Alicante (near Valencia) – and Malaga (in Andalucía) are both very popular tourist resorts in Spain.

Many people have visited them already and some are planning to return. For those who are new in Spain sometimes it`s not easy to make a decision where to go. This article is a small guide about the two cities on the Spanish coast, based on my personal impressions.

Alicante. Beach (Playa Postiguet)
Alicante. Beach (Playa Postiguet)

Alicante.

The city seems to be smaller than Malaga, but in my opinion Alicante is able to give this incredible feeling of being in an ancient city. It`s also a world class resort with beautiful beaches, a gorgeous marina and an old dawn town.  In Alicante I met everything that we would call “the charm of Europe”: narrow streets paved with cobblestones, cozy cafes and restaurants, an ancient fort post (a castle) on the top of the hill, big malls where it is so comfortable to hide from the hot Sun during the middle of the day, the sound of a Multilingual crowd for almost all the year long. This city almost never sleeps and I love it!    Love so much that even think about settling down here one day. For me Alicante is the possibility to enjoy an old (as opposed to modern) European city and to relish the super clean beaches, swim in the warm bathtub-like water, and to be surrounded by tourists that infest the city at any time of the year. Alicante is fun!

Read more about Alicante: what to do, what`s the latest, where to stay…

Alicante. Center
Alicante. Center

Malaga.

It`s quite a big city, but despite the beautiful central part of the city, the fort post  and the Alkazaba (the castle) and a Rome theater, it gives me the impression of a modern city that I personally don`t like.  Malaga is not so modern, vivid and bright as Barcelona, but not so old and interesting like Alicante (in my opinion). It`s also possible to combine a beach rest and walks down town. But you`ll have to choose where to live: near the beach or in the city center, they are not so close to each other like in Alicante, that`s why you`ll have to use a public transport or to be ready to walk for about 30 minutes each way.

In Alicante you only walk approximately for 10-12 minutes from the beach to down town and at most,  you walk on the pedestrians street, so even if you have a child or you are old you don`t worry about the necessity of watching the cars.

It could be a little warmer in Malaga than in Alicante during the winter months and for sure much hotter during the summer time. Malaga is also full of shopping centers, concert halls, museums. You will be able to find an activity for yourself all year long.

Malaga.Streets
Malaga.Streets

Sea and Beaches.

The temperature of Mediterranean sea in Alicante is one of the warmest in Spain and the swimming season lasts longer too. You can swim beginning May and until the end of September of even to the middle of October.  The colors of the sea are absolutely incredible; the sand on the beach is fine and soft and there are no strong currents in Alicante. And my personal impression is that the beaches are much cleaner in Alicante than in Malaga.

On the other hand the beaches are also sandy in Malaga, the sea temperature is colder than in Alicante because it`s much deaper right near the coast and for those who would like to cool off after a few hours on the beach in the hottest months like July and August – it`s probably what you need. For instance, during the hottest months like July and August, when the air temperature is kept around +39C, the water temperature in Malaga could be +26C or even +22C. The reason why are currents. But this is also a warning sign for those who are not excellent swimmers. You need to watch out and stay closer to the cost line, especially on the days when the currents are strong.

The color of the sand in Malaga is yellow-brown, the sand here is mixed with earth. And everywhere on the beach in Malaga you will be able to take a shower to rinse off the salt water. And it`s free. In Alicante there are no showers on the beaches, you only will be able to rinse off your feet and that`s it.

Malaga.Center
Malaga.Center

Groceries.

Maybe because Malaga is a big port, or for some different reasons, many groceries are cheaper in Malaga than in Alicante. The price difference in not too much; sometimes it`s 10 cents, sometimes a half of a euro but sometimes even a euro. Also it could be important for the milk lovers: because it`s so hot in Malaga during the summer time it`s almost impossible to find fresh milk here. You can buy only UHT milk.

The best prices for the groceries you can find in both cities is in the big chains like “Mercadona”, “Carrefour’, “Auchan” and also at the local food markets. During the siesta hours almost all of the stores are closed. So if you want to buy something between 2 and 5 pm you need to find a big mall with a grocery store or go to the little “tiendas” owned by Indians, Chinese and Pakistanis. The tiendas are open but the prices are much higher than at the regular grocery stores and the selection is not too big. An average bill for two of us plus a baby in the grocery store is $35 EUR. It`s enough food for 2 days.

Breakfast at the local cafes (coffee and croissants) costs $6-10 EUR, depending on how close the cafe is situated to the city center. And be ready to pay for about $10-11 EUR per a person for lunch and this is an economical variant. To be able to find this special you need to look at the “Menu del dia” on the restaurant’s advertisements.

Alicante. Castle Santa Barbara
Alicante. Castle Santa Barbara

Where to stay and how much to pay?

Even during the high season (which is July, August, September) it seems to be less expansive stay in Alicante than in Malaga. The cost of apartment rent each night if you have similar requirements, a similar location, wi-fi, same number of bedrooms, it is cheaper in Alicante. But this is only my subjective opinion. If you are thinking about staying in an apartment Alicante I would recommend to check the LittleSunnyHouse website (apartments on the beach and 5 mins walk from downtown, really the best location in town).

Malaga. Temperature  in July
Malaga. Temperature in July

What is near and around?

Malaga is situated in the Andalucía region, where you can find many interesting sights. It`s easy to get to Granada, leave Malaga early in the morning and come back in the late evening.  A charming little town Nerja is just 40 minuts away from Malaga.  Nerja is famous because of its spectacular “Balcón de Europa”, a magnificent promenade along the edge of a towering cliff, once the site of the great Moorish castle, with beautiful panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea. It`s also easy to get from Malaga to Marbella (the distance between two of the cities is just about 60 km) or cross the border with Portugal. If you have a desire you can fly even to the Canarias Islands.

Malaga. Alcazaba
Malaga. Alcazaba

As for Alicante, the city is placed near Valencia – a very busy and beautiful city. A bus from Alicante to Madrid takes about 4 hours, but if you use the fast speed train you`ll get to the capital of Spain in 2 hours – not bad! One and a half hours on the road and you will find yourself in ancient Cartagena.  There are other interesting and beautiful and unique little towns near Alicante, such as Elche, San Juan, Althea…

Read more about Alicante: what to do, what`s the latest, where to stay…

Cartagena. Roman theater (40 mins. away from Alicante by car)
Cartagena. Roman theater (40 mins. away from Alicante by car)

If you cannot choose where to go – to Alicante or to Malaga – visit both of the cities. It will take for about 7 hours to get to Malaga from Alicante (and opposite the way as well). It is possible to find tickets on the website www.alsa.es.] However, this site and most “official” websites in Spain don’t work well for foreigners – only Spanish credit cards are accepted. It is  best to buy tickets through a third party vendor. The tickets will cost a little more (there is a service fee) but it is worth it. I personally use these two services: Raileurope and Ruvoyges

 Read also: “How to get a Schengen visa from the US“.

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