The main festival in Alicante takes place in June: we celebrate the summer solstice burning bonfires on June 24 at midnight. As June 24 is the festivity of Saint John the Baptist, the bonfires are named after him.
The bonfires are monuments of papier-machê and other combustible materials (the structure is made of wood) that satirize public figures and current events, always with humor. There is a hoguera (foguera in Valencian language) at every neighborhood. They are built a few days before and prices are given according to the category of the monuments.
For more pictures, see my travelogues of Hogueras de San Juan 2007 and 2009.
The mascletá is a series of firecrackers that last about 10 minutes, where firecrackers are combined with color sparkles.
The mascletá takes place during the Hogueras de San Juan, the main festival of Alicante, between June 19 and 24. These days, punctually at 14:00, the pyrotechnic spectacle starts.
We like the smell of the gunpowder and the noise and almost everybody come close to the Plaza de los Luceros to hear the immense noise of the mascletá.
I am writing this tip on June 24 2009, a few hours after enjoying the last mascletá of this year.
Every neighborhood builds a hoguera but also a hoguera infantile, made for children. They are smaller, placed a few meters from the main one and the figures (ninots) usually are very friendly. They burn before the big hogueras.
Groups of neighbors associate and build a barraca where they join during the festival evenings. They buy food and drink, hire a music band and enjoy themselves. They usually invite their friends, but if you haven’t any friend with barraca don’t worry because there are some popular barracas where you can go in.
They fence part of a street and the gates of the barracas are made also like the bonfires. In fact, they are burnt together with the hogueras the last night.
This giants and the other figures with a large head, the cabezudos, take part in small parades in festivals as in the Hogueras de San Juan and other events.
The giants represent peasants, a Christian King and Queen and a Moorish King and Queen.
During the Hogueras de San Juan, many girls and young women wear the regional dress. Also some men dress it, though the male is not so bright and colorful. There are many parades and events where they sport their colorful dresses.
Women that take active part in these parades and events, wearing the typical dress, are called belleas. La bellea del foc (the fire beauty) is the one selected to represent all of them, as a festival queen.
A «botellón» (read it like bottah-john) is a massive street party where most of people go to drink and to find some friends. Life cost in Alicante is quite high in comparison to other towns nearby as Murcia or Albacete and, moreover, we are not used to go into crazy discos where poor music ruin our conversations. Most of people in Alicante enjoy wonderful weather living outdoors. They save a lot of money and make new friends joining a botellón. Pubs and local authorities are against this kind of parties since they lose a lot of money that otherwise would contribute to taxes. A 33 cl beer usualy costs 3 euros in a pub. One liter costs 2 euros in a 24/7. Sometimes whiskies and other expensive drinks are manipulated in pubs. Whatcha gonna do? Join the botellón! Don't let business kill a way of life!
What do you need to join a botellón? You just need to bring something to drink with you (alcoholic or non alcoholic beverages), some ice cubes (sold in gas stations and 24/7 stores), a couple of friends and a little piece of conversation. Is botellón legal? Well no. Tickets for "botellonning" out of controlled areas are close to 150 euros. So, you should be careful where you do your party. There are very few areas in town where police tolerate botellón. Be proper and please don't leave any any garbage behind you.
To reach the «oficial» Botellón spot you must follow Alfonso X el Sabio (the avenue passing by the Mercado Central) in the opposite direction to Plaza de los Luceros. It's located in the skirts of the castle and if you don't know the city too much, just follow anyone carrying drinks in plastic bags. Fridays and saturdays, from 11pm on.
Santa Cruz is the name of the old quarter on the slope of Benacantil mount.
On May 3rd, the feast day of the Holy Cross (Santa Cruz) is celebrated in the quarter and in the Santa Cruz chapel, on the top of the quarter.
All the streets are decorated. Flower arrangements in the shape of a cross are made to adorn the streets.
There are music and several open-air activities. A good moment to visit a nice area of the city.
The Santa Faz pilgrimage is, together with hogueras, the most popular celebration in Alicante. It takes place the second Thursday after Easter Sunday and it begins in the Iglesia de Santa María (sometimes it does in the Town Hall). A massive quantity of people walk towards the hamlet of Santa Faz, whose monastery (see my Things to do tip about it) has been worshipped for five centuries, due to the fact that it is supposed to contain the image of Jesus in a piece of cloth. The pilgrimage begins at 8.00 h and during the walk you will find a series of "paraetas" where anissed rolls and sweet Valencian wine reward the effort of every pilgrim. Although it's a good idea to bring your own lunch, you can also buy it in the popular market that is waiting for you in Santa Faz, near the monastery.
Although most restaurant staff speak english, this is an ideal way of testing out your spanish skills like I did. I did not realise how much I had actually learnt at college. It was fun and the locals liked it that we were making an effort to speak their language!
Try the local dishes (piealla) I did like the chicken dish and for seafood lovers, you will love it.
This is a town animals seem to enjoy because of it is calm and beautiful.
Photo no1: Who is this stranger? Japanese, Chinese or Korean - hard to tell. But who cares?
