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.
Your Guide to Alicante [By an Alicantinian]
Alicante has several museums explaining the history and culture of the city and province of Alicante.
The MARQ Museum is an archaeological exhibition of objects of the province of Alicante corresponding to different Ages: Prehistory, Iberian, Roman, Middle Ages and Modern and Contemporary. Through the items, we get a good idea of the culture, economics and organization of the Alicantinian society in each era. There is a mixture of interactive screens, videos and audio descriptions available to the visitors.
MARQ is one of the most important museums in the city. It is composed of the main exhibition building dated 1931 and several archaeological sites such as La Illeta and Lucentum.
The current MARQ museum uses an old hospital building dating from 1931 and was opened in 2000.
It has space for 6 main permanent displays, a couple of archaeological excavation replicas and temporary expositions.
The 6 permanent rooms are:
This permanent room exhibits objects from the prehistory period, starting around 100000 years ago to the VIII BC century. There are more than a thousand objects from different societies from back then: hunter-gatherers, farmers and herders and the early metallurgists.
The end of this period (VIII BC) is considered to happen when the indigenous villages entered into contact with the Phoenicians which developed into the Iberians Culture.
During this period, VI-I centuries BC, Alicantinian lands were populated by the Contestants. One of the legacies left by them is La Dama de Cabezo Lucero, a sculpture of a woman with a fancy hairstyle and jewellery.
It dates from the IV BC century and has a relationship with Dama de Elche, another important heritage of the neighbouring city of Elche.
In this room, you can learn about the Iberian culture, the Contestants, their economics, artisans and social structures, their religion and relationship with death and more.
The Roman exhibition talks about the arrival of Roman culture and its influence in the province, Christianism and the late roman period.
The Romans founded the city of Lucentum. It is situated in Albufereta, close to the Albufereta beach and it is called Tossal de Manises.
The evidence of this period is not only found at Lucentum but in different places around Alicante, such as Castillo de Santa Barbara which dates from the IX AD century but had items from the Romans in its mountainside.
The Medieval room Exhibits evidence of the different cultures that inhabited Alicante during the 8 centuries of this period: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
The city was totally immersed in the development happening in Medieval Europe.
The last period analysed in this museum is the modern and contemporary culture, from 1500 to 1931.
There are two main blocks in the exhibition: the cron power from 1500 to 1808 and the constitutional regime from 1808 to 1874.
In this final room, we can learn about the origins of Alicante as we know it nowadays.
Apart from the 5 big rooms corresponding to the 5 historical periods in Alicante, there are a few other expositions and pieces at the MARQ Museum main corridor.
The two expositions show how archaeological sites are dug. One is a land site while the other one is a submarine site.
The MARQ museum makes an effort to exhibit a number of temporary expositions per year. The best way to check them is on the page for itinerant expositions on the MARQ’s website.
From the 28th of March 2022 to the 28th of January 2023 the itinerant exhibition in place is “The Xi’an Warriors” in a collaboration with China’s Shaanxi Provincial Office of Cultural Assets.
It features more than original 120 pieces and is part of the biggest cultural collaboration between China and Spain in 2023.
The MARQ museum address is: Plaza Doctor Gómez Ulla (no street number), 03013, Alicante
The bus lines stopping at the MARQ Museum are: 2, 6, 9, 20 y 23
The TRAM lines stopping at the MARQ museum are 1, 3 y 4. The stop is called MARQ-Castillo.
There are also a few archaeological sites that are part of the MARQ Museum. They are extremely important to understand the story of Alicante.
This is arguably the most important site in Alicante as it is considered the ancient city of Alicante.
It used to be a human settlement in the Iberian period. After a few centuries, the settlement mutated into a Roman city and it was called Lucentum.
The name Lucentum is well incorporated into the current Alicantinian culture. There is a basketball team with the name and a fair amount of businesses and brands with the name.
The ancient city is rounded by about 600 meters of defensive walls. It is nearby La Albufereta Beach 3.5km away from the current city centre of Alicante.
The first signs of occupation in Lucentum date from the 5th century BC but it was in the 3rd century BC when the defensive walls and towers were built shaping the later Roman city.
The second Punic War, around the year 200 BC, affected the city that was almost destroyed. It had to wait until the end of the II century BC to start a strong rebuild where the walls were reinforced, created new defensive towers and the overall defensive system was improved.
In the mid-1st century BC, Augusto was the emperor of the Roman Empire. Lucentum got the status of “municipium” which gave a few extra rights to the city in the empire’s structure such as the right of self-governance and some other Roman legal structures. At this point in history, the city received the name Lucentum.
In the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD, the city grew into a traditional and prosperous Roman city. Typical buildings and structures were built: the forum, Roman baths, sewage system, and a temple… the city even grew and extended outside its original walls.
Sadly, at the end of the 1st century, AD Lucentum started its final decadence period and the citizens vanished in the III AD century due to economic and regional dynamics.
The city was used then as a stone quarry for nearby constructions for a long time. During the VIII and X AD centuries, the area was used by the Muslims as an Islamic cemetery.
The archaeological site has been declared Monumento Histórico-Artístico or Monument of Historic and Artistic Importance in 1961.
Lucentum is situated on Calle Zeus, 03016, Alicante.
The bus line to get to Lucentum is 09 and the stop is called Zeus 3.
The closest TRAM stop is Albufereta on lines 1, 3, 4 and 5.
This is an important archaeological site with remains dating from the prehistoric period.
Back in the time, when the site was populated, it was a peninsula. In an unknown year, the peninsula was cut from the mainland due to an earthquake. In 1943, it was transformed into a peninsula again but not without polemic as some evidence of the remains was destroyed in the process.
The location is in the nearby town of El Campello, around 9km from Alicante’s city centre.
In this little peninsula, there are reminders of many cultures and epochs, starting from prehistory, we have reminders from the Bronze Age, Iberians, a Roman city and the Muslim occupation in the Middle Ages.
Another interesting remaining is from the Roman period. They built a little fish farm on the sea. With 4 ponds it has two channels to refresh the water from seawater. The ponds are communicated with vertical slots that could be closed using doors.
There are only reminds of this type of fish farm in the province of Alicante and some areas in Italy.
If it is summer, there is another interesting activity to do in this place. The fish farm is free entrance and swimming is permitted.
If you wish to do some snorkelling there is a pretty route going around the little peninsula, including the fish farm.
La Illeta Dels Banyets address is Partida Almadrava, 03560 El Campello, Alicante, 15 km from Alicante city centre.
By TRAM, you can use the TRAM line 1 to Benidorm and take off on Poble Espanyol to then walk for about 15 minutes.
Another option is to use the TRAM line 3 to Campello and take off at the last stop with the same name: Campello. It takes about 18 minutes to walk to the archaeological site.
By bus, line number 21 does the route Alicante-Campello.
For either the bus or TRAM you don’t need to pay extra zones to get to Campello, just the same ticket or travel card used elsewhere in the city of Alicante.
There are two more archaeological sites managed by the museum MARQ.
These are further away and the public transport to get there is no existent.
La Cova de L’Or, in the town Beniarres, is a cove used by our Neolithic fellas. To visit, it is necessary to book in advance a guided visit.
The timetable is Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 2 pm. The fee is 5€.
Santuario de Pla de Petracos, in the town Castell de Castells, is a site of Macroschematic Art. The visits are guided: Monday to Thursday you need to book on +34 965 518 067. On Friday and Saturday, the visits are 11am to 13pm and 17am to 18pm.
You can book the visits on the MARQ museum or on their website.