Alicante is city south-east of Spain and in the Community of Valencia. It is home to the country’s best Turrón, famous coastal beaches, warm winters, delicious cuisines, beautiful coastal towns, and continuous celebration and festivals all year long.
If I could sum up what Alicante is compared to the cities I have lived and explored all Spain, I would say that Alicante is truly a hidden gem of Spain. It is truly a livable city. There is a consistent sunny warm weather all year long, great festivals, more affordable prices for rent and food, fantastic nearby coastal towns to explore, less crime rates and most of all nicest locals you can meet. You will also find yourself making lasting friendships with the locals and expats who come here.
Surprisingly, before moving to Spain in 2021, I never heard of Alicante before. I knew of Valencia and visited the city several years ago before Covid, but Alicante was a city that nobody would really talk about. In fact, when I talk to expats and friends from Barcelona, Alicante is generally not the number one city in Spain that people would think of when they want to move from abroad to live or the first city in the list they want to explore in Spain. It is not a surprise because it is a small city and is usually dominated by the popular large counterparts such as Valencia, Madrid, Barcelona, and Malaga.
However, Alicante is rising in popularity and more and more tourists are discovering the charm that the city brings. Expats are coming to live in the city either by a job opportunity or the fact they want to move to a more affordable city, yet still benefit from the amazing weather and beaches.
In this article, I want to share my experience of what it is like living in this vibrant city. If you never heard of Alicante or have not considered about living or visiting this city, I hope after reading this article it will change your mind or help you make a decision whether this city is right for you or not.
First encounter of Alicante
I never planned nor did I expect I would end in Alicante let alone live for almost a year now here. Finding my home here in this city didn’t happen overnight and it actually evolved organically. Having lived in Barcelona for a year and 4 months (click to see the article I wrote at that time), my partner really wanted a change of environment. In the beginning, I was unsure if leaving Barcelona to live in another city would be a right decision for me.
But after having gone through a serious of unfortunate events ( getting scammed, and the impossibility and stressfulness of finding a shared room with my partner), I decided that it was God’s calling and a sign for me to try another city to live in Spain. Perhaps the energy of another city may be more suitable for me.
And from there we packed all of our things and rented a car. We stuffed every inch of our items in the car until there was no space to fit anymore. The journey lasted for 10 hours as the final destination initially was not Alicante but Malaga.
Surprisingly, Alicante was our nigh pit stop where we rested for the night and by early morning we hit the road again. Seeing a glimpse of Alicante during sunrise was quite magical. I remember walking past the church and the old town of Alicante as we were leaving the air b n b and hurrying back to our car where our luggages and all belongings were kept. In the back of my mind I was wondering if I would have the opportunity to visit Alicante and see more of the city.
My wish did come true two months later after realizing that Malaga wasn’t really the right city for us, at least for that time. I soon learned when I was checking for rental prices that the city had become more expensive in prices and it was quite comparable to Barcelona in rental prices. After staying 2 months in the same airbnb, my boyfriend suggested to move to anther city, in search of purchasing a property. Seeing how similar Alicante is compared to Malaga, we decided to go there only for a short time to try how living in the city would be like.
And there we went for another adventure. This time instead of bringing everything that we had in our suitcases, we left half of our things in a storage locker in Malaga and took only what we needed to stay temporarily in Alicante.
We really didn’t think we would spend a long time in the city. We intended to just visit for a few weeks to scope out the city and see if we could find a nice property to buy. But a few weeks turned into a a few months. In total we stayed in 9 different Airbnbs trying to find the best room prices and constantly moving, packing and packing. By the 4th Airbnb that we stayed we already knew much of Alicante neighbourhoods and learned the culture of the locals and the city life.
We soon realized that the city is quite small and almost everywhere we needed to go is within walking distance. The city’s transportation is also well organized by buses that are usually on-time and trams that will take you anywhere you need to go in the city and outside to coastal towns.
I will say my experience with finding rent is far more pleasant and a lot more easier than finding one in Barcelona. You will have more options and better prices to choose.
To give you an idea you should be able to find a double room in a shared flat close to city center for less than 400 euros with wifi and electricity included. The water bill may likely not be included and I can share why later in the article.
Nevertheless it is far more cheaper than Barcelona! I was paying 550 euros for a room. There was no terrace and my room and the overall flat never had a lot of sunlight pouring in because the entire building was enclosed by other apartments.
Another great thing I experienced in Alicante was there was just less fear of being scammed. You don’t hear Okupas and mafias breaking in and taking over people’s property while they are on holidays like you do in Barcelona which is a living nightmare for Barcelonian residents.
While Barcelona has capped the limit of airbnbs and stopped new homeowners in renting their places out for airbnb during high seasons, Alicante is still able to do this and increasingly as the owners are realizing this is a lucrative business for them.
When I arrived to Alicante in late March, it was considered low season so finding an airbnb was very easy, cheap, and many options to choose. I soon learned that if you are looking for a long term rent it may be tricky as a lot of landlords would prefer to rent long term only between the months of September to May and during summer the tenants are asked to leave to allow for tourists to come.
