Y viva Valencia

Simon Hale extols the virtues of the Spanish city.

Valencia has more than just beautiful beaches as visitors from Birmingham will discover when this little known Spanish city touching the Mediterranean becomes more accessible next month.

Billed by Valencia Tourism as “one of the most vibrant short break destinations in Europe”, Spain’s third largest city was revealed as a hitherto hidden gem in a promotional evening at Amantia Restaurant in Birmingham city centre.

Guests listened to fascinating presentations by David Gómez from the tourism authority and Cristina Patteson from Westin Hotels before being treated to excellent tapas by the top Spanish eatery. Representatives were also there from Birmingham Airport and Monarch Airlines, which is to launch direct flights from Birmingham to Valencia on Thursdays and Saturdays from June 22nd.

David Gómez gave plenty of reasons to visit Valencia, extolling its “amazing historic sites and architecture, great shopping and fantastic array of restaurants and bars” and “its exhibitions, concerts and colourful festivals and green areas like the Turia Gardens and the Albufera Natural Park”.

Celebrating its award of UNESCO World Heritage status this year, we were told a new Silk Tour has been launched to take in the city’s Gothic Silk Exchange La Lonja and its ancient Water Court, while a new Fallas Tour available all year aims to provide a guide to the city’s annual March street festival.

Viewers of the latest series of Doctor Who, we were also told, will recognise the City of Arts and Sciences, a futuristic complex featuring a planetarium, science museum, a marine park, opera house and gardens, all built on a former river bed.

Named as the World’s Food Capital 2017 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Valencia is the traditional home of paella, with the rice coming from the neighbouring Albufera paddy fields. Visitors can learn how to make their own dishes at the School of Rice Dishes and Paellas. The Michelin-starred La Sucursal restaurant is set to re-open in May at the Marina Real Juan Carlos I leisure harbour, where other trendy modern bars and restaurants include the Marina Beach Club.

With the city offering accommodation in more than 10,000 rooms, Cristina Patteson gave a presentation on the five-star Westin Valencia, a beautiful former wool factory built in 1921. It claims to have the biggest standard rooms in the city and six of its suites with terrace jacuzzis.

“The hotel has an amazing garden with four giant palm trees, one of which is 700 years old, all protected by the Government. It’s one of the nicest oases in the city and the perfect place to relax over a coffee or a meal even though you are right in the middle of the city,” she said.