A walk along Alicante with the 19th and 20th  century’s tourism guides

«As a touristic town, Alicante offers its admirers wonderful flower-filled gardens, magnificent buildings, modern and sumptuous; perfectly urbanized streets and squares, and, above all, its incomparable beach, in whose sands the sunlight seems diluted. For the tourist the days in Alicante go by happily and cheerful in that privileged coast, where the winter severity is unknown, that under that sky is not but an enviable spring».

Revista Hispano Lusitana. Tourist impressions, pág. 67. Carmen Picó, 1933.

Verónica Quiles López & David Beltrá Torregrosa[1]

Translated by Elena Sánchez Alonso

With the arrival of the train to Alicante of the MZA Company, Railway of Madrid to Zaragoza and Alicante, event that occurred in May 1858, it was stablished the starting point of industrialization, radically modifying the commercial landscape of the province. The local economy, commercial activities and port traffic are promoted, from being an eminently agricultural province, full of fields and orchards -except for the industrious city of Alcoy- to a territory marked by chimneys and factories that will signal, with its smoke and activity, the working hours of the social working class. The arrival of the MZA Company, regularly provided the first travellers, voyagers or foreigners, that over time become the first tourists. But the cities’ own interest in offering their best ‘face’ to outsiders, who visited them for work or leisure reasons, led to the publication of the first help guides with varied information that, furthermore, has evolved with the time and sophisticated its offer and interest.

Madrid, as a capital, attracted many foreigners and in the 18th century the birth of the Guides of the Outsider occurred, by the publication in 1722 of the Particular Calendar and Guide for Outsiders in the Court of Madrid, which lasted two centuries, centralized by the Court of the Bourbons, and where it would extend these guides to the main kingdom and American colonies. In the case of Valencia, we know that from at least 1789 to 1835, the Manual Calendar and Guide for Outsiders in Valencia was published annually.

The city of Alcoy will be the first one in our province to launch one of these guides, with its Guide of the Outsider in Alcoy, in 1864, a publication that contained information about its topography, history, public, religious and civil buildings, popular festivals, fairs, markets and a gazetteer of all the manufacturers and merchants of the time. There is a predominance of advertisements of their cloth and smoking paper industries, and it covers the information on the inns, guesthouses and lodges. It also refers to the mineral waters and baths of Benimarfull, Busot, Crevillente and Penáguila, and to the sea baths of Alicante, Altea, Benidorm, Denia, Guardamar, Santa Pola and Villajoyosa, as well as an illustrated map of the city.

Alicante. Vista desde los Baños de Diana. Finales del s. XIX y principios del s. XX. Commercial Museum of Alicante and province

It will not be until 1875 when the first, as far as it is known, Guide of the Alicantino and Outsider in Alicante was published by José Pastor de la Roca.

It is a extensive work of 343 pages, where the local trade is highlighted and so are the fresh water baths and sea baths (up to eight), bazaars, coffees -Café Suizo, Café Nueva Iberia, Café Casino and Café Dos Reinos-, the houses of guests where meals were served, inns and restaurants, Parador Hotels, lodges, taverns, horchaterías (lists seventeen), ovens, customs and storekeepers, among others. In this guide we find a more detailed description of places of interest for trips such as La Albufereta, the Thermal Baths of Busot, Elche, the Huerta de Alicante, Santa Faz, the Marsh of Tibi, the Sulphurous Baths of Novelda, the Island of Nueva Tabarca and Villafranqueza. Finally, it shows two beautiful engravings, one referring to the Baths of the Salinetas of Novelda and the second one, about the establishment of the La Alianza Baths in Alicante, both with lodgings for resting.

In 1879, J. Laurent et Cie and A. Roswag, published in Paris and Madrid, but in French, Nouveau Guide du Touriste in Spain and Portugal. Itinérarie Artístique. In it, we find references to the palm forests of Orihuela, Elche and Crevillente, as well as a short description of the capital of Alicante. What highlights in the guide is the list of images offered by its editor, Laurent, who had photographed the Spain of Isabel II. From these images, stand out the ones depicting Sax, Elche, Orihuela and Alicante; both general views, civil and religious buildings, landscape of palm trees, ditches, bridges, as well as various railway stations (Sax). The English version of a guide that began the cartographer, printer and publicist, George Bradshaw, is published in London entitled Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide and General Handbook, where in 1866, Alicante is seen as a city with good markets, reading rooms and a dynamic wine, almonds, raisins and mats trade.

