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Alicante or Alacant (Spanish: Alicante, Valencian: Alacant) is a city in Spainmarker, the capital of the province of Alicantemarker and of the comarca of the Alacantímarker, in the southern part of the Valencian Communitymarker. It is also a historic Mediterraneanmarker port. The population of the city of Alicante proper was 331,750, estimated , ranking as the second-largest Valencian city. Including nearby municipalities, Alicante conurbation was populated by 452,462 residents. Population of the metropolitan area (including Elchemarker and satellite towns) was 757,443 estimates, ranking as the eighth-largest metropolitan area of Spain.


The area around Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years, with the first tribes of hunter gatherers moving down gradually from Central Europe between 5000 and 3000 BC. Some of the earliest settlements were made on the slopes of Mount Benacantilmarker. By 1000 BC Greek and Phoenicianmarker traders had begun to visit the eastern coast of Spain, establishing small trading ports and introducing the native Iberian tribes to the alphabet, iron and the pottery wheel. By the sixth century BC, the rival armies of Carthagemarker and Rome began to invade and fight for control of the Iberian Peninsula. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca established the fortified settlement of Akra Leuka (Greek: , meaning "White Mountain" or "White Point"), where Alicante stands today.

Although the Carthaginians conquered much of the land around Alicante, the Romans would eventually rule Hispania Tarraconensis for over 700 years. By the 5th century AD, Rome was in decline; the Roman predecessor town of Alicante, known as Lucentummarker (Latin), was more or less under the control of the Visigothic warlord Theudimer. However neither the Romans nor the Goths put up much resistance to the Arab conquest of Medina Laqant in the 8th century. The Moors gave the city its modern name - Alicante is Arabic for "city of lights". The Moors ruled southern and eastern Spain until the 11th century reconquista (reconquest). Alicante was finally taken in 1246 by the Castilian king Alfonso X, but it passed soon and definitely to the Kingdom of Valencia in 1298 with the King James II of Aragon. It gained the status of Royal Village (Vila Reial) with representation in the medieval Valencian Parliamentmarker.

Part of the old city.
After several decades of being the battlefield where Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragón clashed, Alicante became a major Mediterranean trading station exporting rice, wine, olive oil, oranges and wool. But between 1609 and 1614 King Felipe III expelled thousands of moriscos who had remained in Valencia after the reconquista, due to their allegiance with Barbary pirates who continually attacked coastal cities and caused much harm to trade. This act cost the region dearly; with so many skilled artisans and agricultural labourers gone, the feudal nobility found itself sliding into bankruptcy. Things got worse in the early 18th century; after the War of Spanish Succession, Alicante went into a long, slow decline, surviving through the 18th and 19th centuries by making shoes and agricultural products such as oranges and almonds, and its fisheries. The end of the 19th century witnessed a sharp recovery of the local economy with increasing international trade and the growth of the city harbour leading to increased exports of several products (particularly during World War I when Spain was a neutral country).

Monjas-Santa Faz Square in Alicante.
During the early twentieth century, Alicante was a minor capital which enjoyed the benefit of Spain's neutrality during World War I, which provided new opportunities for the local industry and agriculture. The Rif War in the 1920s saw numerous alicantinos drafted to fight in the long and bloody campaigns at the former Spanish protectorate (Northern Morocco) against the Rif rebels. The political unrest of the late 1920s led to the victory of republican candidates in the local council elections throughout the country, and the abdication of King Alfonso XIII. The proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic was much celebrated in the city on 14 April 1931. The Spanish Civil War broke out on 17 July 1936. Alicante was the last city loyal to the Republican government to be occupied by General Franco's troops on 1 April 1939, and its harbour saw the last Republican government officials fleeing the country. Even if not as famous as the bombing of Guernica by the German Luftwaffe, Alicante was the target of some vicious air bombings during the three years of civil conflict, most remarkably the bombing by the Italian Aviazione Legionaria of the Mercado de Abastos in 25 May 1938 in which more than 300 civilians perished.

The next 20 years under Franco's dictatorship were difficult for Alicante as it was for the entire country. However, the late 1950s and early 1960s saw the onset of a lasting transformation of the city due to tourism. Large buildings and complexes rose in nearby Albufereta and Playa de San Juan, with the benign climate being the best tool to bring prospective buyers and tourists who kept hotels reasonably busy. The tourist development, aside from construction, also brought numerous businesses such as restaurants, bars and other businesses focused on visitors. Also, the old airfield at Rabasa was closed and air traffic moved to the new El Altet Airportmarker, which made for a convenient facility for charter flights bringing tourists from northern European countries.

