Area Guide – Valencia & Castellón

18 Feb | 47 min read

In this medieval Kingdom of oranges, burning effigies, food fights, paella, beautiful beaches, and exciting nightlife, a rich tapestry of landscape and culture awaits you.

Move to this beautiful province where medieval history comes to life, and excellent food, fiestas, sport, and culture, fill long halcyon days.

The largest of the three provinces which make up the Comunitat Valenciana (Valencian Community), Valencia Province is situated in the centre of the Spanish Mediterranean coastline. With a subtropical climate and mild winters, Valencia province is an ideal year-round destination. The warm climate is part of the reason that Valencia produces two thirds of all the oranges in Spain, which is itself the largest producer in Europe. In Spring, the heady scent of orange blossoms fills the air; the trees offering up a heaving bounty of sweet Valencia oranges.

Oranges aren’t confined to fields and groves, however. Head over to the province’s capital and namesake, and you will be surrounded by them: in the streets, in the shops, adorning buildings, and enhancing local dishes. Their juice even forms the base of the signature local cocktail, ‘Agua de Valencia’ (Valencian water).

Valencia is the third largest city in Spain and is the birthplace of paella, though in this area the dish tends to be cooked with rabbit and chicken, drawing its ingredients from woodlands and fields instead of the sea. The city is home to one of the most famous fiestas in Spain, ‘Las Fallas’ (The Fires) – where intricately designed effigies, which take a year to create, are burned before a crowd of delighted revellers. Further inland, you can visit another crazy fiesta, ‘La Tomatina’ – the world’s biggest tomato fight. Yes, you read it right!

The province has a rich history and its medieval past has left marks everywhere: gothic churches, fairy tale castles, and winding streets. The province’s Moorish history can be felt in the Lonja de la Seda (Old Silk Market) and the College of the Greater Art of Silk, as Valencia formed part of the silk route and was once one of the leading producers in Spain.

History and culture aren’t the only reasons to consider moving to the province; with 112 km coastline, there are numerous excellent beaches. If you love water sports you will find everything you need in the province, which is renowned for its excellent facilities including jet skiing clubs and yacht charters. Landlubbers aren’t left out either, with golf, cycling, football, horse riding and tennis clubs dotted around the province.

Discover this stunning coastline with easy access to Valencia city and Ibiza; uncover amazing culture and ancient history and enjoy warm weather all year round. Laze around on stunning beaches, mess about on boats, stroll through ancient history and eat the most authentic paella in Spain.

The Costa de Valencia is a stretch of coastline located in southeast Spain between the Costa Blanca and Costa de Azahar. With hot summers, mild winters and approximately 2,700 hours of sunshine a year, this beautiful coast attracts visitors year-round.

With miles of stunning beaches, the exciting city of Valencia close-by and a number of historic towns and villages in the area, this stretch of coastline puts you within easy reach of many excellent days out. With its hidden coves and horseshoe bays, you will be spoilt for choice for a day at the beach. Alternately, if you fancy venturing further afield you can get the ferry to Ibiza from the port of Valencia or the port of Gandia.

Gandia itself is well worth a visit, with its beautiful historic centre and numerous excellent restaurants. The city was an important commercial and cultural centre during the medieval period and offers its visitors a glimpse into Spain’s past with the Gothic Ducal Palace and the Collegiate Basilica of Santa Maria of Gandia (known locally as “La Seu”).

Time travellers are also advised to head north to Sagunto where you’ll be confronted with a dramatic hilltop view of Sagunto castle. Here, you will be able to explore Pompeii-esque ruins which include Iberian, Roman and medieval remains and even a Roman amphitheatre

Of course, you could opt for a spot of culinary history and head to the birthplace of paella, the Albufera Natural Park. The park is home to Spain’s largest lake and is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Take a boat out onto the lake and view the breathtaking sunset or head to the nearby village of El Palmar to sample All i Pebre, a rice dish made with eels fresh out of the lake.

