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12 best things to do in Alicante, Spain

Alicante is one of the most under-rated cities in Spain, I’ve visited this coastal city many times over the years, because we have a holiday home here. Not only is the city easy-to-navigate it’s full to the brim of awesome things to do and places to eat! My top tip is to allow longer than 24 hours in Alicante, which a lot of tourists tend to do. Try to spend at least 3 nights in the city, 5 nights is ideal!

Alicante is home to the famed Castillo de Santa Barbara which offers some of the best views of the city, there’s also the vibrant Central Market and a stunning harbor where you can catch a boat to a secluded off-shore island. It’s easy to spend a week in Alicante and still not see/ do everything on offer!

In this blog, I list 12 of the best things to do in Alicante.

1. Go on a boat cruise

From Alicante harbor you can hop on a boat tour to one of the off-shore islands like Tabarca island or go snorkeling in the turquoise waters of Cabo de Huertas. See Alicante from a different perspective and relax on a luxurious boat as it takes on the calm waters surrounding the city – you will also be taken along the coastline near the city to see some hidden beached. Make sure you have your camera with you as the scenery really is breathtaking! catamaran experience or this awesome 6-hour day trip to nearby Tabarca Island. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous you can book a 3-hour catamaran cruise that includes snorkeling! This is definitely one of the best experiences to have in Spain!

My top boat tours in Alicante are this sunset catamaran experience or this awesome 6-hour day trip to nearby Tabarca Island. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous you can book a 3-hour catamaran cruise that includes snorkeling!

alicante, boat, harbour
A Pirate-themed ship in Alicante Harbour

2. Castillo de Santa Barbara

You can walk from the CBD to Castillo de Santa Barbara, which will take about 25 minutes each-way but it is a gruelling uphill climb towards the end so avoid doing this at the hottest time of the day. FYI-if you have a car you can park in one of the carparks much closer to the top. It’s free admission to the Castillo de Santa Barbara.

At 166 meters above sea level the views from here are unbelievable! The Castillo was built way back at the end of the 9th Century and over the years the archaeological remains of the Bronze Age, Iberian and Roman have been unearthed here. It is filled with history and such a great way to spend a couple hours.

We spent a whole lot of time admiring the views from the top and taking lots of photos. There is a restaurant and a little kiosk on site for refreshments, which is a welcome sight in the heat of the Summer!

You can see the Castillo on a guided tour which also includes a visit to the Central Market and tapas in a locals only restaurant! You can book this specific tour here.

castillo de santa barbara, alicante, spain
The view of Castillo de Santa Barbara

3. Barrio de Santa Cruz

This cute and colorful neighborhood is the oldest part of the city. Barrio de Santa Cruz, nestled at the foot of Benacantil Hill. You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time as you climb this neighborhood’s narrow streets to Castillo de Santa Barbara Castle. At night, the atmosphere is lively as locals head to the Barrio’s many tavernas for tapas and drinks. It’s predominantly a residential area, so, you’re likely to see locals chatting on their doorstep or tending to their plants. Strolling around Barrio de Santa Cruz is definitely one of the best things to do in Alicante!

alicante, spain, costa blanca
Barrio de Santa Cruz

A fantastic way to see this neighborhood and other quirky areas in Alicante is on a 2-hour food tour. Eat where the locals eat and get a real sense of the city on this highly recommended tour!

4. Central Market

The Central Market of Alicante is an icon in Alicante CBD, constructed back in 1912 it has been a meeting place for local farmers, fishermen and charismatic stall owners for decades. Most of the restaurants in the city buy their produce here daily and of course locals come here to stock up so it’s the perfect place to get a real feel for daily life in Alicante. It’s one of the best things to do in Alicante in my opinion!

The first floor has mostly household items, dairy and meat stalls. The second floor is where you can buy vegetables and fish. Would you believe there are over 300 stalls here. There’s also lots of great places to eat within the market – try Cafeteria Anamar for its ham, cheese and egg sandwiches or Salzillo for coffee.

The Central Market (Mercado Central) is open Monday to Saturday from 7am to 2:30pm.

Inside Mercado Central!

5. Go on a wine tour

Just a 45 minute drive from Alicante is a small village in the Vinalopo region which is famous for producing a sweet dessert wine known as Fondillon.  With a maturation of 10 years, this wine has a strong and unique flavor. Also grown here are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo and Garnacha varieties.

On this guided afternoon tour you will visit a vineyard and see how the wine is made as well as taste some awesome wine. If you book the tour during harvest season (the months of September and October) you will get to pick the grapes from the vines and taste them. You will also be given the opportunity to explore the bodega (wine cellar). The tour also includes some snacks – cured meats, breads and olive oil.

6. Explore nearby Guadalest Valley

About an hours drive from Alicante is the stunning village of Guadalest, it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Costa Blanca. Perched high atop a mountain, from a distance you will be left thinking how is the village safely standing atop that narrow pinnacle after all these years. But, i’s high vantage point, gives exceptional views of the Guadalest Valley.

There are two must-visit places in Guadalest Village (which would you believe only has a population of 200 people!) The first is Guadalest castle (Castell de Guadalest) which can only be reached by walking through a 15 foot long tunnel Second is the white bell tower of Penon de la Alcala, which you may recognize from many Alicante postcards the bell tower looks as though its precariously perched on the mountainside.

The cobbled streets of the village itself are very photogenic. This 6-hour guided tour is a great option to get to Guadalest from Alicante, it includes access to the El Castell de Guadalest, time in the village and Algar Waterfalls to swim in (or admire from the sidelines) these crystal-clear springs and waterfalls! This is one of the best day trips from Alicante!

