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 and Valencia are two extremely different cities in the same Spanish autonomous community or region.
Alicante is a medium size pretty beach city while Valencia is the 3rd Spanish city by population within commuting distance of the sea. Alicante is compact -not small- while Valencia is spread out. Alicante province, Costa Blanca, is one of the most impressive coastlines in Spain. Both are rich in heritage.
Both cities are good if you want a cultural and heritage visiting break. Alicante overperforms on beaches, gastronomy and natural beauty while Valencia offers more variety of cultural activities such as monuments and museums.
Both cities are beautiful and worth visiting. Alicante is more picturesque and features amazing urban beaches while Valencia has a bigger traditional centre but with no-so-nice beaches that are far from the center.
Valencia features better central parks, such as Jardin del Turia, a dried-out river bed splitting the city in two featuring a nice green park. Alicante, instead, features nice and beautiful beaches instead in the city centre -such as El Postiguet– and the nice parks such as El Palmeral– that are on the outskirts of the city.
Alicante has several museums that are worth visiting, such as Marq Museum, to discover more about the archaeology of the city and its origins while Valencia has an amazing “Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias” with a science museum and an oceanographic that are totally worth visiting apart from important national museums such as Museo Nacional de Cerámica (in Spanish).
Alicante is better connected than Valencia internationally through Alicante’s Airport (132 destinations in Alicante VS 102 destinations in Valencia and almost x2 passengers traffic in Alicante Airport -in Spanish-). Valencia’s airport is small but still international with connections to most European countries.
Regarding train connections, there are high-speed trains to Madrid and north Spain from Alicante and Valencia. Also slower trains to Barcelona. Valencia has a shorter train commute to Barcelona and a slightly faster fast train to Madrid.
Valencia city gets more hotels and hostel beds than Alicante city but thanks to nearby towns, in Alicante province there are way more hotels bed than in Valencia province. Prices are similar but there is more hotel offer in Valencia City so might be a bit easier to find good prices in the high season but the difference should be minimum.
Gastronomically, Valencia City is a bit better than Alicante City. In Valencia city, there are 6 restaurants awarded by Estrella Michelin while Alicante has 2 (source in Spanish). But again, when we observe the province, Alicante wins with 11 awarded restaurants VS 8 in Valencia.
This difference in Estrella Michelin awards might not be a projection on where to actually eat better as both cities have extraordinary Tapas and Spanish food offered at their restaurants as well as Vegetarian, Vegan and international cuisine. It is very easy to eat well in any of both cities with any modality of diet you prefer.
Valencia’s famous dish is Paella but you can taste it in Alicante too. Or even better, you can be seduced by Alicante’s Arroces, similar to Paella but featuring more seafood and fish instead of rabbit meat.
In both cities the weather is very similar: sunny, warm -even in winter- and dry. If you want to know more read a expanded analysis on the weather of both cities below.
In short, Alicante is a good balance of culture, beach and nature tourism plus if you add the province of Alicante there is a lot to see and do. On the other hand, Valencia is a perfect cultural destination but it is less picturesque and underperforms on beaches. The good thing is both cities are 200km (125 mi) away with good roads and reliable train connections so you might be able to actually visit both.
Both cities are big enough to have differentiated nightlife areas.
Valencia has Ruzafa, Marina/Beach area, Juan Llorens, Universidad, Canovas…
Alicante has El Barrio, Castanos, El Puerto, San Juan Beach…
Both cities are big enough to accommodate a variety of age ranges and music styles, while Alicante has a bit less offer of techno.
Alicante and Valencia have very different vibes for living. While Alicante City and Alicante Province are extremely international Valencia feels more homogeneous-Spanish.
If you know a bit about the vibe of Barcelona and Madrid we can use them as references. While Barcelona is super international and well connected to Europe and the world, Madrid is way more Spanish, a place where you can listen to many different Spanish accents from Spain and Latin America but not other languages.
While you can spend days listening to just Spanish in Madrid, Barcelona is quite the opposite and you will hear a variety of languages as soon as you put your feet out on the street.
Well, Alicante is like Barcelona in that matter but without the delinquency issues and not so extremely international and touristy. Instead, Valencia is more like Madrid where Spanish (or maybe some Valenciano Language) would be listened to for days. It is also not so well mixed as Madrid on different Spanish accents.
Remember a lot of tourism in Alicante doesn’t stay in the city but goes to Benidorm, Calpe, Torrevieja and other places in the province. So both cities -Alicante and Valencia- are very Spanish in the sense of many Spaniards not working in tourism and just carry on with their own lives and jobs.
