The inside guide to Alicante, Spain’s underrated coastal city

In recent years, Alicante has transformed into a food and drink hotspot. Pioneering chefs breathe new life into age-old ingredients, while a fascinating wine route and chic downtown bars help promote the award-winning local wine industry. Add to that a medieval old town, a beautiful seafront and an expansive beach, and Alicante rightfully takes its place as one of Spain’s most exciting coastal towns.

Any trip should start in Santa Cruz, the oldest and most beautiful neighborhood in Alicante. It’s a labyrinth of steep steps and intricately tiled houses hidden in the cliffs of Mount Benacantil. Climb the narrow, flower-scented streets to the Mirador de Santa Cruz, a viewpoint of the 16th-century fortress Castillo de Santa Barbara and the blue dome Concathedral of San Nicolas. The area is also home to MACA (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Alicante), filled with 20th-century Spanish masterpieces by Dalí and Picasso. Nearby is the Museo de Hogueras, where exhibits celebrate the San Juan bonfires, Alicante’s biggest street party, which takes place every summer.

A 10 minute walk north takes you to Central Market, where more than 300 stalls sell everything from huge olives and raw ham legs to giant wheels of manchego cheese. El Pale, located on the lower level, serves the best home-smoked fish and charcuterie dishes in town, including rosemary-smoked sardines and oak-smoked duck. On Saturday afternoons, locals flock to the streets surrounding the market (make a beeline for Plaza 25 de Mayo and Calle Poeta Quintana) for a round of tapas that, if you pace yourself, can take you all the way to the early morning.