I admit, I never really thought of Alicante, Spain as anything other than an airport. Without the reputation of say Seville or Valencia, Alicante can be rather easy to dismiss. Which makes it feel even more of a gem as you get to know it.
It’s got its fair share of beauty and class, as well as more functional or run down areas, but in most cities you’ll take the rough and the smooth and where you stay will very much dictate what it primarily delivers. From the old part of town we found plenty to get excited about for a couple of days – even with a toddler in tow.
1. Firstly, it’s Spain. Anywhere you take your toddler is fine. With lightly perspiring trepidation we wheeled our sleeping 20 month old into a Michelin starred restaurant – only to find a bank of high chairs lining one wall and a family with 3 kids already seated behind us. So go out, eat out, try anything, from the mellow wine tasting dens to the starkly lit sushi bars, the Irish pubs to the laid back pizzerias of the stunning Paseo Maritimo. Even on a Thursday evening in February the bars were buzzing, the windows full of candlelit tables of friends chatting over tapas and wine. You might not choose to linger in the red light street, although it’s nice that the ladies in the doorways will coo at your kids as you pass by!
2. Ever been on a pirate ship? Now’s your chance. It’s big enough for some quality running around, with enough gruesome mannequin displays and nooks and crannies to explore to keep a not too discerning toddler entertained for an hour or so. The five euro entrance fee includes a drink; we even got to listen to a Tom Jones number on the top deck while taking in the views back over the coastline and city!
3. Early in the morning, before the restaurants and amusements open, a stroll around the marina offers undisturbed views through the tangle of masts to the city and castle beyond. There are exhibitions which no doubt change regularly – when we were there it was a small pop up exhibit featuring sharks and sea life.
4. The beaches are huge and there are plenty of play parks dotted in shady plazas throughout the city. Some of them even have a bar nearby. Whether leafy, dwarfed by the malls in the middle of a vibrant shopping district or beachfront, the play spaces seem to be a priority, with decent facilities such as climbing frames, seesaws, swings and trampolines.
5. A speedy elevator from the heart of the old town delivers you straight up to the ramparts of the imposing 9th century Santa Barbara castle (picture at the top of the page). There’s plenty of space for curious feet to wander relatively safely (under watchful eyes, of course) and the vast view, encompassing the mountains, marina, city and ocean, will give even the most unimpressed eyes something to feast on for a few minutes. The castle has Bronze Age, Roman, Arabic and Iberian history with unearthed artifacts on display and a magnificent mosaic crafted from the shards of pottery from all eras adorning an entire wall. Even better than that, the metal soldiers are perfect for banging, looking up their man skirts and dangling off of.
6. If you’re running out of steam as early evening kicks in there’s a verdant courtyard close to the Hospes Amerigo Alicante hotel where lanterns light up tangled jungle creepers and the massively trunked trees wouldn’t seem out of place in a scene from Lord of the Rings. In keeping with the fantasy theme, take a walk along ‘toadstool alley’ at twilight, where the kids can hide inside the giant fungi dotted along this quaint boutique bar and shopping retreat.