Elche – The City of Palms – is the third-largest city in the Community of Valencia, situated 23 km south-east from Alicante and about 15 km from the coast, close to the Alicante airport. You can reach it by car following the roads A-7 and N-340 from Alicante or C-865 from Santa Pola, or taking a train Alicante-Murcia.
With its population of more than 200,000 inhabitants, it significantly contributes to the metropolitan area of Elche Alicante. Grouping together nearby towns of Santa Pola, Sant Vicent del Raspeig, and El Campello, this area becomes one of the ten largest urban centers of Spain with a population of more than 700,000.
History of Elche: the area of Elche has inhabited already 5000 B.C., during the Neolithic Age (modern Stone age). It continually grew during the Bronze age, near today’s area of La Alcudia and along the Vinalopo river. Later on, the town of Ilici was founded in the 5th century B.C. when the famous bust of the Lady of Elche was made (Dama de Elche) – one of the most important artworks of the ancient Iberians. The bust is preserved in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, while in Elche you can see several copies.
During the 3rd century B.C., the area of Elche was occupied by Carthaginians and Romans and finally established as a new Roman colony Iulia Illici Augusta in the year 26 B.C. The town grew as an important commercial center, trading products through its harbor Portus Ilicitanus (modern Santa Pola). After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Elche was shortly ruled by the Eastern Roman Empire during the reign of Justinian the Great before finally conquered by Visigoths at the end of the 6th century A.D. During this early Christian era, Elche was elevated to the status of episcopal center and the Basilica de Illici was constructed. During the Middle Age, Elche was under Muslim rule from the 8th to the 13th century. The development of the town was continued, supported by an extensive irrigation network and agriculture. At the beginning of the 14th century, Jaime II of Aragon took the town from the Moors during the Spanish Reconquista.
Today, Elche is a modern industrial town. It is the center of the Spanish footwear industry with hundreds of shoe factories and manufacturers. However, during recent years, Elche has also been recognized as an important educational and touristic center. There are two universities: the public University Miguel Hernández and private University CEU Cardenal Herrera.
Once in Elche, you should try its typical Mediterranean kitchen. There are various rice dishes prepared in Illicitan styles, such as Arroz con costa (rice paella with a crusty layer of fried beaten eggs); pipes I carcasses (oven-baked dry cod and sweet peppers); and various local desserts with dates from local palm trees, almonds, and fruits. Among well-known restaurants of Elche, we could mention La Magrana, Meson el Parque, El Granaino, Restaurante Madeira, La Finca, Venta Dura, and Masia de Chencho. There are also numerous restaurants serving international and European cuisine.
Elche is home to two World Heritages protected by UNESCO. El Palmeral de Elche (Elche Palm Grove) is a large orchard (better to say a forest) of more than 200,000 palm trees. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000. This is a large oasis, surrounding the whole city and protecting it from the arid landscape – a unique and wonderful example of Arab agricultural tradition. Another cultural monument is The Mystery Play of Elx, a sacral-lyrical medieval drama from the 15th century. It was declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2002. It is performed in the middle of August as a part of the local celebrations dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Other monuments worth visiting are Basilica de Santa Maria, La Calahorra tower, Altamira medieval palace, La Torreta watch-tower, Municipal Festa Museum, Pucol Agricultural Museum, Town Hall, and a modern theme park Rio Safari.
Map of Elche (Elx)
Helps you find your way through the forest of palm trees.
Restaurants in Elche
Visiting Elche – The City of Palm Trees – you can have dinner in a unique atmosphere. Many restaurants in Elche offer you traditional local cuisine …