The Mole Diaries: Valencia
Valencia by Extra Zebra
Ellie Cobbe spent her year abroad in Valencia, Spain. Here, she gives her top tips and secrets to discovering the Spanish city, with great advice on uni, language exchanges and which bars to hang out in...
The UniversityUniversitat de València
Established in 1499, UV is one of the oldest and most respected surviving universities in Spain. It is divided over 3 campuses, with faculties housed in different buildings. As a well-founded and popular Erasmus institution, you will not find as many problems with enrolment and meeting new friends as you may do at other smaller universities.
Each faculty has their own secretary and enrolment process but expect a welcome meeting for all foreign students within the 1st week, where you will be given a diary and a date to matriculate (enrol) onto your courses. Set over a 2-week period, matriculation can be one of the most stressful aspects of the Year Abroad – but with a few tricks up your sleeve, enrolment at UV doesn’t have to leave you on the verge of packing your bags, ready to flee back to the organisation of your home institution. Firstly, remember that the first language of the institution is Valencian and not Castilian. The website is available in both (avoid using the English setting as the website does not function in the same way) but the timetables, university emails and some classes are in Valencian which can lead to confusion. If you don’t speak Catalan, an easy way of eliminating courses is to look down the idioma section of the timetables and eliminate those that are taught in “V” – Valencian and choose those in “C” – Castillian or “I” - English. If you’re arriving for the second semester, your choices are further reduced by the module start dates – it is recommended that you take courses that start in Semester 2, although with the teacher’s permission it is possible to join a class that started in September and earn less credits. It is possible to take courses from different faculties on your campus with the agreement of your coordinator, so look around for other modules which may interest you.
On ArrivalExhausted, walking streets which will before long become familiar but are, at first, confusing, whilst dragging all your worldly possessions, can be an overwhelming experience when first stepping off the plane. If you are arriving in Valencia without a flat or a friend to stay with, don’t panic and make yourself a reservation (in advance) at a hostel for at least one night.
Renowned as the hostel for Erasmus students during the months of August, September, January and February, these two hostels within walking distance of each other offer simple, cheap accommodation and the guarantee of making friends with other foreign students. Red Nest, c/ la Paz (0034 963 427 168) , is more central - but the Purple Nest, 561, Plaza Tetuan (0034 963 532) houses the bar. Free towels, lockers and linen in return for a small deposit.
C/Lonja 4, (0034 963 916 229)
Offering a bit more luxury than the basic Nest Hostels, and the rare pleasure of a no bunk bed policy for the same price, Hôme is also extremely popular with students and tourists alike. With rooms starting at just €14 a night including a free breakfast, towels and linen, Home hostel ticks all the right boxes. There is also a second, cheaper Hôme hostel intended for backpackers located in the Carmen neighbourhood.
Where to LiveBefore arriving in Valencia, find out which campus your faculty will be located on and what links it has with other parts of the city. Though Valencia is relatively well connected, it is still large and sprawling and location is everything when it comes to the convenience of getting to university or work. The majority of students live in private rented flats with home students or other Erasmus students, though there are halls of residence. There are flats aplenty in Valencia so don’t worry if you haven’t found anything before you arrive; use this to your advantage and visit lots of flats in different areas.
Well connected, cheap and close to the universities, Benimaclet in the north east of Valencia ticks many of the student boxes. 15 minutes walk to the university campuses and situated on the Metro Red Line stops of Benimaclet and Machado, there is also a tram line leading straight to the Malvarosa Beach.
Due to the proximity of the flats in this area to the faculties of Blasco Ibáñez and the bars and clubs situated on Calle Polo y Peyrolon, the streets around Aragon Metro station which are becoming steadily more popular with students. Cheap rents and convenience mean that this area, around the stadium which houses Valencia’s football team, now rivals Benimaclet in student numbers.
South on Blasco Ibáñez
Further down off Blasco Ibáñez the areas of Plaza de Honduras and Plaza de Azúcar are situated closer to the campus of Tarrongers and still benefit from the proximity of various clubs and bars.
The beautiful winding streets of Valencia’s Old Town attract a different kind of student. With rents set much higher than the student norm, don’t expect to be surrounded by your peers; however you can claim to be at the centre of all the action after the sun sets. A trade off for the longer commute to the universities, you get fast access to all the best bars and restaurants that Valencia has to offer.
Language SchoolsCentre d’Idiome
96 339 46 30, C/ Dr. Joan Reglà 6, [email protected], Mon – Fri 9:30-1 then 5-8 (except Fri)
Endorsed by the faculty of languages on Blasco Ibáñez, el Centre d’Idiomes is located behind the Mestalla football stadium and is extremely popular with foreign students. Offering courses for beginners up to those wishing to perfect their language skills, enrolment for overseas students is dramatically subsidised. Expect to pay around €65 for a semester of classes, plus book expenses.
Language ExchangesTandem Scheme
If you’re studying in the Faculty of Philology, Translation and Communication, this scheme will be advertised to you from the first week and you will have the opportunity to be paired up with students of languages from the department straight away. To meet new tandems, you can go through the faculty’s office, put up a language exchange notice on the board of the faculty or visit the Tandèm UV Facebook page to advertise.
C/Salamanca 10, 18:00-01:30 Mon - Sat
This busy, popular American bar situated on Calle Salamanca holds an Intercambio, or language exchange, every Wednesday at 8:30PM. Punters can practise their Spanish whilst helping locals put their English skills in to practice. As an added incentive and to keep the conversation flowing, English speakers receive 4 free pints of beer for their services.
