Valencia has been elected as the European Capital of Sport for 2011 by ACES (the European Capitals of Sport Association) and even with the briefest look around the city, you’ll learn why. The local residents seem to relish soaking up as much sport as possible— well this could also be said of the Spanish in general, as they have many World Champion teams across a broad range of sports to be proud of— but it seems that around every corner in Valencia is an international circuit of some description.
However, it is not just the crowd drawing, international sports that Valencia hosts that has earned it this prestigious title, but also the attention given to sports at a more local level, as within the city of Valencia there are more than a hundred sports facilities. While some of these, like the modern Marina and the City of Arts and Sciences, are outstanding venues for events, such as the Open 500 tennis tournament (this year from 29th October to the 6th November) there are also many spaces, like sports centres, football pitches and swimming pools, which allow everyone to take part in their favourite healthy hobby. Open air options, such as Malvarrosa Beach and Turia Gardens, are especially attractive and during the early mornings or cooler evenings they are a honey pot for joggers, cyclists or roller bladers; you name the sport and Valencians do it, and are fortunate enough to have the facilities and climate to be outside and active throughout the year.
Additionally the city has municipal sports schools where over 10,000 Valencian children are taught and coached a variety of sports, and according to the Ajuntament de Valencia ‘the city holds more public running races than anywhere in the world per year.’ Thanks to all of this, both the citizens and visitors can enjoy practising their favourite sport and improve their quality of life at the same time.
Furthermore, Valencia has learnt to cater to everyone’s needs. Spectators and sports aficionados can enjoy the thrill of the European Formula 1 Grand Prix street circuit at the city’s marina, which was also home to the America’s Cup, or head over to the Mestalla to cheer on Valencia FC as they battle it out in the Champions League and the Spanish La Liga. If a slower pace of exercise is more for you, take advantage of one the many pilates or exercise classes in some of Valencia’s intimate and boutique health clubs. City centre Roma Health Club, for example, offers a comprehensive list of weekly exercise classes and due to its personal approach to each individual’s fitness needs you get 100% attention from the instructor, unlike many corporate chains. Taking your health and fitness at an even slower pace, Roma also includes a spa that is ideal for relaxing any Valencian’s tired muscles.
Due to the city’s relatively small size, walking everywhere is completely possible but if you want to speed it up a bit, why not try out the Valenbisi scheme introduced by the local government last year? Think having a bus pass but for bikes! You can pick up a bike from any one of hundreds of stands dotted around the city and then take advantage of the miles of cycle paths. You could even avoid traffic altogether by sticking to the 9km track through the Turia riverbed.
All in all, sport is a part of Valencia that is hard to avoid; whether you live here or are just visiting for a weekend. Whether you are a spectator or a participant, in Valencia no one is left out and deemed ‘un-sporty’, allowing all different groups of sports and fitness lovers to live in harmony.
Spanish tourism site.