Valencia - perfect for out of season holidays with its sunny climate and flamboyant festivals

Spain's third largest city, Valencia is also one of its sunniest, basking in over 2,600 hours of sunshine a year. This, together with its very mild Winters, makes it a great Winter warmer holiday destination, with the added advantage of more economical airplane tickets typically being available at this time of year.

The 15 hour flight to Valencia Airport marks the start of a journey to an ancient city - like many large urban centres in Spain, the foundation of the city predates the birth of Christ, having been first built by the Romans.

One of the city's focal points and an excellent place to start your exploration of Valencia is the Mercado Central, the central market. This Art Nouveau design provides a home to around a thousand stalls selling a bewildering array of seafood, spices, herbs, fruit, vegetables and more. Just a few metres away is another Valencian must-see, the Lonja de la Seda, the old commodities exchange and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which dates from the late 15th century and is an outstanding example of Late Gothic architecture.

Other major sights in the city centre include the Torres de Serranos, a towering gateway that's almost 800 years old, the Plaza de la Virgen, the Art Nouveau railway station, Estación del Norte and the Cathedral.

Many people time their stay in Valencia to coincide with one of Spain's most spectacular festivals, Las Fallas. This five day-long celebration reaches its crescendo on March 19th every year and features processions, music, multiple fireworks displays and most importantly of all, the 'ninots', which are figures made from paper, wood, wax or Styrofoam up to five stories high. These figures are ceremonially destroyed by fireworks and fire on the night of the 19th March, St Joseph's day.

Valencia - home to a host of museums, from the quirky to the futuristic.

Valencia has a range of museums that will appeal to all tastes. Amongst the best-known is the Spanish national ceramics museum, housed in the stunning house of the Marqués de Dos Aguas, which is itself worth the visit. There is an impressive fine arts museum, with works by Velázquez, Bosch, El Greco, Goya and Sorolla. However, pride of place has to go to the amazing Museo de los soldaditos de plomo, the largest collection of toy soldiers on display in a museum anywhere the world - up to one hundred thousand of them at a time!
A totally different kind of museum is found in a quite unique complex of buildings opened progressively between 1998 and 2005 - the City of Arts and Sciences. This amazing collection of buildings designed by local architect Santiago Calatrava runs along the old course of the River Turia. It includes an IMAX cinema, a planetarium, a science museum, the largest oceanarium in Europe, featuring species from oceans ranging from the Arctic to the Red Sea, an opera house and a landscaped walk.
Being in the Schengen zone, Spain has its own particular regulations regarding visas and customs . The local currency is the euro and Valencia is one hour behind South African time. If you'd like to travel outside of the city, the accommodation and car rental section of the Air France site may come in handy.

Holiday and travel websites that will pave your way to the perfect trip to Valencia

See the best of Valencia and prepare your journey with the following websites: