On the Spanish east coast facing the sea and locked in embrace with Valencia and Murcia, sits Alicante, a province with a capital city. Learn more about it.
On the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the sea and locked in embrace with Valencia and Murcia, sits Alicante, a province with a capital city of the same name that is synonymous with beaches, relaxation, great weather and comfort.
It seems that the Carthaginians created a settlement on the Mediterranean coast much later than the Greeks did, in their search for trading points throughout the Mediterranean Sea, which they called Λευκή Ακρα (Leuké Akra). Later, the Romans would call the city Lucentum, or Leukante, a name that evolved into Al-laqant with the arrival of the Arabs, which is the origin of the city’s name in the Valencian language: Alacant, changed by Castilian speakers to Alicante. This timeline is just a small sample of the rich history that the city of Alicante possesses as one of the Mediterranean’s most important cities (historically and currently) given the high volume of trade and exchange of goods and cultures here.
Alicante lies on the shores of the Mediterranean on flatland that is surrounded by elevations, most notably that of Mount Banacantil (169 m.) which is crowned by Santa Barbara Castle and forms the city’s most famous silhouette. The castle was named after the Christians overtook the city from the Arabs, under the command of the young Prince Alfonso (known later as Alfonso X The Wise) on December 4, 1248, Saint Barbara’s feast day.
Fundamental elements of Alicante’s landscape include its many sandy beaches, the island of Tabarca and Cabo de la Huerta with its beautiful and intimate coves. The warm climate, with an average yearly temperature of 18º and maximum temperatures that rarely reach above 35º, has helped attract countless visitors throughout its long history. Today, Alicante is one of the most attractive tourist destinations on Spain’s coastline. Alicante receives an average of just 37 rainy days per year, while the hours of sun here add up to more than 2,800 per year.
This coastal city has benefited from its strategic location as can be seen from its growth in population and prosperity that already began to develop in the 15th century (as a center for the exportation of goods such as wine, nuts, esparto and others). The growth inspired Ferdinand II of Aragon to grant it the title of “city”. The growth also brought with it a liberal spirit that characterizes the people of Alicante. The city also suffered in times of disease outbreaks such as the 1854 cholera epidemic. Civil Governor Trino Gonzalez de Quijano’s kindheartedness shined during this period. A mausoleum was erected in his honor in Saint Teresa Plaza, a plaza that still serves as his resting place. During the 20th century, the 60s would witness the beginning of economic and demographic development that continues today. With a population of about 335,000 residents in 2012, Alicante is an important center for the service sector, especially within the tourist industry. Not only tourists live in Alicante however: the port and industries such as food, aluminum and machinery all help make Alicante Spain’s fifth most important city for commerce after Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville. La Ciudad de la Luz is a large film complex located in the southern part of the city, where national and international movies and T.V. series are filmed. A large part of J.A. Bayona’s critically acclaimed film The Impossible was filmed in these studios.
Alicante is a perfect city for taking walks around the different parks and seeing its different monuments, as if you were in an enormous Chutes and Ladders Game: La Explanada de España, with its 6 million white, black and red tiles, creates the image of a sea of waves beneath hundreds of palm trees, Canalejas Park, Palmeral Park, Lo Morant Park and finally Ereta Park at the foot of Mount Benacantil.
A large number of historic monuments mark the tourist circuit in Alicante, from the basilica of Saint Mary to the Santa Faz Monastary, to la Casa de la Asegurada (which is today the home of the Museum of Contemporary Art), the Gravina Palace with the Museum of Fine Arts, the theatre, and much more.
When’s the best time to visit this fantastic city? Although any time is a good time, we recommend going the third week in June to celebrate the Hogueras de San Juan Festival (The Bonfires of Saint John in English), likely the city’s most famous festival. Another good time is the second Thursday after Easter week, when you can join 300,000 other participants in the walking pilgrimage of Santa Faz, making this the second most popular event of its kind in Spain in number of participants behind that of Rocío in Huelva.