7. Go on a day-trip to Benidorm

Benidorm new town set along Levante beach is filled with high-rise apartment blocks, bars serving British style fish & chips and lots and lots of karaoke bars. Benidorm is notorious for hen & stag parties, you will likely see lots of people in scantily-clad fancy dress. But it’s a fun experience. As you can imagine there’s loads of places to stay in Benidorm (over 2000), there’s so much to do in Benidorm that it’s definitely worth spending a night or two.

For kids(or big kids) there’s loads to do like Mundomar Animal Park where you can watch a dolphin a sea lion show; Aqua Natura Water Park is honestly so much fun and ideal for those hot Summer days and Forestal Park where you can try ziplining.

At just under 40 minutes drive from Alicante, Benidorm is certainly worth a visit. Look beyond the cliched and give this popular area another chance.

benidorm spain
Benidorm is such a gorgeous city!

8. Explore awesome beaches

Playa de San Juan is just a 15 minute drive from Alicante CBD and is a whopping 7 km in length making it ideal for sunbathing. Behind the wide beach there is a promenade that runs the length of the beach, which is very popular with joggers and cyclists. Also, all along the promenade are restaurants and cafes – my favorites include Cafeteria Carino for drinks and ice-cream with a view and Cafe The Game for some delicious cocktails in a stylish environment. The beach itself at San Juan is a blue flag beach which means the water here is completely safe for swimming and watersports.

Further afield, over an hours drive from Alicante is La Granadella beach, which has in fact been twice voted as Spain’s best beach! It is located in the Javea region. The water here is so clear that you can see hundreds of colorful fish when you go for a swim. The beach is tiny though, and is just 220 meters wide – meaning you need to get here early to nab a spot especially during the busy Summer months.

There’s a beach right in the centre of the city, Playa del Postiguet is next to the Marina and has golden sand and calm swimming conditions. There are a few restaurants here, a volleyball net and a children’s playground. You can also rent sunbeds here for a small fee.

beaches in benidorm
Playa del Postiguet – one of the many beaches in the Alicante region

9. Tabarca Island

Tabaraca Island is a small island off Alicante and is one of the only inhabited islands in the region – with a population of 68. It is designated a Mediterranean Marine Reserve and was once a hideaway for pirates! The small village here was built in the 1700’s and was a simple fishing village until it started welcoming tourists recently.

There’s loads to do on Tabarca island, like taking photos of the stunning scenery,, relaxing on the beach, or eating at one of the restaurants here such as xxx. There’s even a little museum here where you can learn about the history of the island.

You can get to Tabarca Island on this 6-hour day guided tour and cruise which departs from Alicante Harbor.

tabarca island alicante
Mediterranean sea in Nova Tabarca of Alicante Spain

10. Altea

Altea is undoubtedly one of the prettiest towns on the Costa Blanca. It’s just a 11 km drive from Benidorm and 52 km from Alicante. In Summer this medieval town is thronged with tourists– so, if you do visit in the Summer aim to get here early in the morning or late in the afternoon to beat the crowds.

Altea is famed for its cobbled streets, the old town that’s like something from a fairytale as well as the long palm tree-lined promenade that faces the sea. Across the road from this promenade is Playa de Altea, a gorgeous beach with a stony shore and turquoise water. The walk up to the old town is well worth it for stunning views of the whole La Marina region. I highly recommend spending the night in Altea if time allows.

You can book this tour to Altea and Villajoyosa – two of the most charming villages in the region. The tour includes pick up from your Alicante hotel and is 5 hours in duration.

altea alicante costa blanca
The white-washed streets of Altea!

11. Explanada de Espana

La Explanada de España is one of the most iconic parts of Alicante, because the ground here is decorated with 6 million colorful marble tiles designed in a wave format. It’s likely the first image you’ll see when you google Alicante.

Explanada de España is lined with numerous bars and restaurants, this is where the locals come to eat! Check out Horchateria Peret an atmospheric bar that’s been serving Alicante for over 50 years and La Terraza del Gourmet for awesome Mediterranean food! For coffee we went to Cafeteria Ripoli!

la explanada de espana alicante
La Explanada de Espana!

12. Alicante Harbor

Spend an hour or more strolling around the picturesque Alicante Harbor, on a warm day it’s a great spot to cool down because you get that cool ocean breeze here. As you walk around the harbor you will have gorgeous views along the picturesque Postiguet Beach, as well as spying some pretty fancy boats! There’s a cool pirate themed boat docked here, you can’t go on board but you can snap some cool photos of it.

There are lots of restaurants lined along the harbor, great for people-watching but beware they are pricier because of their desirable location. Some of the best restaurants here include Restaurante El Pescador and Taberna del Puerto.

alicante harbour, spain, costa blanca
The view of Alicante Harbour from Castillo de Santa Barbara

Where to Stay in Alicante

We also highly recommend the following hotels in Alicante:

  • Suites del Mar by Melia – located right on the main beach in Alicante & with spectacular views. And a rooftop pool!
  • Hotel Almirante – a large outdoor pool and epic beach views from most of their rooms. This hotel is located at San Juan beach, a 10 minute drive from Alicante.
  • Urban Hotel by MC – this is very reasonably priced considering its location in the central district. The rooms are clean and minimally styled and there are loads of bars & restaurants nearby!

Top Travel Tip – you can search all the best hotels in Alicante here via booking.com!

Thanks for reading!

And there you have it 12 of the best things to do in Alicante, it truly is a charming city with lots of fun activities and epic beaches a short drive away from the CBD. I hope this blog post has given you lots of inspiration for your visit to my favorite city in New Spain!

I’ve also written a detailed blog post about 5 days in Lanzarote and Visiting Lanzarote in off-season, I’d love if you could check them out!

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