With its enviable location, cultural diversity and captivating cuisine, it’s easy to see why the Valencia is now considered one of Europe’s hottest destinations.
Perched on Spain’s east coast, the thriving port city – known locally as ‘El Lavente’, or ‘The Lift’, due to its notable early sunrises – has always been admired for its beaches and stunning Mediterranean views.
But dig a little deeper and you will find there is much more to offer, whether as a tourist seeking the ‘real’ Spain or a property investor seeking that perfect holiday home or sun-drenched location to resettle or retire to.
Following a decade of innovative development, Spain’s third-largest city, after Barcelona and Madrid, boasts some of the country’s most striking architecture, which has been tastefully blended with the wealth of existing art nouveau buildings and Gothic and Renaissance monuments.
Art fans, meanwhile, will love the Mueso de Bellas Artes gallery, which is filled with eclectic paintings from some of Spain’s leading artists.
The historic Carmen district with its abundance of cafes and bars, the stylish Central Market and its fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, or even the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences and its wonderful aquarium Oceanografic – believed to be one of Europe’s largest – deliver a cultural vitality and cosmopolitan vibrancy to rival even the best of European cities.
There is plenty to do for the revellers, too, with the popular Benicassim music festival in July and the explosive Las Fallas, which started on March 1 and culminates March 15-19, attracting thousands from across the world looking to join the fun and ambience of the fireworks, caricature statues and food.
Thankfully, and unlike other major tourist hubs such as Barcelona, Valencia has been able to accommodate a rising influx of visitors without losing its authenticity.
Similarly, the region’s picturesque coastline remains unspoilt and spans more than 500km, with more than its fair share of delectable, secluded beaches for sun-seekers hoping to escape the crowds.
Fans of the great outdoors and animal lovers are also well-catered for at the city’s enormous 10-hectare Bioparc, which intelligently uses natural obstacles such as rivers and rocks to keep its animal inhabitants at a safe distance. Great care has been taken to recreate their habitats, including authentic African fauna
This forward-thinking approach can also be attributed to the city’s beautiful River Turia Gardens Park. After a particularly disastrous flood in the 1950s, the river water was diverted away from the city and the splendid park designed in its place.
Valencia’s rich cuisine will keep even the most critical foodies coming back for seconds, with a host of traditional rice dishes and its famous paella, a dish originating over a millennia ago, becoming celebrated staples of the region.
Travel further inland and you will find some of the finest olive oil of the Iberian Peninsula, while the region also has an impressive international reputation for its quality and diverse range of wines.
With so much to explore, it’s reassuring to know that getting around the city is made simple with Valencia’s state-of-the-art subway and metro system, which sprawls for miles to ensure all key destinations are within easy reach.
The city also benefits from two airports within 10km, including the Castellon-Costa Azahar Airport, which reopened last year and operates budget flights to and from the UK.
It’s not surprising that Valencia’s combination of the best elements of traditional Spanish living – great weather, stunning scenery and a wealth of culture and cuisine – coupled with its rapid economic growth and transport hubs have seen the city become a magnet for Brits looking to move abroad.
Barbara McLeish, of Spanish property specialists Property Accent, which is based in Valencia, says the city is now one of Europe’s top property hotspots for shrewd investors.
She said: “Spain was particularly hit by the global recession but property prices are now stabilising and have recently risen generally by as much as four per cent.
“Valencia offers homes up to six times cheaper than comparative properties in London and with renewed confidence in the real estate market now is an excellent time to invest in the area.”