Luceros Square.

When Franco died in 1975, his successor Juan Carlos I successfully oversaw the transition of Spain to a democratic constitutional monarchy. Governments of nationalities and regions were given more autonomy, and the Valencian region was not an exception.

The port of Alicantemarker has been reinventing itself since the industrial decline the city suffered in the 1980s (with most mercantile traffic lost in favour of Valencia's harbour). In recent years, the Port Authority has established it as one of the most important ports in Spain for cruises, with 72 calls to port made by cruises in 2007 bringing some 80,000 cruise passengers and 30,000 crew to the city each year. The moves to develop the port for more tourism have been welcomed by the city and its residents, but the latest plans to develop an industrial estate in the port have caused great controversy.


Alicante is one of the fastest-growing cities in Spain. The local economy is based upon tourism to the beaches of the Costa Blancamarker and particularly the second residence construction boom which started in the 1960s and reinvigorated again by the late 1990s. Services and public administration also play a major role in the city's economy. The construction boom has raised many environmental concerns and both the local autonomous government and city council are under scrutiny by the European Union. The construction soar is the subject of hot debates among politicians and citizens alike. The latest of many public battles concerns the plans of the Port Authority of Alicante to construct an industrial estate on reclaimed land in front of the city's coastal strip, in breach of local, national and European regulations. (See Port of Alicantemarker for the details).

The city is the headquarters of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market and a sizeable population of European public workers live here.

University of Alicantemarker is located in San Vicente del Raspeigmarker, right next to Alicante. More than 30,000 students attend the University.

Since 2005 Alicante hosts Ciudad de la Luz, one of the largest film studios in Europe. Spanish and international movies such as Asterix at the Olympic Games by Frédéric Forestier and Thomas Langmann, Manolete by Menno Meyjes have been shot there.


The official population of Alicante in 2008 was 331,750 inhabitants and 757,443 in the metropolitan area "Alicante-Elchemarker". About 15% of the population is foreign, mostly those from Argentinamarker, Ecuadormarker, and Colombiamarker who have arrived in the previous 10 years as immigrants. There are also immigrants from other origins such as Romaniamarker, Russiamarker, Ukrainemarker and Moroccomarker, many of which are under illegal alien status and therefore are not accounted for in official population figures. The real percentage of foreign population is higher, since the Alicante metropolitan area is home to many Northern European retired citizens, even if officially they are still residents of their own countries. In the same pattern, a sizable amount of permanent residents are Spanish nationals who officially still live in Madridmarker, the Basque provincesmarker, or other areas of the country.

Historical Population
Year Population Year Population Year Population
1250 2,500 1797 19,313 1930 71,271
1350 3,250 1803 21,447 1940 89,198
1418 1,539 1857 27,550 1950 101,791
1609 5,040 1860 31,162 1960 121,832
1646 6,174 1877 34,926 1970 181,550
1717 11,019 1887 40,115 1981 245,963
1735 12,604 1897 49,463 1991 265,473
1754 14,394 1900 50,495 2001 288,481
1768 17,213 1910 55,116 2007 322,673
1786 17,345 1920 63,382 2008 331,750
Foreign Population
(official data, 2008)
Nationality Population


Alicante City Hall.

Sonia Castedo is the appointed mayor of the city. She is a close aide of Luis Díaz Alperi (1945) who resigned in October 2008. In the Municipal Elections of May 2007, Luis Díaz Alperi of the People's Party (Partido Popular) was reelected city mayor with an absolute majority for his fourth term, followed closely by Etelvina Andreu (1969) of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (Partido Socialista).

At the foot of the main staircase of the City Hall Building (Ayuntamiento) is the zero point (cota cero), used as the point of reference for measuring the height above or below sea level of any point in Spain, due to the marginal tidal variations of the Mediterranean sea in Alicante.


Alicante enjoys Mediterranean climate with mild temperatures throughout the year and little rain, concentrated in equinoctial periods. The temperature on average is between 16.8° and 6.2° in January and between 30.6° and 20.4° in August, with the average annual temperature of 17.8°. Daily oscillations in temperature are very small due to maritime influence, although occasional episodes of wind from the west could result in temperature range in excess of 15°. Annual oscillations in temperature are small as well, i.e. winters are mild and summers are warm.

The rainfall is 336 mm per year. September and October are the rainiest months due to torrential rains caused by the cold drop, which can reach over 200 mm in 24 hours causing severe flooding. Because of this irregularity, on average only 37 rainy days are observed per year, and the annual number of sunshine hours reaches 2,864.

