Why visit Alicante? My guide to the best city in Spain.

Apr 19, 2024 10:21:28 AM | Spain Why visit Alicante? My guide to the best city in Spain.

Most people that plan a trip to Spain are set on Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, maybe even Mallorca. Alicante never seems to make that list and it's a shame.

Want to skip to the good stuff? Click the links below
🚅 How to get there
🏖️ About the beaches
🏰 Roman Ruins in Alicante
📍 Google Maps pins
👉 Tips for first-timers

| One of the first questions I often get: "Where is Alicante?"

Alicante is located on the eastern coast of Spain, within the autonomous community of Valencia. It's part of a greater overall region known as Costa Blanca, which is mostly known for its (you guessed it) coastline. 

How to get there

Alicante has the third largest airport in Spain by volume. There are actually more flights in/out of Alicante than nearby Valencia which is a much larger city. You would think it should be pretty easy to get there, but that is not necessarily true. 

Most flights in/out of Alicante are with LCCs (low cost carriers) including Ryaniar, EZJet, and Vueling. If you're traveling from Europe or the UK that makes it very affordable to get there. But it also means that most US airlines and even many European ones may not offer connecting flights. I find that Lufthansa Group offers the best options if you are coming from the US.

IMG_7710If you decide not to book a connecting flight, I suggest flying into Madrid, then taking the train. It's about 2.5 hours and there are three train companies I've outlined with pros/cons of each that offer service on this route.

1.  Renfe: is the Spanish National Rail Carrier. Until recently, if you took a train in Spain, it was on Renfe. I find the service to be just fine, but Renfe ticket prices can be high sometimes if you are used to lower costs systems like those in the Netherlands or Italy.

They offer tickets in multiple classes. First is often only 20-30% more than the coach tickets. First class tickets get you a slightly wider seat, and more importantly the cabins tend to be emptier.

2. Ouigo: is owned by French National Rail operator, SNCF. You'll ride on a double decker TGV that has a nominally nicer class of seats in 1-2 coaches but it's more of a "premium economy" feel than a true first class product. Ouigo tends to be the cheapest operator with tickets sometimes under €10 if you book far enough ahead. 

Pro-tip: Food on Ouigo trains is very limited (sandwiches, chips, and drinks). Pack ahead of time if you want something a bit nicer. 

3. Iryo: is the newest open access carrier in Spain. They're a joint venture between Intermodalidad de Levante S.A (the Italian Train system) and Air Nostrum. Tickets tend to be a bit more expensive than Ouigo, but I find the trains nicer inside. 


What are some things I should know about trains in Spain? 

1. You have to go through security to board

Many European countries allow you to walk right off the street and onto a train. This is not the case in Spain. Build at least 15-20 minutes for security into your timeline "just in case." 

You also cannot take things such as knives or weapons aboard. If you are bringing a set of kitchen knifes with you, you will need to go to the post office in Madrid just after you exit customs then ship them to yourself (ask me how I know...). 

2.  Train tickets in Spain are dynamically priced

Screenshot 2024-04-19 at 3.17.48 PMLike most flights prices will go up or down in price based on demand. It's best to book it as early as you can to save some money. Each train operator releases tickets at different times. As I write this, it's possible to book Ouigo seats 8 months out. Renfe however releases availability much closer. 

3. Seats are assigned

You'll select seats when you buy your ticket. If you are traveling with a group and wish to sit together, it's best to book them all at the same time to ensure the system does not seat you with random people. 

TL, DR: Alicante is on the coast, 5 hours south of Barcelona by train; 2.5 hours roughly east from Madrid; and about 2 hours from Valencia. Book as early as tickets open to get the best price. Give yourself time to get to the platform from the terminal. If you travel on Ouigo, bring food. 

Reasons you might want visit Alicante

Let's start with: you enjoy an amazing beach

Alicante is known for it's coast and by extension: the beaches there. Worried about rain on your foreign holiday? Don't be, it is almost a desert and has the highest amount of sunshine of any continental European city. 


