Even though Barcelona is known for its azure Mediterranean beaches, when Spaniards want to take a vacation to the beach they head to the Costa Blanca, or "White Coast." The port city of Alicante is the provincial capital and Costa Blanca's largest municipality, and a popular tourist spot for Spaniards and Northern Europeans seeking warmer weather.
As the area's largest city, it's also the most well-connected. An international airport includes daily direct flights to Barcelona, which is the fastest way to travel between the two cities and sometimes the cheapest. Even though the train takes longer, it's usually more convenient and considered more comfortable, and the prices are comparable to flights. Taking your own vehicle is ideal because it gives you the freedom to drive around and explore the nearby beaches around Alicante.
Whichever method you choose, be aware that travel to Alicante is highly seasonal, and prices fluctuate much more in the high-demand summer months. If you're traveling from June to August, finalize your plans as early as possible to lock in the best prices.
How to Get from Barcelona to Alicante
- Train: 4 hours, 30 minutes, from $29
- Flight: 1 hour, 10 minutes, from $30
- Bus: 7 hours, 30 minutes, from $56
- Car: 5 hours, 325 miles (524 kilometers)
Taking the train to Alicante is not only a comfortable and convenient ride, but an extremely scenic one as well. Much of the trip takes place along the coast with views of white-washed Catalan towns from the right side of the train and the cerulean waters of the Mediterranean on the left.
Two types of trains link Barcelona to Alicante, both of which can be booked through Spain's national rail service, Renfe. Passengers can choose between the EuroMed train, which takes about four and a half hours and starts at $29, or the Talgo train, which takes an hour longer and starts at $17. Dynamic pricing means the actual prices fluctuate based on demand and availability, so reserve your tickets as early as possible to get the best deals, especially during the summer months when tickets can more than triple in price.
Regardless of the train type that you choose, all leave from Barcelona-Sants and arrive at the Alicante Terminal. Both stations are centrally located in their respective cities and easy to reach, either by public transit, on foot, or a short taxi ride.
For travelers looking for the quickest route from Barcelona to Alicante, low-cost airline Vueling offers several direct flights every day. The total flight time is just over an hour, and one-way tickets start at the same price as the train.
But before you book a flight, don't forget to factor in all of the time it takes to check-in at the airport, get through security, and wait at your gate. Plus, while the train stations are centrally located, the Barcelona and Alicante airports are each about 30 minutes outside of their city centers by public transit, adding a significant amount of time to your trip. So although taking a flight is ostensibly the fastest method to Alicante, in reality, your total travel time is almost the same whether you go by plane or train. Going by rail is also the only way to enjoy the added perks of the gorgeous scenery along the route and knowing that you've chosen the most environmentally-sustainable method of transport as well.
Unfortunately, while bus travel around Europe is often dirt cheap, that doesn't tend to be the case in Spain. Bus trips from Spanish company Alsa take between seven and nine hours to get from Barcelona to Alicante—potentially twice as long as the train—and start at $56, significantly more than the train or plane. If you're traveling in the summer and making last-minute plans, the bus may be your only viable option if trains and flights have sold out or skyrocketed in price. However, if you're flexible with your travel date and departure time, you can likely find comparable prices and avoid the unnecessarily long bus ride.
Driving isn't likely to save you money or time, but it does give you the freedom to stop and explore in the coastal cities along the route. There are countless pueblos you'll pass through, each with its own unique charm and personality. You could also make a pitstop in Valencia, the biggest city in the region and the birthplace of paella, the seafood rice dish famous around the world.
The drive takes about five hours depending on traffic and not including stops along the way. Spain does use toll roads, so in addition to the rental price and gas, make sure to factor in the cost of tolls and carry euros with you in case your foreign credit card isn't accepted. While the drive is easy and Spain maintains quality highways, driving around and parking in the cities of Barcelona and Alicante can be stressful. You're better off finding a safe place to park—whether it's free street parking or a paid lot—and leaving your car while you explore the cities on foot or public transit.
The biggest advantage of having a vehicle is being able to explore around Alicante. If you don't have a car, there are plenty of beaches you can reach from Alicante on the bus or just walking from the city center. However, being able to drive allows you to visit so many other coves in the area, and many of Alicante's best beaches are only accessible by car.
What to See in Alicante
Alicante's most obvious draw is, of course, the sea. Visitors come from around the world to soak up the Alicante sun and swim in the warm Mediterranean water. In the winter when most of Europe is covered in snow, the Costa Blanca's year-round temperate climate keeps it relatively warm, even in the coldest months of January and February. But Alicante is much more than just the beach. A 16th-century castle and fortress overlooks the city, and you can hike up to it for breathtaking views of the city and sea. Around the castle is the photogenic neighborhood known as Barrio Santa Cruz, exploding with bright colors and flowers in bloom and perfect for a romantic stroll.