When the weather turns grey, cold and just that little bit (okay a lot) depressing in the UK what is there to do? Jump on a flight to Spain! Seriously though, the last two winters have seen me in Spain for a few days each time since I moved to England and it’s been fantastic. This time around my first trip of the New Year (and I guess first blog post of 2019 too, wahoo!) Found me jetting off to a location I had never heard of before, Alicante. Located on the Southeastern Costa Blanca and a port city in the province of the same name, home to miles of sandy beaches, gorgeous cliff faces & some of the most colourful houses you’ll ever see. With a January temperature hovering around 18’ Celsius do you need anymore reasons to visit this part of Spain? Keep scrolling to find the perfect itinerary for 3.5 days in Alicante
How to get there + Getting Around
To/From Bristol Airport - for £11 return you’re off on the Bristol Flyer from the coach station in the city centre or Temple Meads rail station
Flying out of Bristol airport on Ryanair was how I got myself to Alicante, and while I’m aware of some peoples distaste for the airline, can you really complain about a return flight with carryon luggage for £30.00? I don’t think so. Plus we managed to take off early and arrive early so I’ll take that as a win. If you aren’t keen on that, then EasyJet also runs flights from Bristol to Alicante as well.
To/From Alicante Airport - hop on the busTake the C-6 bus towards the centre of the city. The bus collection point is well sign posted in the airport and you’ll see it as you come out the doors if you follow the signage. You’ll need to have small bills or exact change to get on the bus, and a one way ticket is €3.85/person. Hop on and 20 minutes later you’ll reach “'Avenida Alfonso el Sabio” which is the stop to get off at if your hotel/hostel is central.
(For more info click on the map to be taken to the Alicante Airport website)
Lay Your Head At Night
Hostel Ole Calle Poeta Quintana 26 At €14/night for a 6 bed dorm you’ll find yourself within 10 minute walk from the beach on a relatively quest street at Hostel Ole. A small family run establishment with lovely staff to give you the best suggestions on where to eat, what to see and make you feel at home. While the location and the service was great, the “sound proof” rooms they boast of on their website might be a little bit of a lie as you can hear everything from the room one level up from the reception/lounge area, which was a bit noisy during the shoulder season but I could see getting louder during peak season. That was the only major let down for me, but all around a clean hostel with clean bathrooms and good staff make up for it, as does the price. Oh and the €1 sangria helps too!
Where to Eat & Caffeinate
Sip & Wonder Day one on the way back to towards the hostel to meet my friend I passed by the cutest little outdoor seating area and when I pushed my face up against the glass (guilty) I saw a gorgeous interior too! Quick google search told me this place was where we needed to start off! The only dog friend cafe in Alicante was a good selling point for Myself & Brendon, next was the coffee (seriously amazing) and the food was exactly what we wanted, so much so we went back twice in 3 days! Daisy & Wayne are the owners of this trendy little spot (and the owners of the gorgeous Winston the dog) are have created an incredibly welcoming space, so whether is coffee, avo toast, cake or happy hour drinks it’s my number 1 recommendation!
Borgonesse Gelato Anyone else feel compelled to eat ice cream year round, but get frost bite trying to do so in winter? Well thats just another reason to add to your list of “Why I should visit Spain in January”, perfect ice cream eating weather! And with a plethora of flavours ranging from pistachio to the darkest dark chocolate you’ve ever had and quite a few Spanish specialties which you’re better for not having to witness me massacre the spelling.
La Masa de Tomasa If you’re looking for a quick afternoon pick me up or a grab and go option for breakfast I would definitely suggest checking out this spot (there are a few around as it’s a chain). With everything baked fresh daily you’ll smell this bakery before you actually see it which should have you convinced it’s worth your time immediately. Most of the pastries are easy enough to figure out what they are without knowing much Spanish but if you’re looking for something a bit more traditional I would definitely say grab yourself a Polvorón, Spains take on a shortbread which is crumbly and laced with cinnamon!
Casa Ibarra When in Spain, do as the Spaniards! Aka eat paella, or at least watch your friend eat it because you’re allergic to shellfish and are too scared that it all gets cooked in the same skillet even if you opt for chicken. My friend was on a mission to find the best Paella in Alicante so we asked the staff at the Hostel who directed us about 15 minutes away from the hostel to a dark side street where we found what they recommended as the best in the city. Something to note, is that in Spain dinner time is anywhere after 8pm, so we struggled some nights looking for spots at 6pm, a fact which had us enjoying this restaurant all to ourselves. Good service, and a funny waiter led for a good evening, and while the menu is lacking for those of us not able to eat paella, if thats what you’re after the meal Brendon tucked into was well worth the effort it took ordering when neither of us spoke Spanish.
Boca De Vin On the last night we had in Alicante we went in search for a really great dinner, which had us weaving through back streets getting a little bit lost, but it was all worth it when we took the first bites of our meals in this cozy gastropub on a corner alley amongst some less than appealing tapas bars. A relatively new restaurant on the scene opening in 2016 the interior is lit by candle light with at the bar seating as well as tables & couches to accommodate a fair amount of people. An open plan kitchen will have you drooling over everything that comes out, and for us that was the Beef Wellington & Burrata stuffed chicken breast. A meal that has now put itself in my top 3 meals I’ve ever eaten, and one that wont break the bank either!
Churrería Santa Faz
No trip to Spain is complete without indulging in churros, and when your travel buddy has never had one you want to make sure their first is legendary. Sadly the best of the best which is Churreria Santa Faz had run out of churros (oh the horror) by the time we made it there late in the afternoon, but we were directed else where to Cafeteria La Madrileña. The churros could have been fresher but the massive pot of melted chocolate that came with it (we got a small) made up for it and Brendon was more than impressed by the deep fried doughy goodness!
