Alicante in País Valencià is a Mediterranean seaport on the Costa Blanca, famous for its beautiful sandy beaches and the medieval Castle of Santa Barbara that overlooks the city from Mount Benacantil.
A popular destination on Spain's stunning Costa Blanca, Alicante can trace its roots back to Roman times when it was known as Lucentum. The archaeological site of the city of Lucentum is just 3kms from the centre of Alicante. Like many other cities in Spain, it was won back from the Moors by the Castilian kings in the 11th century. A prominent Spanish port on the Mediterranean Sea, Alicante became a part of the Kingdom of Valencià and shared in the region's prosperity during the Golden Age of the 15th century, trading in rice, wine, olive oil and oranges. However, its fortunes changed when it supported Carlos in the War of Succession and when Felipe won, he punished the region of Valencià by withdrawing the semi-autonomous status it had previously enjoyed. After a long, slow decline, by the end of the 19th century Alicante's economy experienced a sharp recovery thanks to international trade and the growth of the harbour - helped by Spain's neutrality in WW1, when exports from the port increased. Today, tourism has an important role in Alicante's economy and it has some wonderful attractions.
The Castle of Santa Barbara looms over the city above El Postiguet beach. One of Spain's largest medieval fortresses, it has great views over the bay and is accessible by a lift, or you can take the road up the side of the mount on foot or by car. Take a tour, and enjoy the various exhibtions on show as well as the recently opened Museum of the City of Alicante housed within the castle's walls. Another of Alicante's attractions is the beautiful island, the Isla de Tabarca. 11 nautical miles from the shore, Isla de Tabarca was once a refuge for Berber pirates but was fortified by Carlos III and its medieval walls are now a recognised Historical and Artistic Site. Boat trips leaving from Alicante take around 1 hour and are the perfect way to visit Isla de Tabarca for a day trip to enjoy the crystal clear waters and pretty beaches and coves. Alicante has some wonderful architecture to admire including the striking Carbonell House and the Basilica of Santa Maria, the oldest church in Alicante, which stands on the remains of a Moorish mosque. There are also several museums celebrating the arts such as the Contemporary Arts Museum, MACA and the Fine Arts Museum, MUBAG. At the Archaeological Museum, known as MARQ, you can see local archaeological discoveries from the Paleolithic era onwards, including Iberian relics. Get interactive at the Volvo Ocean Race Museum, a state of the art installation that explores not just the famous race itself but also the effect mankind has on the marine ecosystems of our seas.
Of course, the beaches are one of Alicante's biggest draws and the fine golden sands along the Costa Blanca do not disappoint. Playa San Juan is the most popular beach in Alicante and stretches for 3km whilst El Postiguet, in the shadow of Mount Benacantil, is also well-loved. From El Postiguet you can also see 'La Cara del Moro', or 'the Moor's Face' as the view of the mount from here looks astonishingly like a human face in profile. The beaches are great for a variety of water sports including private boating, sailing lessons, and catamaran excursions. If you fancy some greenery away from the sea, there are several parks in Alicante including the Etreta Park on the slopes of the mount. The Paseo de la Explanada is a promenade running parallel to the port which is one of Alicante's most popular spots. Enjoy some of Alicante's festivities if you visit during festival time. The Hogueras de San Juan in June has been recognised as a festival of Interest to International Tourism, when bonfires are lit and effigies burned, and there are other festivals such as a medieval market at the end of June and beginning of July, and the Moors and Christians festival celebrating, with reenactments, the province of Alicante's recapture from the Moors by the Castilian king.
Alicante is known for its local products including leather goods, such as shoes and bags, as well as rugs, wickerwork and traditional pottery. Be sure to browse the shops for some of these local souvenirs - the area is also known for its production of toys and dolls. Some sweet delicacies to try are chocolates from the nearby village of Villajoyosa, dates and other dried fruits, and Turron de Jijona nougat. Fish and shellfish such as red shrimps, king prawns, crayfish, squid and red mullet can frequently be found on the menu in Alicante's restaurants. Cured, salted fish is used in a variety of dishes including the tapas called mantaditos, which are rolls filled with meat and salted fish, and esmorzaret alicanti, a dish made using salted sardines, fried eggs and chilli peppers. You'll find a multitude of rice dishes such as arroz a la alicanti - a rich dish with chicken and shellfish and caldero, a rice dish made with whitebait and other fish, which is the signature dish of the Isla de Tabarca. Alicante is well-known for its ice creams, but also has some other desserts to tempt a sweet tooth including rollitos de anis, aniseed rolls, and la coca-boba, a sweet spongy biscuit. There are a variety of reds, rosés and white wines to choose from in the Alicante domination of origin so you'll always find a local wine that goes perfectly with your meal. As a digestif, why not try a glass of palomita, where an aniseed liqueur is dropped into very cold water for a refreshing drink?
Region: Pais Valencia
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