My pulse quickened as we turned off a bustling Valencian thoroughfare to find our hotel in a rather run-down neighbourhood, next to the "Chicken Palace" and opposite the Valencia Hell's Angels Club. Thankfully, the Petit Palace Germanias loomed audaciously above its paint-peeling neighbours in a restored fin-de-siècle crimson-hued building. This is just the sort of place that typifies Valencia's urban renaissance. Venerable old buildings have been regenerated and the warren-like streets of the atmospheric old town are now inhabited by trendy bars, boutiques and restaurants, while the City of Arts and Sciences on the drained riverbed of the Turia is defined by eye-popping modern architecture. And with the America's Cup arriving at the shoreline next summer, the city is developing on an almost daily basis.
Petit Palace Germanias, Calle Sueca 14, Valencia, Spain (00 34 963 51 36 38; www.hthotels.com). Despite being in one of the shabbier districts of the city, the hotel is just a five-minute walk from the beautiful Modernista Estacio del Nord train station and a further 15 minutes from the labyrinthine old town.
Time to international airport: it's about a 20-minute drive to Valencia Manises.
While the rather Eighties lobby (lots of black marble and Matisse-meets-primary-school-pupil artwork) is an initial disappointment, there's more than meets the eye to each of the simple but smart, design-minded rooms.
Dark wood floors - offset by cream walls and aubergine ceilings - are mirrored by dark wooden panels against one of the walls, which fold down to produce a bunk bed. Another dark wood panel slides back to reveal a wardrobe and mini bar, while a horizontal mirror stretches the entire width of the enormous double bed, giving an added sense of space to the lofty, airy rooms.
Stylish touches include chic marble bathrooms and black and white photography (ours was of a Guatemalan family) adorning the walls. The three top-floor suites feature wide, decked balconies with sun loungers. There are rooms to suit families, couples and guests with disabilities.
Freebies: a modest set of bathroom toiletries, plus toothbrush, toothpaste and a comb.
Keeping in touch: the hotel is part of the Spanish mini-chain High Tech Hotels and as such offers a wealth of technological features, such as hydro-massage showers with settings ranging from a fine mist to an invigorating pummel. Flat-screen computers with complimentary ADSL Internet are offered in most rooms and those without computers can use the free internet in the lobby. Rooms also feature flat-screen TVs with Sky channels, direct-dial phones, trouser press and climate control.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Germanias offers design without a hefty price tag: double rooms start at a very reasonable €75 (£54), room only. Breakfast costs €7.50 (£5.40) per person. Family rooms start at €117 (£84), room only.
I'm not paying that: Nest Hostel at Calle Paz 36 (00 34 963 427 168; www.nestyh.com) is a trendy new designer hostel on the edge of the old town. Dorm beds start at €14 (£10), doubles at €47 (£34), room only.Reuse content