Get to know Alicante City and Tabarca Island
What if you went on a 3-day getaway to Alicante to recharge your batteries? Personally, I love this city filled with quaint corners, beaches, historical sites, delicious food, shops… Do you need a bonus? A one-day boat trip to Tabarca Island, where you’ll practice the best snorkel in its crystal clear waters.
Without further ado, here are the best things to do and see in Alicante in 3 days, including a day trip to Tabarca Island.
ALICANTE: WHAT TO DO ON AN GETAWAY
Alicante is a seaside city that enjoys a privileged climate all year round. The town is centered on the sea, where most of the streets flow directly to the port of Alicante. So, this is why you should start your visit by strolling along the promenade.
TOP 12 BEST THINGS TO SEE AND DO
1 – The Explanada and Marina seafront
The Paseo de la Explanada in Alicante is one landmark of the city. This maritime promenade runs parallel to the wharf where a lively atmosphere is concentrated on its 500 meters both day and night. Here you can walk around and enjoy the views of the marina while entertaining yourself with original street shows: mime, music, painters… This place is also ideal for sitting on one of the many terraces, or just taking a relaxing walk. Of course, you can do some shopping at one of the many stalls selling jewelry, handicrafts…
Its original mosaic is designed with wavy shapes in three colors, red, white and blue, and believe it or not, it has six and a half million tesserae.
Moreover, it features an Auditorium where on Sundays the Municipal Symphonic Band plays for free. If you are interested, don’t miss out on this opportunity to enjoy their music.
As a curious fact, the former promenade was built with the rubble extracted from the demolition of the walls and the present walk was built in the 1960s.
On this same promenade is La Lonja del Pescado Exhibition hall, a modernist building and activity centre where various exhibitions are held all year-round, from painting and sculpture, among others. It also hosts flea markets, award ceremonies, family workshops. It’s worth looking at its activities program.
- Address: Paseo Almirante Julio Guillén Tato, s/n
- Entrance Fee: free
Right across the street, a few meters away, is located the Canalejas Park. This is one of the oldest and well-known parks in the city, popular for its centenary Ficus trees.
2 – The Town Hall Square
La Plaza del Ayuntamiento, in the city’s heart’s historic centre, this stunning baroque civil building will surprise you. It was built in the 18th century, in the same place occupied by the former town hall.
Inside, at the foot of the main staircase, is the “Cota Cero”, used to measure the altitude above sea level anywhere in Spain.
Once inside, don’t miss the striking Blue Room on the second floor and also, on the first floor, a charming Isabelline styled room. Not to mention the interesting paintings all over the building.
- Entrance Fee: free every morning from Tuesday to Friday
3 – Santa Cruz Neighborhood
Among the city must-sees you can not miss wandering through the Barrio de Santa Cruz. This is a charming neighborhood that will catch you by its white buildings decorated with colorful tiles, flowers and pots, in the middle of steep stairs, quaint corners and narrow winding lanes.
Walking through this neighborhood is like taking a step back in time out of the hustle and bustle of the city.
4 – Santa Barbara Castle
Going up the hill through these quaint little lanes of the historic center, you will reach the top of Mount Benacantil where the Castle of Santa Barbara, one of the most well-known landmark of the city, is located. The Muslims settled in the 9th century in the same area where the Castle is today. The Castle displays three different enclosures from distinct periods ranged from 14th to 19th centuries.
From the Postiguet beach, at the foot of the castle, is from where you get the best view of the rock formation resembling a man’s profile, known as the Moor’s Face the most recognizable feature of the town.
Inside the castle, you can appreciate three distinct enclosures in three different periods of time, ranging from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries.
From up here you will have a perfect panoramic view of the city and the impressive bay of Alicante. And, if you go at sunset you will enjoy a memorable sunset.
Access to Santa Barbara Castle
You have several options to get to the castle:
If you don’t feel like walking, it has an elevator on Avenida Juan Bautista Lafora that takes you at the foot of the castle.
Another way to get to the fortress is by shuttle bus from Plaza Doctor Gómez Ulla (MARQ). Price 1,45 euros
And in case you prefer to walk:
- Access by La Ereta Park: The climb is steep but well worth it. As you ascend you will enjoy a panoramic view of the city, neighboring towns and the Mediterranean Sea.
- Access by the Benacantil Mountain: From the Virgen del Socorro street, you follow the route on the west side of the Benacantil Mountain, with views of the north side of the city and the mountain of Alicante.
