Last updated on January 15, 2023 by Wandering our World
Spain has often been the subject of many a fun adventure abroad. And even these days it has the likes of TikTok and Instagram influencers flooding social media with monumental photos of gorgeous natural scenery and historic architecture.
But anybody who knows Spain knows Alicante and Málaga are two of the best cities to visit, thanks to their rich history, culture, and thriving tourism industries that attract visitors in their thousands throughout the year. But which one to visit?
Well as we’ll show you below, Alicante has arguably the better variety of beaches and may be the best choice for those looking for a beach-focused holiday. Yet Malaga may have the edge when it comes to nightlife, and also tends to be the better choice for families due to all the kid friendly activities.
Of course that’s barely scratching the surface when it comes to how Alicante and Malaga are different, and similar.
That why below we compare the beaches, nightlife, food, festivals and more to give you the most honest and best overview around. All so you can make the right holiday decision!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Has Better Beaches
- Which Is Best For Families
- Which Has Better Nightlife
- When’s The Best Time To Visit
- Which Is Better For Food
- Festivals Throughout The Year In Both Cities
- Where to Stay According to Your Budget
- Which Is The Better Choice
A Quick Overview
Alicante: A Quick Overview
Alicante is a city located on the Mediterranean coast of Spain and is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning beaches, historic landmarks, and lively nightlife.
The city has a long history, with evidence of human settlement dating back to the Bronze Age. It’s been home to people for over 7000 years and has been through many changes throughout the centuries.
Most notably, though, their flourishing economy is partly due to their thriving tourism industry, which first started making headway in the late ’50s before creating
Alicante as we know it today, is a gorgeous, thriving metropolis full of wonderful sites and activities for avid explorers.
Málaga: A Quick Overview
Málaga is a city located in the Andalusia region of the Mediterranean coast. The city is steeped in history, having been a populated city for nearly 2800 years, making it one of the oldest cities in Europe – perfect for history buffs.
Stunning beaches hug the coastline, and beautiful feats of architecture can be found on every corner. The city is also rich in culture and was the birthplace of famed painters like Picasso, philosophers, and poets.
All in all it’s a stunning metropolis, filled with loads of exciting things to see and do, easily making it one of Spain’s most beloved tourist destinations.
Which Is The Best City For Beaches
Alicante: The Beaches
One of Alicante’s biggest drawing factors is their pristine coastline, with sunny golden beaches and a temperate climate making it beach weather all year round!
The beaches also have brilliant facilities that are kept clean, as well as promenades that can supply you with food, drinks, and equipment rental where needed.
Depending on where you go, you can find long, sandy stretches that beckon you for sunset strolls by the shoreline as well as small, intimate alcoves hidden from the bustle of busy crowds. The variety is quite incredible.
The turquoise water is almost glass-like, perfect for floating along the waves on a surfboard or enjoying the refreshing ocean breeze while sunbathing.
Alicante’s beaches also tend to swarm with activity, from tourists lounging on the sandy beaches to those sailing, diving, and more! The beaches here have it all.
Actually, we think Alicante offers a better variety for beach lovers than Malaga, with long beaches perfect for walks and small, hidden coves that allow for a more private experience.
Málaga: The Beaches
One of the best ways to spend a day in Málaga is to indulge in a casual, stress-free day on their silver shores.
The coastline here features abundant hidden gems, with alcoves embedded out-of-sight in rocky outcrops. But, unfortunately, if you’re looking for long, whimsical beaches to live out your romance novel fantasies with long strolls at sunset, Málaga isn’t for you.
Instead, the quaint stretches bode well for guests looking to enjoy some sunbathing and watersports. But a few of their beaches have also been awarded Blue Flag status for outstanding quality and cleanliness, with facilities that make those beaches disability friendly too.
But be warned, if you’re not watching the beach you head to, you might stumble upon nudist-friendly beaches too, where dressed and undressed visitors share the sunlight for an all-over tan. Just be wary of that, especially if traveling with kids.
Which Is Best For Families?
