Valencia may not currently be regarded as the most glamorous city on the Iberian peninsula, but this is all set to change. Playing host to one of the most bafflingly won sporting trophies of all – The America’s Cup ? put Valencia firmly at the centre of the yachting community this year, and when the first Formula 1 Grand Prix takes place there in 2008 the remainder of the well-heeled are guaranteed to prick up their ears. And it is likely that they will like what they see when they arrive: an open, relaxed, airy and vibrant city, Valencia provides the perfect anecdote from the crush of Barcelona or the baking heat of Madrid. Situated right on the coast, this ancient city has been vital to the economic development of Spain not least because it boasts one of the largest and busiest ports in Europe.
Valencia is now a city growing internationally in both stature and recognition. The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, or City of Arts and Sciences, is an ensemble of five areas in the dry river bed of the now diverted River Turia begun in 1996 and built to commemorate the millennium. They are composed of an opera house, a cinema, gardens, a science museum and an aquarium, and the complex is a striking landmark integrated into the heart of the city. Sunk into the riverbed, it contrasts beautifully with the mixture of Baroque and Gothic styles of architecture predominant in the city.
The wonderful architecture also contributes towards the atmosphere: although Valencia hustles and bustles like any modern European city, there is unquestionably a sense that there is space and time enough for everything there. Whether touring the city by car, or exploring on foot, you find none of the crowded sense of urgency which characterises Barcelona. It is a pleasure to get to know, both as a tourist, taking in the view from the spectacular medieval towers in the heart of the old city, or as a resident, enjoying the many festivals which take place on a regular basis (just watch out for the decibel levels when they wheel out the fireworks).
Property prices in Valencia have traditionally been relatively calm, compared with the ups and downs which the other parts of Spain have been subject to. This did, however, begin to change as plans for the America’s Cup and now next year’s Grand Prix came to light a few years ago. House prices leapt by 30% after the announcement, and some flats doubled in price within twelve months.
Prices are still rising now, but exponential increases are no longer taking place; 2005 year saw a 15% increase, rising around the same amount last year, and as a long term investment it looks pretty good: the weather is fantastic for the majority of the year (during which the beach down by the marina is the place to be), and the rental market is almost guaranteed due to demand from Valencians themselves, let alone the appeal it has for both holiday makers and sports enthusiasts.
At the moment you can buy a seven bedroom villa in the city, in the popular Montecañada, for around £860,000, or a luxury villa eight kilometres outside the city with six bedrooms for £487,000, and there are many more apartments within the city, and down by the new marina which are still a relative bargain.
Outside of the city, falling in love with the surrounding area is easy, and one of the reasons is its feeling of complete seclusion compared to the regions to the south, and the Costas. And if the idea of city life doesn’t appeal, you could do worse than taking a look at where the wealthy people of Madrid choose to holiday. The town of Benecassim, an hour’s drive to the north, has long been popular with the Spanish looking to escape the dusty heat inland in the summer. It is an utterly Spanish holiday town, charming without being brash, right on the coast, with a beach which stretches into the distance for miles.
A new development just five minutes drive away, in Portocala, is a fine example of the kind of property which many people looking for a second home in a tranquil spot are after.
A selection of one, two and three bedroom apartments, built to a very high standard, with sea views, and easy beach access are currently being constructed right on the water with wonderful views to the Mediterranean. Modern apartments, completely secure and with spacious rooms, and lots of outdoor space, are being sold here for a snip of what one would pay further down the coast. These apartments also have none of the associated noise and cultural spinoffs which commonly come with a house on the south coast of Spain.
Phase one, already complete, has practically sold out, and phase two, due for completion next month, is also proving popular with both Spanish and British buyers alike according to the developers (www.onofre-portocala.com telephone + 44 (0)20 7297 9670.
One bedroom apartments cost from ?328,900, and two bedroom apartments will cost from ?352,000. The biggest properties, which feature oodles of outdoor space in the form of large balconies and a roof terrace with lovely sea views, are priced at ?545,250. Within the development itself a shopping centre is under construction, and a five star hotel will also appear on the site in the next few years, so all amenities will be available without even going into Benicassim. The beach is reached by a short bus journey in high season.
And just as down the coast in Valencia, property here is likely to be a good investment, as well as a smart place to buy a second home, with steadily appreciating prices, rather than the dramatic rises and falls which are to be found in other parts of Europe. And of course when the Grand Prix season begins all your only problem is deciding whether to take advantage of living down the road, or make a killing from renting your house for the weekend?