Elche, or Elx in Valencian, is the second most populated city in the province of Alicante after the capital. It is also the capital of the Bajo Vinalopó region. Located on the southern coast of Alicante, this city surprises many visitors with its palm grove in the center of the city center, its defensive fortresses and its extensive architectural heritage.
Here we are going to give a few hints to know the best places to see in Elche.
Strolling through the center of Elche
Before entering fully into places to visit in Elche, a first tip is to get lost in the historic center of the city. Among its narrow streets you will discover buildings from different periods, with very varied architectural styles and a surprising urban planning.
Some of the most curious details are the replica of the Lady of Elche, located in the Plaza de la Glorieta, and the angel that represents the Mystery of Elche, a drama that tells the Ascension of the Virgin Mary.
Near this place is the Plaza de la Mercé, a space dotted with terraces that welcomes in its back the convent of Santa Lucia with its neoclassical cloister and Renaissance façade. In the foundations of the convent are located the Arab baths, with rooms for cold, warm and hot water. A small Muslim cemetery is also located here.
In front of the convent stands the Calahorra tower, built in the 12th century by the Arabs and which served as a defensive watchtower. We end this review of the historic center with the Plaza de Santa Isabel.
Basilica of Santa María de Elche
Very close to the Plaza de la Mercé and Santa Isabel you will discover the basilica of Santa María de Elche, which is built on the site of an ancient Muslim mosque. The surprising thing about this temple is the fusion of architectural styles, with baroque, renaissance and neoclassical.
The building has three carved doorways, four chapels and a beautiful dome with blue tiles that can be seen from any high point of the city. It is one of the temples with more devotees in Elche.
On the way to the Palmeral de Elche from the historic center, we reach the Palacio de Altamira or Alcázar de la Señoría, which belonged to the Lord of Villena and was built as a private residence.
It is part of the network of defensive constructions of Elche and stands out for the presence of cylindrical towers that protect its flanks and a higher quadrangular tower to improve surveillance. Access to the palace was only possible through the Altamira bridge, crossing the Vinalopó river.
The Palm Grove of Elche
If there are two answers to the question of what to do in Elche, one of them is to visit and walk through its palm grove. Palms and Elche are two indissoluble elements that make up a unique natural landscape and a universal significance. This space was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000 and is a true oasis in the middle of the city.
In total there are some 200,000 palm trees that extend as far as the eye can see. This lush forest was born as an agricultural system implemented during the 8th century by the Muslims. The extensive irrigation network that nourishes it makes this urban ecosystem one of the largest palm groves in the world. Its natural, cultural and scenic value is beyond doubt.
Huerta del Cura and Palmeral Museum
Within the palm grove is the Huerta del Cura Garden, which is the most emblematic space of this place. With approximately 1,000 palm trees and Mediterranean and tropical plants, to go there only responds to one desire, to know the Imperial Palm, which stands out for its trunk with seven arms. Elizabeth of Bavaria, Sissy the Empress, was the one who proposed the name of this species to the owner of the palm grove, the chaplain Castaño, from which the name Huerta del Cura is derived.
And to finish the visit to the palm grove, we recommend you to visit the Palmeral Museum, located in the Huerto San Placido, in a traditional house of the nineteenth century that offers all the history of this icon of Elche. There you will be able to see palm tree climbing exhibitions and learn about the handicraft workshop of the White Palm.
MAHE – Archaeological and History Museum of Elche
An added reason to visit Elche is to learn about its history in the MAHE, the archaeological museum of the city. It is located in the Palacio de Altamira and its purpose is to tell how the city has evolved from its origins to the present day.
The first Visigoth remains are the beginning of this historical tour, but a very important part of its content is dedicated to the Muslim rule, when the city was created. The MAHE is the perfect excuse to admire the Palace of Altamira and learn more about the discoveries made at sites such as La Alcudia. There, the bust of the Lady of Elche, which is recognized worldwide, was unveiled.
La Alcudia Archaeological Park
Outside the urban center, but within the municipality of Elche, is located the archaeological site of La Alcudia. This space formed the ancient Iberian city of Ilici. Its almost 10 hectares of land contain numerous archaeological remains that have been studied for centuries. The site is also home to the remains of an ancient Roman wall. Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, Muslims and Christians have passed through this area.
The park is completed with an interpretation center where some of the findings are exhibited, as well as audiovisual content explaining the origin of the deposits. The most important treasure of La Alcudia is the Dama de Elche, which is currently kept in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid.
You already know, roughly speaking, what to see in Elche. The list could be completed with other attractions such as the Pusol museum, the nearby beaches, the Festa museum, the Hondo natural park or the Plaza de las Chimeneas. And if all this seems insufficient, do not hesitate to visit other nearby towns on the Costa Blanca.