Valencia is the 3rd city in Sapin by population (792,492 inhabitants) while Alicante is the 10th (348,901 inhabitants). At first glance, comparing both places might look unfair. The population has some weight on why the vibe is so different in both cities but not that much. The reality is that Alicante and Valencia are not so far away in population, let me explain.
As this list (in Spanish) shows, Valencia’s province is 3rd among the provinces with the most population in Spain (2,600,793 inhabitants), holding 5.46% of the country’s population. This makes sense as Valencia is the 3rd most populated city in Spain.
But when you look at Alicante’s province it is in the 5th position of the most populated province in Spain (!) (1,923,000 inhabitants) holding 4.04% of the population in the country (vs 5.46% of Valencia). That is even more population than in Malaga province.
Valencia province holds only 35% more of the population than Alicante province while the city’s population is x5 more than in Alicante. Remind Alicante City is in the 10th position of the most populated cities in Spain.
This is due to all the important cities in Alicante province such as Alicante itself, Elche, Torrevieja or Orihuela. Also, there are a few really closer cities you can reach in a short time by busses or TRAM such as San Vicente, Campello or San Juan (source in Spanish) that are -virtually- part of the same urban area. Alicante province, holding a smaller surface, is also more densely populated than Valencia province.
This demographic factor shows Alicante -even if the city is not huge (but remember it is also not small)- has a vibe usually typical of a larger city. If you add commuting opportunities such as the night TRAM train during summer -to, for example, Benidorm-, busses, night busses, private cars or taxis you will find living in Alicante -supposedly “small”- won’t mean missing out on the opportunities of bigger cities.
Alicante becomes the mix of both worlds: cousy and nice in day-to-day life plus exploratory and different on the weekends. Here, there is a comparison of living in Alicante VS Living in London, which can sound like an exotic comparison but might help understand how is life comparing truly big cities versus Alicante.
Valencia, instead, overperforms Alicante on day-to-day activities. It is easier to find options on evening gigs, art expositions or cultural activities even though Alicante is catching up. Being a bigger city plays in Valencia’s favour on that matter.
If you are a foreigner thinking of moving to Alicante or Valencia, my first recommendation is always to try moving with a job from your home country and work remotely. There are several legal forms you can use for that. You could start investigating Autonomo if you are an EU citizen or Digital Nomad Visa if you are from outside the EU. Or a Retirement Visa if you don’t have to work anymore and have a pension.
Spain is still a cheap country compared with most other countries in Europe and most of the Western world so your origin country’s salary would probably last longer in Alicante if you are able to keep it. Also, Valencia is a bit more expensive than Alicante (source in Spanish) but both are still cheaper than Madrid, Barcelona or Palma.
Instead, if you want to find a job in Valencia or Alicante the reality is Valencia has more diverse opportunities than Alicante. Indeed, Valencia makes it to the 4th position of cities with more job offers while Alicante is not in the top 10 cities (source in Spanish).
In Alicante, Distrito Digital is giving more work opportunities in heavily IT-based companies in Alicante. There is an official trend of promoting digital work in Alicante coming from Alicante’s city hall and the autonomous community. So if this is your sector you might have things a bit easier.
If you are a lawyer, judge, translator or have other skills useful for EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office) it might be worth checking opportunities there. Also, tourism-related employment, solar energy and foreigner-related employment should be a bit easier in Alicante and its province but for other sectors such as the car industry, the opportunities might just work out easier in Valencia.
Alicante’s and Valencia’s weather is very similar but Alicante’s is slightly more influenced by the sea. Remember Alicante is a beach city while Valencia has the beach a few miles away except for some neighbourhoods.
The weather in Alicante is slightly more humid than in Valencia. Also, Alicante averages a bit higher maximum temperatures through the year (just around 1°C) than Valencia as well as slightly lower minimum temperatures than in Valencia (around 1° C difference).
Alicante also has slightly less rain than Valencia as well as clearer skies.
But the weather in both cities is very similar and might not need to be a factor to account when choosing the city where you want to live next.
For a better understanding of winters in Alicante check this page.
No, Valencia and Alicante are two very different cities and provinces within Spain.
Sometimes, Spanish people use the word “Valencia” to speak about the region where Valencia and Alicante are situated: Comunidad Valenciana or Valencian Comunity.
Interchanging the names “Valencia” and “Valencian Comunity” creates a lot of confusion so it is better to get a clarification from your interlocutor when it happens. In short:
If you want to more about how Alicante compares with other cities check these articles:
Malaga is a similar city to Alicante in south Spain. There is a full comparison of Alicante and Malaga in this link.
How does compare Alicante VS Valencia.
Comparasion between Alicante VS Ibiza.