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Thursday, March 31, 2016

5 Highlights of Alicante

Whilst Alicante is known as a summer destination, with busy beaches and a pulsating night life, it also offers visitors so much more. This coastal city in Valencia sits amongst diverse and beautiful landscapes, and its cityscape offers arts, culture, history, and lots of seafood and cuisine! You can also do a lot of shopping here – Alicante’s shops are bursting with locally made fashion accessories including leather handbags and purses, jewellery and other handcrafted items. But for some soul-enriching experiences that don’t involve retail therapy, read on for our 5 highlights of amazing Alicante.


1. Explanada de Espana
There may be fewer places as fine as the Explanada de Espana to take a life-affirming hike along the Costa Brava. This esplanade runs alongside the harbor, with four rows of statuesque palm trees, retro-cool street lights, and the highlight being a beautiful marble-tiled footpath that in some ways reminded me of the beautiful black and white footpaths of Copacabana Beach in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro. The paving stones are incredibly made up of some 6.5 million marble stones, which are set in three wavy, undulating rows of red, white and blue. It’s an iconic promenade that apparently draws visitors from all over the world, and locals from all over the city.


2. Castle of Santa Barbara
One of the best things we found about the city is that after arriving at the airport, it’s only a short 15 minutes taxi ride to reach the city centre and most of the main attractions. In what felt like no time at all since our flight into Alicante, we were suddenly looking up at the stunning Castle of Santa Barbara. Like all good castles, the Castillo de Santa Bárbara looks over its city from atop the nearest vantage point, in this case Mount Benacantil. The fortress dates all the way back to the 9th century, when the Iberian Peninsula was under Muslim control. If it's not too hot make sure you take a hike up to the top and you'll enjoy marvellous views of the city. Entry to the castle is free, but if you’re not in a hiking mood, then there is a lift available.


3. Basilica de Santa Maria
Found in the Old Town of Alicante, the Basilica de Santa María is a striking, if not particularly colourful, example of Valencian Gothic architecture. It’s also the oldest active church in the city! The Santa Maria Church was built on the site of a mosque, from the 14th to 16th century, and this only adds to the region’s rich and interesting history. As the church still in use, remember to speak quietly inside the church as you wouldn't want to accidentally interrupt a service or disturb someone’s meditations!


4. El Palmeral of Elche
While technically in Elche, this site is so close and beautiful that we felt it deserved a place on our list. El Palmeral is one of the biggest palm tree plantations in the world, and can be found in the Parque Municipal of Elche, just 30-40 minutes by taxi or bus. The modern city of Elche was built by Moorish (Muslim) settlers, and they built landscaped groves of date palms as a way to grow food in arid areas. This makes the Palmeral both an example of ancient Arab agriculture and an exotic country garden, which is most likely part of the reason why it was declared a World Heritage Site.


5. Postiguet Beach
No trip to Alicante would be complete without a trip to the beach! Known locally as El Postiguet, this natural beach at the heart of the city has fine sub-bleached sands, and majestic palm trees that give the seafront an exotic and romantic feel. Postiguet Beach is popular and family friendly, although this means that it can be a little busy at times, as with most beautiful beaches in Europe during peak season! As night falls, you can find parties along the playa; and as summer rolls on there are bigger and longer-lasting parties that provide music and fun well into the night!


Have you been to beautiful Alicante? Let us know your favourite places in the comments! x