The lake isn’t the only place for messing about on boats, however, and lovers of water sports can find everything they need dotted along the coastline. The province offers over 3,700 mooring points and Valencia has its own Royal Sailing Club. There is a sailing complex at Cullera, and nautical sports centres can be found at Canet d´en Berenguer and Pobla de Farnals.

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Valencia city

Valencia is the capital of the Valencian community. A port city established where the Turia estuary meets the Gulf of Valencia along the Costa del Azahar (the orange blossom coast).

Subtropical weather, sublime open, outdoor shared spaces (from beaches and parks to buildings and plazas) and a lively events schedules make Valencia an exciting city to live in.

Valencia is a city served sunny side up; with all the bustle of Barcelona and none of the overcrowding. La Malvarrosa, the city beach is clutter-free, clean, safe and popular with the locals. Spain’s third largest city was built around the port at the mouth of the river Turia. In 1957, Valencia experienced a devastating flood, so the city embraced a plan to divert the river’s path. The remnants of the old riverbed became today’s Jardín del Turia — a five-mile green swath of parks and public event spaces to rival New York’s High Line.

In the last 30 years investment from the tourism industry has enabled city leaders to renovate many historical landmarks. Medieval towers, the Torres Serran and Torres Quarts, La Lonja silk exchange and the Cathedral of Valencia encapsulate the robust Valencian Gothic style. Whereas the City of Arts and Sciences is a fantastically modern ensemble of six public arenas (from an aquarium to an opera house) designed by home-grown architect Santiago Calatrava.

Valencia is a bilingual city and many street signs read in both Spanish and Valencian — part of the same root language as Catalan. The tradition of the Fallas festival began here; a fiesta of flowers and fireworks where giant Fallas models are burnt so the city can be reborn from their ashes. Paella also originates in Valencia: this rice dish has ancient roots, but its modern form was created in the area around Albufera lagoon, a large freshwater lake now protected as part of the Parc Natural de L’Aburela. From mid-March through summer’s end, Valencians of all ages enjoy horchata — a refreshing, white, nutty drink — which they can be spotted quaffing outside local horchaterias.

Property

The centre of Valencia city has around 800,000 inhabitants, with a further 1 million people living in the urban sprawl beyond the city limits. It offers historic old properties ripe for renovation, duplexes and apartments around the lively beachfront area and villas and bungalows in the more community-oriented suburbs. Right now, its competitive property prices give it the edge over such more prominent Spanish cities.

Transport

Valencia airport is just south of the city boundary with regular trains running to and from it. There is a Metro and overground rail network connecting the city and suburbs, with Estacio del Nord being the main station terminus. AVE run high-speed trains to major cities in both Spain and France. Passage Maritim is a 4-kilometre palm tree-lined promenade connecting the city’s shorelines that is closed to cars but used by pedestrians, bikes, buses and trams.

Health

Valencia is well stocked with hospitals, eleven at the time of counting, one being the respected University hospital, Hospital Universitari i Politècnic La Fe (or La Fe for short). Every neighbourhood hosts a medical centre or GP surgery and much like most of Europe, pharmacies can be a good place to start if you’re unsure who to see.

Living expenses

Valencia is a very affordable place to live; almost everything is cheaper than in the UK and similar to the rest of the province. However, you may find that house prices and public transport costs are slightly higher than nearby Alicante.

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Lliria & L´Eliana

Located 30 minutes inland from the coastal city of Valencia, this ancient city is filled with Roman, Iberian and Moorish charm.

Move to this ‘city of music’ to enjoy culture, ancient history, and rich local gastronomy.