We experienced an example of the last, when in May we found a room in an apartment 3-floors that was available for rent for 400 euros (everything included). The only downside was that it was only for one month as the owner needed to use the entire apartment (3 rooms) for his airbnb business. It was a good deal for us as we were still figuring out how much longer we wanted to stay in Alicante and unsure if we will move back to Malaga soon. That was also the reason why we decided to stay in airbnbs for some time and hopped around looking for good deals.
Guess how much we were asked for a deposit of the one month room? 20 euros, and we were not asked to make our payment until 1.5 weeks after settling in. It really showed how relaxed and trusting the people are here. If this was in other big cities like Madrid or Barcelona, it would never happen.
Finally my partner and I managed to find a permanet room just 2 days before we were asked to leave the temporary apartment that we rented for the month of May. For our new room we pay 420 euros a month not including water bill. We share the flat with 5 other people. There are two bathrooms and a large kitchen. We each have our own private terrace attached to our bedrooms and it is impossible not to have sunlight pouring in our rooms all year long.
This is a big change if compared to Barcelona, where it was extremely difficult to find any flat that allowed couples to rent. Those that allowed it were asking for 800 euros. But it came with poor living conditions– lack of sunlight, crammed and tiny washroom, small kitchen, and very little space to store our things.
Searching for some information online about rental prices in Alicante, I see they have an average price of €11 per month per square meter, with an increase of 20.24% compared to the last year (€9 per month per m²).
In Barcelona the price is much higher €18 euros per square meter, and the increase compared to last year is somewhat smaller (18.7).
Find a house to buy
In Alicante, the demand for housing by foreigners is very high and key for the sector, they buy almost half of the homes sold in the province (45% in 2023).
In Alicante the average price of second-hand housing for sale is €1,972 per square meter, with an increase of 16.3% compared to the previous year, while in Barcelona the average price is €4,131 per square meter, what is more than the double than Alicante!
While rent is significantly more affordable in Alicante than it is in Barcelona and Madrid, the water tax here however is more expensive than what I was paying in Barcelona. I was surprised to learn this was the case and did a bit of research about the water system in Alicante and found that the water used in city comes from the sea and needs to be treated in several “desaladoras” or desalination plants. This treatment and water cleaning process is very expensive and energy intensive, making the water bill higher than it should.
San Juan and day trips
Alicante is blessed with many beautiful nearby beaches and affordable day trips.
While Playa del Postiguet, close to Alicante city center, is the go-to in the city, I would not recommend it as the place to go for a swim as I find it to be a bit polluted. Nevertheless, it is still a good place to meet friends if you are unable to travel to somewhere else.
The beach that I prefer to visit on weekends is Playa de San Juan which is about a 20 minute tram ride from city centre, it´s amazing with a distance of 6km expanse of sand. You will have plenty of space to sunbathe and setup you beach towel with friends. The water is more cleaner with powdery white sand and crystal clear waters shimmering next to it.
During high season (summer months), the beach is crowded with tourists and locals but during off season the entire stretch of the beach is quiet with little traces of people on the beach. If you want to move to San Juan to live, most of the vibrancy and liveliness of the place happens more in summer months and during low season it can get pretty quiet.
In addition to taking the tram to San Juan, you can easily visit other towns nearby with tram. One of my favourite places to visit in the summer are Villajoyosa, Altea, and Calpe.
Benidorm is also another popular spot to visit for a day trip. I would describe this city as the “New York” of Spain as its filled with tall massive buildings similar to the skyscrapers you will see in big metropolitan cities. While it is a favourite for many British and foreign expats. I have mixed feelings about this place. You will have to visit this city to decide yourself.
Alicante shares a lot of festivals and activities that Valencia has. One of the city’s most popular and famous festival takes place every summer between June 20-June 24. This festival, known as the Hogueras de Alicante, is in my opinion the best time to experience what Alicante truly has to offer.
It is the most busiest and loudest time of the year. To be honest, I lost count to how many types of celebrations there were as the festivals and celebrations already started near the beginning of June as there were marching bands parading the streets and locals of all ages, men and women, boys and girls would dress up in beautiful traditional Alicante outfits to parade outside.
Even young children would throw rocks that crackle and pop—almost like the sound of a loud firecrackers, and then there are also the mascletas (combination of fireworks and very long string of firecrackers), followed by street parties that go from 11pm to 6am in the morning. If you live in city centre you are going to have a tough time sleeping for sure!
Alicante also follows the older Valencia tradition known as “fallas”. Many artists gather around the city to create beautiful sculptures that are displayed for a short time in June before they are all burnt down to the ground which is the peak of celebration. To top up even more of the celebration of Alicante, what follows after the Fallas is a 4-days -in- a- row celebration of fireworks at Playa de Postiguet.
The experience is truly remarkable one.
To learn even more about the festivals in Alicante, you can visit this site: https://www.alicanteturismo.com/en/festivals-in-alicante/