Alicante is one of the three capitals and districts that form the Valencian Community.
Located in the south of the Valencian Community, it has 334,329 inhabitants (2011), and is an important Mediterranean port. It is the second largest city with regards to population in the Valencian Community and the eleventh in Spain with a surface area of 201,27 square kilometres.
The Mount Benacantil on which the Castle of Santa Barbara is located, dominates the area rising to 169 metres in height. The city has another castle, the Castle of San Fernando which is located on the Tossal.
To the south of Alicante is marsh land and the salt marsh, El Saladar de Agua Amarga.
Alicante has some beautiful beaches which include the Almadraba, Albufereta, El Postiguet, Aqua Amarga and El Saladar. Its mild Mediterranean climate and low rainfall make Alicante a privileged tourist destination.
Its history can be traced back over 3,000 years, to the third century BC, with the appearance of small Iberian settlements which settled on the fertile land in and around Alicante. These villages had a close relationship with Greek shipyards and trading posts.
Is not known with certainty when buildings first appeared but we know that shortly after the II Punic War military settlements were created in the area.
In 201 BC the Romans captured Lucentum, the Iberian city built on the Tossal de Manises, which had a sea – river port built on the mouth of the Orgegia Ravine.
Sedement from the torrent collected as it flowed out into the sea creating marsh land and unhealthy swamps so the population relocated to the foot of Mount Benacantil where the origins of the old city are still found today.
From 718 and 1248 the city was controlled by the Islamists and renamed Medina Lagant or Al-Lagant which was later adopted into the Valencian language as Alacant.
Alfonso X reconquered the area in 1248, and renamed the Arab Castle on Mount Benacantil as Santa Barbara Castle.
Alfonso's desire was to repopulated the area with a Christian population but it was a slow process which lasted until the late thirteenth century, despite privileges granted to settlers.
In 1252 Alfonso granted the City the Royal Charter as Alicante's port was strategically important to the Castillian King. Alicante was then incorporated into the Kingdom of Valencia with the amendment of the Almizra Treaty.
Many Catalans came to the area during the Christian re-population. The increase in population was cut short in 1333 due to the crisis caused by the War of the Union, the War of the two Peters and the Black Plaque. Hunger and the effects of the crisis caused the population to halve.
In the fifteen century Alicante began to grow and prosper agriculturally, producing nuts, esparto grass and grapes. The port grew to become the most important in the Kingdom of Valencia during the Middle Ages and of vital importance to the ruling middle class.
In 1490 Alicante officially became a city, was nearly destroyed by the French Fleet in 1692 and then became a province in 1822.
Epidemics were frequent especially cholera and in 1854 Alicante suffered a serious outbreak in the area.
In the Spanish Civil War, Alicante suffered numerous bombings which killed nearly 500 people.
From the beginning of the twentieth century and then again in the 1960's the economy grew along with the population, expanding mainly in the tourist and services industries.
Monuments and places of interest include:
- Santa Barbara Castle Built between the XIV and XVIII century, it is situated on
Benacantil, the highest mountain in the area.
- San Fernando Castle. Nineteenth century and was built to defend the city
from the Napoleonic invasion.
-Santa Maria Basilica. Gothic style, dates from the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries and the temple is the oldest in the city.
- Cathedral of St. Nicholas of Bari. Renaissance style, dates from the fifteenth and seventeenth century.
- Santa Faz Monastery. Baroque style, located 5 kilometres from the
- Defence Towers. Constructed in the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, they were
built to defend the area from pirate attacks and have been declared Historical Monuments
- Casa de la Asegurada. Baroque style building from the seventeenth century.
- Casa Consistorial. Construction from the seventeenth century, Baroque, used as a reference point to measure the altitude above sea level for locations in Spain.
- Convento Canónigas de San Agustín. Construction from the eighteenth century.
- Palacio Gravina. Eighteenth century palace of Count Lumiares now houses the Gravina Museum of Fine Art.
- Palace Maisonnave-Municipal Archives. Eighteenth century palatial home, where they have found remains of a Roman Necropolis.
- Teatro Principal in Alicante. Construction from the nineteenth century, neoclassical in style.
- Promenade – Explanada de España. Built in the first half of the twentieth century along the seafront.
- Canalejas Park. At the end of the Esplanada de España, it is known for its hundred year old fig trees.
-Parque de El Palmeral - The Palm Grove Park, has numerous palm trees and indigenous plants, a lake, fountains and rowing boats.
- The Morant Park. Located north of the city, is the largest in Alicante.
- Ereta Park. At the foot of Mount Benacantil.
Important Fiesta dates:
- Bonfires of San Juan. This fiesta has been declared to be of International Tourist Interest since 1984. Figures are made from paper mache which are then burnt. During these fiestas there are processions, floral offerings etc.
- Romeria de la Santa Faz. An 8 kilometre pilgrimage which begins at the Cathedral of
St. Nicholas and finishes at the Monastery of La Santa Faz, to revere the reliquary which holds the relic with the marks of Christ's face.
- Moros y Cristianos – The Moors and Christians fiesta takes place in five districts of the city.
- Porrate San Anton. Held in the San Anton area of the city in honour of San Antoni el porquet. The “porrate” refers to the custome of bartering pigs for other animals.
- St. Nicholas and Christmas. The preparations for Christmas are celebrated in honour of San Nicolas de Bari, patron of the city, with a blessing of the children of Alicante.