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]
There are many pros and cons of living in each of the cities and countries. Alicante in Spain and London in the UK are very different cities but both of them allow you to vibrate in their different but intense buzzes.
Alicante is in southeast Spain, touching the Mediterranean sea with more than 10 beaches in the city. It is also protected by high mountains such as Maigmo.
This unique location and characteristics make Alicante one of the cities in Spain with the most sunshine all year around. Winters are mild and summers are less suffocating than in other cities in the south or central Spain. Only 27% of the time Alicante is covered by clouds in the worst months as per weather-atlas.com
The coldest month in the city is January, with an average temperature of 12°C (54°F) but an average of a whopping 17°C (62.6°F) in the sunny mornings. The hottest month is August with a max average of 30.8°C (87.44°F) and lows of 21.2°C (70.16°F).
There are many good natural spaces for walks, exercising, enjoyment of views and also many playgrounds for children. Every beach in Alicante has a children’s playground (or several) so they are perfect spaces for adult walks and children’s recreation.
There are parks such as El Palmerar with chiringuitos that can enjoy all kinds of personal and age stages from children to the elderly and the young adults and adults in between.
Places such as Santa Barbara and San Fernando castles are perfect for a Sunday stroll as much as San Juan Beach or El Palmeral park.
In Alicante, there are more than 10 beaches where you can just go on foot which are very enjoyable in both summer and winter.
Spain’s nightlife is very active. Traditionally, having to deal with the high temperatures in summer allowed the night to be an active part of the day.
In Alicante, there are many restaurants. Whether you prefer vegetarian modern cuisine or taste the most traditional Mediterranean food such as the Arroces (or paellas) or just a quick dirty burger Alicante has it all. Spanish, Thailand, Luxury, Vegetarian, Indian… you name it and you find it in Alicante. At-good-prices.
Apart from the urban trails such as in Santa Barbara castle, Serra Grossa and Cabo de San Juan there are many mountains and hiking spaces all around the city. Many of them are accessible by car and some just by walking or mountain cycling.
Alicante has a surprisingly vivid nightlife taking into account its size. If you like latin dancing such as Salsa and Bachata, Alicante is a good city for you.
Many other nightclubs in Alicante El Barrio, Castaños or San Juan mix the music and you can find a lot of Reggaeton and other Spanish-international pop music.
The international vibe is also present with places such as El Refugio, The Robins Pub and El Bunker featuring live music on certain days of the week, many times in English too.
If you rather prefer another type of music such as techno you have your options too in places such as Artespiritu or Level Club.
Alicante is still one of those places where prices as not as crazy as they might be in a few years. Going out in Alicante is affordable for both food and nightlife but housing in Alicante is also cheaper than in many other cities. A lot of hotel and hostel options. Good Airbnb offers sensible prices for renting and buying properties… Let’s see how long this holds true!
It is very easy to travel to/from Alicante as it has one of the busiest airports in Spain. International connections by plane are surprisingly good.
But Alicante has also a train station, including high-speed trains. Travelling to Madrid takes only 2:40h by train and to Barcelona around 1h by plane.
Destinations such as Rekiavick, Helsinki, Paris, London and many many many others are only a few pounds or Euros away.
Also, the transport in the area is very good with bus and TRAM connections to many places in the province. It is very easy to go from Alicante to Benidorm or the Airport to Torrevieja by coach.
This always depends on every person’s experience but, in general, Alicante is an easy welcoming city with nice people.
Many years ago, the people in the costa Blanca and in Alicante -in particular- started to open Spain to tourism.
The idea of foreigners being a source of openness and economic success has stuck in the people for decades. Alicantinians are naturally inclined to be open and nice but this idea of development has stuck in the already warmness of the people in Alicante making it a good city to integrate into.
Spanish health system works quite well when you compare it with others in other countries. It is free to use if you are a resident and hospitals for emergencies are available to anyone.
There are also private hospitals and good clinics such as for eye surgery or assisted reproduction.
Each city in Spain has its own festivity. In Alicante, it is called Hogueras de San Juan and it is a 5 days festival 29-24 of June where the city shuts down into a museum of huge sculptural bonfires that are burned on the last day of the festival. Pretty awesome.
Apart from the festival, you have Santa Faz, Moros y Cristianos and easy access to the festivities of nearby cities and towns such as La Tomatina in Buñol.
Alicante is not the best city for work. It is perfect if you can work from home or are a digital nomad but otherwise salaries and job opportunities are not high in Alicante. Plus not so many international companies have landed their offices in the city. At least yet. Salaries might be a bit low too, in the line with the still relatively cheapest cost of living.
Alicante is transforming into a more dependent on public transport and bikes city. But it is not there yet. The bus in Alicante has still some basic deficiencies such as a good bus tracking system and apps to calculate your fastest route. What is in place now is quite basic and fails a lot. Many people still depend on the car in the city, especially if they don’t live in the centre area.
It is part of how the city has grown. Everywhere there is a downhill or uphill as Alicante is in between 3 hills: El Benacantil (Santa Barbara Castle), El Tossal (San Fernando Castle) and Serra Grossa (in between Alicante centre and Alicante San Juan Beach).
