There are few cities like Valencia that can harmoniously combine the remnants of its past, dating to the year 138 BC, with the most innovative and avant-garde buildings of the new millennium. Valencia is a mix of everything: trade, culture, cinema, theatre, museums, magic, and business. It is a center of international design, and one of the most active cities in Europe regarding fairs and conferences.
Geography & Demographics
Thanks to its location on the eastern coast, Valencia has historically been Spain’s Mediterranean port and has that special charm unique to seaport cities. The fine sand and clean water, the vastness of the sea, and the closeness of the coastal mountains make the Valencian coast uniquely attractive. There are outstanding beaches and dunes at Canet d’En Berenguer. The coastline becomes leisurely and residential to the north, where small tourist towns (La Pobla de Farnals, Alboraya, and El Puig) have emerged where only a few years ago fruit and vegetables were grown. It is the third largest city in Spain after Barcelona and Madrid with a population of around 800,000.
The weather of Valencia is a beach lover’s dream. Expect nearly perfect temperatures almost everyday but with a splash of variety. Its Mediterranean climate results in extremely mild winters and seemingly endless summers. It rarely dips below 50 degrees even in the coldest month of January.
While the temperatures are mild, after an adjustment period, the comfortable cool may feel cold and temperature control devices are not prevalently used. Air conditioning and lots of heaters won’t be found so keep that in mind when it comes to packing for Valencia.
Food & Culture
There are two official languages in Valencia, Spanish and Valencian, which is a form of Catalan. Political history has given the city an interesting mix of the two. Many signs are in both but expect most locations such as plazas, streets, and many businesses to use their Catalan name more predominantly. The good news is the languages are very similar and nearly everyone speaks Spanish.
The Euro is used which unfortunately does not have a favorable conversion rate for students from the United States.
Things to Do
Throughout the year there are many festivals, concerts, and events. During the Fallas Festival, there is a program of activities that are specially designed for young people, such as concerts at night which take place in the Viveros Gardens.
The large open space in the center often turns into an improvised auditorium for recitals. They are especially prevalent during the July Fair, and in spring. The paths fill up with marquees for the book fair and other cultural events. The restaurant terraces also fill up during the Fallas, and they often remain that way until October.
Valencia is a city where nightlife can be lived to the fullest. There are many places to enjoy the lively atmosphere from bars, pubs, and discos, to many clubs that have appeared on the seafront and have turned La Malvarrosa beach and the promenade into an important leisure area.
Some of the most famous discos in all of Spain are in the province, especially on the route from Valencia to Cullera, situated next to the beach. The old course of the Turia River opens up for young people to enjoy one of the largest leisure areas in the capital. The Turia Gardens can be visited on foot or cycling, and the sports facilities there can also be used.
The Arts and Sciences Center is also located here. It is a place for relaxation and culture where people will be able to enjoy the 3-D films at the Planetario-L’Hemisfèric, visit the installations at the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, and marvel at L’Oceanogràfic, Europe’s largest aquarium.
Spanish nightlife typically begins more into the night than it does in the US. Don’t be surprised if your friends don’t pick you up till 11pm and keep you out till 5 in morning. It is just part of the culture. Valencia’s nightlife is full of people who are raring to get out and have fun, feel the music, and dance. The most popular area is the neighborhood known as the Barrio del Carmen, right in the old part of town, although the clubs and bars around the Avenida de Aragón, Cánovas, Honduras, and Xúquer squares are also very well known. The younger student vibe is to be found centred around the Avenida Blasco Ibáñez.
The beaches of La Malvarrosa and Levante offer a wide variety of places to dine and enjoy a quiet evening by the sea. To the south, nature becomes predominant at Saler Beach and in the L’Albufera Nature Reserve, where the sun can be enjoyed in unique surroundings. The beaches of Cullera, Gandía, and Oliva combine beautiful landscapes with a number of sporting and recreational facilities. Interesting walking and biking routes await you inland, such as the one defined by the course of the Turia River which Valencia sits along. Try visiting some of the many charming towns in the area like Buñol, Requena, and Xátiva.
Studying in Valencia
Valencia is a great place to learn many things but it is exceptionally strong in performing arts like music and drama. Students will be able to improve their Spanish level while learning how different theatres and auditoriums work in one of the liveliest cities in Spain. Experiencing other cultures is truly powerful in this global world and students will be exposed to firsthand experiences on every corner with their education in Valencia.
Organizations like International Life Experience offer students the chance to attend an intensive music industry course and learn how different artist management agencies work by visiting them.
The humanities in general are popular areas of study, but thanks to Europe’s largest aquarium, L'Oceanografic, being located in the city and its coastal location, it is also a great place for marine sciences.