Valencia (Spain): could this be the place we choose to live in Spain?
Valencia just barely made it on our shortlist of places we were considering as a base in Spain. Our biggest issue with it was that we wanted to live in a place where Spanish is the main language (they have 2 official languages in Valencia – Valenciano and Spanish). Having both lived in Quebec 20+ years, we were just a bit sensitive to having to deal with language issues or language politics.
It was one of our readers, Glenn (who I met in San Miguel de Allende a few years ago), who convinced us to check out Valencia. He was so enthusiastic and so detailed in his description of the city that I decided to use his words to describe Valencia in this post.
The below is written by Glenn
My humble endorsement of Valencia
Like me, you guys appreciate certain nuts-and-bolts amenities in a day to day, long-term home: A human-scale town for walking… Loads of international air connections (30 minute drive by taxi)… High-speed Europe and inter-city trains (I can walk to the station in 14 minutes and be in Madrid in 2 and 1/2 hours for 38 euros)… Good metro bus network (hybrid-power mostly, quiet, clean, with WiFi)… In-town parks for serious exercise…
Thinking of moving to Spain? Marta at Balcells Group helped us get our Visas. She’s an immigration expert and will help you with all your Visa needs. More detail here.
How about Turia, our landscaped city park… 9.8km long… laid in a former riverbed curving around the most ancient part of town, crossed by 13th century stone bridges, miles of bike, walk and running paths, with tennis courts, football fields and exercise stations, ending down near the harbor with the largest aquarium in Europe. VLC is a bike and pedestrian friendly town, drivers show respect, a honked horn is rare. After 20 years in Mexico, it’s astounding to live in a town with seaside clean air, not choked in dust or drowned in a cacophony of traffic horns and blaring TV’s… And in VLC, the ample stone sidewalks are perfectly laid, walking-flat, in perfect repair with no dog shit! This is Europe, not third-world Mexico.
My little town has all this, PLUS: Daily ferries to Africa and islands around the Med… Modern subway system ringing the center…Marble-paved plazas around every corner... Streets that meet at every degree except 90… Orange-laden trees all over town (this is Valencia, after all)… Narrow, winding backstreets with small bars, sidewalk cafes, serious restaurants, cool little jazz, blues, rock, reggae, flamenco clubs tucked inside centuries-old buildings… Classic 13th-19th century architecture, Baroque palaces, 500 year-old Catholic churches built on foundations of 1000 year-old mosques, plenty of working bell towers (St Nick’s bells are 25 meters from my roof-top terraza)… The grand, stain-glass-domed post office 10 minutes away, multitudes of museums and galleries galore, Art Deco apartment buildings,Modernismo rail station, classic multi-layered bullring (where I saw Dylan last May). My barrio, El Carmen, is laced with bike and pedestrian friendly, single-lane carriageways with low curbs so sidewalk and street are shared… a spaghetti of calles, sometimes 4 or 5 come together to make little plazas with bars and sidewalk cafes. Just walking to the grocer’s or ATM or recycling bin is fun when you walk around Ciutat Vella.
A block down my street is Teatro Talia with live plays, flamenco festival, classic Spanish guitar groups… Four minutes from my place is one of the biggest fresh markets in Europe…Mercado Central... a century-old Art Nouveau temple to pigging-out with, appropriately, rows of hanging ham shanks and stacks of Iberian ham subs and paninis, pastries, breads, pizza, slices of roast calabaza with miel and canela, made-to-order fruit smoothies, wine and craft beer by the cup while you graze, piles of every sort of fresh veggie and fungus, strawberries as big as pears and a fresh seafood section worthy of a Mediterranean port.
This is why Valencia is home sweet home for this traveller: Modern amenities and hip culture comfortably, seamlessly overlaying a Roman port town built as a reward for “valiant” soldiers in 138 BC… remade by Moors, again by Christians… centuries of royal and papal intrigue… one-time jewel of El Cid’s principality… home of paella and horchata… bombed repeatedly by Mussolini and the Luftwaffe (prelude to Guernica)… last hold out against fascist Franco. A couple of Civil War air shelters, refugios, remain in my barrio and you can see artillery scars on the front of City Hall. (My barrio, Carmen, is also home to the last two 1000 year-old stone tower-gate entrances from the original walled-city).