No way to avoid them and it doesn’t matter where in the city you live or stay in. The good news is that, in most places, slopes are not very extreme.
If you are a tourist or adult you don’t have to worry about this. Valenciano is a minority language in the autonomous community Alicante belongs to. There are some legal requirements for this language in official bodies and for civil servants but its implementation varies from town to town and, in Alicante, it is not widely used by hardly anyone.
The only moment when it needs to worry you is when you have children at school ages. Valenciano is mandatory to be studied and, depending on the school, some subjects will happen totally in Valenciano so try informing yourself before deciding schools.
In Alicante, it doesn’t rain much at all. But when it does, it is usually heavy rain.
The end of the summer -September-October- is usually the rainy season in the city. In the early 00′ the Cityhall used a lot of money into making Alicante a safe city in heavy rainfalls. The city now is safe but chances are the rains will completely disrupt your life for 3 or 4 days per year. The rest of the winter is calmer, warm and sunny.
It is very easy to find a job in London, especially, if you are in the IT sector. Depending on your industry, high salaries can be offered in London. The market is dynamic and the British culture helps to pursue your professional career.
If you like meeting new people and different cultures London is the perfect city for you. There is a huge amount of people with extremely different backgrounds living together. It is easy to mix if that’s what you are looking for. Virtually everything can be found in the city.
There are 6 airports serving mainly London: Heathrow, London City, London Gatwick, London Luton, London Stansted and even London Southend. It is probably the city in Europe with the best connections to the rest of the continent and the rest of the world. You can’t compete against this.
If you live in London there is 0 need for a car. Transport during the day is just above and beyond the underground. You can get anywhere in the city in around 1h, even to the furthest zones that might be miles away from where you are now.
Night transport is also quite good with some Underground lines working 24h on some days, the extensive night bus service or the well-tuned Uber and taxis network.
Trains will get you to further places too, such as Brighton or Oxford.
The city is massive it has massive parks too. Not only Hyde Park or Green Park is perfect for a picnic but also other parks such as Hampstead Heath are quite literally a forest inside the city.
London is, essentially, one of the greatest cities for events. From Elrow to concerts from international stars, to local stars coming to perform in front of their diasporas in London… Small gigs, organised thematic nights, Sunday street markets… a bit of everything all the time.
One of the many amazing things about London is its heritage, in all senses. From Roman walls remains to the impressive museums with valuable art from all around the world coming from its imperialist age.
The amount of free cultural activities in this city is insane. If you are into this type of entertainment London is your city.
In London, there are many festivities that are quite impressive. Christmas is one of the best with ice skating rings popping up all around the city, mulled wine, winter wonderlands and Christmas markets making this period magical.
The Guy Fawkes Night or fireworks night, Nottinghill carnival, gay pride… it is not easy to get bored in London.
Even though you can argue that the Spanish health system is more useful to the citizens than the NHS (Spain does more preventive medicine) the hospitals, GPs and other specialists do a good job and it is free to use.
It is one of the most expensive cities in Europe. A night out is an easy £80 if you pay for dinner, club entrance and some drinks. Food is not that expensive compared with other cities but the rest is way more expensive. The Underground, as good as it is, costs a lot of money even if you move between your underground zone. And that is a fixed cost even before you reach your destination.
To rent a room or to buy a property is not only extremely expensive but it is a difficult and extreme competition.
Some people pay deposits even before seeing the room and housing offer left the market extremely fast. Either you try to be very quick or are willing to pay to overrate or your chances to get a good place to live are low.
It is not only that people are busy but the city itself is always super busy. Do you want to go to a Spanish restaurant? Book in advance or you will have to wait at least 30 min before being fitted. Do you want to enter a club at night? Well, book in advance or chances is that you will need to overpay if you are lucky enough to be allowed in. Everything follows the same dynamic.
London is a gorgeous but grey city. Even the best month in London (as per weatherspark.com data), July, just 58% of the days will have clear skies. Only with an average of 26% of clear days in December!
Rain, showers and wind are also common in this city. Even though snow is not common it can snow too.
Also, it is common to start the day sunny and end up the day of training. The weather can change a lot in a short period of time.
Distances in London are huge. The city follows a typical anglo-Saxon style of houses and 1 to 2 floors flats where the density of people living is very low. Yes, there are a few skyscrapers for flats and taller buildings now but this is more recent. So the result is the need of using the underground at all times and your friends living 15km (9.3mi) away from you. Also, most of the fun is concentrated in a few centres around the city.
Even though it is possible to find all types of foods in London and some of the foods at good prices there is an area where London can not compete with Mediterranean cities such as Alicante: fruits, vegetables and fish.
All types of vegetables, fruits and other foods can be found but the prices will be way higher than in Alicante and with a significantly lower quality. London just can not compete with the quality.
Wages, engineering issues, planned closures, extreme weather conditions… It is wise to always check online your route before you jump into the underground and trains as it is extremely common to find any kind of disruption to the services. It is very easy to be late to your destination if you don’t check in advance.
It is extremely expensive to use childcare services such as nurseries or any other private childcare. When the children grow up a bit education such as schools is free but if you want to go to any private school or uni it gets extremely expensive.