by Victor Sesma
Victor Sesma is an Alicantinian living in London. He is a Software Engineer who likes writing about the city he was born.
Alicante‘s museums are a mix between millennial archaeology, modern art and the city’s people’s culture. Alicante is a very old human settlement. First records of human activity date from the Bronze Age, starting 5000 years ago. Part of this heritage is stored in its museums or at archaeological sites. But there is a lot more.
The city of Alicante has plenty of museums with paints, sculptures, historical items and general culture. There are also old ruins and other heritage to visit. Some of this legacy is thousands of years old, such items stored in the MARQ museum. Many other ruins have centuries of history, such as Santa Barbara Castle. Other museums tell the story of the Ocean Race regatta or Tabarca Island, to name two examples. There is plenty to choose from, options for adults and children.
Another important event that left a lot of legacy in the city is the Spanish Civil War. As you can see there are many things to do in Alicante. The war ended in Alicante, on the 1st of April in 1939. Old buildings such as the air-raid shelters shaped Alicante and many other cities in Spain.
Museo Arequeologico Provincial de Alicante or Provincial Archaelogical Museum of Alicante. This is probably the most important museum in the city and province of Alicante. There is an article with a complete explanation of the MARQ museum in this article.
The MARQ is an interactive museum. It has an array of permanent and temporary expositions. In the permanent rooms, there are assets from around 10000 years ago, that’s the prehistory era. Each big room covers one historical period: prehistory, Iberians, Romans, Middle Ages and contemporary culture.
They also have temporary expositions running. On the MARQs website, there is a list of expositions they have at each point in time. The page is not very well translated into English but all the museum explanations are written in several languages, including English.
Another experience MARQ Museum offers is a visit to archaeological sites and, even if it sounds weird, their basements.
On the visit to the basements, you can learn more about how the back office of the museum works. They will explain how they do the storage, restorations, sending/receiving of valuable items and more. The visit is guided and 1h long.
If you feel more adventurous they have visits to the actual archaeological sites where some of the items in the showrooms were found. In Alicante and Alicante province, there are several iconic archaeological sites such as Illeta dels Banyets. This small peninsula was detached from the mainland in an earthquake many years ago. But, in 1943, it was attached again to mainland Alicante and now it can be visited on foot. It is situated in the town of Campello and can be reached with TRAM line 1, stop Poble Espanyol.
This is not the only site to visit but arguably the most picturesque. There are more on their archaeological sites page.
Everyone is interested in the history of a region inhabited since prehistory. It is an interactive museum where children can also have fun plus sites are open to visitors.
The price for a single adult is 3€. It is reduced to 1.50€ on Sundays and bank holidays. Tickets for the archaeological sites are 2 and 1.50€ respectively. Children up to 8 years don’t pay fees and young people and retired people pay 1.50€. More information on MARQ’s museum prices page.
Yes, it is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm. Sundays and Spanish bank holidays 10 am to 2 pm. The MARQ is closed on Mondays. More info on their schedule page.
Yes, there are several guided tours per day in the MARQ. As some exhibitions change over time check their website for timings (they give this info on the same page as the schedule).
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Alicante (MACA) or Alicante’s Contemporary Art Museum is a modern art museum in Alicante. It is fulfilled by paints and sculptures. Many extremely famous Spanish artist feature their artworks at the museum.
There is an array of national artists in the Contemporary Art Museum. This is the museum in Alicante where you can find artwork from Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Eusebio Sempere and others. The MACA in Alicante has artwork from Pablo Picasso in their storage basement that is not exposed at the moment.
The museum has 4 main collections that don’t change much:
I have linked to their respective pages but it is available only in Spanish as the MACA Museum website is not translated into English.
MACA has also ongoing temporary expositions. Each exposition stays for a few weeks or months. As these change over time, the best option is to check MACA’s website (which is only in Spanish).
Here is MACA’s Address: Plaza de Santa Maria, 3. 03002. Alicante
Another array of services offered by MACA is the activities and guided tours. Again, everything is done in Spanish but they have a good offer if you understand the language (or want to learn it).
