The following is a list of things to do in Alicante, Spain whether you are just visiting for a weekend getaway, partying during the bonfires of San Juan, or staying for a couple of weeks like we did. We believe it is one of the best beach cities in Spain.
A port city located in Costa Blanca along the southeastern coast of Spain, Alicante has an international airport, low-cost flights, great public transportation, beautiful public beaches, fun night-life, and good eats. With just a little more than 300,000 people living here, this small, beach city has so much to do and might just be the best coastal city in Spain!
If you would rather listen to our trip to Alicante, Spain, check out our episode Podcast 19: Alicante (Spain) and Our Podcast Production Process.
We rented an Airbnb just outside of El Barrio Viejo (20 minutes by bus) for 2 weeks. It was a perfect stay mixed with many days spent sunbathing at the various beaches and several late nights walking around Barrio Viejo into the early morning hours.
Take public transportation
For a cheap, safe, and clean way to get around the coastal city use the trams and buses! The metro TRAM of Alicante combines many different services; tram, light rail, light train, and the metro rapid bus that all interact with each other by existing fare integration. Alicante has 5 tram lines and 71 stations that serve both the coastal and metropolitan areas.
There are many bus stations located throughout the city and along the coast too. Note: Purchase a TAM multi-travel card if you are going to go on multiple trips. You can load your TAM card up with money at any ticket counter or kiosk located in the tram station. You can save a lot of money this way! Ten trips cost 8.70€ vs. 1.45€ for a single trip.
You can purchase one single card and use it for multiple people. The TAM card works on both the trams and buses. Just make sure to validate your transport card at the start of your journey and only once per journey even if you use more than one train or tram. The fine for not validating your card is 50€. This option is much cheaper than using taxis. However, pay attention to the train and bus schedules as they do not run past midnight.
Visit Barrio Viejo (The Old City)
Narrow streets, tiny cafes, family-owned restaurants selling paella and fresh seafood from the sea, people sitting outside enjoying a glass of Spanish wine…this is Barrio Viejo. During the day the neighborhood is buzzing with people walking the streets and shopping at the boutique shops. Not quite Lisbon but close. As night falls, music and laughter fill the air, pints of beer are overflowing, tapas, late night dancing…a sort of mini Madrid by the sea.
Visit a Castle
Located on top of Benacantil Mountain, Castillo de Santa Barbara dates back to the 9th century during Muslim control of the Iberian peninsula. In 1248 it was captured by Castilian forces and was used for military and prison purposes. Since 1963 the castle has been open to the public. You can take an elevator to the top of the castle for 2.70€ per person. The panoramic view from the top is spectacular; the entire bay of Alicante can be seen.
Take a day trip to Isla Tabarca (Tabarca Island)
Located about a one-hour ferry ride just outside of Alicante, Tabarca Island is a place where you can escape the city life for a day and surround yourself by the crystal, clear blue waters of the sea. Here you can sunbathe, snorkel, go walking on trails around the island, or for the adventurers out there, go cliff diving in the Mediterranean Sea. The island is the only inhabited island located in the Valencia region of Spain, with less than 70 inhabitants.
Tourism is the island’s main economical activity with hundreds of tourists visiting daily. There are several restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and art studios located on the island. Note: During the summertime, the ferry leaves from the Alicante Marina Monday- Sunday at 1100, 1215, and 1315 daily. The boat returns to the best coastal city in Spain from Tabarca Island Monday- Sunday at 1630, 1730, and 1830 daily. The cost is 19€ per adult (round-trip) and children under 4 are free.
Enjoy a night watching the art of flamenco dancing
The first time I saw flamenco dancing was when I visited Seville, Spain when I was 17. I remember thinking to myself that this form of dancing was one of the most beautiful and passionate forms of personal expression. The guitar (toque), singing (cante), and dance (baile) are all done with such emotional intensity and passion I felt myself hanging on every word and movement of the artists.
During our stay in Alicante, the best coastal city in Spain, I found the most amazing flamenco venue, Tablao Flamenco La Guitarreria. The venue itself is small, leading to the intimacy of the entire experience. You can feel the vibrations from the dancer’s hands and feet and the passion in the room is palpable. The cost is 10€ per person and includes either one glass of beer or wine. The venue does not serve food but has a full bar. Shows on Monday and Tuesday are free. Wednesday through Sunday, showtimes are at 2200 and 0000. Reservations are recommended and can be made online through their website.
Catch some rays at Playa de San Juan
During our two week stay, we visited several beaches along the coast of Alicante. Our favorite beach by far was Playa de San Juan (San Juan Beach). It is easily accessible by the tram (about a 20-minute ride from Barrio Viejo). The beach compared to the other beaches we visited was less crowded. The water was crystal, clear and there were a plethora of cafes and restaurants nearby to have a nice lunch or dinner overlooking the sea. Many people believe it is one of the best beaches on the coast of Spain.
Travel Tip: Do you like meeting new people when you travel? Yes, it can be awkward to make new acquaintances on the road. We have found that using the Meetup App is a great, trusted way to meet people (travelers and locals) that have similar interests. We used the Meetup App twice while in the best city on the coast of Spain – first, to meet a diverse group (around 15 people) that were looking to practice their English skills. From local college students to traveling physicians. It was a great way to connect and help them work through their English questions. Then Matt used the App to tap into a local Technology Meetup to keep his Tech knowledge fresh and meet some ‘geeks’ while in Spain. We love the tool – build a profile and leverage on your travels.
Party at the Bonfires of San Juan (St. John)
Every year, the city of Alicante celebrates the start of summer with Las Hogueras de San Juan (St. John bonfires). Throughout the city starting June 20th, during the day, the city is filled with concerts, food vendors, and thousands of people partying throughout the streets. During the nighttime, the parties continue with drinking, dancing, fireworks, and more food.
After midnight on the 24th of June, the city lights are turned out, the facades of buildings are draped in fire retardant covers, and a palm-shaped display of fireworks is set off to indicate the start of Las Hogueras de San Juan. Soon afterward, people start to light bonfires to paper maché statues throughout the city (aka cremá- “the burning”). Firefighters work to put out the bonfires and shower the party-goers with water (aka banyá). These burnings continue throughout the night and into the early morning.
After the bonfires, from June 25th-29th there is a fireworks competition on Postiguet beach. The festivities were wild in a different way than we experienced in Lisbon, Portugal or Ayacucho, Peru but extremely unique with the bonfires. People from all over Europe come to this top coastal city in Spain to enjoy this once a year ceremony.
Traveled Late June – Early July 2017