Photo no2: I sit down straight to welcome you. I cannot bow down like Japanese - my chin will immediately hit the ground.
Photo no3: I am itchy. I cannot wait for doing this. Excuse me, stranger!
The most popular festival in Alicante 'attracts' many tourists in June: the festival starts before (21th...) but the main the is the 24. I'm speaking about 'Les Fogueres' a very interesting 'fiestas'. In these dates the city is plenty of paper-wooden sculptures with satiric themes to a large extent. The night of the 24th june, they all are burnt (it's absolutely safe, because the firemen care about the security, despite some of the 'Fogueres' reaches the 23 meters!). Music, nice people and warm temperatures.
--- Photo: fireworks in the Hogueras 'Fiesta' with crowds of people in the 'Postiguet' beach.
Spaniards love to take long promenades in the evening, when the sun gets lower and the heat is more clement. In Alicante, the place to walk is obviously the Esplanade and the sea front along the port and the beaches.
Museo Municipal Casa de la Asegurada (Municipal Museum 'Casa de la Asegurada' ) The building called La Asegurada was constructed in the 1 7th century and has had a multitude of uses and inhabitants throughout its history: municipal granary, prison, artillery storehouse, school of commerce, and was once even a provisional city hall. Today it houses a 20th Century Art Collection donated to the city in 1976 by the artist Eusebio Sempere. The nucleus of the collection is composed of works by major artists belonging to the Spanish generation of the fifties: Alfaro, Canogar, Chillida, Mompó, Saura, Tàpies, Zobel and Viola, and also includes a few predecessors of avant-garde art such as Gris, Miró, Picasso, etc.
Museo Arqueológico Provincial (Provincial Archeological Museum) This is located within the Palace of the Provincial Council and has such a large collection of archeological remains that only a selection of the most significant pieces are actually on display for the public. Of note are the dowries from the Bronze Age, the collection of Iberian and Roman ceramics and the Roman statues and epigraphy. There is also a valuable collection of popular ceramics from the 1 6th to the 1 9th centuries.
Museo de las Hogueras (Museum of the Bonfires) This museum is located inside the Santa Bárbara castle and contains effigies saved from the flames of the popular Las Hogueras festivities of Alicante.
Castillo de Santa Bárbara (Santa Bárbara Castle) This is the most emblematic construction in the city, located on the summit of mount Benacantil at 166m above the nearby sea. Archeological findings seem to indicate that this was a site of an Iberian hill fort. Today the majority of the castle dates from the 16th century. Of note are the Torre del Homenaje (keep), the Baluarte de los Ingleses (the Englishmen's bastion), la Capilla de Santa Bárbara, el Salón de Felipe II and others. The ascent can be made either by car or via a lift going up from the Postiguet beach. Visiting is a must, because the bastions provide a splendid panorama of the city and the coast. From here you will see the island of Tabarca, located off the coast from Cape Aljub near Santa Pola.
Iglesia de Santa Maria (Church of St. Mary) This 16th-century church was built on the site of an ancient Arab mosque. It has a gothic interior, and baroque high altar and doorway.
Concatedral de San Nicolás de Bari (Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas of Bari) Finished in 1662, this church in renaissance style with baroque elements in the altar and communion chapel is considered as one of the best examples of Spain's high baroque. Of special interest is the cloister, adorned with grilles and wooden doors.
Ayuntamiento (City Hall) A fine example of baroque civil architecture finished in 1760. On the first step of the stairway on the first floor is a small metal disc indicating sea level, used as a reference point for measuring height above sea level for all other points in Spain.
Monasterio de la Santa Faz (Monastery of the Holy Face) Located in the village district of the same name eight kilometres north of the City along the Alicante-Valencia route, this church was terminated in 1766 in renaissance style, with a baroque doorway. In a side-chapel of the church there is a reliquary containing one of the folds of linen used by Veronica to wipe Christ's brow during the Calvary. This relic was brought from Rome in the 1 5th century. Abutting onto the building is a fortified tower from the 16th century.
Castillo de San Fernando (Castle of St. Ferdinand) This is located on the Tossal hilltop, and is now completely dismantled, although it is true to say that this fortress was never terminated, as it was begun just before the French invasion. The spacious platform it now offers is used for sports and leisure activities.
Palacio Gravina (Gravina Palace) Constructed in the 18th century, this building now contains the provincial Archives, governed by the provincial Council. Exhibitions and cultural activites are often staged here.
Isla de Tabarca (Island of Tabarca) This island is in fact a natural monument, and is the only inhabited island in the land of Valencia, an erstwhile refuge of pirates and corsairs, now pertaining to the municipality of Alicante. It is eleven nautical miles from Alicante and three from Santa Pola. The waters around the island are now listed as a Marine Reserve. The island has an important set of fortifications (walls, bastion and doorways), an 18th century church and the castle of San José. Tabarca was declared a Historical-Artistic Monument in 1964.
It's called Alisport, and is a complex of fitness machines, weights, tennis and raquetball, swimming pools, saunas, and also features a full jacuzzi, its own cafe, and tons of classes. Located a couple of blocks toward the Serra Grossa from the Gran Via shopping centre in Vistahermosa.