Altea, without doubt, has to be one of the most picturesque and visited towns along the entire Costa Blanca coastline. It couldn´t be further apart culturally from Benidorm, yet distance wise so near and most definitely worth a visit. The Old Town is almost like stepping back in time and what many people envisage the “real Spain” to be like. Only a 10 minute drive outside of the bright lights and skyscrapers of Benidorm, you can even hop on the number 10 bus for a mere 1.50€.
The distinctive blue doomed cupola of the "Virgin de Consuelo" church can be seen from miles around on a clear day, perched on top of the hill and is probably the most photographed church in the whole of Spain.
The Old Town has a real Bohemian feel with an array of tiny shops lining the cobbled streets selling local pieces of art, gifts & accessories and unique pieces of clothing. Nestled in between the shops and houses are some fabulous restaurants, bars and ice cream parlours.
In the warmer months, walk around the streets in the evening and you will see groups of elderly Spanish ladies sitting on chairs that they bring onto the pavement from their homes, chattering away - sometimes knitting or shelling peas at the same time.
They have probably lived in the town all their lives, remembering it as a small fishing village and now bemused watching the tourists flock to their streets, camera in hand. They could be sitting outside their homes and next door would be a restaurant full of diners, eating on the tables that line the pavement.... what must they think!
The main square at the top has an array of bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a drink and/or meal and has the most breath taking views of Altea, Albir and Benidorm in the distance - a real picture postcard moment. During the Summer months they have craft stalls around the square selling hand-made products, artists painting and musicians entertaining.
Just a short stroll down from the church is the Palau – a state of the art auditorium with a seating capacity of 859 people. It regularly hosts world class International theatre, ballet and musical productions as well as art exhibitions.
The promenade is a lovely place to take a stroll, lined with plenty of bars and restaurants to stop off at. You can walk along the front all the way to Albir – a very popular activity with many and will take about 45 minutes, obviously depending on how quick and fit you are!
Tuesday is market day in Altea and probably one of the most popular days to visit. If you are going by train the best station to get off at is “Garganes”, which is right in the heart of Altea and directly behind the Town Hall. By bus, go to the very last stop and the beginning of the market is a short 50 metres stroll away – just follow the crowds, but be warned, it will be jam packed.
Walk down to the harbour and you will see hundreds of boats moored up and bobbing up and down - and at the far end, a working fishing port. You can watch the fishing trawlers coming in every day at around 6pm and their catch being off loaded ready for auction at the quayside.
Towards the end of September Altea holds one of the best Moors & Christians parades around – and it is certainly worth making a point of going. The costumes are stunning and you will not be disappointed - here the parades are held on two separate days.
Its easy to see why Altea is so popular with its laid back lifestyle and picture perfect cobbled streets with white washed houses - you´ll be captivated and amazed that something like this exists so close to the centre of Benidorm ...a total contrast. But if you go don´t forget your camera.