The Castillo de Santa Bárbara towering above the city is the undisputed symbol of Alicante, but it is not the only one. If you ask native inhabitant of Alicante what other place is associated with his place, or you will pay attention to what usually appears on postcards, it will certainly be, in addition to the aforementioned castle, Paseo de la Explanada, which is a very charming and characteristic seaside promenade, which today we are devoting perhaps a short but meaningful entry.
The origins of pedestrian promenade date back to the nineteenth century, when in 1830 the city authorities decided to organize the architecture and planning of Alicante. After leveling the area where the old loading dock was located, it turned out that there was a large strip of unused space just next to the port. It was soon decided however, that it would be an ideal spot for a walking alley. The first name given to it was the Malecón de Alicante, the construction of which used remains of the old city walls. In accordance with plans of city architect José Guardiola Picó and on the initiative of prefect Manuel de Olalde and mayor Juan Bonanza Roca, a promenade decorated with gardens was made, and its second name, Paseo de Olalde, owes its origin to author of the idea. However, before the promenade received its current title Paseo de la Explanada, it was re-enrolled once in 1868 by Tomas España on the Paseo de los Mártires de la Libertad to commemorate shooting of the 24 most active participants of a progressive coup, led by the mythical figure of colonel Pantaleon Boné.
The current appearance and name of the promenade took shape in the late 1950s. Its length is about 500 meters, extends from Plaza del Mar to the Parque de Canalejas and is surrounded by two rows of palm trees on each side. Interestingly, these trees have caused quite a problem almost from the beginning – their large, numerous and constantly growing roots deform the paved floor, creating something like a gutter in it. They even began to think about replacing the palm with other plants to avoid damage. However, this idea was quickly rejected, which is why every few years, the damaged fragments are being renovated so that the promenade can delight with its unique three-colored floor. Not palm trees, not the views, not buildings surrounding, but this promenade makes Paseo de Explanada a unique place. It was laid in the years 1958-1959 at the request of the mayor of Alicante Agatángel Soler, in form of a mosaic, which consists of about 6 million marble tiles measuring approximately 4 by 4 centimeters, in three colors. The first of these is Rojo Alicante, literally “red Alicante”, meaning tiles made of marble originating from this region, with a characteristic shade of subdued crimson with white streaks. The other two are Crema marfil in shades of beige and Negro marquina – black with blue reflections. The mosaic pattern symbolizes the waves of the Mediterranean Sea, inseparable from the city.
The promenade is constantly buzzing with life, filled with bothersome conversations, patter of many pairs of feet, creaking of bicycle chains, laughter, music created live by pavement musicians. Street artists, such as painters, mages or mimes, give their vent (here, of course, for a fee). Numerous cafes, restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors and shops with craft and souvenirs are also glancing around. The promenade also has a view of the St. Barbara’s castle in the north, the Puerto Deportivo and Puerto Mercante ports in the west, the Parque Canalejas in the south and Casa Carbonell in the east. In other words, without a stroll around Paseo de la Explanada, staying in Alicante is unimportant – it is a place so symbolic and so strongly associated with the city, that even the hymn of Alicante mentions it.
Getting to the pedestrian zone should not be a problem, and every local thoroughly shows you the right route – head towards the port, preferably passing through Rambla Méndez Núñez. Have a nice walk!