When exploring Spain, many expats flock to Madrid, Barcelona and the Moorish cities of the south. But for me, if I were to choose one location for full- or part-time living in Spain, my heart lies elsewhere…
Here in the city I would choose to call home, a monthly budget of around $2,500 will see you living well. That includes rent of a chic, centrally located apartment, embracing the arts, strolling the beaches, eating out often (and well) and being perfectly placed to explore the rest of Europe, too.
Valencia’s location, right on the Mediterranean, with long, urban beaches lined with cute little restaurants, hotels and cafes is hard to beat.
That seaside location means a mild climate, too. Sure, late summer can be a bit humid and midwinter a bit damp and chilly…but for a full eight months a year this spot enjoys a sunny, mild climate, where shirt-sleeves or a light jacket are all you need. (I’ve strolled here in February in open-toed shoes and a summer skirt.)
The city proper is home to just over 800,000 souls, with about 1.5 million in the urban area. This isn’t small, but it’s still half the size of Barcelona and a quarter the size of Madrid… For me, it’s a very manageable size, yet with all the amenities you’d expect from a big city. Those include an international airport (which you can reach on public transport); convenient rail and bus connections; plenty of shopping; ample city parks; and cultural resources that include museums, a City of Arts and Sciences and Europe’s largest oceanarium.
The food, too, is delectable—not exactly surprising, given that this is home to paella, Spain’s most famous dish.
If you like to cook your own meals, don’t miss the Central Market, which is one of the best traditional markets I’ve found. This region is one of the gardens of Spain and fresh, local fruits and vegetables will be on display at very reasonable prices. Pick up some seafood, fresh vegies and a bottle of the local wine and put together a feast.
On top of all that, Valencia also boasts one of the largest and best-preserved historic centres in Europe. But it’s no museum set piece—the centre is home to nearly 30,000 people and is filled with shops and cafes, making it one of my favourite places to stroll.
And though Valencia does have nice art and science museums, what really stands out is its music. There’s a long tradition in classical music including Spanish operetta and zarzuela, though really you’ll find a little bit of everything here. It’s a centre for music teaching and research, as well as performing. Boston’s Berklee College of Music—the largest independent college of music in the world—maintains a campus here, for instance. The main concert halls are in the heart of the city, within easy walking distance of many residential neighbourhoods.
One concert I particularly enjoyed here was a showcase for two young locally-trained sopranos. It took place in one of the smaller concert halls. They performed classical arias and some zarzuela. The cost for my ticket? A very reasonable $21.
Life here is seriously affordable. Day-to-day costs are reasonable—a filling lunch special, including a beer or wine, will run about $15. And when I was there last summer, the going rent for two-bedroom apartments in excellent neighbourhoods was $650 a month. You can buy apartments in these same upmarket, convenient neighbourhoods starting from about $146,500. You’d easily pay twice as much or more to live in a similar place in Madrid or Barcelona.