There are activities courses for learning singing techniques, focus groups for activities oriented to the elderly, weekend guided tours around the museum, art activities for children, etc… Everything is on their website (in Spanish).
If you like to study art, the contemporary art museum is also a good place as it has a library. It is filled with books on topics such as cinema art, art history, conservation and restoration and photography to name some of them.
The library at MACA opens from Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to 3 pm in the period October-May and opens Tuesday-Friday from 11 am to 2 pm June-September. It closes on Saturdays, Sundays and Spanish bank holidays.
It is mainly oriented to people who like modern painting and sculpture art. It is not an interactive museum so might feel a bit less appealing to children although MACA tries to attract them through educative activities.
The museum ticket and activities are free for everyone.
Yes, it is.
The opening times are:
– June-September: 11 am to 8 pm. On Sundays and bank holidays 10 am to 2 pm
– October-May: 10 am to 8 pm. On Sundays and bank holidays 10 am to 2 pm
Mondays are closed all year round.
Yes but in Spanish. The tours are scheduled on weekends. Check out the MACA’s page for more info.
The Ocean Race Museum in Alicante is an interactive space that explains the story of the Ocean Race regatta. Note that it was formerly known as Volvo Ocean Race until 2018 when the Atlan Ocean Race got the regatta’s ownership.
From 2008, the sailing regatta Ocean Race starts in Alicante, Spain. And the city has a dedicated museum. It is an interactive experience that will navigate into the regatta’s story, an introduction to the sailing boats used in the regatta and the ocean’s sustainability.
It is an interactive museum with games and places to explore that clearly appeal to adults but also children who will be able to explore bouts and video games with a basic introduction to sailing.
In the museum, you can find trophies, sailors’ stories and general information about the regatta.
If you are travelling with children, there are also some activities and workshops organised for them. Such as creative DIY or yoga mixed with storytelling. It is usually happening on weekends. There is more info on The Ocean Race workshops page.
The museum opens in winter from 10 am to 2 pm Tuesday-Thursday. And 10 am to 18 pm on Friday and Saturday.
During summer the opening times are Tuesday-Saturday from 11 am to 21 pm and Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm.
The museum is situated at the end of the Melia, near the beginning of El Postiguet beach, next to the marina or the end of Explanada. The address is: Muelle de Levante nº10. Port of Alicante. 03001, Alicante.
As part of the museum, there is a real sailing boat to visit at The Ocean Race in Alicante. It is the Brasil 1. It participated in the regatta during the 2005-2006 season and it is a VO70 model.
On the inside, you can easily find the conditions of the sailors on its 7-8 months trip around the world. The importance of weight on a regatta sailing bout is extreme so the interior is frugal rather than comfortable.
The beds are made of fabrics, the toilet is not the most comfortable at all. Only the press sailor and the crew in charge of navigation have their own mini desks to work.
The visits are on weekends. On Saturday mornings every 25 minutes from 10:30 to 14:14 and 15:45 to 13:25. On Sundays, it is every 25 minutes from 10:30 to 13:25. The full timetable is on their website. The guided tour must be booked at the museum and the bout is just in front of the museum’s entrance door.
Another experience available in the museum is a simulator sailing experience.
They have a machine where you can go inside and the cabin movement would match the sailing experience you are watching on the screen.
The simulator needs also to be booked at the museum and it is installed inside the showrooms.
The rides are on weekends. During winter, On Saturday mornings every 20 minutes from 10:20 to 17:40. On Sundays, it is every 20 minutes from 11:20 to 13:40.
During summer the rides are also on weekends, on Saturday every 20 min from 11:20 to 20:40. and On Sunday from 13:20 to 14:40.
The guided tour must be booked at the museum and the bout is just in front of the museum’s entrance door.
Adults who like the sea and nautic sports. Children with an infinite willingness to explore, learn and touch.
The museum is free.
Yes, it is. Winter:
– 10 am to 2 pm Tuesday-Thursday.
