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What to see in Elche, a city of contrasts

Elche (Elx, in Valencian) is a city of big surprises. It has an oasis of palm trees in the middle of the city, old fortresses and defensive structures. There are also Arab baths that have been turned into convents and Christian basilicas built on top of old mosques. 

Walk through the centre of Elche 

To visit the old town of Elche involves walking among constructions from different times, with diverse architectural styles, exciting histories and popular celebrations. Right in the centre is the Plaza de la Glorieta, with the famous replica of the Lady of Elche and an angel representing the Mystery Play of

Elche, the well-known drama that tells of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary and that attracts thousands of tourists every year.  

A 2-minute walk away, at the plaza de la Mercé, you can enjoy a cosy family atmosphere with lovely terraces where you can have a snack. Right in the centre, there is a stone fountain with some benches around it. With its back to the square, stands the old convent of Santa Lucía, a three-storey building with a beautiful neoclassical cloister and a Renaissance-style doorway. It was occupied for years by the nuns of the order of Saint Claire, although long before that it was a place favoured by Muslims for relaxation.  

 

 

In the foundations of the convent are the Arab Baths, with three vaulted rooms (cold, warm and hot) and a dressing room. In addition, under the remains of the convent of Santa Lucía, there is a small Muslim cemetery, in what used to be the outskirts of the city. 

In front of the convent’s façade stands the Calahorra tower, a 12th century Islamic watchtower. Its location, next to the main access road from Alicante, ensured the defence of the city. 

On the other side of the tower, the plaza de Santa Isabel invites you to dream with its historical feel in the company of the Tres Marías, a statue that recreates the appearance of the virgin and her followers in the Mystery Play of Elche. Although it is a little further away than the other monuments in the centre, it is worth going to Santa Teresa bridge, the oldest bridge in Elche, which was originally made of wood. 

Basilica of Santa Maria de Elche 

Built on an old Muslim mosque, the Basilica of Elche brings together neoclassical, baroque and renaissance styles. It has 3 carved doorways, 4 chapels and a large dome with blue tiles that can be seen from any high point in the city. It is famous for being part of the stage in the representation of the Mystery Play of Elche, an event with a long tradition that inspires passion among residents and visitors. 

Basílica de Santa María de Elche 

Basilica of Santa María de Elche

Altamira Palace 

Also known as the Alcázar de la Señoría, this castle-palace was built by the Lord of Villena as his private residence. As it is part of the city’s defensive network, the building has cylindrical towers that protect its flanks and a higher four-sided tower to keep watch over anyone approaching. You can gain access by Altamira bridge and crossing the Vinalopó river, from where you can see the colourful graffiti of the Vibora II Project, which has packed the slopes of the river with murals and urban art.

Palacio de Altamira

Elche’s Palm Grove 

Elche has a spectacular oasis in the middle of the city, a valley with more than 200,000 palm trees that goes on for as far as the eye can see. Despite its lush forest appearance, the Palm Grove was established as an agricultural system implemented by the Arabs in the 8th century. Due to the advanced and extensive irrigation network, today it is one of the largest in the world, although its purpose has become more scenic and cultural. 

El Palmeral de Elche

Elche´s Palm Grove

Huerto del Cura Garden

Within the Elche Palm Grove, this garden is undoubtedly the most striking. It has about 1,000 palm trees and both Mediterranean and tropical plants, but, above all, it stands out due to the Imperial Palm Tree, a tree whose trunk is separated into 7 arms. In fact, it was the empress Elizabeth of Bavaria, better known as Sissi, who proposed the name to the owner of the palm grove, Chaplain Chestnut (who, in turn, gives his name to the orchard). 

Archaeological and History Museum of Elche 

Located in the Altamira Palace, this museum (MAHE) tells the history of Elche from its origins to the present day. In addition to being able to admire the impressive restored fortress, you can also enjoy the discoveries made at sites such as La Alcudia, where the famous bust of the Lady of Elche was found. 

Huerto del cura

Huerto del Cura Garden

Elche’s Plaza de las Chimeneas 

Across the river, four chimneys in plaza de l’Algeps are a reminder of the city’s industrial past. The neighbourhood’s atmosphere and the countless terraces in the area invite you to take a seat and enjoy a mid-afternoon snack.

What to see in Elche 

Very close to the city you can visit, just half an hour away, the coastal town of Santa Pola, famous for its mile-long wild beaches, the salt mines, the port and its historical remains. Opposite, 8 kilometres from the coast, is the island of Tabarca, an old pirate hideout and one of the most charming places for a romantic getaway in Alicante. 

Also half an hour away by car you can visit the historical centre of Orihuela, tremendously popular in the province for its deep-rooted traditions and festivities. 

Molí del agua

The Molí del Agua in Elche

A little less than half an hour away you can get to Alicante, a city not to be missed on your visit with a fantastic culinary, hotel and leisure offering. 

And, of course, another 30 minutes from Elche is Elda, a municipality with fertile land located by the river Vinalopó and surrounded by mountains whose deposits date back to the Bronze Age. 

 

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