Alicante parks, promenades and plazas

August 21, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Alicante, with its arms open to the Mediterranean, has a number of areas intended for recreation and enjoyment where visitors command wonderful panoramas of the sea.

El Palmeral park Alicante

El Palmeral park Alicante

Canalejas Park is the oldest park in the city. It was designed in 1886 by the architect González Altés. The entranceway is guarded by stone sculptures of lions and dogs, and inside is a spectacular hundred-year-old ficus of enormous proportions, a small monument by Daniel Bańuls as an allegory to the Alicante writer Carlos Arniches, a map of Spain carved in wood and various fountains.

On the southern outskirts of the city, next to the sea, there is a palm tree plantation which has been used as a natural film location. Today it is one of the most delightful green zones of Alicante, called the El Palmeral park. It has waterfalls, ponds, flowerbeds showing a range of local flower and plant varieties, a children’s playground, a cross-country biking circuit, an auditorium, promenades, a café, etc.

On the eastern slope of San Fernando Castle is the so-called Monte Tossal Theme Park, a large leisure area covering 63,000m2 distributed over the terraced slopes of the mountain, and named after local districts of the Land of Valencia. It has installations for minigolf, bowls, skating, giant chess, a biking track, a rock climbing practice wall, etc., all set on a spectacular lookout point over the sea and the city.

On the northwestern fringe of the city, far from the centre, is the largest green zone for leisure and recreation in Alicante, called    Parque de Lo Morant, with promenades, playgrounds, an open-air auditorium, etc.

The city’s green lung, however, is undoubtedly the hill called Monte Benacantil, carpeted in pine trees in a large proportion although populated with eucalyptuses as well. The area is located next to the new Jaime II Avenue and Vázquez de Mella Street. Using the access road to Santa Bárbara Castle, visitors can stop at various lookout points for fine views of the town through the pine trees.

On one of the slopes running down to the old quarter of town towards the southwest, an innovative area to be called Parque de La Ereta is soon to be completed. Designed by the French architects Marc Bigarnet and Frédéric Bonnet, winners of the European architecture competition EUROPAN, this park will be a natural kind of recreation area to be kept as rough and wild as possible, with terraced slopes, and populated with native plant species in keeping with the colours of the local terrain. There will be plants, shrubs and trees, stone pathways flanked by shady trees, fountains with drinking water, a kiosk with a pergola, a café on the flat central area of the park (a former threshing ground), which will be used for open-air shows, and a multifunctional classroom, with all buildings fitting in appropriately with the natural surroundings.

The most popular of Alicante promenades is without doubt La Explanada de Espańa. Built over the ancient port quay, this promenade was conceived in 1867 by the municipal architect José Guardiola Picó.

The current three-colour pavoirs dating from 1958 show the varieties of marble found in the area: Alicante red, Ivory cream and Marquina black. There are 6.6 million 4x4cm tiles tessellated together to form a gigantic mosaic measuring over half a kilometre in length, flanked by four rows of palm trees forming one central and two side walkways, ending in a monumental fountain (1960) by Carlos Buigas, who also designed the Montjuich fountains in Barcelona. And a monument to the assassinated turn-of-the-century liberal party leader Canalejas (1914) by the Alicante sculptor Vicente Bańuls.

There are other promenades around the quay area, also flanked by palm trees, although smaller in size: the seafront promenade Conde de Vallellano runs parallel to La Explanada; the Francisco Tomás y Valiente dock contains the so-called Queen’s Staircase, in front of which is a sculpture by Esperanza d’Ors set in the water and entitled Icharus Returns with a Surfboard (1999); Almirante Julio Guillén Tato Avenue and the adjacent Pedro Herrero Gardens, containng a bust of this revered pediatrician now in the process of beatification, parallel to Canalejas Park; and Plaza del Puerto Viejo (Old Port Square), between the marina and Postiguet Beach, whose pavoirs are replicas of the Explanada tiles, preserving neoclassical columns from the ancient Maritime Captaincy and a curious sundial.

Dotted around the town are countless plazas, some old and narrow, others modern and spacious. One typical square worth visiting is Plaza de la Santísima Faz, located behind the Ayuntamiento (City Hall), as it housed public buildings in the 16th century. It is irregular in shape and the majority of its buildings date from the 19th century, as it is the product of a series of demolitions carried out in the mid-20th century. From former epochs it still preserves a small fountain depicting an allegory of Veronica carrying the Holy Visage of Christ, with a curious reproduction of the ancient coat of arms of the city and not the official arms which were approved in 1941.

Another ancient square is Plaza de Gabriel Miró, which dates from the 16th century, also being called Plaza de las Barcas (Boats Square) because of its proximity to the old port. In 1918 the monumental fountain now occupying the plaza was erected, a creation by Vicente Bańuls, and in 1935 the bust of this illustrious Alicante-born prose writer lending his name to the square, sculpted by José Sempere, was added to the ensemble. The hundred-year-old ficuses are spectacular in size, meriting botanical study.

Equally traditional is Plaza de Calvo Sotelo, constructed in the 16th century. It was lansdcaped with gardens in 1874 and ten years later received the bust of Governor Barrejón, a heroic successor to a former governor who successfully combated the cholera epidemic of 1854.

In the centre of the plaza is a monument to Eleuterio Maisonnave made by Vicente Bańuls in 1895 and built in memory of this illustrious Alicante mayor, founder of the savings bank Caja de Ahorros y Monte de Piedad, Minister of State and Governor during the First Republic.

Despite its name, the so-called Plaza Nueva, or New Square, dates from the early 19th century, although it has been extensively refurbished during the 20th century. At the beginning of the 1980s the gardens built in 1932 were uprooted, and were then remodelled in 1998 for the installation of the Mediterranean Aquarium where a number of local marine species can be seen in their natural habitats.

The prototype of the modern, circular plaza of the new quarter of town, designed in 1915, is the so-called Plaza de Los Luceros. In its centre is the largest monumental fountain in the city, formally called “Levante” although it is popularly known as the fountain of “Los Caballos” (The Horses). It is the largest work ever produced by Daniel Bańuls, concluded in 1930.

At the confluence of four large avenues (Maisonnave, Aguilera, Salamanca and Oscar Esplá) there is a spacious circus more recently called Glorieta de la Estrella (Star Circus), which is interesting in that the centre is occupied by a mobile sculpture by the native Alicante artist Eusebio Sempere called “Como una estrella” (Like a Star), surrounded by a fountain.

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