We’re spoilt for choice with amazing places to visit on the Costa Blanca, and one of our favourite towns in this area is Elche.
World famous for the number of palm trees in the town (over 200,000), Elche has an interesting history which can be seen in the Moorish and Baroque architecture across the city.
Where is Elche?
Elche, or Elx in Valencian, is a town in southeast Spain in the Alicante Province and is the capital of the Bajo Vinapoló. Alicante to Elche is approximately 28km, with the airport located approximately 18km from the city centre.
Is Elche worth visiting?
Elche is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Alicante area. The Palmeral de Elche, or Elche Palm Grove, covers most of the centre of the city, and was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 2000 (one of three UNESCO sites in Elche). Elche has beautiful parks and a rich history to explore, with some fantastic beaches nearby. If you are looking for a traditional Spanish town that is quieter than Alicante city, Elche is a must visit.
Things to do in Elche
You won’t be short of places to visit and things to see in Elche. From parks to museums, palm trees to gastronomy, set aside plenty of time to explore the top attractions in Elche. Here’s a list of what to do in Elche for visitors of all ages…
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Explore the Parque Municipal
If you’re visiting Elche with children, you must first stop in the Municipal Park in the city centre which makes up a large part of the Elche palm grove. This beautiful park full of palm trees is one of the best things to do with kids in Elche, and fun for all ages to explore.
The park covers six hectares and features a fantastic play park, the Moli de Real watermill, visitor’s centre, amphitheater, duck ponds, outdoor gyms, and lots of pathways between the trees.
There’s so much to see around this park, make sure you try to spot the dragon hiding high up in one of the palm trees!
Visit the Museum of Archaeology and History & Altamira Palace
One of the most interesting museums in Elche is the MAHE where you can learn more about Elche’s cultural heritage. The exhibits here are split into two sections – the archaeological section covers the origins of Elche up to the arrival of the Moors; and the historical section covers the founding of the Muslim city to present day.
There are many historical artefacts and antiques on display as well as lots of interactive displays for children. You can also go from the museum into the Palacio de Altamira, a Moorish-style fortress with amazing panoramic views across the palm groves and city.
Elche Archaeological Museum is open Monday to Friday from 10am – 6pm. On Sundays the museum is open from 10am – 3pm. Entry is €3 and free on Sundays.
Watch the Misteri d’Elx
Elche’s Mystery Play (Misteri d’Elx) is a two-act drama performed annually on 14th and 15th August in the Basilica de Santa María. This world famous play dates back to the 13th century and has been designated Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It is the only religious play in the world to be staged inside a church thanks to a special dispensation from Pope Urban VIII.
The play is based on several texts from the Apocryphal Gospels, popular during the Middle Ages. The text is written in Valencian, with a few verses in Latin, and has a total of 259 verses.
Access to the Basilica for the play is free on both dates, however due to its popularity, it’s essential to arrive at the Basilica several hours in advance if you want to get a seat.
Climb to the top of the Santa María Basilica
The Basilica of Santa María Elche is a landmark church in the centre of the city, built over the ruins of a mosque in the 14th century. The famous Misteri (Mystery Play of Elche) was performed here for the first time and the basilica is an important religious building in Elche.
You can enter the Basilica for free and for those wanting to climb the 170 steps to the bell tower there’s a charge of €2. The climb to the top is worth the small charge as the views across the city are beautiful.
Explore the Huerto del Cura Garden
The Huerto del Cura botanical garden is home to around 500 huge palm trees, as well as exotic plants, fruit trees, ponds, and a succulent garden. It’s a lovely, tranquil place to wander around with plenty of shaded areas, you almost forget that you’re in a city centre.
The most famous sight in the Huerto del Cura is the Palmera Imperial, a beautiful 17 meter tall palm. At over 165 years old this palm has seven symmetrical arms growing from the trunk.
The garden is open every day and entry costs €6.50 for adults, €4 for seniors, and €3 for children 5-15 years.
