Valencia Region, Costa Blanca, Spain
Usually most people don't see Alicante other than from the window of the aircraft as they arrive at the international airport or from the window of their rental car, which they picked up from airport. However, spend a little more time and you will notice that the city has much more to offer than just a place of arrival and departure. Initial impressions are poor as you make your way from the airport to the town, once past the urban sprawl, you'll find a palm lined promenade along the front of the town by the harbor with its nightlife, restaurants and a tree lined shopping avenue.
The city is dominated by the Castillo de Santa Barbara situated on Mount Benacantil rising to the height of 545 feet overlooking not just the city but the sea, is one of the largest existing medieval fortresses in Europe. Directly under the castle is the city beach of Playa Postiguet wonderfully positioned for easy access and backed by a palm shaded promenade with plenty of bars offering refreshments or food. The citys pride is the long curved white sand beach of Playa de San Juan accessible by tram and considered one of the best beaches in Europe. Relax in the sunshine, or take a stroll along one of the seafront's many promenades and wide esplanades, such as the impressive Rambla Méndex Núnez, where al fresco dining abounds.
If it is culture you are looking for head to the old town or el barrio as it is known with its labyrinth of picture perfect streets, plazas, fountains and terrace cafes. The Plaza del Ayuntamiento is possibly the grandest square it contains the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) a beautiful example of baroque architecture with twin towers and a highly decorated interior which holds a gold statue depicting San Juan Bautista by Salvador Dali. While the Iglesia de Santa Maria, a gothic style building built between the 14th and 16th centuries standing on the foundations of a Moorish mosque, is Alicantes oldest house of worship located across from it is the Museo de la Averiguada housed inside an old granary and one of citys oldest buildings. Other interesting places to visit would be the Museo Arqueologico Provincial housed inside the old hospital of San Juan de Dios has a collection of artifacts from Alicantes region dating back to the Paleolithic era. Also the Museo de Foguores, bonfire festivities in this part of Spain are very popular and the effigies can be very elaborate. Every year the best Ninots (effigies) are saved from the flames and placed in this museum for display, it also contains an audiovisual presentation of the festivities. If you are a taurine aficionado do not miss Museo Taurino (Bullfighting Museum) in the Plaza de Toros showcasing fine examples of costumes (the suit of lights), posters, capes and sculptures.
Places to eat are plentiful but definitely make your way to the Cerveceria de Sento located to la Rambla on Teniente Coronel Chapuli Street, it could very well serve the towns best tapas offering fresh squid, calfs liver and a wide range of vegetables, do not forget to try the solomillo con foie (Sirloin with Foie Gras) or the famous marinated pork sandwich with mushrooms and red peppers. Another establishment worth visiting is Monastrell Restaurant at the Hospes Amerigo a former Dominican convent in the center of historic Alicante run by renowned chef Maria Jose San Roman. It not only has an excellent restaurant but also a very modern Avant-Garde hotel with only fifty six guestrooms and rooftop terrace with a pool a real luxury in city center.
If you are looking to make Alicante the home base for traveling and discovering the region you will find a wide variety of hotels from charming to modern and sure to suit any budget.
With a renovated historic Old Quarter, its long sandy beaches and wonderful climate year round, Alicante has definitely become a desirable tourist destination.
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