In January of 1882, the Sociedad Económica Amigos del País (Economic Society Friends of the Country), edited the dissertation A winter residence. Meteorological and Medical Study of the Climate of Alicante, as a Winter Station. This study captures the experience of 20 years (from 1856 to 1875) gathering climatological information of Alicante.

It stands out the excellent conditions of Alicante and its surroundings, by comparing it to the winter Mediterranean residences like Hyéres, Cannes, Niza and Menton (Francia), Bordighuera y San Remo (Italia), at which was an annual gathering colony of sick people and turists form the north and centre of Europe.

It concludes with the facultative vision of a surgeon, where he affirmed that Alicante between the first days of October until the end of March, was the best season as a winter residence for the sick and delicate people, where they could stay in hotels and inns, accompanied by a very pleasant temperature. It would be in 1883, when the Alicante Guide, Manual of Alicantino and Outsider was edited by José Alfonso Roca de Togores and Saravia. This 133-page work, inspired by the previous study, was awarded by the Economic Society of Friends of the Country of Alicante, baptizing Alicante, not only as a Balnearia Station, but also as a Winter Residence due to its excellent weather conditions. His brother, the Marquis de Molins, coined in this guide to Alicante with the famous verse «la millor terra del món» (the best land in the world).

Alicante. Firmada por coleccionista de la época, en invierno de 1904. Commercial Museum of Alicante and province

In 1886, the first General Guide of the Provinces of Alicante and Murcia and the Chronicle-Indicator of Alcoy for the year 1887, edited by Nicolás Almiñana and Eduardo Oarrichena, was published in the establishment of Costa and Mira de Alicante. An extensive work of more than a thousand pages. Primitivo Carreras, makes a summary of the progress of the city since the arrival of the railways highlighting the most notable inns, the Steam and Navy, whose services were affordable and the Posada de la Balseta, which provided service of carriages; and other establishments, such as the Bossio Hotel, with elegant and comfortable apartments for families and a service entrusted to servants who spoke several languages; Gran Hotel Restaurant La Marina was one of the most beautiful in Spain and offers French and Spanish cuisine. As for leisure, we find La Unión. Great Casino with café, billiards, games rooms and reading cabinets; Veloz-Cruz Casino for dancing and concerts; La Taurina Recreation Society, with elegant departments for billiards, society games and a piano and Café Suizo, where ice creams and the legitimate beer of Cruz de Santander and Bremen were served.

Alicante Sanitary Station, was a study wrote by Federico Parreño Ballesteros in 1889. In it, he exposes, in the first part the investigation, thirty years of climatological observations of Alicante and its therapeutic indications of its climate as, «Alicante has in its atmosphere a treasure to exploit». The second part, it is dedicated entirely to the reforms that Alicante needed to undertake to become Winter Sanitary Station like Nice or Menton, through improvements in infrastructures such as the bringing of water and the hygiene of streets and port. In the same year, the guide Alicante Estación Invierno was published by P. Sanudo Autrán. This is an illustrated guide with an introduction in French, Alicante-Nice, where he reviews the population and the port of Alicante as Winter Station, the press, the trade, shops, hotels and cafes, commercial warehouses, baths, tram, Benalúa neighborhood, and proposes a day trip to Busot Sanatorium. It is at this time, when the train trips from Madrid become popular, with the aim of taking the sea baths in our city, calling these convoys of tourists, as trains ‘botijo’.

Alicante, calle de los Mártires. A la derecha, el Hotel Iborra y su distinguido restaurante. Commercial Museum of Alicante and province

In the Alicante Guide for the year 1900 by José Aller and Vicente, he emphasizes the Fonda y Restaurant del Comercio de Llinares y Cía, ideal for families. Also, the Guest House of Francisco Bernabéu; the Great Iborra Hotel for 200 seats; the Grand Hotel of Rome and Marina, with French, English and Spanish cuisine.

