Costa Blanca capital Alicante offers many top bars and restaurants along the palm tree-lined Explana
Take a stroll
Alicante, less brash than Benidorm just along the coast, offers a charming combination of history and elegance.
With year-round sun and sandy beaches, the lively capital of the Costa Blanca is far more than just the entrance to busier resorts.
Get a good grasp of the city from a walk along the prom.
The historic Explanada de España is a palm tree-lined boulevard built in 1886 with mosaic tiles in wave patterns that mirror the sea beyond.
Alicante offers a charming combination of history and elegance
Stalls selling jewellery, bags and trinkets line the walkway while shiny yachts bob in the harbour, itself lined with lively bars and restaurants.
Fantastical ficus trees planted towards the end of the 19th century provide shade when the temperature rises.
Look out for stone sculptures of dogs at the entrance to the canine park.
Under the watchful gaze of the castle, Playa del Postiguet is a sweep of beach that runs the length of the city and is perfect for a walk in autumn and winter but will be bustling with sunbathing bodies as the weather warms up.
Playa del Postiguet below Castillo de Santa Bárbara
Next to the ornate Baroque Santa Maria basilica (sadly the door is mostly closed), MACA, the Museum of Contemporary Art, is a beautifully converted 17th century building with a colourful former life as a granary, a school and a prison.
Dreamlike, with its expanse of pure, white stone, it holds world-class works by Picasso, Dalí and Miró, as well as local artists such as sculptor Eusebio Sempere, whose name is spelled out in the windows.
From here it is easy (give or take a bit of puffing) to make your way up through the narrow streets of the old town to the medieval Castillo de Santa Bárbara, at the top of Mount Benacantil, for a trip back in time.
A lift rises through the rock facing Playa del Postiguet.
This vast series of fortifi cations perched 540ft above the city has Moorish origins and was taken by the British when they occupied the city during the War of Spanish Succession.
The city sprawls out below including blue-tiled church roofs, a reminder of its Moorish past, fringed by the glimmering bay.
What really brings the history to life are strategically placed metal soldiers pulling arrows and “guarding” the ramparts. There is also a museum, shop and restaurant dishing out paella.
Set just below the castle walls, nestled into the side of Ereta Park, Restaurante La Ereta (laereta.es) is one of the top spots to eat in the city.
Chef Dani Frías gives local favourites such as a rich stew of lamb and prawns or ceviche with squid ink a molecular gastronomy twist, as if in contrast to all that history just above.
A light touch are the Champagne bottle lampshades suspended from the ceiling in this contemporary Grand Designs-style glass and wood structure with views over the city.
Set menu from €45.
Soho Parc Café must be one of the most adorable looking bars
Soho Parc Café (sohoalicante.com) must be one of the most adorable looking bars.
The circular modernist building sits in the middle of the leafy Plaza de Elche, two streets back from the main promenade, the home to those lovely ficus trees.
Handsome wicker chairs on a patio form the perfect spot for sipping a copa (cocktail), with heaters for the cooler months.
Interior of a room at the Asia Gardens Hotel & Thai Spa
The hotel is set among secluded, leafy gardens on the slopes of the Sierra Cortina mountains
Entering the Asia Gardens Hotel & Thai Spa (dialling from the UK: 00 34 966 818400/asiagardens.es) is like being transported to Thailand.
Set among secluded, leafy gardens on the slopes of the Sierra Cortina mountains just outside Benidorm (don’t hold that against it), it has airy rooms with dark Balinese style furniture.
Japanese-style sliding screens replace bathroom doors and also offer deeply private balconies framed with foliage and sea views.
Serene statues of Buddhas and bridges among tropical foliage are dotted around the heated and unheated pools.
It’s a star-studded place, too, having welcomed footballers from Zinedine Zidane to Wayne Rooney as well as the likes of Joan Collins and Bruce Springsteen.
The best bit is the authentic Thai massage from staff trained at Bangkok’s Wat Pho massage school.
All that and it’s also incredibly family friendly with a Pirates Kids’ Club (free for under 12s) and babysitting available.
Restaurants include Koh Samui, offering an á la carte pan-Asian fusion menu, and In Black, for fine dining nouvelle cuisine such as lamb with buttered vegetables. Doubles from £215, B&B, including use of spa facilities.
Castillo de Santa Bárbara
Ryanair (0871 246 0000/ryanair. com) offers return flights from London Stansted to Alicante from £48.
Alicante tourism: alicanteturismo.com