- Entrance fee: Free
- Opening Hours: 10 am to 8 pm
5 – The San Nicolas Co-Catedral
In the district of the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the San Nicolás Co-Cathedral stands out beautifully with a mixture of Renaissance and Gothic styles. It’s built in the year 1600 over an old mosque to replace it.
- Address: Plaza del Abad Penalva, 2
- Opening Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 05:30 p.m to 08:30 p.m.
- Entrance Fee: free.
6- The Santa Maria Basilica
In the heart of the historic centre, the 14th century Basilica of Santa Maria is the oldest religious building in the city of Alicante. It was built over the remains of the main Islamic mosque but had to be rebuilt after a fire in the 15th century. Therefore, it has a mixture of styles, in its magnificent baroque facade highlights the image of the Virgin.
- Address: Plaza de Santa Maria s/n.
- Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 1 pm and 6 pm to 7:30 pm
- Entrance Fee: free
7 – Contemporary Art Museum (MACA)
The museum (MACA), a cultural landmark of the city, is located in the town’s heart, opposite the Santa Maria Basilica.
This museum displays one hall dedicated to the temporary exhibitions and four rooms for permanent ones. For more information you can check out its web: https://maca-alicante.es/
- Address: Plaza Santa María, 3
- Entrance Fee: free
8 – Central Market
On your way wandering through the centre of the city, you will find the Central Market, ideal to take a break and get to know the local gastronomy through the many stalls offering fruit, meat, fish, sweets…
This beautiful building is in the Modernist Valencian styled and was built on the 18th century wall that protected the city of Alicante.
- Address: Avenida Alfonso el Sabio, 10
Opening Hours: : From Monday to Saturday 7 am to 2:3 pm; Sunday: Closed
9 – Castaños Street
In this central pedestrian street you will find plenty of restaurants, pubs, ice-cream parlors… On its lively terraces you can stop for a drink at any time. It is also the leisure area to go out for dinner or bars in the evening.
In a small perpendicular lane, also a pedestrian street, you will surprise to find “La Calle de las Setas”, (Calle San Francisco) a street with a green-painted floor, sculptures of colorful giant mushrooms and slides for kids. It’s a charming street to take some photos.
10 – The Principal Theatre
Next to Castaños Street we find the Principal Theatre, a building inaugurated in 1847 with its main facade in the neoclassical style. The interior is like the theaters of the time, called Italian style, has a room in the shape of a horseshoe and four floors. The decorations in blue and gold give it a distinctive touch.
- Address: Plaza Ruperto Chapí, s/n
- web: https://www.teatroprincipaldealicante.com
11 – MARQ Alicante Archaeological Museum
Personally, I loved this museum because it is not a conventional one, but it makes you travel back in history. Through its different rooms you can learn about prehistory, Iberian and Roman culture, the Middle Ages and the modern era in the most didactic and enjoyable way.
It features three audiovisual rooms that provide a vivid illustration of the techniques archaeologists used to study the ancient past.
These three rooms are the Field Archaeology Room, the Urban Archaeology Room and the Underwater Archaeology Room.
- Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm. Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm.
- Entrance fee: 3 euro (general). Sunday and Bank Holiday: 1,50 euro.
- Address: Plaza Doctor Gómez Ulla, s/n
- How to get there: Tram lines 1, 3 and 4
At the museum’s ticket office you can buy tickets to visit the archaeological site of Illeta dels Banyets in El Campello.
Below, I explain you about this interesting visit. One of the best places to enjoy snorkeling on the Costa Blanca.
12 – Illeta dels Banyets
As I mentioned above, the Illeta dels Banyets is a small peninsula that houses an archaeological site of great importance as in it there have been found remains of various cultures that settled there, from the Bronze Age to Roman times, and later from the Middle Ages.
This tiny peninsula is located in El Campello, a seaside town just 9 km from Alicante. The site displays panels to help visitors understand the historical value of this settlement. From the Roman period we find some vestiges of fishing farms and a Roman villa with its thermal baths.
You can buy the tickets to visit it at the ticket office at the entrance of the enclosure or in MARQ by buying the combined ticket you get a 1 euro discount.
How to get around Alicante
The distances in the center of Alicante are short, so you can easily walk from one point to another of the city. Also, the public transportation network in the city is excellent, with trams, buses, suburban trains, and taxis connecting the most important places.
