Valencia: the new Spanish El Dorado

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Valencia: the new Spanish El Dorado


Until recently rather discreet, the third largest city of Spain is coming out of the shadows and is now becoming one of the main tourist destinations. At the same time, it attracts more and more candidates for expatriation.

Valencia has everything great: A few years ago, it could be said that she was a little misunderstood. Today this beauty gets her revenge and is now being favored instead of her big sisters, Madrid and Barcelona…

A big city but human-sized?

A real metropolis with 800,000 inhabitants yet keeping a side “of a city in a province”, makes Valencia attractive because it is people-friendly. You can get around on foot without getting caught in a traffic jam. There are also as many museums as there are contemporary art galleries that you can visit. As you walk through the city, you can admire various architecture in classical, Arabic, modernist, baroque or futuristic style. A bright urban landscape that makes Valencia an attractive and cosmopolitan city.

Valencia offers a harmonious coexistence of an impressive past and a bold present. It is a mixture of multicoloured facades, plush buildings, gargoyles and neoclassical, flamboyant Gothic or futuristic buildings… The maze of alleys that meander through the old quarter of El Carmen is a journey into the medieval past of this city. You can still see the remains of the 4 kilometer wall that surrounded the city (Puerta del Mar, Torre de Serranos, Torre Quart).

La Dolce Vita guaranteed…

What does Valencia offer aside from its more than 300 days of sunshine? According to our interviewer, the answer is: nearby beaches, palm trees, orange fields as far as the eye can see, a city so beautiful and practical, the character of “Valencianos” (they are open and friendly), and above all, their philosophy on life. Yes, because better than anywhere else, you feel like you’re dealing with real experts in knowing how to live! It seems that they have the magic recipe of the perfect balance between work and leisure, life friendly, family and professional. All this in joy and good humour, and especially without stress!

A city that attracts expats

This magic seduces many tourists. Some have become “expats” since they simply fell in love with this city and have become residents. The number of expats is constantly growing. They already represent 16% of the total population… It must be said that Madrid and Barcelona, once seductresses, have now become expensive and less pleasant cities (pollution, traffic jams, etc.).

Valencia, the spoiled child

Valencia, a spoiled child, laid out on the edge of the Mediterranean. Its coastline, 7 kilometers of fine sand, faces the beautiful islands of the Balearic archipelago (Ibiza, Menorca, Majorca, Formentera, Cabrera). Its port, one of the most important in Spain, is notably famous for hosting the America’s Cup in 2007 and 2010. Around the quays and close to the beach, cafes, restaurants and hotels flourish to welcome the flood of visitors. The metamorphosis of this area continues with new developments including the establishment of a large Business School (EDEM) and Start-ups, to provide the new standard of competitiveness.

While the media coverage of the América’s Cup and the organization of the Formula 1 European Grand Prix in 2008 have kicked off a spectacular tourism boom, it is the incredible city of Arts and Sciences that has transformed Valencia from a quiet city into a city of the 21st Century. This set of five ultra-modern buildings became the new emblem of the city. It replaced the famous Miguelete, the orthogonal belfry in the historic centre, which was the main symbol of Valencia.

A green river bed that transverses the city

Valencia, is not only an open-air museum with its modern and futuristic monuments, its palaces, bridges and old doors that make the admiration of passersby. Valencia would not be what it is today without its famous “green belt”.  The amazing Turia Gardens is unique in the world.  Its name is that of a river which in 1957, following torrential rains, provoked large floods and the death of 81 people.

After this tragedy, the authorities decided to divert the course of this river and transform the nine kilometers that cross the city from east to west into a dry riverbed and use it for gardens and green public spaces. At any time of the day (or even night) you can find Valencianos and tourists alike at the park running, walking their dogs, rollerblading, cycling, playing football, having a picnic, strolling… or nothing at all!

Imagine Paris with a Seine but without water, whose riverbed would be transformed into public gardens!

The Fallas, Festivals of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

And then, how to talk about Valencia without mentioning the famous Fallas? These incredible and spectacular festivals are now classified as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year!

For four days, from March 15 to 19 (Feast of St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Carpenters), the city is unrecognizable. She lives night and day to the rhythm of firecrackers, fireworks, parades, marching bands, dazzling streets of lights and other ceremonies. Monumental sculptures (called Fallas), depicting scenes of local or political life, often satirical, are erected all over the city. Prepared throughout the year, these works of art can reach 20 meters high and can cost more than 100 000 euros! But on March 19 at midnight all of these popular sculptures are burned (the Crèma) except for El Ninot, a single character saved from the flames. It will make its way, as in every year, to the already very beautiful collection at the Fallero Museum.

A 2-hour flight from Paris

Valencia is only 1 300 kilometers from Paris (less than 2 hours by plane) with a number of direct flights from major European cities that increases each year… 3 mouse clicks are enough to book flights and lodging in order to discover (or re-discover?) this city has become a “must visit”.

Laurence Lemoine

This article was originally published in French in Le Courrier d’Espagne. Available here .

Laurence Lemoine is a French journalist. She has lived in Lebanon, Haiti, England, The Gambia and Portugal. She has been living in Valencia, Spain for many years where she created a relocation agency, valencia-expat-services. In addition to offering logistical support to expats who settle in Valencia and its region, this company also offers business tourism including the organization of business seminars. Valencia-Expat-Services also offers tailor-made adventures to discover Valencia in another way, with unique and personalized tours.

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