Basilica of Santa Maria
In the heart of Alicante’s Old Town sits the oldest active church in the city. The Basilica of Santa Maria is an opulent example of Valencian Gothic architecture; its interior is adorned with breathtaking décor. The church is immediately recognizable for its two towers and baroque doorway. Although parts of the church were destroyed by fire during the 15th century, much of it still dates back to the 14th century. When Alicante was conquered, the city was converted to the Christian faith and the church was built on top of the remnants of a mosque. Today, the church attracts visitors who come to see its architecture year-round, reflect in its cavernous nave or attend the Mystery of Elche festival each August.
Arrive early in the morning to attend the morning mass, a beautiful and almost timeless experience. From the small square in front of the church you’ll be able to watch the local people of Alicante file through the ornate doorways and into the nave. Above the door sits a statue of the Virgin Mary. Look up to see a number of gargoyles adorning the spires above. This is a great opportunity to take a photo of the church from the outside; however, cameras are not permitted indoors. Take a seat and watch and listen as a guitarist leads the service. Mass is delivered only in Spanish, but this should not deter visitors since the experience transcends language.
Time your visit between masses to explore the basilica’s six chapels. The church interior is lavish and requires a couple of hours to be fully appreciated. See the 18th-century altar and the original organ that dates back to 1653.
The Basilica of Santa Maria is located in the Old Town and is best reached on foot. The church is open daily, but is closed in the middle of the day. A timetable for mass is available outside the church. Admission is free.