Take a Free Tour of Elche
To discover more of the city you can join a free tour around Elche with a local expert guide. The tour takes you to the Municipal Park, Altamira Palace, the Central Market, Elche Town Hall, Plaza Glorieta, and the Basilica of Santa María.
The tour takes 2 hours and you just pay the guide what you think it was worth at the end. A great way to see Elche on a budget!
Visit the Paleontological Museum of Elche
The Museo Paleontologico is a great museum for children in Elche, and a must visit for dinosaur fans. The museum is home to marine reptiles, replicas of dinosaurs, a T-Rex skull, remains of mammoths, and has more than 1,200 fossil and models on display.
This is the only paleontological museum in the province of Alicante, with displays set over two floors as well as audiovisual shows and workshops.
MUPE is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am – 2pm and again from 3pm to 5pm. On Sundays the museum is open from 10am – 2pm. Admission is €3 for adults, €1 for senior citizens, and children under 6 are free. Entry is free for everyone on Sundays.
Visit the La Alcudia Archaeological Site
As you may have guessed by now, history, culture and archaeology play a big part in Elche’s heritage. If you want to discover more you can pay a visit to La Alcudia Archaeological Site just outside the town centre. It was here that La Dama de Elche (Lady of Elche) bust was found in 1897 by a local farmer and is thought to be from the 4th century.
La Dama de Elche is currently on display in Madrid but you can visit the archaeological site where she was found. At this excavation site you can learn more about the history of the site and some of the local archaeological finds, and visit the museum, Roman baths, and an early Christian basilica.
La Alcudia is open Tuesday – Sunday, from 9:30am – 3pm. Entry is €5, with children under 6 going free.
Enjoy Elche’s Gastronomy
You can’t leave without sampling some of the best food in Elche. There’s a wide range of restaurants in Elche city centre as well as in the surrounding countryside, to suit all tastes and budgets.
Elche’s traditional cuisine includes Arroz con costra (egg-baked rice), Puchero con pelotas (meatball stew), and Paella con conejo y caracoles (paella with rabbit and snails).
Visit the Elche Footwear Museum (Museo del Calzado)
Did you know that shoe production in Elche counts for 42% of all shoes made in Spain! As this is such an important industry to the city you can learn more about the Elche shoe industry history at the city’s footwear museum.
Here you’ll learn about the evolution of the shoe industry, why it’s so important to Elche, and can see some of the footwear museum exhibits. There is also a shop where you can get some great bargains on shoes made in Elche.
The museum is open from Monday to Sunday, 10am – 2pm and again from 5pm-8pm.
Jump on the Tren Turístico
To view some of the best sighteeing in Elche without having to walk for miles, jump on the tourist train. The train stops by the Elche tourist information office next to the municipal park and the trip takes approximately 40 minutes.
The train departs every hour from 10am to 5pm, and tickets cost €3,50 for adults and €2,30 for under 12s and over 65s.
Join in Elche’s Easter Celebrations
If you’ll be spending Easter in Elche, then joining in with the Elche Holy Week traditions is a must to experience the rich culture of the city at this time of year.
The best Easter parades in Elche to watch are the Palm Procession at 11:00 on Palm Sunday, the Big Procession at 17:45 on Good Friday, and the Hallelujah Procession at 10:30 on Easter Sunday.
During the Semana Santa events in Elche you’ll see fantastic displays of palmas (white palm arrangements) around the city, all competing to be the most creative.
Shop at L’Aljub shopping mall
If you need your retail therapy fix, Elche has a great indoor shopping mall called L’Aljub. Here you’ll find all of the usual high street shops, plus a floor of restaurants, a kids play area, and a large cinema.
As with most Spanish shopping malls parking is free and the mall is open until 11pm.