Definitely, the best option to get around Alicante is the tram. It runs 6 lines, so you can visit some nearby cities such as Villajoyosa, Denia, El Campello and Benidorm among others.
Moreover, it’ s useful to know that the bus and tram fares are unified so you can transfer between them at no additional cost.
Depending on how long you are in the city, you can buy the Alicante Tourist Card, which gives you unlimited access to the city bus, tourist bus and tram. The cost of the Alicante Tourist Card is 13€ for 24 hours, 16€ for 48 hours and 18€ for 72 hours.
Where to stay in Alicante
As it is a very touristic place, the city has plenty of options for all budgets.
Below, I recommend my favorite tried Alicante hotels with good value for money when visiting the town.
An interesting and refreshing one-day trip is to take a boat to Tabarca Island or Flat Island and snorkelling in its crystal clear waters. Tabarca is the smallest inhabited island in Spain, flat and elongated, with a length of 1800 meters and a maximum width of 400 meters.
Usually, visitors spend one day on this beautiful island, although also it’s possible to overnight in the recent accommodations that the island offers. Tabarca can be reached also from Santa Pola, Torrevieja, Guardamar, and Benidorm.
How to get there from Alicante
The distance from Alicante to the island is 11 nautical miles, about 22 kilometers, the boat ride takes 1 hour.
You can make the trip with Cruceros Kontiki, the boat leaves from the Esplanade, Paseo Màrtirs de La Libertad, s/n. Phone: +34 686 994 538.
Timetable in the summer from Monday to Sunday:
– Alicante – Tabarca: 10 am, 11 am, 12:15 am, 1:30 pm
– Tabarca – Alicante: 5 pm and 7 pm
- Price: round trip 20 euro
What to visit in Tabarca
Once on the island, you will be amazed by its crystal clear and turquoise waters. In fact, since 1986 Tabarca is the first Marine Reserve in Spain.
Recommendation to visit Tabarca
If this is your first visit and you want to make the most of your trip, a good idea for starting is to head to the Lighthouse and the Tower of San José. Then, on your way to the urban center you can stop by to check the New Tabarca Museum and afterwards continue your route and wander through the little streets and discover its charming corners. And finally, but not least, enjoy yourself the sandy beach and go for snorkeling.
– New Tabarca Museum
A didactic museum where you will learn about the island: its fauna and flora, culture, and history.
- Opening hours: summer from Wednesday to Sunday: 11am to 2 pm and 4 pm to 6:30 pm
- Entrance: free
At present, the lighthouse building houses a biological laboratory that serves as an aid for the Tabarca Marine Reserve. You have more info about the Lighthouse here.
– Tower of San José
It’s a defensive tower built in the 18th century. In the 19th century, the building was the state prison.
– Church of San Pedro and San Pablo
This nice church faced excellent views of the sea, was built in 1769, expanding an existing chapel. It’s worth seeing inside.
– Remains of the wall that surrounded the island
The walls have been declared a Historic-Artistic Site and an Asset of Cultural Interest. Construction began in 1769 by order of Charles III to defend the island from attacks by Berber pirates.
Where to eat
You may be assured that any of the restaurants you will find on the island are of excellent quality, as the locals run their own restaurants and take great care of the customer.
I tried the La Almadraba restaurant and food was exquisite.
As the main course I ate a fideua.. delicious!. As a starter, some fresh squid too. Stunning views and professional staff.
- Address: Calle Virgen del Carmen, 29. Telephone: 965 970 587
To enjoy the Tabarca beach to the fullest, you have all kinds of services: hammocks, umbrella, toilets and chiringuitos for drinks.
As soon as you put your feet on the shore, you can see several types of colorful fish. The waters in Tabarca are full of life with an impressive marine fauna and flora, where you can find turtles, starfish, sea bream …
If you are a good swimmer, you can reach a nearby cave where, according to legend, pirates hid their treasures, since the island was a refuge for pirates until the 18th century.
What to pack to the island
Tabarca lack of trees so you need to keep on hand the following items: sunscreen, water, sunglasses, a hat, and to get into the beach some booties because on the shore there are plenty of stones.
Of course, don’t forget your snorkeling kit, glasses, and tube.
Alicante and Tabarca Guide, Final Thoughts
I hope this quick guide has inspired you and helps you plan when visiting Alicante and Tabarca Island. If you liked it, perhaps you might be interested in reading some more getaway’s blog post of the kind.
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