City Walk C: Old Town route
Route Starting Point. Puerta del Mar
Alicante has always been a walled city because of the threat of attacks from the sea. The muslims, as well as the Kingdom of Castile and the Kingdom of Valencia (that Alicante belonged to in the early 14th Century), walled the city. Despite those defensive means, Alicante was bombarded from the sea by the French Navy in 1691 and the British Navy in 1706, which together destroyed 90% of the city. That is why, during this walk, we will try to see how the city was before and after the bombardments.
Alicante’s first Town Hall was built after Alicante was granted the title of city by Ferdinand The Catholic in 1490. However, this first Town Hall was destroyed by bombardments in 1691. This building was very close to the sea and, consequently, this area was one of the most damaged of the city. The Town Hall that we can visit today was built at the beginning of the 18th Century. The Blue Room in this Town Hall is located on the first floor and was decorated as a palace to receive Queen Isabel II in 1858, when she visited the city to inaugurate the Madrid-Alicante train line.
17. La Ciudad Descubierta (The Discovered City)
Next to the Town hall, you will find an exhibition of the ruins of several houses destroyed by the bombings mentioned above as well as 13-14th Century defensive walls, which have been preserved thanks to the fact that they were used as walls for some houses. If you go down, you can walk in Alicante’s first modern street. It was built when new walls facing the sea were erected in the 16th Century.
We leave our itinerary for a few minutes to visit this museum on our way.
19. Convento de las Monjas de la Sangre (Convent of the Blood Sisters)
The construction of this building began shortly before the bombardments, and the works were destroyed when they had just begun. A new building had to be erected and was occupied by the Augustinian nuns. In the Baroque period, Alicante had numerous convents, but this is the only surviving urban building.
This building is one of the few not to have been destroyed during the bombardment. The construction of the Co-cathedral began in the 17th Century in a Herrerian style, characterized by its sobriety and scarce decorative items. The current façade is the main one, but when the church was built, the original main façade was the side one, made of black marble, after which it is named- “Puerta Negra” (“Black Door”). If you visit the Co-cathedral, remember that the internal decorative items were added later as well as the Communion chapel.
21. Calle Labradores
This street has always been a main street in the old quarter. It began to thrive at the time of the construction of the Saint Nicolas church. However, it won’t be until after the 1691 attacks that rich inhabitants living close to the sea moved here for better protection. Both palaces on the sides of this Co-cathedral date back to the 18th Century. Incidentally, the gates and hallway are especially large because the owners kept their horses and carriages inside the house. We recommend you visit at least “El Portalet” (at 15, Labradores Street) and walk through the different rooms.
This area is located somewhat higher up, next to the wall going down from Santa Bárbara Castle. It is one of the most archetypal quarters of Alicante. The current hermitage dates back to the 18th Century and houses a representation of Christ. This statue is paraded down the steep streets of this quarter in dramatic processions during Holy Week.
23. La Ermita de San Roque
This is one of the few remaining hermitages in the city among the very numerous ones that used to exist. Although the first construction dates back to the 16th Century, the current one was built in the 19th Century.
This museum shows how water was channelled to supply the city. The method used remained virtually the same from the medieval period until the 19th Century. The so-called Garrigós wells are located next to the museum. Rain and snow water were kept here to be sold later in town. Although the earliest evidence we have of these wells is from after 1691, they were probably used as shelters by Alicante’s inhabitants during the bombardments, as well as during the Spanish Civil War.
This Basilica was originally a Muslim mosque, which became a Christian church after the Christians conquered the city. This is another building that was undamaged by the bombardment. The current church is Gothic, with pointed arches in the interior although outwardly the building seems to be square because it joins up with to the sea-facing walls that surround it . You may see cannon fire marks if you go down the stairs to the lower street. Although these marks were left after the bombardment, the attacks from the sea in 1691 were similarly damaging, which is why the church was built so that it joined the wall.
This palace was built in the same period as the other palaces in Labradores street. Our route ends here. You can take the opportunity to visit the Fine Arts Museum located inside this palace.
Our itinerary ends here. We hope you enjoyed this walk in Alicante city and hope to see you again soon.