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The old city of Alicante is wedged between the beach and the castle. Take a step back in time. Stroll through the charming winding alleys and steps along whitewashed houses with wrought-iron balconies decorated with flowering geraniums. Or visit a museum, a church or a monastery. Then grab a patio table under a palm tree for a refreshing glass of horchata, the local almond drink. An overview of the highlights of Santa Cruz.
‘El Barrio’, as the locals affectionately call their part of town, is the oldest working class neighbourhood in Alicante. For decades this part of town was ignored as tourists flocked either to the castle on top of the mountain or to the beach at the foot of it. Today, Santa Cruz has been nicely restored and a growing number of visitors prefer the cosy hostales in the old city over the large generic hotels on the beach. Don’t worry about getting lost here, that is one of the charms of a visit to maze-like Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz lies in a triangle between the city beach of Playa del Postiguet, the Rambla Méndez Núñez and Monte Benacantil with its Castle of Santa Bárbara. Part of the neighbourhood fans out over the hillside – so get ready for a hike.
Begin the walk at the Plaza Puerta del Mar, stroll by the Tourist Information Office and continue through the gate to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. This is the city’s loveliest square, with elegant arcades on both sides, a patio with large sun umbrellas and a Baroque city hall. Take a look inside the upscale Salón Azul (Blue Hall). Then continue the walk via the Calle Gravina to admire the local art at the Gravina Museum of Fine Arts (MUBAG). 2 streets over, the collection of the modern art museum MACA is even more impressive: here you will find Picasso, Dalí and Miró on display. There is free admission to both MACA and MUBAG. Across from the museum stands the Baroque Basílica de Santa María, Alicante’s oldest church. Via the Calle Mayor, head to the cathedral with its striking blue domes.
Art lovers will be happy to make a detour to see these 2 intriguing museums: the Museo de Belenes is filled with nativity scenes, whereas the Museu de Fogueres displays many of the extremely tall dolls that were saved from the fire of the Fogueres summertime fiesta. Those who still have energy can stroll over to Hermandad de Santa Cruz, the church that plays a pivotal role in the Semana Santa celebrations, the holy week of Easter. Finally, clamber up to restaurant La Ereta for a leisurely lunch with a panoramic view of the city, beach and ocean. Be sure to return to Santa Cruz after sunset: enjoy a late night dinner on a patio and the many lively bars that stay open until the early hours.