Image: Thea Day / The Boar

An exchange student’s guide to Valencia

I spent the second half of my year abroad in the vibrant city of Valencia – Spain’s third-largest city, which boasts a charming historic centre and a beautiful coastline, meaning you get the best of both worlds. I found Valencia to be very safe and student friendly, which explains why it’s one of the most popular European destinations for exchanges. This is reflected in the many Erasmus groups and trips available, which I recommend taking full advantage of should you want to explore surrounding towns and cities. The city has an atmosphere like no other and there’s so much to explore, so these are just a few of the areas I grew to love:

You can’t visit Valencia without wandering the enchanting, narrow streets of the Old Town, where you can spend hours getting lost among the gothic architecture, little cafes, and boutiques. One of the things I loved most was how walkable the city is. Besides going to the beach or university, I hardly used public transport. You can climb up the Torres de Serranosfor free to take in the view of the rooftops of the Old Town. The Central Market is also worth a visit to see the beautiful architecture and pick up some local produce.

The modern architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences contrasts the Old Town

From the Old Town, you can walk through Turia Park, which used to be a river, all the way to the City of Arts and Sciences. The modern architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences contrasts the Old Town. Completed in 2005, it has an IMAX cinema, a science museum, the largest aquarium in Europe, an opera house, and the Umbracle, a cultural venue that is used as an open-air nightclub in summer.

If you’re into vintage fashion and quirky bars, the neighbourhood of Russafa is the place to be. It’s known as the hipster area, following its recent gentrification. You can spend the day hopping from coffee shop to book shop and discovering local art. There are also some great plant-based cafes and restaurants for the veggies among you.

The University of Valencia is located on Avinguda de Blasco Ibañez. Lots of students choose to live here for easy access to the university and cheap bars. It’s also home to the infamous Bocadella Tapas (at least, infamous among my friends and me who couldn’t get enough of the patatas bravas!)

El Cabanyal is the beachside neighbourhood. There’s a large local market on Thursdays where you can find lots of second-hand clothes. Visiting Mercabanyal food market to indulge in everything from tapas to bao buns is a must. I really felt the year abroad was living up to Instagram-worthy expectations while watching the sunset with a cocktail at Marina Beach club. I was also lucky enough to experience the serenity of the Malvarrosa beach before tourist season began. The reality of final year will really set in when I’m back at Warwick and realise that I can’t take the bus to the beach in between classes!

If not for the sunset, you’ll want to go for the paella, as Albufera was the very place it was invented. I can confirm it is delicious

If you’re looking for the best sunset spot, head to Albufera lake. The bus journey is worth it for the stunning views. If not for the sunset, you’ll want to go for the paella, as Albufera was the very place it was invented. I can confirm it is delicious. The natural park also offers several other beaches. They can be more difficult to get to if you don’t have a car but are less built up and touristy than the main beach.

While exploring all corners of Valencia, you’ll want to try some of the delicious Valencian specialities. One of my favourite bars was Café de Las Horas,where you can try the iconic agua de Valencia (a combo of Valencian orange juice, cava, vodka, and gin). Or, if you’re looking for a non-alcoholic beverage, you could try horchata (made of tiger nuts) which is sold by street vendors and horchatería cafes. Aside from the obvious paella and tapas, you can also try bunyols (tasty fritters made of pumpkin dough). Not just a Valencian staple but enjoyed across Spain, pan con tomate also became a favourite breakfast of mine.

Granted, I may be biased, but having visited various Spanish towns and cities, Valencia always came out on top for me. It’s the perfectly sized city so that you’ll always have something to do but it will quickly feel like home. I know I’ll be back, and I’d highly recommend it as an exchange destination.


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