Discovering Alcoy's rich history

The dramatic mountain ranges in inland Alicante provide a beautiful backdrop to the popular beach resorts. A road trip into Alicante’s rural heartland is a lovely way to spend a day getting to know a more traditional and peaceful part of Spain.

Santa Maria church, AlcoyOne of the best-known inland cities in Alicante is Alcoy. The historic town is well-known for its fantastic Moors and Christians fiesta, cuisine and areas of natural beauty.

The drive from Alicante through the rural countryside is a joy in itself, especially if you decide to take the more direct route along the CV800, which is great if you like to drive up twisty mountain paths with sheer drops. You will be rewarded with fantastic views but the quicker A7 road is a less nerve-wracking option.

It’s about 65 kilometres from Alicante to Alcoy so it can easily be done in a day trip. Alcoy’s a great stop-off for lovers of history, Spain’s fiestas, gastronomy, culture, mountains and architecture.

It is known as the city of bridges with several fine wrought-iron bridges over the rivers and ravines running around the edge of Alcoy.

From these bridges you can see the magnificent mountains and natural landscape surrounding Alcoy including the Carrascal de la Font Roja natural park and the Sierra de Mariola mountain, known for its variety of aromatic plants often used in medicines and to make the fiery hierbas liqueur.

Amazing Alcoy monuments

It is best to park on the edge of the city and walk around the main monuments. Head for the Plaza Espana where you will find the tourist information office, the Llotja de Sant Jordi exhibition space designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, the impressive Santa Maria church and the elegant Neoclassic Casa Consistorial town hall with paintings and sculptures by local artists.

It is worth popping into the church to see interesting works of art as well as an impressive painted ceiling.

Alcoy's medieval centre

From the Plaza, take the road behind the church called Pintor Casanova, which leads to Placeta del Carbo. This antique square was the centre of medieval Alcoy.

Alcoy town hall

Heading back to the Plaza Espana and up the street Sant Nicolau are interesting old buildings with beautiful balconies.

Alcoy's impressive sacred art

Of particular interest are the iconic Modernist Casa del Pavo with its ornamental facade and turkeys on the door lintels, and the San Mauro and San Francisco church which houses a great collection of sacred art.

Glorieta park in AlcoyAlong this street is the beautiful Glorieta park which dates back to the 19th century. There is a lovely little lake with ducks and moorhens.

The beautiful buildings are evidence of Alcoy’s rich and interesting industrial past. It was an important centre for making textiles and was the paper-making centre of Spain. The first special cigarette papers for rolling tobacco were made in Alcoy in the beginning of the 19th century.

Good times to go are in April for the Moors and Christians and at Christmas.

Alcoy’s Moors and Christians fiesta is considered to be one of the finest in Spain and has been declared an event of international touristic interest.

From April 21 to 24 the historic town centre is throbbing with the sound of gunpowder and battle cries to commemorate the battles between the Moors and Christians which took place in the 13th century.

Thousands of people take part in the spectacular processions dedicated to St George, whose feast day is April 23. Alcoy’s patron saint makes an appearance on horseback when he fires arrows from the castle.

It is a good idea to rent a seat along the route so you get a good view and do not have to stand for hours. Phone +34 965 540 580 or go to www.ticketmaster.es to make the reservation.

Also make sure to book your hotel room in or around Alcoy well in advance.

Christmas in AlcoyChristmas is also a very special time in Alcoy with celebrations going on for more than a month.

At the beginning of December the Betlem de Tiristi nativity scene marks the arrival of Christmas.

This is an attractive and original attraction with puppets delivering the true meaning of Christmas.

Another unusual tradition at this time is Las Pastoretes, which takes place on the Sunday before January 5. Children dressed as traditional shepherds dance and distribute sweets during a parade.

The ceremony dates back to 1889. At the end of the parade they go to a barn to offer their herds to the infant Jesus.

In the grand Plaza de Espana, a large nativity scene is set up in front of the Santa Maria church. A giant king sits on his throne in the square where giggling children climb on to his lap to have their photos taken.

Christmas ends on the evening of January 5 with the Parade of the Three Wise Men, which is one of the oldest processions celebrated in Spain and possibly even in the world.

You never know it may even snow. Winters can be harsh in inland Alicante.

Alcoy looks awesome at Christmas

The Three Kings make a dramatic entrance into Alcoy on camels accompanied by hundreds of musicians, torch bearers, shepherds and page boys. These page boys have long ladders to climb up the balconies to deliver the children’s presents.

The Casal de Nadal is a museum dedicated to Alcoy’s Christmas celebrations which is worth visiting to get an overview of the famous events.

View over Alcoy from the bridge

You can try Alcoy’s rich and varied cuisine at many restaurants. Local dishes include stuffed peppers (bajoques farcides), a fish and vegetable stew (borreta), bean and meat stew (olleta alcoyana) and sweet almonds (peladillas).

You can also try its hierbas liqueur or coffee liqueur after a meal.

Alcoy is home to the best-known tapas

Alcoy is also the home town of the Serpis olives, which has to be the most famous tapas in the world.

You can visit the Serpis museum to find out more about the history of these olives stuffed with anchovies.

The museum has a guided tour on a raised walkway above the factory floor. There is also a shop to buy local products, including olives, liquors and pate.

Strange but true fact about Alcoy

In Spain there is a saying ‘to have more morale than Alcoyano’ meaning that you never throw in the towel. Legend has it that the Alcoy football club Alcoyano were losing a game 0-13 but still kept trying to get back into the game. 

 

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