Welcome to Spain: a guide to Alicante

Alicante Harbour by night photo Felix Gonzalez

Welcome to Alicante

Alicante is the second-largest city in the region of Valencia, and the capital of Alicante province and Costa Blanca. It is also a historic Mediterranean port.

It was founded by the Romans, who named it Lucentum (City of Light) and was dominated by the Arabs in the second half of the eighth century (‘Alicante’ is Arabic for ‘City of Light’). It was reconquered by King Alfonso X in 1246. It was incorporated into the kingdom of Valencia by King Jaime I in 1308.

Until the global recession in 2008, Alicante was one of the fastest-growing cities in Spain, largely thanks to tourism and also partly due to the second-residence construction boom which started in the 1960s and was revived in the 1990s. It has a population of around 330,000 and about 15% are immigrants from the likes of Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia and the United Kingdom.

Sometimes seen as a gateway to other tourist resorts, Alicante has its own charm and comprises a stylish marina, traditional old quarter and several beautiful beaches in the area.

The Stadium

The Estadio José Rico Pérez is home to Hércules de Alicante CF. Opened in 1974, it has a capacity of 29,500 seats. It was a venue for the 1982 World Cup, hosting two group games and the third-place play-off. In 1993, the club was forced to sell the stadium to the city of Alicante because of the side’s declining fortunes and consequent increase in debt – before being able to buy it back in 2007. The ground had its last refurbishment in 2010, when Hercules were promoted to the Primera Liga. They currently play in Segunda Division B, the third tier of the Spanish football system.

Getting to the Ground

The stadium is 1.5km from Alicante city centre, just behind the Castle of San Fernando. It’s about a 20-minute walk from the main train station, and a further 10-15 minutes from the old quarter or beach areas.

There are also buses available – you can either take the 8a from the Rambla in the direction of Parque Lo Morant and get off at Av. Alcoi 50; or the 11 from Plaza de los Luceros towards Clínica Vistahermosa and get off at Av. Alcoi 52.

On matchdays there is a special football service, the 192, that departs from its starting point 70 and 30 minutes before kick-off. Buses pass the railway station on Av. Maisonnave, continue on Av. Federico Soto, and go via Carrer de San Vicente to the stadium.

Things to see and do – Alicante

The main cultural attraction in Alicante is the Santa Barbara Castle. Situated atop Mount Benacantil, it’s one of the largest medieval fortresses in Spain. The tower is the oldest part of the castle, while parts of the lower building and the walls were built later in the 18th century. It costs €3 for a guided tour.

The castle also contains the Museum of the City of Alicante, which is equipped with 10 exhibition halls. Other museums in the city include its Museum of Modern Art (Plaza Santa Maria 3), which contains works by the likes of Dali and Picasso; and the Gravina Museum of Fine Arts, which is set in a fine 18th century mansion and contains canvases from the Middle Ages to the 1920s.

If you want to take advantage of being on the coast, you could visit the Isla de Tabarca by boat. The trip by Cruceros Kon Tiki is €19 and lasts around 50 minutes. Trips depart from Alicante at 11:00 and return from the island at 16:30.

Eating and drinking – Alicante

Alicante is considered something of a Spanish food hotspot these days. Paella is its most renowned dish, while other highlights include Iberico ham and tapas.

Monastrell (Calle Rafael Altamira 7) is its Michelin-starred restaurant should you want to splash out, but otherwise you’re spoilt for choice for bargain bites. Rincon de Antonio (Calle San Rafael 13) is regarded as one of the best restaurants in Alicante for paella, while if tapas takes your fancy you can’t go far wrong with Tapas El Rebujito (Calle San Francisco 12). On the waterfront, La Darsena (Marina Deportiva Muelle Levante 6) is famous for its rice and seafood dishes and has exceptional views over the harbour. If you want pizza you could try Campanari Pizzeria (Calle Campanario, 18) and La Piazetta (Calle San Miguel, 27) is a popular restaurant famous for its pasta.

You won’t have any problem finding bars and clubs in Alicante. These venues tend to open around 11pm and don’t close until at least 4am.

El Puerto is well-known for its nightlife and attracts tourists as well as locals. Puerto Di Roma (Calle Levante) is one of the bigger clubs open until around 6am and plays dance music, while Potato (Calle Levante 6) may be on the more expensive side and tends to play funk and house music.

The chiringuitos (Kiosks) on the Postiguet and San Juan beaches are highly regarded for hosting parties.

El Barrio - the old part of the city - is known for various bars and narrow lanes. The Little Duke (Calle Doctor Gadea 9) is a typical Irish pub that attracts plenty of expats.

Eating and drinking – Benidorm

Needless to say, there is a wealth of bars and restaurants in the popular resort of Benidorm – and as such we anticipate plenty of England fans will be staying there.

Most bars with a British theme are located in the Rincon and Levante areas of Benidorm. It would be impossible to list them all, but if we said Shamrock Bar, KM Playa, Star & Garter, Zodiac, Chaplin’s, Steptoes II, The Town, Stardust, Valentines, Heartbreak, Loch Ness Pub, Churchill’s Pub, Rockerfellas are only a few of the hundreds in the area, you get the picture.

For fans of the TV series Benidorm, the ‘Neptunes Bar’ is actually the Morgan Tavern, and is easily recognisable from the big pirate ship outside. It is well-known for cabaret and tribute acts.

If you want to go clubbing until the sunrise, the area known as the English Square is popular at the end of the evening. The older crowd might pay a visit to Sinatras and Café Benidorm is also a popular spot. Champions Bar and the Hippodrome are other venues in the area.

If you want a quiet break Benidorm is not for you – but if you want to get away from the karaoke, themed and cabaret bars you could try the narrow lanes of the old town.

Similarly, you won’t have any trouble finding somewhere to eat in Benidorm. Highlights include Monroes on Costa Blanca which offers a buffet-style carvery with all the trimmings; the Topo Gigio Garden Restaurant for Italian food; Carpe Diem which has tapas; Peggy Sue’s American Diner; Country Ribs Benidorm; the Spice Of Life Indian restaurant and Bon Sol La Cala for pizza.

Thanks to Fèlix González for the image used in this blog. Reproduced here under CC licence.