Having such a diverse history, there’s no wonder that Alicante has so many historic buildings. Old buildings blend seemlessly with modern constructions and there’s something to see on every street. It is worth a visit to the Provincial Archaeological Museum (MARQ). The Museum exhibits the remains of the archaeological site of Tossal de Manises, which unveils interesting facts about the ancient city during the times of the Iberians, Greeks and Romans. Alicante is also a land of deeply-rooted traditions, such as the Moors and Christians festivities, the most popular in Levante. The other fiesta par excellence is Noche de San Juan (the Night of Saint John) on the 24th of June. The main features of this festivity are the bonfires. As a tradition, ninots (papier-mâché effigies or rag dolls), which had been exhibited on the street of the capital city during the previous days, are set ablaze on this night.
For months before the Las Hogueras de San Juan celebration each June, elaborate papier maché sculptures are erected throughout Alicante to be admired, before they are ceremoniously burned in a spectacular bonfire at midnight on St Johns Night around summer solstice.. If you cannot visit Alicante during the festival, you can still see some of the spectacle at the Museo de Fogueres (Bonfire Festivities Museum.) The museum has creations that were saved from the flames, and a room to experience the festival through video and photographs.
The Museo de Arte de Siglo XX La Asegurada (Museum of Contemporary Art) houses one of the most important contemporary art collections existing in Spain today with paintings by Dali, Cocteau, Miro, Bacon and Picasso.
Crammed full of history and culture, its museums, galleries, churches and monuments are the perfect foil for some time away from the beach. And all of them can be easily seen in a city break! Just take a look at our suggested walking tour.
On hot summer nights enjoy open/air concerts in the elegant green spaces of the parks and public squares of the city, whilst its modern promenades lined with cafes, bars and restaurants give the city a cosmopolitan feel. And with everything minutes from the clear blue seas, it’s not difficult to spend the whole day and evening by the Mediterranean.
Among the churches of Alicante is the Iglesia de Santa Maria, which is the oldest church in the city and was built between the 14th and 16th centuries. It was once the main mosque during Moorish times. Its front comprises of two solid looking towers and wonderful Baroque stonework. The church houses many important works of art.
The Cathedral de San Nicolas was built between 1616 and 1662 and stands over 45 metres tall. The Communion Chapel inside is considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of Spanish Baroque architecture. St Nicolas is the patron saint of the city so this Cathedral is one of the most important buildings in the city.
The Archaeology Museum, created in 1932 has an extensive collection of artefacts and is known to be one of the best in Spain. The museum is now housed in a new building and incorporates the most modern of multimedia displays. There’s also a fine arts museum, museum de Belenes and unique museum of the ‘Ninots’ from the Falles fiestas.
The Castillo de Santa Barbara is one of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe. It occupies the entire summit and a large proportion of the slopes of the Benacantil mountain. It commands a unique look-out over the coastline, the Bay of Alicante and the surrounding farmland. Remains from the Bronze-age have been discovered on this site. The castle has three enclosures of differing dates, each with unique features. The castle can be accessed by a road leading up the western slope of the mountain, winding its way through pine trees.
You can drive to the top of the castle although the access road can be hard to find. Signposts are not fantastic. There’s free parking at the top of the hill. Entry to the castle is free of charge and you can easily spend the best part of a day walking round. There’s a restaurant near the top. You can also visit the castle by means of an elevator that ascends from the Paseo Maritimo. Entrance to the castle is free but there is a charge for using the elevator. EU Senior citizens and disabled don’t have to pay. The castle is visible from just about every part of the city.
The Gavina Palace which now houses the Provincial Gallery with fine paintings from the 19th century. The main theatre dates from 1847 and is a fine example of classical construction. The very modern marina has a host of cafes and restaurants. The further round the marina you walk, the better the view of the city across the water.
The harbour has been the strength of the city for centuries, sending products abroad and bringing in goods from all over the world. Modern facilities combine with tradition and history to provide a thriving centre. As well as a working fishing fleet there are pleasure crafts and passenger vessels, nautical schools and sailing clubs.
A variety of people have been drawn to Alicante’s strategic location for more than 7,000 years, beginning with tribes of hunter gatherers who arrived from Central Europe between 5000 and 3000 BC, settling on the slopes of Mount Benacantil. The area was a magnet for traders and conquerors. The Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and the Romans all left their mark here, before the invading Moors brought oranges, palms trees and rice. Hamilcar Barca, a Carthaginian general, established the fortified settlement of Akra Leuka, a Greek name meaning “White Mountain” where Alicante stands today. While under rule of the Romans this city was known as “Lucentum” which means “City of Light.”
Castillo de Santa Barbara, the hilltop castle overlooking the city from the top of Mount Benacantil is Alicante’s main sightseeing stop. It’s one of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe, and was originally built by the Moors in the 10th century.The Gothic Church of Santa María from the 14th-16th centuries was built over the former main Arab mosque.
The Basilica de Santa Maria Foto (14th – 16th century) is the oldest church in the city. It was built in Gothic style above the former Moorish Mosque of Alicante.
The Casa de La Asegurada Foto (17th century) is the oldest civil building in town, today it is home to the Museum of Contemporary Art.