Lliria & L´Eliana are ancient cities which lies 30 minutes inland from the coastal city of Valencia, and forms one of the main historical cities of the region. Numerous civilisations throughout the ages have left their mark: the Iberians called this place Edeta; the Romans left temples and pools, while the Moors left baths and Mosques. You can walk in their footsteps at various places throughout the town.  Follow the Moors to the Banos Arabes, 12th century Arabian baths once visited by devout Muslims to purify themselves before prayer or trail the Iberians to Poblado Iberico Edeta, an ancient Iberian ruin where the curious gather to view fragments of the past, from old houses, to paintings, inscriptions and pottery.

These days, the city is still a melting pot of rich culture, and is particularly famed for its music – Lliria is known as the ‘city of music’ and has two schools of music and two orchestras to prove it, not to mention playing host to various music festivals throughout the year.

It’s not just music though; the city also enjoys an equally rich gastronomy. Rice is a staple and appears in many dishes in all imaginable varieties, locally reared and wild meat finds their way into delicious sausages and dishes such as meat paella, and traditionally made cakes and pastries mark the changing seasons. If you love history, culture, music, and great food, Lliria could be perfect!

Lliria and L´Eliana has a majority Spanish population, with a small international community.

Property

There is a wide variety of property on offer in Lliria and L´Eliana and sourounding cities, from apartments and townhouses, to country houses and villas.

Amenities

They offers excellent amenities, with plenty of places to eat and drink, shops, supermarkets, grocers, butchers, a library, archeological museum, several golf courses nearby and many beautiful parks and gardens.

Transport

There are excellent transport links, with the city of Valencia just over 30 minutes away. Take the CV37 direct to Valencia, or catch one of the many buses and coaches that depart each day.

Health

There are a number of public health clinics and doctors and also a hospital Hospital de Lliria nearby. Lliria also has dentists, opticians, chemists, and veterinary surgeries, so you can rest assured that the whole family (including pets) will be well taken care of.

Cost of Living

You will save a lot of money on housing compared to Valencia city, which is very good value for money. The cost of living generally is low, especially when considering the high standard of living.

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Oliva

This pretty coastal town is located in Valencia in the heart of Spain’s orange-growing region and has breathtaking mountain views and stunning beaches.

Move to this tranquil town to escape the tourists, sip sangria on award-winning blue flag beaches and enjoy a busy programme of excellent local fiestas.

Oliva is a small, quiet coastal town located in the heart of Spain’s orange growing region, about an hour south of Valencia city. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year and a Mediterranean subtropical climate of mild winters and hot, dry summers, the area is a popular with buyers looking for fun in the sun without the crowds. Another draw is the beautiful blue flag beaches, which feature natural sand dunes. They are wide and stretch over seven kilometres along the coast, meaning it’s easy to find a quiet spot to yourself provided you are willing to walk. With strong winds, Oliva’s beaches are also perfect for windsurfing and kitesurfing, with hire facilities found in various locations in the area. If you fancy trying out some livelier beaches, head to nearby Denia, where you can get the ferry to Ibiza in just under 3 hours.

The historic town itself is set back from the beach – like many Spanish towns, the Pueblo (town) is split from the Playa (beach). The old town has retained its classical Spanish style, with many old whitewashed buildings, beautiful churches and winding cobbled streets. Surrounded by orange groves and fields, agriculture is one of the main sources of income for the town, with relatively little tourism here compared to the nearby beach resorts. However, don’t let this fool you into thinking there’s nothing to do – a year-round programme of fiestas keep the townsfolk busy, with Oliva home to one of the largest Moorish and Christian festivals in Spain.

Community

The Playa is popular with British expats and also Spanish holidaymakers, many of whom own summer homes here.

Property

You’ll find great value for money here, with a mixture of beach-front apartments, villas and townhouses, many of which have stunning views of the sea and nearby mountains.

Amenities

You’ll find everything you need in the town, such as groceries and food (including one shop specialising in English food), clothes, electrical goods, garages and lots of bars and restaurants. There are some excellent equestrian facilities in the area and you’re just over ten minutes away from the Oliva Nova golf course.