Damn, I love living in this town… Yeah, there are tourists, but not beach tourists… And not crazed busloads of ’em… They are mostly Europeans checking out the historic sites, markets, museums, the Valenciano culture. It feels like a small town… clean, orderly, uncrowded, easy-going, even though it’s ranked 3rd biggest city in Spain… And my barrio feels like a little village tucked inside a small town. Orange groves and rice fields just inland, the Mediterranean a flat walk away, mountains visible from my terrace and 35 miles north is Serra Calderona National Park with mountain trails, rock climbing, canyoneering… and lots of little mountain towns to explore.
Valencia has a La Liga football team… Superstars like Lionel Messi (Barcelona) and Cristiano Renaldo (Real Madrid) play at Mestalla stadium, half an hour walk from my place. There are a couple of Universities here, so the music scene is pretty hip. I’ve already made some left-of-center friends here, 20-somethings, full of energy and ideas. The town is big enough to find your niche and small enough to connect with like-minded folks.
And Frank, not to worry about language… Even my limited Spanish has gotten me through my Spanish Residency Visa, having my furniture designs built, buying hardware and computer parts, ordering in restaurants, bars, accessing bank, postal and government services… No problema! Yeah, lots of street signs are in Valenciano but it doesn’t take long to recognize words like “Carrer” for “Calle”, etc. And even old folks, like my artist friend Amparo, speak both Valenciano and Espanol.
What’s not to love?
Glenn is perfectly right. We liked Valencia right away and ended up staying for 2 weeks. Valencia is beautiful, dynamic, cosmopolitan, bicycle- friendly, and full of green spaces.
So will Valencia be our future home? That I’m not sure of. But as of right now it’s between Valencia and Granada – both beautiful cities, both with different reasons why they would make great bases.
Accommodation Recommendations in Valencia
Higher end: Marqués House Hotel 4* Sup or Vincci Lys. Good value (mid-range) hotels: Hotel Cosmo or Hotel Helen Berger. Very good value apartments: Palomar de Balmes or Apartments Abate 4. Budget guesthouse (for families): Kasa Katia Eco Guesthouse. Excellent budget guesthouse for solo travellers: Colors Rooms.
Related: For those considering Alicante as a place to live in Spain…
Related: Choosing our Spanish home: How the Pandemic changed everything
Update: Why we chose Nerja as our new home in Spain (and why it’s perfect for the times)
PS. Looking to book flights, hotels, tours, or rent a car? Have a look at our Travel Resources page.
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Hi, I’m considering moving to Valencia, but I wanted to know if it isa clean or dirty city, that’s very important to me
Thank you !
It’s a very clean city. You won’t have any issues 🙂
Hi Frank. We also was thinking between Croatia and Spain. So from my understanding between this two countries you like more Spain? What about Zadar, Rijeka or Pula in Croatia? I been just in Split and Dubrovnik. What i like from cities on north part of Croatia, is location and prices for properties. Its very close to Italy and Slovenia so you can do a lot of travel. But at the end, i with my wife thinking to move in to Spain, Valencia
Hi Vlad. It’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Spain is a 1st world country. Things work and residency is transparent – the rules might be tough but you know what they are. We didn’t have too many issues getting our long term Visa. Croatia is backwards when it comes to bureaucracy and the rule depends on who you talk to and what government official you encounter. I wrote this which might interest you.
We loved Croatia and it was good for a year. But that was enough. Long term Spain makes more sense in many way, plus its part of the Schengen.
If I lived in Croatia it would be Split. None of the places you mention hold any interest, they’re nothing special except that you are right by the sea. Valencia much nicer (if you’re looking for a city). If you’re looking for a seaside town, we really like Nerja where we settled. But there are many other nice seaside towns in Spain.
What a beautiful & organized city. As I see your pics, You made me more curious to see this place. Before that there is only one reason for me to go there that is to watch a bull fight.
But Thanks to you that now I have more reasons to to be there.
I love to hear about the traditional and cultural heritage of Valencia. It has some of the beautiful sites. I would love to travel there once things get back to normal.
