The Greeks called it Akra Leuka – White Summit and the Romans named it Lucentum – City of Light, in reference to the resplendent light on the coast here. Looming over the city is the Castillo de Santa Bárbara and, below, the grand Explanada, lined with date palms and a pretty harbour – a joy at night when the paella and fideuà restaurants and bars open.
Located in the middle of the Costa Blanca, Alicante is one most important tourist destinations in the Spanish east coast. The many golf courses, along with the tranquil waters of the Mediterranean Sea, are part of the appeal of this beautiful harbour city, which sits at the foot of the Castle of Santa Barbara, a silent witness to the numerous civilisations to have settled here.
The historic quarter, at the foot of this fortress, conceals an interesting religious and civil architectural legacy, including the emblematic Explanada de España (Spain boulevard), a traditional recreational area to the local residents. Alicante’s strategic location, right on the east coast, led to the settlement of the main Mediterranean civilisations over the centuries. Of Arab origin, the castle bears the marks of all the different peoples that the city has sheltered, although a good part of the present building only dates back to the 16th century. From the top of the old walls you have a stunning view of the whole city, while enjoying the impressive coastline and many kilometres of the beautiful countryside.
The old walled city was built at the foot of this fortress. One of the most attractive buildings in this network of narrow streets and alleyways is the Gothic church of Santa María (16th century), built on top of an old Arab mosque. Across from the church is the Casa de la Asegurada Museum (17th century), which has an important collection of contemporary art, with artists of the stature of Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso and Eduardo Chillida. Plaza del Ayuntamiento (the city-council square), dominated by the Baroque façade of the Town Hall, is another of the significant spots of the old quarter.
The coastline is, without a doubt, the favourite recreational spot for the people of Alicante. The Explanada de España promenade, located across from the port, is a lively boulevard dotted with terraces and pavement cafés. A more modern leisure area extends along the port’s breakwater, where there are also many bars and restaurants. Next to both of these is the urban beach of El Postiguet, a privileged spot for enjoying the sea and the sun. In addition, along the coastline of Alicante are a dozen golf course with excellent views to the Mediterranean for the enjoyment of the enthusiasts of this sport.
However the visit would not be complete without trying the delicious rice dishes, cooked in many different, original ways around these parts: arroz a banda (rice with fish), arroz negro (black rice with cuttlefish) or arroz al horno (baked rice) among others. Seafood is also incomparable. For dessert, try pan de higo (fig bread, a paste made of dried figs), turrón (the Spanish nougat made of toasted almonds, honey and sugar) and Jijona ice cream. These dishes go very well with the many wines of Alicante bearing with Designation of Origin, the prestigious seal of quality and origin given in Spain to select wines and products.
Cover image via Alicante Turismo where you can find more information and plan your trip to Alicante.