After soaking up Madrid's beautiful parks, well-groomed boulevards, and rich repositories of world-class art, you may be ready for a change of pace during your vacation to Spain. Head to Alicante, an old port city on Spain’s southeastern Costa Blanca, to uncover narrow streets, colorful houses, stunning views of the Mediterranean, and a fantastic nightlife scene.
Traveling between the two cities is quite simple. You can transit between the two in several ways, ranging from a high-speed train to an inexpensive bus. The train is by far the quickest option, traveling at impressive speeds of more than 200 miles per hour. But if you're buying last-minute tickets, it may be quite expensive. The bus is a more affordable option but takes twice the amount of time. If you rent a car, not only can you stop along the way, but you can also explore beaches around Alicante.
How to Get from Madrid to Alicante
|Train||2 hours, 30 minutes||from $22||Arriving quickly and comfortably|
|Bus||5 hours||from $14||Traveling on a budget|
|Flight||1 hour, 10 minutes||from $38|
|Car||3 hours, 45 minutes||265 miles (426 kilometers)||Exploring the area|
The high-speed AVE train connects Madrid to Alicante is just two and a half hours, by far the quickest and most comfortable way to travel between cities. Tickets start as low as $22 when they are first released, but they quickly rise in price as people book up seats, with same-day tickets costing as much as $75 for a one-way trip. Once you nail down your travel plans, buy your train tickets as soon as possible to get the best deals. If the time or date you wanted is too expensive and you're flexible with your itinerary, try looking a day before and after your travel date to see if there's a better price.
Trains for Alicante leave Madrid from Atocha Station, one of the two main train stations in the city and easily accessible by metro. The Alicante train station is right in the city center, and it should be a short walk or quick taxi ride to get to your accommodations. If your lodging is located in the scenic Santa Cruz neighborhood, be aware that it's located on the slope of a steep hill and walking with luggage may be complicated.
For travelers on a budget, the bus is the most economical option for getting to Alicante. It takes about twice as long as the high-speed train, but at about five hours of travel time, it isn't an unbearably lengthy ride. Look at schedules and buy tickets directly from the Spanish bus company Alsa, which offers several direct routes every day. Even though the bus is almost always cheaper than the train, last-minute tickets or travel during holidays can also push up bus prices, so always compare first. Sometimes, the difference may be negligible enough that it's worth taking the train.
Buses depart in Madrid from the Estación Sur bus station, located near the metro stop Mendéz Álvaro (some depart from the airport as well, so pay attention before completing the purchase). Arriving in Alicante, buses drop off passengers at the main Alicante Bus Station, located next to the pier and also within walking distance to the city center.
Driving from Madrid to Alicante takes a little under four hours but can be more depending on traffic, especially around Madrid. The drive passes through the region of Spain known as La Mancha, home of the Spanish literary hero Don Quijote. It isn't the most scenic route and it's very agricultural, but you'll pass through several traditional Spanish towns and get a taste of life in Spain outside of the major cities.
Spanish highways do use tolls, and toll booths don't always accept foreign credit cards. Carry some euros with you so you don't get stuck at a toll and unable to pay.
Parking in Alicante's center isn't easy, and if you're staying in the popular Santa Cruz neighborhood your car isn't even able to enter. It's best to park your car outside of the city center and then use public transit or walk to get around in Alicante. The best part about having your own vehicle is being able to access all of the nearby beaches that are inaccessible by public transit, such as Playa Fustera and Playa del Portet.
Flying from Madrid to Alicante is an option, and Iberia and Air Europa serve the route with non-stop flights, with tickets starting at about $38. The flight time is just about an hour, so it's also the fastest method of transport—until you factor in transportation to and from the airport, checking in, going through security, and waiting at the gate. In the end, it ends up being more time-consuming than the train and not even much faster than the bus. If you're in a hurry to get to Alicante, you're better off taking the train.
What to See in Alicante
Situated in Spain's marvelous Costa Blanca region, or White Coast, Alicante's most obvious draw is, of course, the beach. Visitors from around Spain and Europe flock to Alicante all year round to enjoy its temperate Mediterranean climate. But Alicante is much more than just sandy beaches and warm water. A 16th-century castle overlooks the town, and hiking to the top is worth the effort for the panoramic view of the city and sea that awaits you. Right around the castle is the photogenic neighborhood of Santa Cruz, with it's colorfully painted houses and bright flowers, perfect for a photoshoot or romantic stroll.