– 10 am to 18 pm on Friday and Saturday
– Tuesday-Saturday from 11 am to 21 pm
– Sundays from 11 am to 3 pm
On Mondays, it is always closed.
There are free guided tours to the sailing bout Brasil 1. The guided tours to the main museum are for groups of 20 people or more at the price of 1.50€ for each group member.
Museo de Bellas Artes Gravina or Gravina Fine Arts Museum is an art painting exposition. There are some permanent galleries and other temporary expositions (in Spanish).
Some of the artists featured in the museum are Vicente Bañuls Aracil (link in Spanish), Joaquín Agrasot y Juan and Pedro Antón Serra to name some painters, but there are many more. The complete list is on MUBAG’s website, not translated into English.
The art dates from the XVI century to the first decades of the XX century and the style is mainly portraits and landscapes, a typical style for that century.
All the paints have a QR code to scan with the phone to get more information about the artwork.
If you like to study art, MUBAG offers scholarships for restoration and museology (Spanish link). But they don’t organise activities for children or adults. There are neither guided visits to the museum.
The opening times (Spanish) are Tuesday-Saturday from 10 am to 20 pm. Sundays and bank holidays from 10 am to 14 pm. They close all Mondays around the year. It is free to visit.
The MUBAG is located near El Postiguet: Gravina street. Numbers 13 and 15. 03002 Alicante.
No less important is the fact that the museum is a historic building. It is a palace dating from the XVIII century: El Palacio Gravina.
The owner was Antonio Valcárcel Pío de Saboya y Moura better known as Conde de Lumiares (the link is in Spanish), a historic character in Alicantinian history.
The palace is strategically situated in front of Postiguet Beach, inside the old city walls but keeping a good connection with the old port of Alicante. Some of its space on the ground floor was used as storage for port ships.
Adults who enjoy fine art paintings.
The MUBAG is free.
Yes, it is open. The schedule is:
– Tuesday-Saturday from 10 am to 20 pm
– Sundays and bank holidays from 10 am to 14 pm
Closed on Mondays.
No, they don’t offer guided visits to the museum.
Aguas de Alicante (Alicante’s water) is the company serving potable tap water in Alicante. One of the social compromises the company has is maintaining the museum.
There are 3 showrooms explaining the water history at the museum.
The ground floor shows the history of water in Alicante through the time and cultures that inhabited the area.
The first floor has educational and interactive games using tablets and experimental machines to show the water cycle and how it ends up at home. This area of the museum is perfect for children that will be able to touch and understand experiments with the water.
And, lastly, the second floor shows the main projects that have been completed lately to enhance the efficiency of the waters network in Alicante and other actions taken to improve efficiency.
It is important to point out that the museum does not have a translation into English for the texts on the expositions walls. Still worth visiting.
They also have a virtual visit to the museum if you like a sneaky look before going. Find the link at Aguas de Alicante Museum page.
The Museum’s opening times change during the year’s season. The entrance is free.
From September to May (winter), they are open: Tuesday – Friday, 10 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to 8 pm. Saturday and Sunday they are open from 10 am to 2 pm.
From June to August (summer) the museums are open: Tuesday – Friday, 10 am to 2 pm and 6 pm to 9 pm. On Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm
Mondays it is closed.
Aguas de Alicante Museum is at Plaza Arquitecto Miguel López s/n (Plaza del Puente). 03001 Alicante. Just in front of the door of one of the entrances to la Ereta park. At Alicante’s old city centre.
Alicante’s inhabitants had to be very creative when it comes to water. The city is in a semi-arid area so rain is not constant or abundant.
Luckily the mountains nearby provided some rivers and sort of constant sources of water that have been used in more recent times. During the XVI century, the excavation of the rock of Mount Benacantil for creating water wells started. On the XIX, the current Garrigós wells were built. The facilities went out of use in 1898.
These old man-made wells excavated on Santa Barbara‘s castle mountain can be visited now. The entrance to the wells is inside the museum Aguas de Alicante itself. The environment is a bit cold and humid. It feels like the indoors of a cave.
