This is a city of sunshine; the average annual temperature is 19.3c and it rains only 20 days in a year. Its original Roman name, Lucentum, means ‘city of light’.
Many who fly here head straight for Benidorm, just over an hour’s coastal train ride away — but there is no need to go to the concrete jungle by the sea.
Instead, set yourself up in the city centre for a few days to taste delicious tapas, explore labyrinthine lanes, relax at the beach and visit the splendid castle on the hill.
Alicante’s average annual temperature is 19.3c and it rains only 20 days in a year
Where to stay
Hotel Boutique Alicante Palacete S.XVII
Next to the cathedral and close to the beach, this elegant, adults-only hotel housed in a former palace has a theatrical look: designer furniture, chandeliers, gilded mirrors and whitewashed walls. The staff are particularly friendly and there’s a roof terrace that’s open all year round. Doubles from £80, visit hotelboutiquealicante.com.
Eurostars Centrum Alicante
Modern art and a smart design pitched at business travellers make this a solid choice for a comfortable weekend. Expect rooms with blonde-wood floors and colour schemes in shades of pistachio and biscuit. There’s a pleasant downstairs bar that has walls lined with books. Doubles from £73, visit eurostarshotels.co.uk.
Hotel NH Rambla de Alicante
Another great pick if you’re on a budget, this is right in the centre, close to the main market. The 85 rooms are plain and clean, and a selection of drinks is available from a little shop in the reception area. Doubles from £64, visit nh-hotels.com.
Airbnb in Alicante
A high-end hotel in the heart of Alicante near the harbour can set you back around £250 a night. Instead, rent an apartment in the same area at a fraction of the cost through Airbnb. I stayed at Centrico Apartamento, which had a rooftop terrace with magnificent views of the castle. Doubles in the centre from £80, visit airbnb.co.uk.
What to see and do
Visit the cathedral
Beneath the high dome ceiling of Alicante’s cathedral, you’ll see prominent pictures of Mother Teresa and John Paul II (entrance is free, concatedralalicante.com). Don’t miss the gorgeous glittery side chapel.
Marvel at the castillo
There is no charge to enter the medieval Castillo de Santa Barbara, pictured above
Lile the cathedral, there is no charge to enter the medieval Castillo de Santa Barbara (castillodesantabarbara.com). If you want to take the lift up, head for Carrer de Jovellanos, but there is a pleasing sense of accomplishment if you walk it.
From here, the coast spreads out in all its splendour before you — and it’s a good spot to get to grips with the city’s layout.
Check out modern art
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Alicante (maca-alicante.es) is not far from the cathedral and offers a glimpse of cutting-edge modern art in Spain.
The fascinating spinning chrome installations by Eusebio Sempere, who lived in Alicante, are on the top floor. Works by Joan Miro catch the eye on the middle floor.
Hit the beach
It’s not far from the city centre to the beach. OK, the sand isn’t as soft as it could be, but the water is warm and it would be churlish not to go for a dip.
Explore the island
Tabarca makes a great day trip in the summer. A return ferry trip costs £13 and takes about 45 minutes (islatabarca.com). As well as charming beaches, there are good restaurants serving a delicious local speciality, caldero, a fish stew.
Take a day trip . . . to Benidorm
Yes, Benidorm is a large, built-up extravagance of concrete towers, but there is something captivating about it.
Take the train (£7 return) and find a little bit of Britain in Spain, with Red Lion and Coach and Horses pubs and all-day full English breakfasts galore.
Where to eat
La Taverna del Raco del Pla
This is a brilliant tapas bar and restaurant for those in the know. Just a couple of minutes from the beach, it is loved by locals. Mussels, clams, tuna, prawns . . . the menu suits seafood-lovers, though there are meat dishes, too.
And it’s reasonably priced: two courses with wine comes to about £16. My grilled sardines were excellent: large, juicy and salty with a slice of lemon. Visit latavernadelracodelpla.com.
Tasty tapas: Enjoy the flavours of Spain, such as this dish of spicy chorizo sausage and fried potatoes
This is an interesting one. It works like this: you wait for a table for five to ten minutes and then, in a great whirlwind of service from attentive waiters, you are delivered hot-dog tapas, salmon tapas, grilled-bacon-with-a-tiny-egg-on-top tapas (£1 each). It’s excellent. Visit dtablas.es.
El Mercado Central de Alicante
There is a lovely little tapas bar in the centre of this market, where a beer and olives will set you back £1.35. Indulge in Stilton and jam on crusty bread, salmon and caviar on toast, plus anchovies. Hams, cheeses, pigs’ feet and chickens are also available in the market. Address: Av. Alfonso El Sabio, 10.
Soho Parc cafe
Near the beach in a little urban oasis, Soho Parc is surrounded by gum trees and tropical fronds. Relax on a wicker armchair with a mojito or a pina colada (£7) and enjoy the peace of one of the most perfect spots in Alicante. Address: Plaza Portal de Elche
British Airways flies from Gatwick from £90 return (ba.com). The 40-minute bus from the airport to the centre costs £3.45.