Flights to Valencia aren’t just a cheaper alternative to Barcelona and Madrid.
Valencia may only be Spain’s third biggest city, but locals would argue that it punches way above its weight. They point out it’s more attractive than Madrid, has nicer beaches than Barcelona and a livelier nightlife than the two put together.
Valencians have a saying: vivir sin dormer - live without sleep. And they’re not kidding around. Expect restaurants to be quiet until 10 p.m., bars empty before midnight and dance floors deserted until the wee small hours. Get there late enough and the area around Ruzafa Street is buzzy, unpretentious and blissfully tourist-free. If you can’t wait that long, try Ubik, the cult café slash bar slash bookshop where it’s de rigueur to browse the art with a glass of Rioja in hand, even if you haven’t gotten round to breakfast yet. Less hardy souls might want to fill up on chocolate con churros, or share a paella at one of the lively old establishments that line the shore. Stomach lined, you’re ready for your first Agua de Valencia – a potent mix of cava, vodka, gin and the local oranges that scent the night air.
With 300 days of sunshine a year, it would be a shame to sleep away the days, no matter how many cocktails you threw back the night before, and no matter what time of year you fly to Valencia. If you don’t have the stomach for catching a bull fight at La Plaza de Toros, you can take a gentle cycle along the winding Jardín del Turin or make a pilgrimage to see the Holy Grail, ensconced in the cathedral in the medieval Old Town.
If you’re lucky enough to visit mid-March, prepare for day and night to blur into one big party, as the annual Las Fallas festival takes to the streets. Paper mȃché effigies go up in flames, and fireworks make the ancient city crackle and glow.
Spain’s third city? Not from where we’re standing.