Fiesta season

“We don’t worry about covering up on the beach, we don’t worry about a good night’s sleep. Here it is about the fiesta,” he says, handing me a fresh sangria and managing to explain why bikini tops seem to have gone out of fashion here and why the bars don’t fill up till at least 1am. But while a session on the beach, a dip in the bath-tub warm Med topped off by a night on the sangria might be at the top of your Valencia to-do list, it’s certainly not all the city has to offer.

Stroll through the Torres de Serrano into the old town, where you can spend days exploring the lively streets and plazas. Head to the buzzy Central Market to see giant squid, delectable legs of jamon (cured ham), and piles of fresh fruit. Ogle the food or grab a snack for the day.

What to drink

Sangria is Spain’s favourite drink and it is hard to beat, but in Valencia the drop to get your hands on is Agua de Valencia.

The name means ‘water of Valencia’ but it’s more exciting than
it sounds – a cocktail made from a base of cava or champagne with
orange juice, vodka and gin. A sure-fire way to get you going.

A fry-up with a difference

If you’re in self-catering mode make sure you eat out at least once. Paella isn’t the only dish the locals have perfected and, as well as restaurants overflowing with frying pans of seafood, there are tapas bars dotted round the old town.

For more sober pursuits check out the stunning cathedral, which is said to hold the legendary Holy Grail, used by Jesus at the Last Supper. Outside at noon every Thursday a water court is held to settle local irrigation problems. Yep, Valencia is that dry.

Giving it horns

Outside the old town there’s plenty more to see. At the Plaza de Toros matadors still regularly grace Valencia’s bullfighting ring. If watching a live fight is not your thing, there’s a small but interesting free museum attached to the ring.

In terms of architecture, the city is perhaps most famous for the City of Arts and Sciences precinct. This area is an architectural marvel, with giant shell-shaped buildings including the stunning Oceanographic Park, which is Europe’s largest aquarium. After a few hours here I need a siesta.

However, there is no need to head back to my hotel when there are a number of beaches within walking distance. I decide to take a stroll via Valencia’s impressive America’s Cup Port, next to the Formula 1 European Championship Circuit, to Playa de las Arenas.

Life’s a beach

It lacks the beautiful blue water and white sand of other beach destinations in Europe (the water and sand are a little brown), but the locals seem undeterred. They frolic in the shallows and kick soccer balls and hacky sacks. As I settle down for a snooze I’m confronted by another mystery. How do Valencians have so much energy?

» Trevor Paddenburg travelled to Valencia with Topdeck (0845 257 5210)