Enjoy a day out at Rio Safari
A really fun day out with kids in Elche is to take a visit to Rio Safari animal park. In a beautiful natural setting with more than 4000 palm trees you can see a wide range of animals including lions, tigers, orangutans, chimps, exotic birds, reptiles, zebras, llamas, and lots more. Included in the entry fee is a trip on the Safari train through the African enclosure, taking you close up to zebras, giraffes, ostriches, llamas, and camels amongst other animals.
There are a couple of good play areas, several cafes and kiosks, as well as a picnic area if you want to take your own food in. There’s also a go karting area and water park but entry to these are additional.
Rio Safari is open daily from 10am – 6pm.
Visit the Baños Árabes
If you are looking for free things to do in the centre of Elche, you can find a small Arab bath house and monastery. It’s only a small area to look around but it’s very well preserved, the staff are friendly, and with no cost to enter it’s worth a stop as you wander through the city.
Discover el Pantano de Elche
If you enjoy a bit of a hike, the Pantano de Elche is one of the best outdoor attractions in Elche. A little bit hard to find but well worth the effort, the walk from the car park to the foot of this 17th century dam takes approximately 30 minutes. It’s not suitable for pushchairs, small children, or anyone a bit unsteady on their feet.
There’s some steps to the side of the waterfall that takes you to the lake behind which has some great views towards the neighbouring mountains.
Spend the day at the beach
Elche has some of the most beautiful natural beaches on the Costa Blanca, so if you are looking for a beach day you have come to the right place!
The best beaches in Elche are Playa El Carabassi which has a great little beach bar and lovely shallow, clear water for paddling and swimming in; and Playa Del Pinet which is surrounded by sand dunes and pine forests. Both of these beaches have free parking but do get quite busy during the summer months so make sure you head down early to get a parking spot!
Discover the El Cau open air museum
A real hidden gem in Elche (we’d lived here for 3 years before we even knew it existed!) is El Cau in the mountain range approximately 10km from the city centre.
In what used to be an old quarry this open air museum has more than 100 sculptures carved and painted into the rocks. Among the sculptures you can see the city’s coat of arms, Elche’s Glorieta Fountain, the Lady of Elche, El Palmeral and monuments such as the Basilica de Santa María.
There is a carpark at El Cau and the walk to the sculptures is easy with panoramic views of the surrounding area. You can also combine a visit to El Cau with the nearby Pantano de Elche.
Entrance is free and it is always open.
Places to visit near Elche
If you are staying in Elche and want to explore the surrounding areas, there are also plenty of things to do and places to visit near Elche, including:
Where to stay in Elche
For the best accommodation in Elche we recommend booking your hotel as early as possible as the city can get very busy during peak times.
Huerto del Cura
For a beautiful, tropical setting in the city centre, the hotel Huerto del Cura is a great accommodation choice. Set within the Palmeral palm tree gardens, this hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, sauna, lush gardens, free WiFi, and restaurant offering à la carte Mediterranean food. The hotel is a short walk from Elche city centre and 12 km from Alicante Airport.
Hotel Elche Centro by Melia
Located in the very centre of the city, the Hotel Elche Centro was newly refurbished in 2022 and offers stylish, spacious rooms with free Wi-Fi, air conditioning and smart TV. The hotel is situated near the most important places to visit in Elche, just 400 metres from the Palm Grove, and 5 minute walk from a wide range of shops and restaurants.
Casa Natura Elx
For families looking for the comfort and space of an apartment, Casa Natura Elx is a modern 3 bedroom apartment just 1.2km from the city centre.
The spacious apartment has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, dining area, fully equipped kitchen, and a balcony with city views.
B&B Hotel Elche
If you are looking for budget accommodation in Elche, take a look at B&B Hotel – this chain is like the Premier Inn and Travel Lodge in the UK. This hotel is located about 3km from the city centre, with a 24-hour café, air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi, and modern bathrooms. There is a gym on site and a good selection of shops and a cinema nearby.
We hope you enjoy your visit - which of these things to do in Elche will you put on your travel bucket list?