Guías Arco. Guía Práctica de Alicante y su Provincia. 1908. Commercial Museum of Alicante and province

One of the first most illustrated guides of the 20th century was the Arco Guides. Practical Guide of Alicante and its Province of 1908, in which the Grand Hotel Iborra of Alicante already announced the succulent dishes for a very distinguished clientele, because at it, great political figures had stayed like the AR Infanta Isabel, as well as the Princess of Saxony -Coburg and the most distinguished of the Tourism Societies of France, England, Germany and America.

In 1909, Artistic Editions of Tourism and Publicity of Madrid, publishes the guide Alicante. Winter season. Winter Resort, written in Spanish and English. As the first phrase describes:

«Alicante as Winter Season without rival in the world. Adding that it is for all, healthy and convalescent, the ideal country of eternal spring that it is seek by the rich people from everywhere and now, thanks to the happy initiatives of its jealous City Council, it will also be a place of brilliant festivities, the only attraction that it lacked and that other winter stations snitched, that nothing, other than these, could surpass it».

» The festivities referred to that were already implemented were, the Sport Week, International Sailing and Rowing Regattas, Pigeon Shooting, Bullfights, Floral Games, Charity Festivals, Aerobics Contests, Dances and Casino Party. In addition, it offers information on excursions to Elche and Busot.

The guide Indicator of Alicante, for the summer of 1910, «will be sold to the public in the kiosks of the most important stations in Spain, in addition to a considerable number of copies that, both in the winter and in the summer season, will be forward free of charge to hotels, casinos, societies and centers of the most important towns in Europe … They keep and heighten so many charms, weather conditions never altered that they make the tourist to fall in love and invite everyone to take refuge, particularly in the very cold days of winter, under his protection ». It offers three itineraries around the city and in the bathing season, round trip train combinations from Madrid to Alicante, available for 30 and 60 days, of 2nd and 3rd class.

Alicante. Estación de Invierno. Winter Resort. 1909. Commercial Museum of Alicante and province

In 1913, it is published Alicante, its Beauties and its Climate, a volume where its editors, Eustaquio Tomaseto and José Coloma Pellicer, compile a series of columns that on the initiative of the newspaper El Popular, during the months of February and March of 1912, men of science , artists and writers and intellectuals -with a patriotic vision- write about Alicante, the Levantine pearl. They were: Próspero Lafarga, José Gadea Pró, Higinio Formigós, Pascual Pérez Martínez, Juan Aleman and Limiñana, Diego S. Gadeo, Rodolfo de Salazar, Luis Cánovas, Julio Maluenda Puig, Antonio Martínez Torrejón and Francisco Montero Pérez. It is accompanied by extensive commercial and hospitality advertising.

Alcoy, Artistic and Industrial. 1916. Commercial Museum of Alicante and province

Alcoy, Artistic and Industrial, a luxury edition of the year 1916, collected important illustrations of Moors and Christians Festivities, different views of the city, combined with advertisements from the industrious city of Alcoy.

In 1919, Alicante and its Artistic and Industrial province. Luxurious photo album with a historical summary of the city was published, where Francisco Figueras Pacheco, official City Chronicler and the images of the photographers Manuel Cantos, Gonzalez, Marzal, Lopez, Carpena, Palacios and Barrera illustrate tourist places and document trade, besides showing us the life in the factories of the whole province.

The latest guide of Alicante Winter Station, which does not indicate the year of publication but which we date to the early 20s, announces the airlines of the first French airline ‘Líneas Aereo Latécore’, founded in Alicante in 1919, whose airplanes and seaplanes made daily services of transport of travelers and correspondence between Alicante and the cities of Barcelona, Toulouse, Paris, Malaga, Rabat and Oran.

Besides, it offered a very complete information of the maritime transport and navigation lines that connects Alicante with Marseille, Fernando Poo, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, New York, Cuba and Mexico.

