As you may have seen from some of our social media posts, our Spanish school in Valencia has moved!
Now situated in a gorgeous building in Valencia’s Casco Antiguo, the school – one of our most popular destinations for adults and juniors alike – couldn’t miss the opportunity to celebrate all its hard work. Staff invited agents and teachers from across the world to come and see the new building, take some pictures, and share anecdotes over some delicious Mediterranean food.
As the newest recruit at ALC, I was more than a little surprised to be asked to represent the company overseas. I jumped at the chance, of course, eager to be on the other side of the language-travel experience for the first time.
Valencia, once dubbed ‘The City of Joy’ by its Moorish inhabitants, sprawls along Spain’s eastern coastline and presents a medley of the ancient and the modern. The outer part of the city offers shopping centres, entertainment complexes, and impressive examples of contemporary architecture – including the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, a must-see for any visitor. The compact Old Town at the city’s core, meanwhile, reveals a timeworn monument or decorative touch around almost every corner.
The third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia welcomes over 2 million visitors each year. It enjoys a subtropical Mediterranean climate, meaning it has short, mild winters and long, hot, and dry summers. It rains infrequently and temperatures rarely drop below 10°C.
The city is, perhaps, most famous as the birthplace of paella, which is regarded as Spain’s national dish by the rest of the world (though not by the Spaniards themselves). Valencians can be quite particular about this – only specific ingredients can be used (and definitely don’t put chorizo in it!), the dish must be cooked outside in order to be authentic, and some even say that water from the Albufera should be used in its preparation. You simply can’t visit the city without trying it – in doing so, you’ll realise that paella from anywhere else in the country pales in comparison.
Another well-known aspect of Valencian life is the plethora of annual festivals it hosts, including the colourful Falles in spring – an astonishing display of handmade figurines that may reach several storeys tall – Holy Week in April, and the Feria de Valencia in July. The latter celebration culminates in a truly beautiful street battle whereby opposing sides pelt each other with flowers as floral floats parade through the streets.
The majority of the city’s main attractions are in the Old Town and just a short walk from each other. These include the cathedral, El Mercat Central food market, El Miguelete bell tower, El Carmen and the old city gates, and the Almoina museum. Between the Casco Antiguo and the sea lies the Turia riverbed, a long strip of green bisecting the city that is scattered with play parks, sculptures, and various recreational spaces. To the southern end lies the City of Arts and Sciences, while its north-westerly arm is home to the Bioparc, which offers a safari-like experience and great examples of African flora and fauna.
Along the riverbed you’ll also find the Modern Art Museum, the Palace of Music, the Bridge of Flowers, and the Torres de Serranos, high towers marking one of 12 ancient entrance points to the city. To the west of the city are more modern stores and malls, perfect if you’re looking for high street brands. If you’re looking for more unique finds, try the bohemian independent shops on and around Carrer de Quart.
The new school
Also situated in the heart of the Old Town is our school’s new building, an impressive palacio just off the Plaza de la Virgen.
Built atop remains of the Moorish city walls, the school combines ancient stonework with sleek interior design to create a beautiful study space. Many of the classrooms are punctuated by segments of wall that date back to the 11th century and, to get to the outdoor terrace, students must traverse smooth stone steps that once marked an entrance into the city.
When first entering the facility, students are welcomed into a bright and airy patio area decorated with plants and tall stone columns. To the left of this, an inviting bar-style cafe; straight ahead, a reception area manned by smiling, friendly staff members. Up a few steps from this reception area, students will find an activities board, where information on the upcoming week’s social and cultural activities is displayed.
In total, the new building has 28 classrooms of various sizes, from small pods for private study to large rooms for group exercises. Many are in the newer part of the building, separated only by glass walls – this futuristic style makes each space feel enormous, bright, and airy. A few classrooms even open out onto the terrace, and there’s also a small but fully functional kitchen used for cookery classes and workshops.
Dotted around the school are various study spaces; there’s also a computer bank and a gorgeous first floor terrace with a sun garden. Thoughtfully designed with calming colours and decorative artwork, our colleagues in Valencia have managed to create a really inviting space that is both practical and pleasant.
In the old facility, adults and students studied in separate buildings; now students of all ages will study in the same facility. This is especially ideal for those thinking of travelling as a family. Generally younger students will have lessons in the ground floor classrooms, with interactive sessions taking place out on the terrace, while parents will have their lessons upstairs, safe in the knowledge that their children are enjoying themselves just metres away.
It’s obvious that no expense has been spared in the rebuild. The school has even purchased a selection of bright new chairs (below), which are both comfortable and practical. The attached tables can easily be moved for left-handed students, and the chairs can be pushed together and arranged as needed to create shared desks for group study. This is especially important, as the school’s methodology relies heavily on student interaction and activities during lessons to maintain immersion and to help cement grammar and vocabulary. Much better than simply copying lines from the board!
A Valencian school terrace
Because the weather in Valencia is so clement, students can enjoy barbecues and paella on the terrace, study outside, or simply relax on the sunloungers in the garden area all year round. The shops and cafes in the surrounding streets are great for getting a taste of the city, whether it’s a delicious snack, a new item of clothing, or a souvenir to take back home. Within 5 minutes’ walk of the school’s front doors are the Torres de Quart, another of the ancient city gates, which can be climbed for a breathtaking view of the whole city.
One thing is for sure – the school feels like a Tardis! The classrooms and study spaces are spread across several levels within the sprawling 19th-century building, giving the feeling that it goes on forever. I remember peeking round a corner at what I thought was the end of a corridor, expecting to see a window onto the street below, only to find another string of classrooms stretching out before me. You’d be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t this much going on inside, when viewing the palacio from the outside …
For further information on our Valencian school, the courses and accommodation options offered, or advice on travel to the city, please get in touch!