The record maximum temperature of 41.4° was recorded in Alicante on 4 July 1994. The minimum temperature of -4.6° was registered on 12 February 1956. The record rainfall of 270.2 mm in 24 hours was observed on 30 September 1997.


Alicante Airportmarker outranks its Valencian counterpartmarker, being among the busiest airports in Spain after Madridmarker, Barcelonamarker, Palma de Mallorcamarker and Málagamarker and keeps expanding. It is connected with Madrid and Barcelona by frequent Iberia and Spanair flights, and with many Western European cities through carriers such as Easyjet, Ryanair, Air Berlin, Monarch Airlines, Globespan, and From the airport there are also regular flights to Algiersmarker and Russiamarker. In addition, Alicante's only link to South America, specifically Bogotámarker, is provided by Avianca.

Alicante railway stationmarker is used by cercanías linking Alicante with suburban and Murciamarker. Long-range RENFE trains run frequently to Madridmarker and Barcelonamarker.

Alicante Tram connects the city with outlying settlements along Costa Blancamarker. As of 2008, it runs up to Benidormmarker with further extension to Deniamarker under construction.

The city has regular ferry services to the Balearic Islandsmarker and Algeriamarker. The city is strongly fortified, with a spacious harbour.

Main sights

Esplanada and Carbonell House.

Amongst the most notable features of the city are the Castle of Santa Bárbaramarker, which sits high above the city, and the port of Alicantemarker, which was the subject of bitter controversy in 2006-2007 as residents battled to keep it from being changed into an industrial estate.

Other sights include:
  • Basilica of Santa Maríamarker (14th-16th centuries), built in Gothic style over the former main mosque. Other features in clude the high altar, in Rococo style, and the portal, in Baroque style, both from the 18th century.
  • Co-cathedral of St. Nicholas of Barimarker (15th-18th centuries), also built over a mosque.
  • Monastery of Santa Faz (15th century), located 5 km outside the city, in Baroque style.
  • Defence towers of the Huerta de Alicante (15th-18th centuries), built to defend against the Barbary pirates. Today some 20 towers are still extant.
  • Baroque Casa de La Asegurada (1685), the most ancient civil building in the city. (s. XVII). Today is home to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Alicante.
  • Casa consistorial de Alicante (18th century), also in Baroque style.
  • Convent of the Canónigas de San Agustín (18th century).
  • Gravina Palace (1748-1808), nowadays hosting Gravina Museum of Fine Artsmarker.
  • Castle of San Fernando.

Museums in Alicante include the Archaeological Museum of Alicantemarker, presenting artifacts from 100,000 years ago up until 19th century. The archaeological museum won the European Museum of the Year award in 2004. On exhibition in Gravina Museum of Fine Artsmarker there are painting and sculptures of Alicante from 16th century to 19th century. The Asegurada Museum of Contemporary Art is currently closed for renovation.


The most important festival, the Bonfires of Saint John, takes place during the summer solstice. This is followed a week later by seven nights of firework and pyrotechnic contests between companies on the urban beach Playa del Postiguet. Another well-known festival is Moros y Cristianos in Altozano or San Blas district. Overall, the city boasts a year-round nightlife, helped by tourists, fun-loving residents, and a large student population of the University of Alicantemarker. The nightlife social scene tends to shift to nearby Playa de San Juan (St. John's Beach) during the summer months.

Every summer in Alicante, a two-month-long programme of music, theatre and dance is staged in the Paseo del Puerto.


The two largest Alicante football teams are Hércules CF which currently competes in the Spanish Segunda División, and Alicante CF which plays in Segunda División B in the 2009/2010 season. They both host their home games at Estadio José Rico Pérezmarker.

Famous citizens

Esplanada de España.
Torre Provincial in La Rambla de Alicante.
Jorge Juan Street.

International relations

Twin towns — sister cities

In 2009 a bid was made to twin Newcastlemarker, United Kingdom with Alicante.


Seaside promenade.

  1. Instituto Nacional de Estadística Municipal Registry data.
  2. Alicante City
  3. The population data for 1250-1609 are estimates by historians. The 1646 data is from Vecindario del archivo del Reino de Valencia. The data for 1717-1803 are from various censuses prepared by the governments of Spain. Beginning from 1857 the national census data.
  4. Ayuntamiento de Alicante Sección de Estadística. La Población de Alicante (01-01-2008).
  5. Ayuntamiento de Alicante, Edificios Singulares
  6. RENFE Cercanías Murcia/Alicante
  7. RENFE destinations from ALACANT-TERMINAL
  8. TRAM Alicante Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat Valenciana
  9. Alicante Ferry Port
  10. Alicante Festivals

External links

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