Descriptive Guide of Alicante. 1922. Commercial Museum of Alicante and province

Anuario-Guía de las Playas y Balnearios de España. 1924. Commercial Museum of Alicante and province

Descriptive Guide of Alicante, publications of ‘National Album’ of Madrid in 1922. Pocket guide only in English that presents the city of Alicante with an introductory text of Azorín, provides information about the province’s Moors and Christians of Alcoy, Villena and Jijona, and also tells of the Misteri d’Elx.

In 1924 the first Yearbook-Guide of the Beaches and Spas of Spain, Year I «its climate (Alicante) is healthy and peaceful, even in the roughness of winter, its eternally blue diaphanous sky, has the brilliance that gives a splendid sun, and its temperature, sweet and uniform, is pleasant until the hours of twilight, when the cold is felt everywhere. » It included excursions through Elche, Busot where informs about the establishment and Balneario de Busot, as well as provides information about the cities with bathing establishments such as Bañeras, Altea, Dénia, Salinas, Torrevieja, Villajoyosa and Novelda with information of inns, guest houses, carriages and public shows.

In 1925 the Guide de Alcoy was published by Remigio Vicedo Sanfelipe, Presbyter and Chronicler of the City. It is a luxurious edition with more than 400 pages, with an important descriptive review of, historical, cultural, artistic, industrial and commercial features of Alcoy. In addition, all its pages have images that show us the work environments, factory buildings that have disappeared today and the atmosphere of everyday life. In 1928 the National Tourist Board was born and in Alicante was inaugurated, the first ‘Official Party of Les Fogueres de San Chuan, extraordinary Festivities of San Juan and San Pedro ‘, matching that same year, with the publication of the guide Alicante Tourism, with two luxurious editions, 1928 and 1929-1930, of Manuel Bonells Bernadás, profusely illustrated and with great commercial vision. Very interesting portrait of the time, where the gastronomic establishments offered their specialties in seafood, fish or bush meat, a la carte services, custom paellas, French and Spanish cuisine. The Miramar Hotel in Santa Pola, offered a specialty ‘rice a la marinera’ and in Elda, the Café Restaurant with appetizers, seafood and preserves of all kinds and specialty in ‘paellas a la valenciana and a la alicantina’. In Torrevieja, we find Restaurant Bar, La Marina, with its specialty in the classic ‘arroz a la marinera’. That same year, the Michelin Guide began to distinguish restaurants with stars. Alicante was referenced with a Michelin star to the kitchen of the Reina Victoria Hotel. The journalist Wenceslao Fernández Flórez was also appointed by the City Council as the adopted son of Alicante for coining «Alicante the House of Spring».

The Guide-Advertising of Alicante for the years 1932-34, in pocket format, at a rate of 25 cents, plus practical information about the city, it provides a guide for the visitor and information of trips to Elche, Orihuela, Calpe, Benidorm, Santa Pola, Torrevieja, Baños de Busot and Guadalest. In 1935 appears another pocket guide Tourist Alicante of Conrado Volmer, ideal for the tourist, with numerous photographs and two maps, of the capital and province. In 1936, another was published, Tourism Itineraries of the Province of Alicante, by the Tourist Information Office of Alicante. With these itineraries, the tourist could travel different routes along the Alicante coast, with itineraries such as Alicante-Parador Ifach and departing from this destination to Dénia, Alcoy and Coll de Rates, returning by Jalón and Benisa.


Hotel Victoria. Alicante. Años 30 del siglo XX. Commercial Museum of Alicante and province

Our aim has been to close the chapter of presentation of tourist guides of the Costa Blanca because, after the Spanish Civil War a new panorama opens up where many more cities are added to the tourist activity, besides to the clear commitment of public institutions to defend one of our economic engines that continue to have at a present time a great importance in our territory .

[1]The images of this article, belong to the funds of the Commercial Museum of Alicante and province.

Quiles López, V. y Beltrá Torregrosa, D. (2019). «Un paseo por Alicante con las guías de turismo de los siglos XIX y XX». En Gente Comunicación. (Ed.), Alicante Costa Blanca Estilo 12+1. 2019, pp. 172-185. Alicante.


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