Overall, both cities offer a dynamic escape that’s ideal for getting the family to do something fun and interesting every day.
They’re both sturdy competitors in the Alicante vs. Málaga family trip debate. But Malaga in particular is renowned for its kid-friendliness.
Alicante: Family Trips
When it comes to vacations, one of the most stressful things is finding a place that’s family-friendly with lots of activities to keep the kids occupied. Alicante can add some relief to this seemingly impossible task.
The city offers many interesting and exciting activities that are stimulating for both kids and adults. And it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg either; you can take your family down to the beach and play in the crystal clear waters or take a walk around the cultural sites. All free activities.
But we think Alicante is better suited to older children, so while there is plenty for you to choose from to try and entertain your toddlers, we think your teens would appreciate Alicante more.
Regardless, if you are looking for a family-friendly holiday spot, there’s nothing wrong with picking Alicante, but Málaga as we’ll show you below, is certainly the winner of this round.
Málaga: Family Trips
Málaga has been considered the Children Capital of Spain, and if that doesn’t already garner good feelings about which is the better of the two for a family-friendly vacation, we’ll elaborate further!
Parents know the aim of the game for a peaceful holiday is to ensure the little ones are kept busy and happy throughout the day.
Well in that respect Málaga offers plenty to do and see that’s kid-friendly and safe for families. From strolls through one of their many museums, visits to their gorgeous city parks, or spending some time down on their Blue Flag beaches.
And what’s better is everything is easily accessible, so there’s less fuss about “Are we there yet?” and more time to enjoy this precious family moment.
Then, when the time comes to settle down for a calm and relaxing evening, know that Málaga has an abundance of family-friendly hotels and resorts, with helpful staff and on-site child-friendly facilities that ensure that parents also get a moment to themselves every once in a while.
Which Has The Best Nightlife?
Alicante: The Nightlife
One of the key features that make Alicante such a vibrant city is the incredible nightlife scene.
Like most Spanish cities, it upholds a steady reputation for being a place to indulge in dancing, dining, and drinking in some unique and fun environments.
The nightlife in Alicante is diversified too, and features global inspiration, starting from the tapas bars and ending up in nightclubs blasting techno, disco, and more. So no matter what you like, you’re bound to find something to do after hours that’ll get your blood pumping.
Their night scene gets particularly busy during the summer when tourists and locals flock to the streets to enjoy some much-needed R&R while holding an R&R in hand.
There are often festivities, international DJs, and events evenings, making each unique bar and club a must-see venue for the evening! But, of course, you’ll have to do your research, the nightlife scene in Alicante is a journey on its own, and you might as well add a clubbing bucket list to your holiday itinerary.
Málaga: The Nightlife
Spain has indeed become a place for party animals to congregate, with names like Ibiza and Madrid lingering on the lips of DJs just frothing for the opportunity to perform there.
And Málaga is no different; it’s a party town, there’s no doubt about that – and arguably a better one than Alicante.
There’s an abundant student population here thanks to the universities found around the city, and if we’ve learned anything from our college days, that’s a one-way ticket to an unbalanced sleep cycle and lots of partying!
Simply put the nightlife here is incredible. The city bustles during the day, but at night, it comes alive with a whole new culture.
The restaurants dim the lights, the gentle thrum of music plays throughout the streets, and bars and clubs flush the city streets in fluorescent rainbows.
Plaza del Merced and Plaza Uncibay are where the party really hits. Depending on your mood, you can find anything from a gentle pre-game starter to an all-night rager. And some hotels even offer rooftop bars and clubs, meaning you don’t have to stray too far from home to find a good vibe.
Not to mention some of the museums stay open late, so if you want to view a portrait of Picasso under mood lighting, you can certainly make a romantic evening for yourself by not only exploring the restaurants of Málaga but by indulging in the cultural side too. Sweep us off our feet, why don’t you?
It’s hard to pick a winner when it comes to which has the better nightlife; in all honesty, it’s a head-on battle, with both offering a superb range of choices of clubs, restaurants, bars, and parties to attend.