Transport

Oliva is small and many of the local amenities are within walking distance, so if you’re not planning on leaving the area you could get by without a car. However, if you want to go further afield, a car is recommended, as taxis are expensive and public transport is limited.

Health

There is a healthcare clinic in the town, the ‘Centro de salud en Oliva’, and you’re well set for dentists, with several clinics in the town. For hospitals head to nearby Denia (27 mins away) or Gandia (17 mins away).

Cost of Living

You’ll find great value for money in Oliva, with very low council tax, low utility costs due to the warm weather and affordable meals out – not to mention the excellent value for money you’ll get when buying property here.

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Gandia

A little north of the Costa Blanca, Gandia is the second biggest city in the province of Valencia where you’ll find some of the region’s best beaches, a historical heart and superb amenities.

The perfect mid-point between city life and Mediterranean relaxation, Gandia is just beyond the reach of most foreign tourists and offers a distinctly Valencian way of life.

While many of the coastal towns and cities of the Costa Blanca feel as though they’ve had the pleasures (and pressures) of international tourism thrust upon them, in Gandia you’ll find a city that has long learned to balance the needs of all its residents. The distinct playa area on the coast is where you’ll find the liveliest bars and restaurants, while the town, several kilometres inland, is fantastic for shopping, strolling along the boulevard or relaxing in one of the parks.

Gandia rose to fame and fortune under the notorious Borgia family, although it is their repentant Jesuit descendent, Saint Francisco de Borgia, who you will find celebrated here today. This is a town packed full of Spanish history, with Gothic architectural wonders including the Ducal Palace and church of Santa Maria. You’ll be able to enjoy culinary delights like fideuà, a unique paella dish made from noodles, walks in the surrounding mountains and of course gorgeous Blue Flag beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Community

A mainly Spanish city, 16% of Gandia’s 74,000 population come from outside Spain, considerably fewer than in equivalent cities on the Costa Blanca. Although you won’t find many international restaurants, bars or hotels here this is a vibrant seaside city that is particularly popular with retired Spaniards.

Property

Another advantage is the range of reasonably priced property and diversity of habitat: choose from apartments in the beach area, period townhouses in the old centre or look to the citrus groves to the west for country villas and plots of land.

Amenities

The pedestrianised Calle Major and surrounding streets is where you’ll find more than 800 shops and a popular Saturday morning market. The city has countless bars and restaurants as well as a shopping mall, supermarkets, banks and cinemas. Head to Gandia Playa for more touristy delights including casinos.

Transport

In Gandia you are 70 kilometres south of beautiful Valencia City and its international airport is accessible by road and direct rail link. The city’s train station also connects you with Alicante to the south and locations across Spain.

Health

Gandia has its own national health hospital and clinics together with an array of private services. For emergencies the town is covered by Red Cross ambulance service.

Cost of Living

The city is a great option for anyone looking for a great seaside location, with all the benefits of a major city but at a significantly lower price than you would pay in nearby Valencia or Alicante

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Area guide Castellón (Costa Azahar)

The Orange Blossom Coast is one of the most unspoilt areas in Spain thanks to strict building codes which have preserved its ancient feel.

Move here to experience authentic Spain and fill your days with medieval hilltop towns, fairy-tale castles, blue flag beaches and dramatic natural scenery.

Looking for a slice of authentic Spain? Well, this is it.

Discover Old Spain in this little-known province, which is filled with gorgeous medieval architecture, stunning natural beauty and authentic Spanish charm. Join barefoot pilgrims, local artisans and fun-loving revellers in this enchanting province which blends history with bohemian vibes.

Castellon is the smallest of Valencia’s three provinces; there is less tourism here compared with other parts of Spain. The Spanish and the French both holidays here but it is relatively unknown to the rest of the world. Clearly, the rest of the world are missing out; the area is steeped in history: medieval hill towns, old farms set in orange groves and beautiful castles pepper this land where the very last Moors in Spain – the Moriscos – had once settled.

