Valencia- the third largest city in Spain yet very much underated and a hidden gem of a place.
With tourists flocking to nearby coastal resorts such as Denia or Benidorm, Valencia is still relatively unspoilt, yet has the ability to please every travellers taste. Largely known as the city that invented Paella, Valencia possesses a diversity like no other; from the gothic-style architecture in the heart of the historical centre to the strikingly futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, and from the endless golden stretches of sand to the 20,000 seater football stadium in the heart of the city, Valencia is incomparable. Although overshadowed by it’s larger brothers, Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia’s charm comes from it being a magnificent place for a city break, yet being temptingly liveable all at the same time. Here are the top 6 things that guide books forget to tell you about this addictive city.
1.There is a different fiesta for every month of the year
Now, you may think this is simply a Spanish thing, but Valencia holds a festival every single month, related to something completely different to the previous one. Most Spanish cities hold very traditionally Spanish affairs, but Valencia is different for that very reason. As the Communidad Valenciana is home to some of the finest wines in the country, May is Wine Festival month, with 3 tapas and 3 wines for a mere 10 Euros. Yes, you heard that right- 10 Euros. March brings nightly fireworks while July brings the carnival, and August brings a hippy scene, while all year through there are city marathons. With guaranteed weather all year round, it’s no wonder that Valencians are always up for a party!
2.Valencia is home to a different language
Upon arriving in any new city, the first thing to do is to get a tourist map; the second, is to use said map to go exploring. Valencia can be a difficult place to follow this pattern, as many of the street names are written in the local language. Valenciano. It is a dialect similar to Catalan spoken in Barcelona, and roughly a quarter of the population of Valencia speak, and use, the language regularly. Although many of the everyday greetings are understandable for foreigners, it may become difficult if venturing out of the city and into a local village on the outskirts. Valenciano is taught in schools on 2 or 3 days of the week so that everyone learns it, but it is common to hear standard Spanish in the street, as a tourist.
3.English? Forget about it!
When mentioning Spain to those at home, the image usually conjured up is one of Brits abroad, with the small amount of Spaniards that are around, speaking English. Valencia couldn’t be further from this scene. It is sometimes fairly difficult as a tourist to ask for help or to order food or drink in English as many people working in public places aren’t able to speak any English. This may be due to the fact that Valencians are very proud and already speak two languages; before the recession English may not have even been a thought to many people, but now it is becoming an essential part of life as both companies and schools now have a minimum level requirement. Of course there are many places within the touristy, historical centre of the city, which is named El Carmen, where English may be more prevalent, but generally, tourists may need to come with their phrase books at the ready.
4.The city always feels… empty
With a population of 816,000 less than Barcelona, Valencia always seems deserted. With a less than average amount of cars on the road compared to most cities you’ve probably been to, residents in Valencia are spoilt in the fact that there’s never a traffic jam or hold up. The busiest time of year is during Valencia’s own Las Fallas festivities in March; where the whole city turns into something resembling a post-apocalyptic world, crowds in the middle of the road and bangs of fireworks at every waking hour. Valencia has many different areas offering something different to every kind of person, and this may be one of the reasons that it always seems so quiet; people tend to stick to their common areas which are set back from the main streets in the city. Ruzafa is the Camden Town of Valencia, with vintage shops and alternative dress, whereas Canovas is more for the upmarket, fine dining crowd. El Carmen is the trendy area full of nightlife, and El Saler is the best area for a view of the stunning City of Arts and Sciences.
5.The humidity is like no other
Being a sun-chaser, I have experienced many variations of heat. Some cities have a dry and intense heat, whereas others have damp air which makes for a very sticky holiday. Valencia has a very high percentage of humidity all year through, which makes the months of July and August almost unbearable. When I first arrived to the city, the locals would tell me that they leave the inner city and go to their holiday homes on the outskirts during the summer; this made me wonder what on earth was to come. My first summer arrived, and you almost have to be there to experience it. You constantly feel clammy, with no shelter in the shade, and it makes it almost impossible to sunbathe! My advice would be to visit during March-May, or September-November, when the sun shines just enough for it to be pleasant to sightsee.
6.There is no other place like it.. in the world!
As an avid traveller, I have always spent no longer than 6 months in one place, for fear of falling into a routine. Valencia is the first place that I, among many others I have spoken to, have felt like it is a place worth staying, for everyday is an adventure. There is no other place on earth that surprises you from day to day; the city itself small but something new catches your eye daily. The architecture astounding, and the diverse historical buildings mixed with the futuristic, is something to see to be believed. The city is vastly underrated, with some of the best dining in Europe and the widest selection of homemade craft beers and wine only one of the best parts. Someone once told me when I arrived, ‘welcome to Valencia, you will never be able to leave’, and it will always stick in my mind. The city makes you feel as though there’s no need to go anywhere else, and that everything you could need is offered to you just in one city. Valencia is the city of the future in every sense of the word; from it’s unique interpretation of modern architecture to it’s fabulously untouched beaches, Valencia is a worthy contender of the title of the most liveable place in Spain.
This guest post was written by Billie – check out her site for more awesome travel tips and guides!