Spain’s third largest city basks on the sun-saturated coast three hours south of Barcelona. Surrounded by dramatic rugged mountains and glorious orange groves, the city boasts its own fantastic scenery- impressive futuristic architecture, neon-accessorised fountains, a colourful and characterful old town, energetic nightlife and bustling beach. There are flurries of bars, restaurants galore and a laid back Mediterranean attitude. Visitors to Valencia used to be solely from other corners of Spain - English-speakers gravitated to nearby high-rise resorts but things have changed over the past few years as Valencia’s fame has spread. Signs and street names can be confusing, as they may appear in the local dialect, Valencian, in the language of surrounding Catalonia, or in classical Castillian Spanish. This unruly non-conformist behavior is not limited to linguistic matters. Streets brim and surge with parades and fiestas. On a saunter through the city, visitors might encounter saints and virgins and their entourages, armies of raucous blue-rinse pilgrims marching purposefully from church to church, fire-eaters and giant effigies, depending on which fiesta or saint’s day it happens to be.

Food is colourful, utterly fresh and delicious (Valencia invented the paella) and local wines, especially dessert wines like Casta Diva are divine. Get fired up on local concoction ‘Agua de Valencia’ and take on Valencia’s famous nightlife. This is where the Spanish come to party, and the biggest party of them all is Las Fallas. Another fantastically full-on fiesta is neighbouring Bunol’s tomato festival. While things are colourful and clamorous by day, nights are near riotous. The streets around Calle Caballeros and Plaza del Tossal overflow with people out scoping ‘la marcha’.

Valencia boasts more than 2.8km (1 3/4 miles) of beaches with excellent facilities. The beaches of Arenas and Malvarrosa are just minutes from the city center. Adjoining these beaches is the beautiful seafront promenade, Paseo Marítimo, where you can walk, jog, sunbathe and roller-skate. The best and cleanest beaches are located 10 km south of Valencia near the village of El Saler. Most of the beaches there were awarded the European blue flag for their clean water and golden sands.

Apart from the sandy beaches, there are also plenty of active paths and green parks. The Turia park, which crosses the city from side to side, allows locals and travelers to enjoy a relaxing walk while seeing some interesting sites. These include the Music Palace as well as Gulliver’s Park. This 8km path is known as Valencia’s own Central Park.

If you want to take a break from the busy city life, the Valencian countryside has a lot to offer. Think mountains with breathtaking views, spectacular canyons, charming and authentic villages full of Spanish tradition, even a natural hot spring in which you can swim and bathe.