96 392 6193, Plaza Cors De La Mare de Deu 3, Food 10:00 – 01:00
Every Tuesday between 8 and 10PM, this small, cosy bar opens its doors to a mixture of home and foreign students to host a language exchange night. Cheap drinks, cheap food and an international atmosphere entice the students away from their normal haunts around Blasco Ibáñez into the bar which is located mere metres away from Plaza de la Reina. Practise your Spanish, German and maybe even your English.
Erasmus AssociationsHappy Erasmus
Save yourself some money and head down to the Happy Erasmus office located on Calle de Bernat Fenollar to sign up for a free card which earns you discounts and free entry into Valencia’s hottest clubs every Friday. Also renowned for their short trips to Ibiza by party boat, it’s worth checking out their Facebook page for events and trips.
The ESN (Erasmus Student Network) offers a more cultural side to the Erasmus experience, with trips to the beautiful surrounding areas of Valencia such as Albufera Lake as well as organised visits to some of Valencia’s main tourist attractions, including the Oceanografic for €12 and BioParc for free! ESN have also created a group within their Facebook group to help Erasmus students searching for flats or flatmates.
Erasmus Life Valencia
As an alternative to the free entries given out by Happy Erasmus for Valencia’s best clubs, Erasmus Life rivals their services with a different option for a Friday night.
The cheapest and most convenient way to travel around the city, Valencia’s public bike hiring service, Valenbisi, is popular with both home and foreign students alike. Subscribing is cheap and simple, with a one off payment of €18 for a year. You can buy yourself a Mobilis card from your nearest Metro stop which works for both the Metro and Valenbisi which, by using the subscription number located on the back of the card, allows you to sign up online and start using the service immediately. Alternatively, you can sign up online first and receive a card through the post, but beware – it is not unusual for a card to take several weeks to arrive this way.
Valencia’s Metro system leaves something to be desired. Though it is clean and efficient on the lines that already exist, it is infrequent at stops outside the centre and stations are scarce in comparison to Metro systems in other cities such as Barcelona. Its main trump card is the fast and cheap connection to and from the airport to the city centre and its outskirts, with two lines running towards the airport every 15 minutes. Another advantage is the price – with a single journey costing just €0.70 with a Mobilis card.
The bus network is extensive and once again extremely cheap with a bus card (purchasable at any tabacconists’). Single journeys cost €1.30 without a card or €0.70 without, so it makes sense to buy your travel cards early on.
Cheap EatsUnfortunately, unlike in other parts of Spain, tapas is not always free when you buy a drink in a bar. However, it is still possible to get a cheap tapas meal if you know where to go! Las Cuevas, off Plaza de la Reina has an unbelievable range of tapas dishes at low prices and most restaurants off the beaten track offer tapas, the trick is about trial and error! For slightly more luxurious tapas dishes, head to Café Infinito near Amistat Metro station; their takes on classic tapas dishes have got to be tasted to be believed!
El Laboratorio is shockingly cheap considering its location on Plaza de la Reina and the food is delicious. Try the double chocolate and banana cake and you’ll see! But for really cheap food, find a nearby independent café offering Menú del Día – 3 courses and a drink served from around 2PM and usually costing 8 Euros or less. The university offers something similar on the Blasco Ibáñez campus which goes even further, at a scrumptious 5.25 Euros.
The bars of Polo y Peyrolon are a hotspot for Erasmus students any night of the week, but Mondays and Wednesdays are particularly busy. Polo 55 kicks of the night, starting early with free pizza with any drink on Mondays and free paella on Wednesday. It’s quite expensive as student bars in Valencia go, but the busy, international atmosphere and free food pulls in the punters every week! Café Toucan offers a small intimate bar with a dance floor open until 4AM or Caribbeans, opposite, boasts a free mojito before 12AM and a busy atmosphere.
Barrio Carmen is the place to go to integrate with the locals on a Friday night. The chilled out Chistopher Lee’s cocktail bar offers delicious and potent mixes for those in search of a few quiet drinks (whether you stick to this plan after is your prerogative...). If, as is normal for the Spanish, you choose to prolong the party, head to Bolsería for a dance until 4AM.
Also nearby, Radio City offers a great opportunity to see some authentic Flamenco dancing every Tuesday from 10.30PM. Get there early to secure a seat and make use of your free drink which comes with your 7 Euro entrance fee.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the Valencia club scene is the outdoor terrace night club l’Umbracle. Situated above the stunning Arts and Sciences building and shaded by a curved arched lined with palm trees, the club is a sight to be seen itself. In the winter months, when the club is closed, head to the smaller, underground adjacent club Mya. Happy Erasmus offers free tickets on a Friday throughout the year.
Alternatively, Ánimas del Puerto on the seafront rivals l’Umbracle with its spectactular views of the sunrise over the ocean at 6AM. Nearby in the fisherman’s quarter, La Tres is popular on a Saturday night, with alternative music to please everyone’s tastes.
SafetyIn the well-lit city centre and the bustling student areas, safety at night is rarely an issue. It is advisable to take a taxi home if you’re alone after a night out – as in any big city – but for those who wish to avoid the cost, the Valenbisi bike scheme provides a convenient means to get home, providing you stick to the bike paths and know your limits when it comes to alcohol. The Cabanyal district of Valencia, right on the beach front, is one of the poorest areas of the city where people live in run-down houses that were once beautifully decorated in the art deco style. Unfortunately, as a consequence of the poverty, the area has become a haven for drug dealers so avoid the area completely after dark and stick to the main bike paths during the day when accessing the beach. During high season, the beach itself is well policed and crime is rare but be wary of leaving your bags unattended.
During festivals and special events, be particularly cautious and only take out what is necessary. Events like Las Fallas and San Juan encourage a rise in pick-pocketing and when alcohol is added into the mix, you may not notice someone going into your bag or pockets. If you have friends to stay, make sure they never take out their passport unless absolutely necessary.