish market is so popular every day.
Interesting Fact: Spain is the second biggest consumer of fish in the word behind Japan.
If you visited the castle first thing in the morning then you are probably arriving at the market around lunchtime. Make sure you arrive before the market closes though in order to avoid disappointment. Closing time is between 1:30 pm during the week and 2pm(ish) on a Saturday. The market isn’t open on Sundays.
If you are slightly late and have arrived as it’s closing, don’t worry as there are some very good places to eat in the streets behind the main central market .There are also some great cafes in the market itself to get some lunch.
Tip: If you want a really good feed in Spain for not much money look out for signs saying “menu del dia”. you can get three courses and coffee for about 12 -15 euros or even less . It’s amazing value for money.
While you’re at the market do make time to notice the clock in the glass case at the entrance hall that stopped at 11:20 on the 25th May 1938. That was the exact time when the market was bombed from an aeroplane by an Francoist forces during the Spanish Civil War, killing nearly 300 people. There is also a plaque at the back of the market and a memorial on the floor near the rear doors of the market.You can read more about the market here
Explanada, the Marina and Postiguet Beach
So, you’ve had lunch and a couple of glasses of something cool and refreshing. So, now it’s time to walk off that lunch and take a wander to the famous Postiguet beach. But to get to the beach you’re going to walk along the even more famous Explanada.
If you are going to the Explanada from the central market you will probably head down “la Rambla” which is one of the best known streets in Alicante that runs from the Mercado Central to the Marina. This street is where you will find parades and the main entertainment stages when the carnival is on in February.
On your way down on the right you might notice the Museum of Fogueras. This is an interesting little museum that relates the history of the annual bonfires fiesta that takes place each June to mark the start of the summer. It’s free and worth a little visit if you have time on your hands. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during the last week of June you’ll see the fiestas for yourself. It’s Alicante’s biggest festival and it goes on, night and day, for a week.
You will also pass, on your right, the Plaza Portal de Elche, which is an elegant little square consisting of a very traditional looking domed kiosk surrounded by huge Australian fig Trees. These trees are definitely worth an investigation. As the trees grow, they gradually drop creepers down to the ground level which, over a period of time become thicker and eventually form branches buried into the ground which become supporting limbs for the heavy branches above. These trees are dotted all around the city especially in the Parc de Canalejas. There are some great bars around this plaza if you are looking for somewhere to go for a cocktail later in the evening. You can read more here.
You’ll arrive at the Explanada about half way along. Once you get to it you’ll recognise it due to the wavy pattern on the floor. Turn left for the beach. Built in the early part of the 20th Century, the Explanada de Espana consists of over 6 million little marble tiles laid out to form waves on the path. The whole 500 metres is flanked by palm trees and views of the boats in the marina. It is a beautiful place to be and to take photographs.
Once you get to the end of the Explanada, you will see Casa Carbonell on the left.
This is, surely, one of the most photographed buildings in Alicante, due to its palatial elegance. The building was completed in 1925 by a wealthy textile merchant from the nearby town of Alcoy. Today it houses apartments and offices.
Cross the main road at the pedestrian crossing and turn left for the beach or right for the marina… your choice! Or simply stop and enjoy a drink at one of the bars next to the beach.
Both are wonderful places to be. Alicante has been a port city since at least the 13th century and its relationship with the sea has a fascinating history .
The Marina is home to lots of bars and restaurants but is much bigger than you first might think. It also hosts a museum, a concert stage, a street food market and a casino.
Shopping in Maisonnave
Once you have finished at the beach or the Marina you should head back to the main crossing where you entered this area to get an ice cream from the Peret kiosk at the end of the Explanada. This kiosk itself is over 100 years old. You can read about it here.
Maybe you’d like a little “retail therapy” now that you have seen a lot of the city. We are going to head to Avenida Maisonnave (pronounced as “Mason-avay”), which is the main shopping street of the city. Here you are going to find Zara, Bershka, Stradivarius, Mango, all the usual brands that you might expect in a modern cosmopolitan city.
Maisonnave also contains two versions of a Spanish shopping icon, El Corte Inglés. Alicante has not one, not two…but three El Corte Inglés stores but the biggest two are situated at each end of this busy shopping avenue one is for home items and the other is a mecca for clothing. They say that whatever you are looking for, you can find it in El Corte Inglés. If you want to finish your shopping experience with a nice coffee and cake, then head to the top floor of the El Corte Inglés, nearest to the train station end of the avenue, where they have a nice cafe with a terrace that offers views over the rooftops.
So, it’s been a fun, long and tiring day and you’ve no doubt gone way over your 10,000 steps today (you tend to do that in Alicante) now you may want to head back to your hotel or AirBnB for a shower and rest before heading out for a few tapas and cañas. As there are literally thousands of bars and restaurants in Alicante you won’t have a difficult time finding something great to drink and eat.
Do try some of the local wines they are extremely good.
Whilst this post has covered some obvious tourist landmarks, Alicante is such a fascinating and wonderful city and has so much more to see and do once you start to scratch the surface. It is certainly a city of art and artists of all kinds. If you love art we totally recommend two museums in particular, both are world class museums and fun to visit and are just round the corner from each other in the old town.
- The first one is the Mubag (http://www.mubag.es) a fine art museum
- The second one in the MACA (https://maca-alicante.es) a fantastic museum of modern art.
Watch out for other posts with details on some of the amazing galleries and museums we have in Alicante.
Enjoy your trip and we look forward to welcoming you to Alicante.
“Hasta pronto amigos”