See & Do
Explanada de Espana Running parallel to the harbour and port this promenade is one of the cities emblems, lined on either side with gorgeous palm trees and constructed with over 6 60000 coloured tiles. The mosaic wave design is entrancing and if you’re out and about early enough you’ll be able to marvel at it in all it’s glory before the sides are lined with market stalls, artists and musicians.
Castillo de Santa Barbara Sitting atop Mount Benacantil at 170 m, it is the highest point in Alicante and one that can be spotted from everywhere in the city, and most noticeably where you’re on the beach as it faces the sea. You have two options from the city centre, walk up to the castle for no charge or pay €2.70/person to ride the elevator from beach level all the way up to the top of the castle! Yep you heard me an elevator, walk in pay the fee and follow a futuristic tunnel down a few minutes until you reach the doors and up you go, being let out barely 2 minutes later. There is little history known about the castle itself but is said to have been established in the 9th century, was used as a prison for most of the years after the 18th century and was abandoned shortly thereafter until 1963 and it was opened again to the public. Boasting incredible panoramic views of all of Alicante from the sea to the mountains we opted to take the elevator up and walk down and then go back up another night as it’s the best place to catch sunset, be warned it can get pretty windy up there so bundle up!
Mercado Central Situated in the Avenida de Alfonso is the city’s main source of fresh produce with 292 stalls over 2 levels selling everything from fresh caught fish, cheeses, flowers, pastries & meats. I anticipated the market being of a similar style to those of La Boqueria in Barcelona off Las Ramblas, it seemed this was more of locals style market where shop owners, restaurants, and families bought their goods for meals or were doing their weekly shop. We had a wander throughout and was most impressed with the incredible amount of flower stalls lining the outdoor portion of the mercado.
Basilica Santa Maria Built between the 14th and 16th century in Valencian Gothic style this is the oldest active church in all of Alicante. Visiting hours are only during times of worship and it is free to enter, 10am -1pm & 6pm-7pm, we managed to arrive during the closed portion of the day so had to stick with just having a look around the outside of the basilica but hat definitely didn't disappoint. Depending on which way you walk down from Santa Barbara Castle you might find yourself face to face with this beauty too!
Playa El Postiguet Who doesn’t want 900 m of beach to themselves? Because during my 3 days in Alicante that’s just what I got. During my daily sunrise sessions I saw a handful of people running the boardwalk but very few on the beach itself. Mid day soaking in the sun there were definitely more people but still less than to be expected. Sunset? Yep about the same as at sunrise. This definitely changes when the warmer months roll up, for example I heard from someone via Instagram that she had been here in mid July and she couldn’t even find space enough for her & her boyfriend to sit on the sand, yikes! Yet another reason to love shoulder season travel right?
Old City Weaving through skinny alleys lined with gorgeous colours houses with beautiful flower baskets hanging from the terraces is how one should appreciate the cultural & urban centre of Alicante city. We noticed a very slow paced attitude on this side of the city and a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the main streets closer to the seafront. There is a walkway up/down from Santa Barbara castle here as well and gives you a completely different perspective of the city as you walk up/down. Get lost in the alleyways, take in the gorgeous street art and smile sweetly and the lovely locals taking in their morning coffees all the while what you're going with a camera and a smile plastered on your face and eyes turned up to the houses.
Coastal Walk; Alicante To Cala Almadraba When you’re strolling on Playa El Postiguet and are anything like me there’s a good chance you’ll get curious enough to wonder whats beyond a little outpost of rocks. Well do yourself a favour and find out. Pack a bag with some snacks (theres really not any shops or cafes along this stretch of coastline on foot) and set off from El Postiguet away from Alicante parallel to the motorway. You’ll soon see stretches of yellow rock against turquoise coloured sea that seems to go on for miles. You’ll find a rather large hill, and once you drop down from it you’re in a very residential (only blocks of flats here) area and luckily a small waterfront restaurant which is a great stop for a beer before you head back. Note that there isn’t a path way up towards the road from this stopping point so you will have to walk back the way you came, but the views are still lush going back too so thats a win!
Day trip to Villajoyosa Known the to locals simply as La Vila, and translated into English as Town of Joy this was a spot I had never heard about when researching Alicante and came about because our intended day trip location of Tabarca Island was unreachable (note that the ferries from Alicante to Tabarca Island do not run in the winter months, and start up again in March) and while we were disappointed we were so glad at the end of the day. Grab the tram from Mercado on the L-1 line in the direction of Benidorm and ride out to La Vila Joisa stop, about 45 minutes along the coast for €4.25/person. If you can find a window seat you’ll be thankful as you’ll be able to see the landscape change several times on the way in. When you arrive at the station follow the signs for the beach and you’ll get the best view of rainbow buildings overlooking the white sandy beach & gorgeous blue sea. We hardly saw another person here all day and wandered the alleys looking at all the vibrantly coloured houses and gorgeous gardens.
For a city I had never heard for before booking my flight, Alicante left an amazing impression on me. This city that houses 330,000 residents is home to some of the most photogenic neighbourhoods I’ve ever seen, which is saying something having fallen in love with Bristols colours & the charm of my hometown of Montreal, a beach that in January I practically had to myself every single morning, and fantastic food options! If you’re looking to extend your long weekend break to a few more days then I would suggest heading out to Valencia, 2 hours North by train, or maybe Altea only an hour North. However, if 3.5 days is what you have to work with then Alicante is perfect, there is enough to keep you busy in the shoulder season and even more so during peak season when all the restaurants are open and boats are up and running. I haven’t visited many countries twice sine I started travelling almost a decade ago, but Spain is definitely one of the those countries that will keep me coming back for as long as I can get there!