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Alicante, Spain

Alicante is a city in Spain, the capital of the Province of Alicante and of the comarca of Alacantí, in the south of the Valencian Community. It is also a historic Mediterranean port. The area around Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years, with the first tribes of hunter gatherers moving down gradually from Central Europe between 5000 and 3000 BC. Some of the earliest settlements were made on the slopes of Mount Benacantil. By 1000 BC Greek and Phoenician traders had begun to visit the eastern coast of Spain, establishing small trading ports and introducing the native Iberian tribes to the alphabet, iron and the pottery wheel. By the 3rd century BC, the rival armies of Carthage and Rome began to invade and fight for control of the Iberian Peninsula. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca established the fortified settlement of Akra Leuka (Greek: Aκρα Λευκa, meaning “White Mountain” or “White Point”), where Alicante stands today.

The most important festival, the Bonfires of Saint John (Fogueres de Sant Joan), takes place during the summer solstice. This is followed a week later by seven nights of firework and pyrotechnic contests between companies on the urban beach Playa del Postiguet. Another well-known festival is Moros i Cristians in Altozano or San Blas district. Overall, the city boasts a year-round nightlife, helped by tourists, fun-loving residents, and a large student population of the University of Alicante. The nightlife social scene tends to shift to nearby Playa de San Juan (St. John’s Beach) during the summer months. Every summer in Alicante, a two-month-long programme of music, theatre and dance is staged in the Paseo del Puerto.

Main Sights

Amongst the most notable features of the city are the Castle of Santa Bárbara, which sits high above the city, and the port of Alicante. The latter was the subject of bitter controversy in 2006-2007 as residents battled to keep it from being changed into an industrial estate.

The Santa Bárbara castle is situated on Mount Benacantil, overlooking the city. The tower (La Toreta) at the top, is the oldest part of the castle, while part of the lowest zone and the walls were constructed later, on the 18th century.

The promenade Explanada de España, lined by palm trees, is paved with 6.5 million marble floor tiles creating a wavy form and is one of the most lovely promenades in Spain. For the people of Alicante, it is the meeting point in the evenings and a place where many concerts take place. At the end of the promenade is a monument by the artist Mark Hersch, who still lives in the city.

Barrio de la Santa Cruz is a colourful quarter of the old city, situated on the south-west of Santa Bárbara castle. Its small houses climb up the hill leading to the walls and the castle, through narrow streets decorated with flags and tubs of flowers.

L’Ereta Park is situated on the foothills of Mount Benacantil, on the way to the castle. It runs from the Santa Bárbara castle down to the old part of Alicante and consists of several levels, routes, decks and places to take a rest, which offer a panoramic view overlooking the city.

El Palmeral Park is one of favorite parks of Alicante. It includes walking trails, children’s playgrounds, ponds and brooks, picnic tables and an auditorium for concerts.

Just a few kilometers from Alicante, on the Mediterranean Sea, lies Tabarca island. What was once a slip angle for pirates, is now a beautiful tourist attraction.

Other sights include:

  • Basilica of Santa María (14th-16th centuries), built in Gothic style over the former main mosque. Other features include the high altar, in Rococo style, and the portal, in Baroque style, both from the 18th century.
  • Co-cathedral of St. Nicholas of Bari (15th-18th centuries), also built over a mosque. It is the main church of Alicante and the bishop’s seat.
  • Monastery of Santa Faz (15th century), located 5 km outside the city, in Baroque style.
  • Defence towers of the Huerta de Alicante (15th-18th centuries), built to defend against the Barbary pirates. Today some 20 towers are still extant.
  • Baroque Casa de La Asegurada (1685), the most ancient civil building in the city. (s. XVII). Today is home to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Alicante.
  • Casa consistorial de Alicante (18th century), also in Baroque style.
  • Convent of the Canónigas de San Agustín (18th century).
  • Gravina Palace (1748–1808), nowadays hosting Gravina Museum of Fine Arts.
  • Castle of San Fernando.

There are a dozen of museums in Alicante. On exhibition at the Archaeological Museum of Alicante (MARQ) are local artifacts dating from 100,000 years ago until 19th century. The collection is divided in different rooms and three big areas related to archaeological methodology: ground, urban and sub-aqua archaeology, providing also scenes, audiovisual and interactive zones. The archaeological museum won the European Museum of the Year Award in 2004. Gravina Museum of Fine Arts presents a number of painting and sculptures of Alicante from the 16th century to 19th century. Asegurada Museum of Contemporary Art houses a major collection of twentieth-century art, mainly composed of works donated by Eusebio Sempere.

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