Come summer, a lot of UK tourists head for the Spanish ‘costas’ for sun, sea and sangria. But if you’ve ‘done that’ or it’s simply not your thing but you like the Spanish laid back lifestyle, Lonely Planets’ list of top ten city beaches includes two Spanish town resorts, Valencia and Barcelona.
Valencia is also one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities for 2011, so it obviously comes highly recommended. Lounge on the Playa de la Malvarrosa or neighbouring Playa de las Arenas, which are both bordered by the Paseo Marítimo promenade and are peppered with paella-serving restaurants. Just a block back from the beach, there are plenty of lively bars and discos which go on until the early hours. Don’t forget to drag yourself off the beach to visit the Calatrava-designed Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias.
Barcelona’s beaches may be largely artificial but an estimated seven million bathers flock there every year. A series of lively beaches stretch northeast from the Port Olímpic marina, of which the southernmost beach, Platja de la Nova Icària, is the busiest. If you prefer something less crowded, you can head north to one of the quieter resorts on the Costa Brava. But while in what is arguably Spain’s most cosmopolitan city, be sure to visit the Barri Gótic, Europe’s largest Gothic quarter, the town’s old centre, where many buildings date back to medieval times. And you can’t fail to miss the town’s extraordinary ‘moderniste’ (Art Nouveau) architecture, especially the flamboyant work of architect Antoni Gaudí such as the massive Sagrada Família, Park Güell and Palau Güell, all World Heritage Sites.
Easy Jet and Ryanair have low cost flights to both cities.