Alicante and its intriguing historic Old Town
Alicante’s historic past
With a history dating back to the Phoenicians and Greeks, Alicante has so much to offer the intrepid traveller. During the time of the Roman Empire, what we call Alicante today went by the name Lucentum “Place of Light” and was at its zenith between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD.
Following the decline of Rome, Alicante became depopulated and remained of no importance until the Moors arrived in the 8th century, bringing with them oranges, rice, palms and a civilization far more advanced than anything else in Europe.
Similar to the Romans, the Moors called the city Alicante which in Arabic means the city of lights.
With many millions of holiday makers arriving at Alicante airport arrivals each year, it may seem surprising to still find many unspoiled, non touristy areas here. Yet, Alicante’s historic centre is one of the most charming you will find anywhere, along the Mediterranean, and its palm-fringed Explanada de España is a must-visit while visiting the city.
Constructed in the first half of the 20th century the popular walkway is made up of six and a half million marble tiles all laid out to resemble waves.
Stretching half a kilometre from the Puerta del Mar to Canalejas Park the Explanada de España runs adjacent to Alicante’s marina and is littered with cafes and stalls selling touristy momentums to take back as gifts.
Away from the waterfront under the gaze of Santa Barbara Castle perched atop Mount Benacantil is Alicante’s Old Town.
Before you venture away from the seafront and into the heart of the Old Town you need to remember that 90% of the city was destroyed when first the French in 1691 and then the British in 1706 bombarded Alicante from the sea.
A town hall fit for royalty
Why not start your tour of the Old Town with a visit to the beautiful and impressive town hall. It’s magnificent features are built in elegant Baroque style. You will note that the exquisitely decadent “Blue Room” would be fit for royalty. In fact, decorated to resemble a royal palace the “Blue Room” was created for the visit of Queen Isabel II in 1858. Also inside, visitors can admire the many interesting paintings of artists such as Cabrera, Amoros and Padilla on display in many rooms.
La Ciudad Descubierta
Just next to the town hall you will find La Ciudad Descubierta (The Discovered City) a fascinating exhibition of what remained following the bombardments during the Spanish War of Succession. Along with the destroyed houses, you will discover a part of the city’s defensive walls dating back to the 13th century. While exploring these archaeological sites, you will benefit from thorough information provided in Spanish and English. Both this and the town hall are free of charge and can be visited each morning except for weekends. As this is in the centre of town, it is best reached on foot or by taxi as parking is difficult. If you are staying in an apartment or villa in Alicante just outside the centre, the Alicante tram may be a useful form of transport to use.
La Calle Labradores
Considered as being the Old Town’s main street the Calle Labradores is where Alicante’s rich moved to be better protected. Take note of the large entrance ways designed so that their inhabitants could pass through with their horses and carriages. While here pay a visit to El Portalet #15 and explore the different rooms. Though the street is worth a visit for its interesting historic aspect, you may want to pop by El Sentio restaurant. This unique and popular venue has been described as having a cave-like atmosphere that really does look like a room inside a hole in the wall. The tasty and authentic tapas served here, will have you wanting to visit again and again.
Barrio Santa Cruz
Situated on the hillside on the way up to Santa Barbara castle the Santa Cruz neighbourhood reminds you that you are in Spain. Full of colourful houses adorned with flowers the winding streets of this Old Town barrio is the perfect place to go on a tapas tour of the city.
For alternative things to do in Alicante, you’ll definitely appreciate stepping away from the main touristy spots to explore Alicante’s back streets. Don’t forget to bring your camera for some picturesque reminders of your time discovering the elusive alleyways, in the intriguing old town.