We spent five weeks in the Spanish city of Valencia while Todd completed a Spanish course there. When deciding where in Spain to learn Spanish, we decided on Valencia due to it being less touristy and more laid back compared to places like Barcelona or Madrid, which also meant it would be less expensive. The Spanish school, “Hispania Escuela de Español” is also meant to be one of the best valued schools for learning Spanish in the country.
Valencia is Spain’s third largest city and is located on the coast, about three hours south of Barcelona. Like other areas of Spain, Valencia is a bilingual city and province with both Spanish and Valencian (a dialect of Catalan) being the official languages. Unlike Barcelona and Catalonia, however, the people of Valencia appear to have less of an affinity with an independent identity and Spanish was definitely the most common language spoken. Despite the metropolitan area of Valencia being home to about 1.5 million people, the overall vibe of the city was very relaxed with nobody being in much of a hurry to get anywhere and most businesses closed during siesta hours.
Where We Stayed
We had an AirBnB apartment in the old town, near the El Carmen neighbourhood, which was once a working-class area but has now been revitalised and is apparently popular with the hipster population. Is hipster still a thing? Apparently so. There are also a lot of restaurants and bars in the area. From this location, we were able to walk to anything in the old town within 15 minutes or so. Anything further, and we would walk just under 10 minutes to the nearest Metro stop and be able to access anywhere else, such as the beach.
What We Ate
Valencia is the home of paella, so naturally, almost all restaurants serve this. The traditional paella is made with rabbit, chicken and vegetables, but modern adaptions have been made to include seafood or a mixture of seafood and meat. A little restaurant near our apartment named, “Restaurant San Miguel” did a great menu of the day which included a starter, a paella to share, a drink and a dessert for €12 each.
Another creation of Valencia is the drink Horchata (Orxata in Valencian), which is a dairy-free, milk-like beverage made from tiger nuts. It has an unusual, sweet taste and we can’t decide whether we like it or not. It is served with fartons, which are light pastries that you’re meant to dip in the horchata. “Horchateria Santa Catalina” specialises in both of these things.
What We Did
Valencia is not a major tourist city and if you were coming to visit, a quick two day trip would be suffice to experience the city and see the few attractions it does have. The old city was built with the River Turia surrounding it and serving as moat-like protection, however this part of the river had now been diverted and drained and is now 9km of parkland, with various sporting facilities, running tracks and fountains.
At the start of the park is the “City of Arts and Sciences”, which is an out of place, modern designed complex made up of 7 museums and cultural centres, including an opera house, concert venue, science museum and the aquarium “Oceanogràfic”, which we visited.
Valencia is a coastal city, with a massive beach located about 15 minutes from the old city centre. The area surrounding the beach was a working class, fishing village which had a bad reputation, but is now being gentrified with a number of hotels and renovations being completed. There is a new beach club right on the water, although the €55 euro price tag per person was not justifiable for us
We also took a day trip out to a nearby town of Peñíscola, which is located about 1 and half hours drive from Valencia. This is mostly a regular Spanish resort town, with sandy beaches and restaurants along the waterfront, however what does set it apart is the … year old castle and old town perched on top of a hill right on the beach. You can enter the old town and look out points for free, however you have to pay to enter into the castle and its grounds.
Favourite Thing About Valencia
Todd: The beach front area.
Brodie: The City of Arts & Sciences.