A Spanish Year Abroad: Sun, Sand and Sangria
With the beach, mountains and city centre all within 20 minutes from where I lived, Valencia was the perfect destination for my year abroad. Often overlooked as a tourist spot, despite being the third largest city in Spain, it is definitely underestimated due to the tough competition from Madrid and Barcelona. But with Ibiza just a short boat ride away, Andalucía within reaching distance and great connections to other major European cities, Valencia has more to offer than you can imagine.
Home to the national dish of paella, Valencia is great for food. You can find yourself spoilt for choice, from authentic tapas bars to high quality sushi restaurants. It is the perfect blend of a traditional Spanish city that isn’t afraid to branch out for an international feel. This can also be said for its fashion. With the main shopping street home to mainstream brands like Zara and Nike, wander slightly further a field and you can find vintage boutiques and pop-up clothing stores everywhere. The city really does cater to everyone’s tastes without losing its authenticity.
If you are wondering how you could stay in one place for your entire year abroad, Valencia is perfect for travelling around Spain as well as Europe. It has fantastic connections to all major cities, with fast trains to Barcelona, Madrid and Seville. I managed to travel around southern Spain with ease, as well as exploring the Valencian region really well itself, and topped my whole year off with an island get away to Formentera (one of the Balearic islands, south of Ibiza).
A visit to Valencia is a must for those looking to explore Spanish culture, whether it’s for a week or as your year abroad. You will never run out of things to do and places to see. Some must-see attractions within the city include the City of Arts and Sciences, a contemporary cultural and architectural project, and La Playa Malvarosa, the main beach of the city that is also right next to the port. Not forgetting the previous F1 racing track, and the Old Town that is made up of several plazas and parks. For those that want to explore some less-touristy locations, the trendy El Carmen area is great for evening drinks, head to Russafa for a spot of shopping and Turia Park for a relaxing stroll. If time allows, stick around for Las Fallas Festival in March, one of the country’s largest festivals that last for two weeks and is bursting with fireworks and street parties.
Who could say no to scorching weather practically all year round, or the possibility to eat the best paella whenever you get the craving?As far as Spanish cities go, Valencia is large enough for you to never get bored and small enough that you get to experience authentic Spanish culture.