Adults and children can enjoy and learn about water in this museum. Plus the Garrigós wells are an important heritage in the city.
The museum entrance is free, including Garrigós Wells.
– From September to May (winter) they are open: Tuesday – Friday, 10 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to 8 pm. Saturday and Sunday they are open from 10 am to 2 pm.
– From June to August (summer) the museums are open: Tuesday – Friday, 10 am to 2 pm and 6 pm to 9 pm. On Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm
No due to COVID. They might be restored at some point in the future.
Museo de la ciudad de Alicante or Alicante’s City Museum explain the history of the city of Alicante. It has archaeological remains, and audiovisual content to explain the history and historical building remains.
MUSA is spread into different showrooms at Santa Barbara Castle. The showrooms are:
The expositions might not be the most appealing to children but are not big showrooms and most have interactive videos. Also, Santa Barbara Castle is a must-see in Alicante that children will love as it is mainly an outdoor activity that implies exploring. In addition to this, there is always the intent of making the castle appealing to children with activities or little surprises children would love around the castle.
Entrance to the castle and the MUSA museums are free, no tickets are needed.
As an important note, the expositions have the same opening time as the castle:
Also, here is the castle’s address: Castillo de Santa Bárbara. Calle Vázquez de Mella s/n 03013. Alicante.
Santa Barbara Castle is a very old fortification with a history that started 1000 years ago. It is seen in many areas in the city of Alicante and has shaped its growth.
For long periods of time, the city had had walls (whose remains are still visible) that protected the castle and the inhabitants of Alicante.
A walk through the castle means going back in time and enjoying stunning views of the city and the Mediterranean sea.
There is a complete guide to planning your visit to Santa Barbra Castle here.
Adults and children who want to visit Santa Barbara Castle and learn about the city of Alicante and its history.
The entrance to the museum showrooms and the castle is free.
Yes. From 15th of November to 27th of February: Monday-Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm
From 28th of February to 16th of June: Monday-Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm
From 17th of June to 4 of September: Monday-Sunday 10 am to 23 pm
From 5th of September to 14th of November: Monday-Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm
They are part of guided tours to Santa Barbara Castle.
The history of war also affected Alicante. The Second World War took the shape of a Civil War in Spain where two bands, the republicans and the nationalists, fought each other.
Alicante’s people and infrastructure were not an exception and suffered brutal and devasting consequences in this war. Alicante’s port was the last place in Spain taken by the nationalists.
Ashamedly, until that happened, Alicante was bombed several times. The, arguably, most dramatic plane bombing in Spain during the war had as the main target Mercado Central. The date was Wednesday, 25 May 1938. It happened during a busy day and I prefer not to write here about the consequences it had. Check the Wikipedia article if you want to know more.
In order to protect the people, shelters with a capacity of around 30000 people were built. Some of them are open to guided visits nowadays.
At the moment, there are 2 Air Raid Settlers open in Alicante under guided visits:
One on Seneca square:
And one on Balmis square:
The tours are offered by Turiguias Alicante. On their website, they have links to book the tours in English or Spanish. An adult ticket is 5€, and children under 6 years old have free entrance. Tickets for youngsters up to 18 years old, retired people and other bonified sectors are 3€.
The schedule varies every week so it is better to check their website.
Furthermore, the city of Alicante has many other remains of the civil war. An enthralling history is about the British cargo ship Stanbrook (in Spanish), captained by Archibald Dickson. It happened to be in Alicante to load some saffron, oranges and tobacco when the war was about to end.
Even though the cargo had arrived in Alicante’s port after a few days of waiting, Dickson decided to leave the cargo and rescue all the Spanish refugees who were waiting at the port. 10 minutes after the ship had left, Alicante suffered another bomb attack.
It was 27 March 1939.
A total of 1832 people got into Standbrook. After 20h of travel, they arrived in Oran, situated in the french part of Argelia at the time.
There were a few more days and weeks until everyone was able to disembark. The story of the refugees in Oran is motley. Some ended up at internment camps in Argelia but also many had good opportunities in other countries.
