For most of you, the just the name Alicante probably conjures up images of noisy hen-do goers swigging bottles of Lambrini and translucent overweight bodies lying on a crowded beach.
Alicante has a bad name, but this is mainly because its airport offers very cheap flights from the UK. And it is the gateway to the dreaded Benidorm which is very package holiday-esque. I’m not going to lie, I did hear people behind us on our BA flight saying that since it was already 11am, it was most definitely ‘San Miguel o’clock’. Charming. And a little bit funny. But mainly I was relieved to hear they were going to Benidorm, not to Alicante itself.
So perhaps this bad name has been given unfairly. I went for a weekend with Rob and his parents and saw a different side to Alicante. Yes, it still attracts some fairly unattractive crowds – but it’s sunny most of the year round and has a nice beach and very clear blue seas – so why not? What it also has, probably surprisingly for the stags and hens, is a very Spanish side to it. A local side. Which makes it much more than just a beach destination.
Where to stay
Alicante’s iconic hotel, right on the sea. Incredible views – so opting for a sea view room is definitely recommended. Yes, it’s huge (500 or so rooms) and not that pretty, but it’s not a high rise and it offers amazing value for money. Opt for the ‘Level’ floor (5th) and you have access to their version of a Club Lounge. With separate reception and free booze and snacks throughout the day until 10pm, it’s a very good deal. They also have a (sadly very small) terrace with those amazing sea views. Rooms are clean and of a good size, bathrooms pretty high tech with jacuzzi baths and serious power showers. There is a (cold) pool with lots of decking for sunbathing – and views of either the marina or the sea. And another plus of it being a big hotel is that the breakfast buffet is ginormous and very good.
If you prefer small boutique hotels perhaps opt for the charming Hospes Amerigo, which is in the old town (El Barrio). While it may lack the facilities Melia offers, is a bit more authentic, especially since it was an old convent.
Where to eat
Nou Manolin €€€
This is place beloved by locals. Get there early (i.e when it opens for dinner at 20:15) to avoid crowds, as you can’t book if you want to sit around the bar. And that is very much where you want to sit (though they have got lots of tables upstairs). Atmospheric, a little noisy at times, and so so Spanish. It’s all about the tapas here – fresh grilled tiger prawns, delicious montaditos (thinly sliced toasted bread with toppings of your choice), thinly sliced artichokes and dates wrapped in bacon. Everything is just less oily than what I usually expect from Spanish food, and tastes so good. We left at 11pm and grateful couples fell into our seats. Service is good too.
Calle Rafael Terol 1
We came across this little restaurant on the shady Gabriel Miro square in the centre of Alicante. It’s terrace on the square appealed to us, as did its non-English menu and the clearly very local diners. It was lunch time and we weren’t hugely hungry, so we just ordered a steak tartar and prawn tempura. The service was grumpy, but the house wine (3.60 Euro a glass) made up for it. And the food was good too, and reasonably priced.
Calle Cesar Elguezabal 64
Located on a quiet side street of the busy Alfonso X El Sabio – Jamillano offers very basic but delicious Spanish food. We went here on our first night and just ordered a selection on tapas. Their montaditos are phenomenal. But they are probably most famous for their tuna ‘Mohama’ (air dried cured tuna) – something I had never tried before but definitely approved of. This is a simple place, with friendly service and very affordable tapas.
This is clearly a chain but judging but the almost constant queues outside this place (we passed it on numerous occasions) this is a very good bakery. Through the window I could see the piles of buns, pastries & cakes. Irresistible. Come here to grab a take away coffee (they are good) and a brownie. That’s what we did and we did not regret it.
Where to drink
This is known as the Old Town – the charming side of Alicante. Here you’ll find plenty of bars , many with Happy Hour which lasts until 11pm. Mixture of tourists (mainly Brits) and locals.
Calle de Castanos
This street is filled with fun bars and restaurants, all with big terraces outside. Great atmosphere.
What to see
Castle of Santa Barbara
You can see it from pretty much wherever you stand in Alicante – perched high on a cliff overlooking the city. It also happens to be one of Europe’s oldest medieval castles. The walk up is quite a trek – we only made it half way, from which the views are still very impressive – but apparently it is worth it.
This is Alicante’s most authentic pocket. I love it! White washed houses, cobbled streets, narrow alleyways, coloured flower pots spilling with flowers, intricate tiled doorways, beautiful street named placards. Families & friends sit outside on little white plastic chairs, playing games or gossiping in the May sun. The Ermita of Santa Cruz is apparently also worth a look, but when we went it was shut.
Playa del Postiguet – the beach (of course)
Alicante’s main beach, right in the centre of centre is clean, the sand soft and the sea safe to swim in. It is a really great city beach.