Santa Cruz neighbourhood: Alicante’s most picturesque area
Santa Cruz is located at the foot of Mount Benacantil, next to Santa Bàrbara castle , and it’s one of the most authentic and traditional neighbourhoods in Alicante. It’s an area of lively, picturesque streets with beautiful white houses — many are decorated with eye-catching colourful tiles and friezes, each one different from the next and all extremely well-cared for. If you look closely, many of these houses have the name of the family that lives inside written on their walls. Throughout the year the residents decorate their façades and balconies with beautiful plants and flowers, giving the district a truly special charm.
Santa Cruz neighbourhood is in the heart of Alicante’s historical centre and it has several viewpoints with wonderful panoramic views of the bay, the port and Alicante city. You’ll soon notice that this district stretches up to the skies, so it’s a good idea to explore the neighbourhood in comfortable shoes because there are plenty of steeply climbing streets and steps to navigate.
What to see in Santa Cruz neighbourhood
Santa Cruz neighbourhood has a certain Moorish air and is home to numerous attractions for visitors to enjoy: Santa Bàrbara castle, Santa Cruz hermitage, Santa Cruz viewpoint, etc. However, Semana Santa (Easter Week) is when it shows its most festive side and dresses up especially for the occasion. Easter is one of the big events of the year and locals throw themselves wholeheartedly into the celebrations.
Every Holy Wednesday most of the neighbourhood congregates next to Santa Cruz hermitage to watch the religious pasos (floats) as they are carried down the district’s difficult, winding streets, overcoming precipitous slopes and obstacles. If your visit doesn’t coincide with this festival, it’s a good idea to visit Santa Cruz hermitage to get an idea of what this social and religious event is like. Local residents and visitors flock here to see the costaleros (people who carry the floats), nazarenos (penitents) and damas de mantilla (ladies wearing black ‘mantilla’ veils) follow the pasos down the neighbourhood’s narrow streets.
Easter Week in Santa Cruz neighbourhood
The Brotherhood of Santa Cruz has over 1,500 ‘brothers’ or members and is the star of the Easter Week festivities in Santa Cruz neighbourhood. It’s responsible for organising the Holy Wednesday procession of penitence, which consists of four pasos: El Cristo de Medinaceli (known as “el Cautivo”), La Dolorosa, El Descendimiento de la Cruz and El Cristo de la Fe.
Santa Cruz hermitage only has a small door so the El Descendimiento paso has to be carried out by the costaleros almost brushing the ground and with the upper part of its cross removed (the top of the cross is replaced once the paso has left the building.) Another interesting fact is that, in olden times, the costaleros mainly consisted of Alicante fishermen and dockworkers. Why? Their strong, hefty build meant that they could cope with the difficult journey and weight of the sculptures.
How Santa Cruz neighbourhood has developed
Santa Cruz hermitage dates from the 18th century and was built on top of La Ampolla tower, one of of the few remaining vestiges of the ancient medieval walls of Alicante. For some years the Carmelite friars ran a school for primary education here.
In addition to Holy Wednesday, another important event in the neighbourhood’s calendar is the May Crosses festivities in Alicante, which are celebrated enthusiastically for four days. Residents festoon the streets and houses with countless crosses made from carnations.
Santa Cruz neighbourhood sits on the first populated area in the town where the Moors once lived: their city was called Al-Laqant. This helps to explain its intricate urban plan, as it was almost certainly designed to combat the high summer temperatures. It’s definitely the oldest neighbourhood in Alicante and is bordered on one side by La Ramba de Méndez Núñez, one of Alicante’s main roads.
So if you’re visiting Santa Bàrbara castle, make sure you take a stroll in the neighbouring district of Santa Cruz because you’re sure to be impressed. And if you like photography, you’ll love capturing the tiny corners, stunning details, cats, doorways and special scenes that you’ll encounter along your magical walk. The entire neighbourhood is extremely photogenic and shows off its best side to anyone who comes to visit.
Leisure, food and night-life
There are also endless bars and restaurants dotted along the streets of Santa Cruz so, between all that climbing up and down its streets, why not make a pit stop and enjoy a glass of fine wine and some tapas? You can sample some typical Alicante cuisine before you continue navigating the slopes.
Santa Cruz also has a special charm at night because it has plenty of lively places where you can experience the local night-life and have fun enjoying live music and drinks in a great atmosphere.