Archibald Dickson was originally from Cardiff, Wales. There is a commemorative statue at Alicante’s port with a plaque. Alicante’s city donated the same plaque to Cardiff a few years ago.
Adults who want to know more about WWII and Civil War history. Children will enjoy exploring subterranean tunnels.
Free for children younger than 6. 3€ up to 18, retired people and vulnerable sectors. 5€ adult ticket. Buy your ticket at Turiguias.com
Yes, check Turiguias’ website as the visit times change continuously.
Yes, the visit to the Shelters is possible only through guided tours.
Alicante celebrates Hogueras de San Juan (San Juan Bonfires) every year from the 20th to the 24th of June. And then, there are also fireworks every night from the 25th up to the 29th of June.
Most Spanish cities have a festivity celebrated yearly. Virtually always, the city hall involucres in its organisation. Many city halls in Spain have a party councillor with a budget of public money assigned.
Many private citizens and popular associations also get involved and spend their own money on the celebrations. Some townspeople would get loans to celebrate the festivity, especially if there is a rotating position in the party’s organization.
As said earlier, Alicante’s main festivity is Hogueras de San Juan and the city hall and people involvement are massive.
Other examples of city-held festivities are Seville Fair (Feria de Abril), Los San Fermines in Pamplona and La Tomatina in Bunol to name a few examples. Alicante’s festivity is Las Hoguera de San Juan. 4 days of full parties where the streets become museums filled with gigantic sculptural bonfires. The streets become party clubs and the Spanish love for outdoor living and noise becomes obvious.
Alicantinians have the concept of “Mascletas”. It is held every day at 2 pm in Luceros during Hogueras. It is a fireworks show… except for the fact that there are no fireworks to see as the point is to hear the noise. Massive crakers are exploited on land and air in a symphony of pure crakers’ noise.
Massive bonfires are built and burned every year. The main structure can be as high as a 4 floors building but there are also smaller de-attached sculptures called Ninots. These are usually no higher than 2 m high. Every year, one of these small Ninots is “saved” from being burnt and given the status of “Ninot indultado” or pardoned Ninot in English.
This happens after a jury visits every bonfire around the city and decides on the most beautiful or significant Ninot sculpture to pardon. Las Hogueras de San Juan is a kind of complex festivity and neighbourhoods compete with each other on the best bonfire, Ninot, party organisation and many other categories.
The Ninots are stored in Las Hogueras de San Juan Museum. There are other elements to visit at the museum: traditional costumes, clips and information about the bonfires festival…
Hogueras de San Juan museum opens:
The entrance ticket is free.
The address is Rambla de Méndez Nuñez nº 2905003. Alicante.
If you have never been to any Spanish festivity, San Juan Bonfires might be like something you have never experienced before.
Hughe artistic sculptures, noise, people partying on the street, art, satire… there is so much stuff to experience.
The best advice is to book your trip to Alicante from the 20th to the 24th of June. But be sure you can party on the 24th as the La bañá happens on that night.
Last night, when the main festivity ends, the bonfires are burned. A mix of crackers, gasoline and inflammable products designed for bonfires help set the sculpture on fire. Firefighters are in charge of keeping the bonfire burned safely.
The bonfire is burnt in the middle of the city, many times quite close to residential buildings. Safe perimeters and the firefighters’ presence ready to take action is foremost for security. La bañá or the bath in English is the act of the firefighters throwing anti-fire water at the spectators.
Children, teenagers, and young and senior people get soaked every year during the bañá. Remember that June is already summer and hot at night in Alicante, it is a night to enjoy the tradition.
Anyone, including children, who want to enjoy fun, satiric and deeply popular rooted sculptures.
The entrance is free for anyone.
Hogueras de San Juan museum opens:
Tuesday-Friday from 10 am to 2 pm and 3 pm to 6 pm
Saturday from 10 am to 14 pm
Monday, Sunday and bank holidays are closed
Tuesday-Friday from 10 am to 2 pm and 6 pm to 9 pm
Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm
Monday and Sunday are closed
No, but there are explanations and information brochures at the museum.