Valencia has a growing number of expats and digital nomads, and for good reason!
I am currently living in Valencia myself and I think the quality of life here, especially for expats and digital nomads, is great.
In this Ask an Expat series I interview people living all over the world but outside of their home country. I try to help paint an honest picture of the ups and downs of life abroad, share tips for anyone thinking about moving abroad and information about what to see and do in the city, town or country the expat lives in.
I have been really looking forward to doing this interview with my friend and fellow expat Sarah, who I have known for several years. Sarah and I first met in the Maldives, when we were both living there. Like myself, Sarah is a digital nomad who can do her work from anywhere in the world. But for the past year she has been calling Valencia home.
Expat life in Valencia, Spain
Location: Valencia, Spain
Name: Sarah Harvey
Home town: London, England
“I’ve been living overseas for the last 7 years while working as a travel journalist, starting with exploring tropical island life in the Maldives and Sri Lanka for a few years before moving to Nice in southern France in 2015. The French Riviera was incredibly beautiful but Nice was a very small town with a large percentage of pensioners, and not many younger people on the same wavelength as me so after a year I decided it was time to find the next challenge. I wanted to find another European town with plenty of sunshine, good people and a low cost of living, but one which was slightly offbeat and not over-saturated by too many foreigners.”
“I visited for a long weekend during summer 2016 and instantly loved the energy, the architecture, and the overall vibrancy of the city. It seemed like a fun place full of lots of creative types, digital nomads, start-ups, alternative culture and funky independent shops. Valencia reminds me of Shoreditch in London or Brooklyn in New York 10 years ago.
I also wanted to move to a place where I already knew someone this time (after starting out on my own in new places so many times before, which was actually pretty tough). I already had two friends in Valencia, so that sealed the deal, and I moved late 2016.”
What do you like about Valencia?
“The Valencians and expats are extremely friendly and welcoming. Life just seems easier here and less stressful than anywhere else I’ve lived so far. I love the outdoor lifestyle, and also the fact that everyone of all ages seems to enjoy socialising every night of the week here. It never gets boring. After living on a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, that’s a very good thing!
Then there’s so much to do within 1-2 hours of the city itself. Valencia is close to some beautiful mountains where you can go hiking in summer and snowboarding in winter. There are also some good scuba diving spots just a short distance away and some vineyards where you can go wine-tasting. And of course, Valencia is famous for being the birthplace of paella. The rice is grown in the fields surrounding El Palmar, where you can get an authentic canal-side paella for 9 euros after stopping off at Albufera for a boat ride on the lake.”
What do you dislike about Valencia?
“The only thing I feel Valencia is missing is a surf beach. The biggest waves I’ve ever seen are about 1-2ft at the most. There is a surf school for beginners but I think a (cheap) excursion to somewhere else is necessary to find any surf. Not that I am by any means an expert, but it would be nice to have somewhere close-by to practice.”
What is your favorite thing to do in Valencia?
“Going to the Turia. It’s a 5 mile-long riverbed which was transformed into an amazing park in the 1960s filled with exotic species of plants and trees, and intersected by beautiful medieval and gothic bridges. I like walking through it and pondering life, but it also has great jogging and cycling tracks. You can meditate there, or try the free yoga and fitness classes. It’s also a nice spot to go to with friends for a picnic or to check out the regular events such as the wine festival and the flamenco festival. There was an open-air film festival in the summer, too.”
What is your favorite place to hang out (restaurant, bar, etc) in Valencia?
“It’s so hard as there are hundreds of bars, cafes and restaurants and I think that even if you stayed 10 years you wouldn’t be able to try all of them, but if I try to narrow it down: Dulce de Leche in Ruzafa for the incredible towering cakes slathered in fruit and frosting, La Girafe at Patacona beach to enjoy some mojitos whilst sitting on hammocks in the tropical back garden, and the toungue-twister of a club named Barberbirborbur in Ruzafa, for old school tunes and good vibes.”
What is the expat community like in Valencia?
“I love the expats here! This is the first city in the world I’ve lived in where I’ve really felt like these are my kind of people. They are really friendly, fun, open-minded and curious. There’s a great sense of entrepreneurship, exploration and creativity; a feeling that all things are possible here.”
Any tips for moving to / living in Valencia?
“You can walk almost everywhere but having a bicycle is handy too. Even though Valencia is on the coast, the beach is a 45-minute walk from the town center or 20-30 minutes by bus or metro, so you need to decide if you want to live right next to the sea, or if you want easy access to all the shops, bars and cultural things the city center offers.
The cost of living is very low. And lastly, although the climate is very good for a temperate location, you will need a coat in the winter. And in the summer, it can be 40°c by day and 30°c at night. So if you don’t like the heat, you won’t enjoy the summers, which last for a long time.”
Any resources you found useful during the process of moving to and/or building a new life in Valencia?
“I started a Facebook group for digital nomads and remote workers called Valencia Coffees & Co-working. We meet once a week to work on our laptops from a cafe, then at 6pm we usually stop and have some wine and often end up having dinner and going to some more bars. I’ve made some brilliant friends from the group. We also organize wine tastings, hiking trips, trips to cultural festivals and things like that via the group.
CouchSurfing and Tinder are also used a lot here for socializing, along with Meetup, although I prefer CouchSurfing of the three. For rental accommodation, try Spotahome or Idealista. There are also 2 Facebook groups called Expats in Valencia, and the group Valencia Information Exchange is useful too. For more technical advice, Citizens Advice Bureau Spain is very handy.”
Is there something you just have to see or do when you are in Valencia?
“If you want to sample one of the craziest firework festivals in the world, visit during Fallas (February/March). But if you don’t like loud noises, non-stop, day and night, I wouldn’t recommend it! Other than that, I’d say that Valencia is a collection of sights and feelings rather than just one highlight or activity; the people, the energy, the diverse architecture, the street art, the parks, the long beach, the lively nightlife and the random, spontaneous experiences you can get caught up in without even planning for them.”
Sarah Harvey is a British travel journalist who has written for publications including CNN International, the LA Times and Fodor’s. She also blogs, contributes to guide books, and writes website content for travel and tourism organizations.
So far, Sarah has lived in the London, Cairns, Male’, Colombo, Nice and Valencia, with plans to continue to explore the nomadic life in many more destinations to come. Check out her website Manta-Media.com for more information.
Valencia is a charming city and one of the oldest in Spain. It is the third Spanish city in terms of importance and population, and the 15th in the European Union. Valencia is on the Mediterranean Sea, approximately four hours to the south of Barcelona and three hours to the east of Madrid. The city is famous for its Fallas Festival in March, for being the birthplace of paella, for hosting the “2007 & 2010 America’s Cup”, and for the massive architectural project by Santiago Calatrava called The City of Arts and Sciences.
Although Valencia is an increasingly popular tourist destination, it is not nearly as touristy as Barcelona or Madrid. With its beautiful historic centre, countless museums, long beaches, great climate and good food, it is well worth a visit. Or, do as many others and move to Valencia (temporarily). Learn Spanish at one of its many language schools, study at Valencia University, look into local jobs or if you have reached that age, enjoy retirenment on the Mediterranean coast. There definitely aren’t many places in the world with a better quality of life than this part of Spain!
Are you interested in moving to Spain?
Also check out these expat interviews:
- An expat interview about living in Madrid
- Interview with an expat about moving to and living in Granada
- An expat interview about living in Moraira, on Spain’s Costa Blanca
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