But if we had to put a crown on a victor, it’d be by a slim margin, and that’d be Málaga, for the simple reason that their bustling nightlife doesn’t adhere to seasonal changes like Alicante. Of course, that’s the benefit of being a student hub.
When’s The Best Time To Visit
There is no “best time” to visit Alicante. With the temperate climate making for a year-round paradise, you can enjoy the superb luxury that Mediterranean coastal towns offer in most months.
On average, the region receives under 30 days of rain annually, meaning your holiday won’t be washed out by rainy seasons and storms!
Instead, you can lounge on the beach, dusk to dawn, without fear or worry about a dreary vacation.
Of course, though, there is a crowded period, so if you’re looking to avoid the busy period, we’d recommend staying away in the month of June.
Málaga, like Alicante, offers a pristine year-round climate for a luxurious getaway to the Mediterranean coast.
Summer is often the busiest and hottest season, with temperatures soaring to 31°C. We’re not complaining; it’s just another excuse to bust out that itsy bitsy bikini you’ve had hidden in your wardrobe.
The year-round vibe is pretty fun, partly due to the bustling student network that calls Málaga home and the tourism industry that draw in crowds of eager visitors throughout the year.
The city often sees its busiest days between June to September, so introverts, you’ve been warned!
Which Is Better For Food?
You can’t just spend time in Spain without indulging yourself in its vibrant food scene. It doesn’t matter where you go, food is for the people, and people love food!
So you’re bound to stumble across incredible traditional restaurants in both cities as well as a few scattered international cuisines that create a diverse foodie hub that’ll sate any craving you have.
Malaga and Alicante are no exemptions to the rule and have a diverse and unique hub of restaurants scattered amongst their streets.
The Food In Alicante
Alicante is known for having some of the best regional dishes in Spain.
And with the Mediterranean Sea right on their doorstep, it’s obvious that the dish of the day is going to include a tender touch of fish in some way or another.
But if you find yourself in the city, feeling peckish for something to eat, here’s a few tips on what to try:
- Paella: Combining some of the staples found fresh in the region, Paella is not only a must-try dish in Alicante but also representative of Spanish cuisine as a whole. With fresh seafood, spiced rice, and aromatic flavourings, you can’t go wrong with this dish!
- Gachamiga: Traditionally made by shepherds, this porridge dish has become a hit among outdoor festivals. It’s a simple but timeless recipe that’s packed with flavour.
- Turrón de Jijona: A must-try sweet dish that falls under the nougat family. This classic is a hit amongst Alicante locals, especially around Christmas. However, you can still find it at street vendors if you’re looking.
But the flavour doesn’t end there; with international vendors setting up shop and bringing a variety of flavourful foods to the streets of Alicante, you can find just about anything to suit your cravings.
The Food In Málaga
Málaga sits in a superb region for fruit farming, which is perhaps why one of their most beloved products are the sweet wines that come from the fruitful grape yields.
Like Alicante, it’s filled with wonderful restaurants too, and a vibrant foodie scene that isn’t without their own authentic flare tossed into the mix. So if you’re looking to try a genuine Málaga meal, here’s what to go for:
- Tarta Malagueña: A sweet cake made using two of the region’s biggest exports, Marcona Almonds, and sweet wine, mixed into a delightfully fluffy treat that you’re going to pine for when you head home from your holiday.
- Espeto: A traditional fish dish made with one of the most common seafood found on the coasts of Málaga, Sardines, skewered and grilled on an open flame. Often found at vendors along the beachfront, fresh caught from sea to table!
- Porra Antequerana: Born from a neighbouring town of Málaga, this gazpacho-like soup is known for its tomato base and unique thickening technique that makes it both appetizing and filling despite being a soup!
Otherwise, if you’re in the mood for something a bit closer to home, you can surely find a restaurant somewhere in the mix that’ll cater to your needs! After all, any bustling metropolis needs a bustling food scene, and Málaga doesn’t disappoint.
Festivals Throughout The Year In Both Cities
Alicante: The Festivals
Carnaval is a celebration that spans over two weeks. It is accompanied by street parties, live music, parades, and traditional festivities, including the grande finale, where costumed locals bury their gear to return the following year. Carnaval is usually hosted between February and March.
