Summer is almost upon us and it is time to reach for the sun cream and flip-flops and head to the beach. The two in Valencia – Malvarrosa and El Cabanyal (better known as Las Arenas) – are both awarded Blue Flags. But it is not just the sunbathing or the opportunity to take the first dip in the sea that will attract thousands to the seafront this month. There is also music, midsummer night bonfires, and the most awaited restaurant opening of the year.
Having a beach on your doorstep is a real bonus. In Valencia, you can combine the sightseeing and the all-night partying with a few hours relaxing in the sun very easily. After all, the beach is just a short bus or metro/tram ride away (on lines 4, 6 or 8). On Sundays, whatever time of year, it is a favourite Valencian pastime to go for a stroll along the seafront promenade, maybe stopping for a drink or a paella at one of the many restaurants that line it. In the mornings, joggers and roller-skaters enjoy a bit of exercise before the day’s work.
It wasn’t always like this. In the past, the city seemed to look inland while buildings in coastal neighbourhoods like Cabanyal started to crumble, and there were few reasons to enter the port other than to catch the ferry to the Balearics. But with the celebration of the America’s Cup, first in 2007 and again in 2010, Valencia rekindled its love of the sea. With a new marina, better transport links and new seafront hotels, it is now a city that relishes its Mediterranean location.
The Marina Real Juan Carlos I, which was home to the team bases and the epicenter of activity during the America’s Cup, is once again one of the liveliest areas in Valencia. Adding to the existing offer of bars and restaurants by the port, the Marina now has one of the coolest beach clubs in Spain, with fantastic views over the sea. The Marina Beach Club Valencia, which opened earlier this year, is split in two levels: you can relax with a drink on modern deckchairs with your feet touching the sand in the chill out area, or enjoy a cocktail or a meal by the pool in the upper deck.
The most striking architectural feature of the Marina is the Veles e Vents building, designed by David Chipperfield. After being underused for a while, the building was taken over by Heineken Spain and La Sucursal Group (owners of one of the Michelin starred restaurants in Valencia) and is being transformed into a real hotspot for gastronomy and culture. The first sign of that is the opening, on 15 June, of La Marina, a rice restaurant and brasserie, and the Malabar microbrewery. In the future, the building will also house the Michelin starred La Sucursal restaurant and exhibition spaces.
If the new restaurant will attract foodies to the Marina, the Valencia Beach Festival, taking place on 24, 25 and 26 June 2016, will make it rock. The line-up this year includes everything from punk pioneers The Buzzcocks, to the jazz-pop of James Taylor Quartet, as well as soul, Latin music and modern Spanish rock bands. There is also an inaugural party on 23 June with free entry to everyone. What better way to welcome the summer than dancing the night away?
However, the most traditional way of celebrating the Summer Solstice, or St John’s Day, on 23 June, is with fire. The tradition of the Fiesta de San Juan returns to Valencia’s beaches every year, as families and groups of friends gather around bonfires on the sand. Some follow the ritual of jumping over the bonfires as well as over seven waves at midnight to cleanse the soul and get rid of bad spirits . Many use this occasion to reflect and make a wish for the future. For all, there is also food and music to enjoy well into the small hours. A truly magical night!