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Sitting on the Mediterranean just three hours south of Barcelona, the Comunidad de Valencia is a hard-working, traditional area. Lively Valencia City is a colorful place that's escaped the radar of most of the tourists who visit Spain, though with its brand-new museum complex and a new museum on the way, it's set to lose some of its anonymity.

In the city, be sure to visit the ultra-modern Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, an ondulating white building created by architect Santiago Calatrava, a local success story. This large museum complex near the coast is as interesting on the outside as it is on the inside.

Valencia's historic town is worth a look too. The narrow streets of the Barrio del Carmen (Carmen neighbourhood) are dotted with shady plazas and full of bars serving local drinks like 'Agua de Valencia,' a tingling concoction made with cava and local orange juice. After all, Valencia is the orange capital of Spain.

Along the coast, you'll find a decent beach and a string of homey seafood restaurants serving up piping-hot paella and fresh mussels, prawns and hake. If you're here on a weekend at lunch, prepare to face crowds, as this is the most popular place in town in fine weather.

Outside the city of Valencia, the coastal resort towns of Alicante and Benidorm are home to lovely stretches of sand and some of Spain's best nightlife. As a long, mainly coastal region, Valencia is dotted with beach resorts from end to end.

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Valencia has a typically Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and short, mild winters. June through August are hot and a bit more crowded, but shoulder months like April, May, September and October are generally very pleasant, with mild weather and fewer crowds.

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Direct flights from the UK take about two hours and arrive regularly at Valencia's Manises airport. From the airport, a bus shuttle will take you into town.

Getting here by train from Barcelona or Madrid is easy. There are several trains a day from both cities, and the train station is very central.

In the centre of Valencia you'll probably be able to walk to just about anywhere you'd like to go. For things farther afield, the city has a good bus system.

To move comfortably about the region, you need your own transportation.

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Once you've strolled Valencia's old city and browsed the shops here, head for the beach, where beach bums can lay out and the more activity-minded can rent jet skis or other water sports equipment.

Beyond the city, there are endless options for fun in the sun. A long, thin strip of land stretched out alongside the Mediterranean, Valencia is home to numerous beach resorts offering water sports and activities. You can rent windsurfs, sailboats, jet skis or peddle boats.

When you've had enough sand, head to Terra M?tica, the large theme park near Benidorm that's great for kids and kids at heart.

Golf lovers can head to one of the more than twenty golf courses scattered around the region.

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