You don't need to be a "lay on the beach" type person to enjoy the beach. There is also a type of beach for everyone.

| Which beaches do you recommend? It depends on what you are looking for in a beach:

White Sand Beaches

  • Playa del Postiguet is the main city beach. If you like to be in the crowd, this spot will be your jam. During summer months you will want to head there early to grab a spot because it gets really crowded. There are plenty of places to rent chairs, a few bars on the beach, and a few restaurants. 

    Pro-Tip: Most of the restaurants directly on the beach are not very good. If you really have to eat, I'd suggest 100 Montaditos. Spanish people will laugh at me, because it's kinda like a Spanish McDonald's but if you're a foreigner that's just hungry and wants a cheap bite this is the spot. You can get large beers for just a couple €
  • Playa de la Albufereta is a similar setup, but less crowded as it's located in a "suburb." You can get here by taking the Metro to La Isletta. 
  • Playa San Juan is a bit further away, but larger than the two above. This beach is one continuous stretch that goes all the way up to the neighboring towns. 

Island Beaches

Isla Tabarca main beachHead out to Isla Tabarca, which was at one time a refuge for Berber pirates. The island later became a fortified settlement under the orders of Charles III. Today, it's a 20 minute ferry ride away from Santa Pola (or 1 hour from Alicante). There are numerous beaches for lounging and crystal-clear waters for snorkeling and diving. 

The island has a handful of charming narrow streets within the fortifications. There are restaurants, some are good, some are bad. All are more expensive than you would pay for on the mainland. I'd personally bring snacks and save the meal for after the post-beach shower. 

Rocky Beaches w/awesome Views

I find the best "Nat Geo" beaches to be outside of the city. Some of these are easy to reach on the tram, others you'll want to drive for. If you choose to drive, Record Go has consistently been one of the cheapest rental options I've found. Driving makes it easy to visit my favorite: Cala del Moraig (about 1 hr from the city center). Without a car, it can be a bit tricky to get there.

Nudist beaches

The first time I visited Alicante, I decided to go for a long run on the beach. It took me around Cabo de las Huertas (or or Cap de l’Horta) to the northeast of the city center. I did not at the time know where I was going, but after about 15 minutes I figured out what was up. 

Nude beaches aren't really my jam, but if they're yours, this is the best local one from my understanding. 

You think checking out obscure Roman ruins, castles, or other historic sites is awesome! 


By Artistosteles - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86593502

Walking around the center, you'll notice there is a castle set on a relatively tall hill. You really can't miss it. This is Castell de Santa Bàrbara. It's completely free to go in, you just have to walk up the hill to get there. If you are feeling tired, there is an elevator you can take up for under €3/person. 

Roman fish factory in AlicanteThe Lucentum Archaeological Site is situated near the neighborhood of Albufereta. Lucentum was an ancient Roman city and is believed to have been one of the most important settlements in the region during Roman times. Visitors to the site can explore the remains of houses, streets, a forum, and thermal baths, providing a glimpse into the daily life of the Roman inhabitants.

Along the coast between Albufereta & Cabo de las Huertas you will also find the remains of a Roman fish factory (pictured to the right) cut into the stone. Often there are people swimming in the ruins here. 

3. You enjoy the outdoors, hiking, biking, or watersports

Obviously a town that has lots of sunshine will have plenty of stuff to do outside. I've personally enjoyed road & mountain riding, snorkling, paddle-boarding and much more. 

There are so many varied recreational activities in Alicante. I enjoy the simple ones: cycling, hiking, and swimming. There are a handful of bike shop rentals that rent leisure oriented bikes. If you choose to rent a bike, be advised that of some of the laws that are different in Spain!