Consider the medieval walled town of Peñiscola, who’s striking 14th-century castle sits proudly upon a rugged peninsula. Built by the Knights Templar on the remains of an Arab fortress, the castle later became home to Pope Benedict XIII. There’s also the strikingly pretty medieval town of Morella in the Maestrazgo mountains, a 14th-century walled town with little winding streets leading to the ancient castle.

If it’s authenticity that you crave, head for the inland hills – this is the land where barefoot pilgrims tread, praying for rain and forgiveness. This may sound poetic, but these kind of Romerías, or pilgrimages, are common across Spain. This one in particular has been taking place for more than 700 years in the village of Les Useres. On the last Friday in April, a group of Pelegrins (pilgrims) – some barefoot – set out on a 43-mile round trip to the sacred mountain of Penyagolosa, where they hope their dedication and fortitude will be rewarded with plentiful rainfall and the abundant harvest it produces.

These old ways have been beautifully preserved in many of the provinces mountainous areas, such as the Maestrazgo. History is alive here, preserved in the people: nomadic shepherds, artisan cheesemakers, cloth weavers and elderly locals filled with knowledge of healing mountainside plants. Their rural cuisine is delicious, hearty and filling – rabbit, lamb, snails, almonds and anything else the land has to offer are thrown into rugged earthenware pots and baked until unctuous. Thanks to Moorish irrigation, a lot of the land is green and fertile, filled with fragrant citrus and olive groves and thick emerald pine forests.

If it’s sea air you crave, you should head to the Costa del Azahar (Orange Blossom Coast), which has plenty of unspoilt beaches thanks to the area being less well known (though no less beautiful) than other parts of Spain. Here you will find Benicàssim, with its bohemian vibes and mega popular festival (FIB) and Castellon de la Plana, the province’s historic capital.

Nestled between Valencia and Castellon, the Orange Blossom Coast positively oozes classical Spanish charm and is one of the most unspoilt areas in Spain.

This is partly due to the fact that the Costa Azahar is not so well-known to tourists and partly due to strict building codes which have stopped the area from being over-developed. As a result, you’ll find a wealth of amazing natural scenery and rich history and culture here. Fairytale castles perch over medieval hilltop towns while the intoxicating scent of orange blossom permeates the grove-filled countryside.

Head to medieval Peñiscola, where you’ll find blue-flag beaches with water just the right depth for paddling and winding streets filled with tapas bars and quirky boutiques.

There is a romantic, olde-worlde feel here that makes the town feel as though it belongs more to the world of Game of Thrones than modern-day Spain – or perhaps it’s the other way around, as Peñiscola was indeed used as a filming location for the series in 2015.

Also, worth a visit is Moorish Benicassim, a seaside town which is famous for hosting the annual FIB International Music Festival.

Atop its colourful facades and wide streets sits a 10th century Moorish castle, the Castillo de Montornés, which sits proudly upon one of the mountains of the the Desert de les Palmes national park. The crags and peaks of this beautiful ‘Desert of Palms’ have been trodden by barefoot Carmelites, seeking solitude and contemplation.

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Peñiscola

Peñiscola is officially one of Spain’s most beautiful towns. The setting is so dramatic, it’s often used as a location in films, including an episode of Game of Thrones.

Peñiscola is a fortress town built on a peninsula in the Castellon region of northern Valencia. It’s on the Costa Azahar — the orange blossom coast.

The name Peñiscola is derived from the Latin word peninsular: the town sits on a rock jutting 64 metres above sea level connected to the mainland by just a small slither of sand. The ‘City in the Sea’ is famous for the Castle of Pope Luna, a medieval fortress built by the Knights Templar between the years 1294 and 1307. It’s possible to climb the weather-beaten castellations and take in vast, unbroken swathes of lapis-coloured sea and sky.