2. Mercado Medieval
The last week of June transforms the streets into a medieval world, where people are invited to travel back to an age long gone.
The market often boasts stalls selling wares unlike anything of modern times, and the entire street of El Barrio comes alive with costumed entertainment and live music.
3. Patron Saints Festivals
Throughout July through September, various fisherman districts come together to celebrate the Patron Saints of their towns and pay their tributes in beautiful displays of gratitude.
Málaga: The Festivals
February through March, you can join the Carnaval festivities. The whole town joins in celebrating, and squares are adorned with temporary stages where the costumed masses can congregate to get together over some live music and just enjoy the festivities.
2. Málaga Feria
A celebration of the city itself resulted in 10 days of constant street parties glorifying the re-conquest of their town in the 15th century.
Held in August, you don’t want to miss out on this excuse to party. It’s a festival steeped in history, and we’re sure you’ll want to do as the Spanish do and flamenco your appreciation away!
3. Picasso Month
October is dedicated to the man, the myth, the legend himself, the world-known Pablo Picasso. Concerts, exhibitions, and more are held in his honour every year with a different theme relating to his work.
He is a legend in the art world and created new movements with his careful brush strokes, and since October was his birth month, there’s no better time to celebrate his life!
Where to Stay According to your Budget
Luxury: Luxury is renting out a private villa to enjoy your stay, and one comes to mind immediately. Urban Mansion by Fidalsa is set in the heart of Alicante city and central to all interest points.
The villa comes in with a wrap-around terrace, air-conditioned rooms, a private pool, a garden, and even its own games room, making it a one-stop destination for anyone who wants to relax in style while on vacation. See pictures and rates!
Budget: Odyssey Rooms is a great way to get hotel treatment on a budget. An aparthotel with its own private pool and a short walk to the nearest beach, it’s central to everything we love about Alicante.
Breakfast is included, and each unit has its own kitchenette so you can enjoy something homemade for a change, though we’re sure you won’t want to. See pictures and rates!
Shoestring: The best way to save on any vacation is by slumming it down in a hostel. Only, The Market Hostel is anything but slumming it! Instead, this sleek, modern hostel offers all the home comforts of a cozy bed and privacy while still being well within the means of anybody’s budget.
From 14-sleeper dorms to private bedrooms, you’ll receive world-class hospitality from a dedicated staff team and make some new friends in the process. Sleepover anyone? See pictures and rates!
Luxury: For a luxury stay in Málaga’s city center, we can only suggest ICON Malabar. Found in one of the city’s gorgeous architectural buildings, a night in style will include a private suite, city views, private balconies, and in the morning, a phenomenal complimentary breakfast.
So if you’re looking to relax and be in the heart of the action, this hotel is one of the best in Málaga. See pictures and rates!
Budget: Who said budget can’t include a private villa? Casita Blanco is situated on Málaga’s outskirts but is still close to all the action. In fact, it’s a dive into the rustic lifestyle of the locals (in our humble opinion).
Inclusive of mountain views, a private pool, a kitchenette, and a garden, you can truly immerse yourself in the Málaga without blowing a hole through your pocket. See pictures and rates!
Shoestring: The Urban Jungle Hostel is a way to meet new people and experience life in Málaga without blowing your budget on accommodation alone. From 8-sleeper dorms to private rooms, you have your pick of a cozy place to sleep, all while being a stone’s throw away from the city center.
You can find balconies, city views, free wifi, and a shared kitchen with round-the-clock service from the hospitable staff at the front desk. Shoestring? Yes. Slumming it? Definitely not. See pictures and rates!
Alicante vs Málaga: Which Is The Better Choice?
So there you have it, a comprehensive guide to the cities of Alicante and Málaga. As for the winner…..
Well, Alicante shows great potential, but our heart lies with Málaga. From the nightlife and the versatile beaches to the family-friendly environment, it just offers more!
But the only way to know if you agree with us is by visiting them yourself.