Just wanted to pop in to make a comment about living in Granada during the summer. As someone who spent about 8 years living there (my parents are still there), we avoid the city in the summer at all costs. Often we travel during this time but, if you don’t manage to get away, you will probably find yourself inside most of the day. Otherwise, we can highly recommend the city to live in! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!
Thank you very much Claudia. Yes, I know the heat is the downside to the area. My wife especially doesn’t like heat.
I LOVE Valencia and have often thought it would be at the top of my list if I were looking at a move to Spain. Like Gilda said, Glenn’s recommendation of Valencia is, “spot on!” A flat, walkable city with green areas and biking friendly, history galore, entertainment , a huge beach and PAELLA. With your visa extension, it might be a good time to return and see how bearable the summer heat is. Just sayin’ ! ;-D
Going back has crossed my mind Anita. But I think we’ll go back to Canada and work towards getting that Visa. Hopefully we can get back late summer/early fall…and then discover much more of Spain 🙂
Frank, I think Glenn’s “humble endorsement of Valencia” is spot on, in my opinion. It really offers a lot for a long term home base. I only visited for 3 days but felt strongly that I could easily live there. I also loved Granada, but I wonder if it could get bakingly hot there in the summer? I also do wonder how you would feel about Donostia/San Sebastian? One of my absolute favourite cities in Spain. Although in Donostia they also have two official languages and I know you are not very keen on that. But I do think you have done well by narrowing down to two great places. I am looking forward to finding out where you will eventually call home.
We’ve spoken to a few people about the heat: what they say is that while Granada is hot, it is a dry heat. Valencia on the other hand gets humid being near the coast. So it depends what you can cope with. One of the worst places in the summer is Montreal. Having lived there over 25 years some of the worst summers I experienced were in Montreal…and that’s because of the the stiffling humidity. On the other hand, I would often visit my mom in Central Mexico in mid-summer and it was very bearable…so altitude and humidity are a big factor.
Haven’t yet been to San Sebastian but it’s an expensive city (along with Madrid and Barcelona). That’s why it hasn’t made it on our shortlist. But I’ve heard wonderful things about it.
Ha! I called it. Too absolutely no one other than myself, but after your last update and you alluded to places to call home, I thought to myself, they’re going to go with Valencia or Granada because Frank said he realized he didn’t have to be in a big city… hence Granada. We haven’t been to either city so good for us if you choose either one because we’ll have more of a reason to visit. I know Granada is near the Malaga airport, but what about Valenica, is it near an airport?
Somewhere I just read that your lock down has been extended to June 7. Are you being allowed any extra outside time beyond the one hour per day?
I think all states in the Divided States of America are now in some stage of being open. Maryland has reopened, but not our county. And, no surprise everyone is showing spikes in the number of cases. 1.58 million cases, 93k deaths. So frustratingly sad.
We’ve been very surprised as to how many airlines are gearing up to fly again, including TAP Portugal that reportedly is resuming flights from Newark to Lisbon. You couldn’t pay us to get on a plane as there are still too many unknowns.
Still waiting for the music video…
Or it could be neither Patti 🙂
Unlike in Croatia where we absolutely fell in love with Split when we saw first saw it – and which grew on us more and more – we haven’t had any place in Spain that’s really jumped out at us. We’re happy to be in Spain and our time has just confirmed that we want to settle here. But as far as a particular place all have had pluses and minuses…and none have really excited us as a base. So I think we’ll have to explore more and also go back to the places on the shortlist and spend a bit more time.
Yes, we’ve been extended to June 7. And no, no extra outside time (just that 1 hour per day of exercise).
I’ve been following the US and it’s a damn mess. But what’s also disheartening is that places in Europe that are reopening are getting more cases as well. Somehow, we’ll have to find a happy balance between remaining open and being vigilant.
Ha, don’t know about that music video Patti…
watch out for the city of arts and sciences. Doctor Who visited once and was nearly killed by killer nano-robots so you probably dont want that to happen! Otherwise it looks pretty nice!
Killer nano-robots? Hmmm, and I thought we only had to worry about the coronavirus…