Last semester I studied abroad in Alicante, Spain for four weeks. This was easily the longest I had ever been out of the country and the thought of learning a foreign city on my own was terrifying. Luckily though, I gained enough confidence to go out and explore. By the end of my trip I could walk around the city with my eyes closed and still find a way to my little heaven, Canada Coffee Shop. Adapting is the hardest part, but it’s definitely the most fun part too!
Where to stay:
I was studying abroad at the University of Alicante and therefore I was staying in dorms near the campus. In actuality this meant that I was living in San Vincinte, about twenty minutes from the Alicante. This was by all means fine by me, but I would have preferred to not pay the 1.65 euro for each tram ride in and out of the city. In Alicante, there were some adorable hostels sprinkled throughout the downtown streets if you’re looking for budget living. All in all, the closer to the beach, the pricier they get!
When to go:
In true Spanish fashion, Alicante is beautiful all year round and there is truly no wrong time to visit. The weather is always temperate and rain is scarce. Throughout the summer months though, from about June to September, it is much busier. The sun and sand turns Alicante into South Beach, Miami and you’ll have to head out early to even find a place to lay a towel.
What to do:
Alicante is a small enough city that you should be able to see most of the things you had planned for, but there are definitely some winners.
- The Santa Barbara Castle is a must, especially at sundown because the hike leads to an amazing panoramic view of the city.
- The Alicante Museum of Contemporary Art was by far the most interesting museum that I visited. There was a good mix of interactive and thought provoking pieces that made the small entrance price well worth it.
- Of course you have to go to the beach and get a $5 bucket-o-sangria. While at the beach make sure you stop at the Explanada de Espana, a colorful little street with benches and vendors selling knick knacks galore!
- If you’re missing home stop in Canada Coffee. Two guys moved to Spain from Canada to open up a little coffee shop with the best cupcakes around. A little piece of fat filled home!
What to skip:
By all means, if you can do everything, do everything! Even in my four weeks though, I lacked the time to experience everything I wanted to. In the end this meant that I picked things over others and ultimtely was disappointed some of the time.
- If I went back again I think that I would opt out of the Muesum of Fine Arts. It lacks the fun that you get in the MACA and was more expensive to get in.
- Also, as surprised as I was, the Mercado Central was lacking. It might have been the time of year, but I left dissatisfied and smelling of fish.
- Another thing not worth doing is taking the lift at the Santa Barbara Castle! Trust me when I say that the hike is well worth it. It is not vigouris or particularily long. You can even sprint up in a matter of minutes if youre fit enough. Leave yourself enough time to climb to the top and youll be going back again the next day for another go.
Where to eat:
Being a poor college student, I didn’t exatly dine in the fanciest of restuaratns. I did try a bit of everything though and there were some major hits.
- Donar Kebab of any kind is so worth trying. (Even if you don’t eat meat like me, theres always something!) There was an especially amazing place in San Vincente right near the main mercado that sold the classic kebab meat, secret sauce, and french fries all mixed in a box together. This totaled to about 3 euros with a drink included. All of the students on the trip ate there constantly!
- Mad Piolets, coined “the McDonalds of Spain” (despite there actually being McDonalds in Spain) is cheap and fun. It’s full of young people drinking beers and eating nuggets. I would leave my 9 am class to get a sandwhich and everyone was already on their second beer. It should also be noted that you have to get El Desperado when buying beer!!!!
- On the nicer end of things, there is a restuarnat called Don Carlos Alicante in the heart of the city. A group of us went in on a Friday night around dinner time and found ourselves to be the only ones there. We quickly realzed that it was Friday night and no one eats dinner earlier than 9 o’clock! Alas, we were seated and attended to especially well despite our young age. A quirk about this restaurant is that most of the meals include choosing a few items of off the menu as a sampler. The thing is they don’t really want you to pick, they want to serve you what is fresh. This angered some of my friends, but I thought it was brilliant! I didn’t know what I wanted to eat in a fancy Spanish restaurant, but they would figure it out for me.
- Believe it or not, some of the best food I had in Spain was from a place called Miss Sushi. Everything was pink and wine was very much encouraged! Just trust me on this one.
- Telepizza is literally everywhere. They can deliver too. My typical order was a nacho pizza in which the middle of the pizza had dipping sauce. Cheese dipping sauce!!!
All in all, Alicante is such a special place. You can live a relaxing beach life there and take a train to Granada for some classic Spanish architecture or to Madrid for some shopping or to explore the history.