SpainAdventure City Guide: Valencia, Alicante and the Costa Blanca
Valencia is more than the home of paella and oranges: this thriving metropolis boasts attractive modern architecture, some of the best open-air beach bars and cafés in Spain, and easy access to the Balearic Islands. The stretch of perfect sand between Valencia and Alicante is Spain's famous Costa Blanca, a vacation paradise. Read the full description...
Size and Feel
Valencia is Spain's third-largest city, with 750,000 people (2003). The city plays an important industrial role in Spain, but has neither the thriving international community nor the economic prosperity of Barcelona, its neighbor to the north. As a result, Valencia feels more like one large city than a collection of neighborhoods. However, the University district provides a natural home for students who want to study in Valencia, giving them a smaller area to call home.
Alicante, on the other hand, is a much smaller city with only 285,000 people. It has recently transformed into an attractive destination for students and tourists, bringing economic prosperity and a cultural infusion to this provincial port town.
Spanish Language Situation
In the Valencia region, home to both the cities of Valencia and Alicante, Castilian Spanish and Valencian are both official languages. Valencian is quite similar to Catalan, spoken in Barcelona. The education system in the area has tended recently toward a bilingual approach, making most Valencian residents fluent in both languages.
As a student in Valencia, you will be immersed in a mixture of the two languages. While most people you will meet will speak Spanish as you are learning it, they will also converse with each other in Valencian. This regional bilingualism can make penetrating the Valencian social scene more difficult.
Seasonal Variations and Climate
Valencia is a humid region, making the weather generally less pleasant than the southern coast. However, the climate is fairly temperate year-round, with ideal conditions in fall and spring. The summer brings an influx of tourists to the coast, especially affecting smaller towns like Alicante.
Valencia and Alicante are very different despite their proximity. Together, they share some points of appeal.
Each city also has some particulars that make it special.
A long-time industrial powerhouse of Spain, the city of Valencia has distinguished itself from Madrid and Barcelona by having a functional commercial role as opposed to the more political and artistic nature of Spain's two larger cities. Thus, while the coastline remains appealing to visitors and festivals are among the finest in Spain, Valencia doesn't manage the same Spanish atmosphere found in other great cities.
On the other hand, as a center for science and technology, Valencia is home to some interesting developments. The city certainly has its share of both historic and modern architecture and a handful of museums that are worth visiting. Simply due to its large size, Valencia has plenty of cultural activities and a thriving Spanish nightlife.
Alicante, a small old port town in a beautiful setting on the south end of the Costa Blanca, gives visitors a taste of Spain's sought-after and intoxicating atmosphere typified by Seville. The city continues long-time traditions of cultural performances and festivals despite the slow encroachment of tourists. The beach is second to none in this region, and inspires a nightlife that won't disappoint.
Many will recommend Barcelona over Valencia and one of the cities on the southern coast over Alicante. However, if you don't require the latest trends or an international scene, the Costa Blanca can be a wonderful place to spend time in Spain. In fact, many who visit this region prefer it to the South coast because it feels less showy and extravagant. Certainly consider these destinations when you're looking for programs.