The city is a mixture of old and new, set to the backdrop of the National Park of Serra d’Irta. To the north is Playa Norte, a 5 km stretch of golden sand with Blue Flag status and all the associated amenities. To the south lies the similar but smaller Playa Sur and then further out, there are pebbled but secluded bays formed between the rock promontories within the National Park.

The centre supports over 200 restaurants, the Museu de la Mar maritime museum and hosts both the Hondarribia-Peñiscola International Guitar Festival and the Peñiscola Comedy Film Festival.

Community

Peñiscola is quiet during the winter, but the summer is busy with international tourists. Many Spaniards visit year-round for the national heritage. Foreign residents are growing in number since the opening of the Castellon Airport in 2015.

Property

In the old town, you’ll find antique shops, artist studios and pottery workshops among the usual modern amenities.

Transport

The Benicarlo-Peníscola station connects Peñiscola to Valencia, Barcelona, Castellon and Tarragona. The Castellon–Costa Azahar Airport is a 40-minute drive, but you could also use Valencia, Reus, or Barcelona airports too. There are both intercity and local route buses.

Health

The Centro De Salud De Peñíscola is open 24 hours in the old town and there’s a hospital 20 minutes away in Vinaros.

Cost of Living

With prices to suit tourists – from campers to 5-star hotel guests – going out can vary. For Spain, this is a moderately priced area.

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Vinaros

Located an hour South of Tarragona on the Costa Azahar is the fishing port of Vinaros, a city which blends beachy vibes with some of the best shopping in Castellon.

Enjoy amazing seafood, excellent shopping and fantastic blue flag beaches.

Located in the province of Castellon just over an hour away from Tarragona is Vinaros, a coastal city combining relaxed beach vibes with some of the best shopping in Castellon.

The beaches here are picture perfect: long, golden, with fine sand and azure waters, with a sleek, palm-lined waterfront buzzing with restaurants, bars and stalls. Head along the coast and craggy coves begin to emerge, perfect for underwater exploration.

These waters aren’t just for leisure though; the area is also a busy fishing port. This is great news for seafood lovers, supplying an abundance of fresh-caught seafood available year-round, both in local markets and on local menus. Be sure to check out the star of the local gastronomic scene: the Vinaros prawn, an unusually large, meaty variety with a delicate flavour, beloved across Spain.

Head to the city centre for some truly fantastic shopping, not to mention fantastic architecture. Here, immaculate plazas are generously flanked with a huge selection of shops, bars and restaurants, leading to some spectacular old buildings. Be sure to pay a visit to the compelling and idiosyncratic church of La Asuncion, which juxtaposes its rugged, painted fortress structure with a magnificent and refined baroque style church façade.

Community

Vinaros is a majority Spanish city, with a smaller European and international community. The city is famed for its fantastic annual carnival, which is one of the very best in Spain, not to mention the King Prawn festival!

Property

There is something to suit every preference. You can choose from apartments in the city centre, on the beach or next to a golf course. Alternatively, there are modern luxury villas, pretty bungalows, immaculate townhouses and also commercial properties and land available.

Amenities

This is one of the most important shopping areas in Castellon, so you will find everything you need for daily living, not to mention a tempting array of luxuries. Supermarkets, independent boutiques, designer clothes shops, shoe shops, bakeries, butchers, banks, lots of great bars and restaurants – whatever it is you need, you’d be hard-pressed not to find it.

Transport

Vinaros has excellent transport links, with its own train station, a regular bus service and Castellon–Costa Azahar Airport is just 45 minutes away. Take the E-15 highway, and you can be in Tarragona in just over an hour.

Health

There are a wide range of medical facilities, from Spanish state clinics to private doctors, plus dentists, pharmacies and veterinarians. The nearest hospital is the Hospital Comarcal de Vinaros, just 7 minutes away from the city centre.

Cost of Living

Cost of living is very reasonable, especially when you compare Vinaros to other popular coastal resorts. Property is good value for money and public transport is excellent and cheap.

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