  1. Some municipalities outside of the city center do not allow bicycles on the boardwalks! If you ride in a no-riding zone you will likely be stopped. 
  2. It is illegal to ride with headphones. Police will 100% stop you for this and you will get a ticket of €200. 
  3. If you are riding outside of a city center, helmets are mandatory. There is a similar €200 penalty for riding sans helmet. 

If you like to eat, Alicante is a really great spot!

I find that the lack of a sedentary life here has led to an amazing food scene. I've limited myself to only 5 recs: 

1. The Mercat: 
IMG_3349The Market in Alicante is not a full on tourist trap like you have at Mercado San Miguel in Madrid or at the Boqueria in Barcelona. Upstairs you will find terrestrial meats, downstairs is the fish / green markets.

If you go towards the afternoon, you can often find really good deals as merchants prepare to close down for the day. I purchased 1/2lb. of fresh tuna this way seen to the right.

Every Mercado in Spain has a handful of bars/stalls, this one is no exception. Ukiyō Raw bar y cositas is my hands down favorite stall in the market. I'd suggest getting the Chef's choice plates. 

Best for: local culture

IMG_77152. Bodeguita 1999 is probably my favorite restaurant in the entire city. It's a meat centric restaurant with only a handful of tables in a narrow intimate atmosphere. Be sure to get reservations as it's hard to get a table if you're walking in. 

I suggest ordering the Entrecote, Gambas a la Plancha, or another steak dish. Expect to spend 30-50/person depending on how much you drink. Best for: romantic nights out 

3. Tapa-Caña (D'Tablas) will get alot of flak from locals as a "top suggestion", but this place is amazing for tourists. Especially those who like beer. Once you get a table order either "un caña" or "una pinta" (small/large beer respectively).

You'll notice a waiter circulating with a plate of tapas. They're about a euro each and you eat what they have. If nothing on the platter looks great, just pass! When you are finished, you pay by the number of plates. 

Best for: those who still enjoy day drinking. 

4. 100 Montaditos is a chain restaurant. There are lots of them all over the country. The food is similar to Tapa-Caña, but you order at the counter and get a buzzer to retrieve your food. 

I love this place because it is so cheap. Most menu items are about €1 so even if you order something you don't like, it's not a big deal. They also have locations right on Playa San Juan and next to the Melia at Playa Postiguet

Perfect for: groups where one person likes the beach & sun, and the other just wants to drink beers in the shade and stare at the water. 

Pro-tip: on Sunday, large beers are also €1!

5. Salt in Cake: is a cinnamon roll shop. They are a bit pricey, but well worth the money. I find them best fresh, or if you grab one later in the day I'd suggest bringing it home and putting it in the oven for a couple minutes to get it warm. 

Best for: those who want to indulge 

Top tips for first time visitors

  1. You cannot depend on Uber, but Taxis are a fair price. 
    Similar to other Spanish cities, taxis are the same price when you are able to get a rideshare. You will be able to get either an Uber or Cabify in the Alicante center, expect to wait 10+ minutes. There is no coverage 10km+ from the center.
  2. Sundays are a slower day in general 

    Many business have limited hours or are closed entirely on Sundays. This applies to grocery stores and the Mercado. If you are planning a weekend away, be sure to go to the Mercado on Saturday. If you're a week + visitor, the Mercado is also mostly closed on Mondays. 

  3. If you stay outside of the center, pick a location convenient to the tram. 
    Locations in the center of Alicante can be in older buildings with smaller rooms. Those who desire extra room (especially families with multiple children) may wish to stay outside the center. The L1 line runs through several smaller coastal towns where you can rent holiday apartments for approximately the same price as a hotel in the center. 
  4. For those who want to party late, stay in Benidorm
    Alicante does have a pretty big party scene. You'll see at least a dozen stag/hen parties on weekend nights. However the true party is down the coast in Benidorm. Many bars in Alicante are not open as late as in Benidorm. Likewise, you will fine more cheap shots and things of that ilk a bit further north. 

Mike Lee

Written By: Mike Lee