Located on the Eastern coast of Spain, Valencia is exactly as you might imagine it. There are parks full of trees that are laden with oranges and streets lined with pastel coloured buildings from the 19th Century, with lavish facades and elegant balconies. You can find cathedrals, a silk exchange, a palace made of marble and markets brimming with fresh produce. Restaurants offer paella and sangria, along with endless varieties of Tapas. A short tram ride gets you from the city centre to a long, sandy beach, and you can follow a park that used to be a river for 9 kilometres straight to the City of Arts and Sciences. I would have to say, Valencia is an undiscovered delight! It is not yet brimming with tourists, hardly anyone speaks English and there are tasty treats around every corner. Allow plenty of days to explore these highlights!
1. Go for a run in Turia Riverbed Park
In 1957, a devastating flood of the Turia River caused the city to take action, draining the entire river and converting it into a 9km green park, which runs all the way through the city. It is a popular track for runners and cyclists. You can spend hours strolling through the orange trees, past fountains and old bridges, playgrounds and gardens, all the way through to the City of Arts and Sciences. On a Summer evening, locals will gather here in the shade of the trees to sip on wine.
2. Eat a Bocadillo for Breakfast
These delicious sandwiches are available at every cafe. Generally filled with ingredients like jamon and cheese, you can make your own version with anything you want. Best enjoyed with a coffee in the sunshine!
3. Admire the City of Arts and Sciences
At the end of the Turia Riverbed sits the City of Arts and Sciences, a large complex dedicated to entertainment and housed in stylish modern architecture surrounded by water and gardens. You can wander around for hours admiring each building as a work of art, which cleverly blend into the historic charm of the city, creating a magnificent mix of old and new.
4. Explore The National Ceramic Museum
The National Ceramic Museum (Museo Nacional De Ceramica Y Artes Suntuarias Gonzalez Marti) is housed in a 15th Century Palace and is decked out in lavish Rococo style. Outside, the elaborate facade draws you into an even more beautiful interior, with rich furnishings and large selection of royal ceramics, carriages and more. It only costs 3 euros entrance and is definitely worth exploring for at least a couple of hours.
5. Climb the Torre Del Micalet
The Bell Tower of the Cathedral de Valencia is 50 metres high and requires a bit of energy to climb all those stairs, but the view is well worth it. It costs 2 euros entrance from the ticket booth downstairs and entrances are timed to avoid overcrowding.
6. Explore the Old Town
Valencia is over 2000 years old, and the historic centre shows off many cultural and artistic masterpieces. Walk through the city gates into the Old Town, where you can browse shops, drop into cafes and bars, admire old cathedrals and chapels or visit the central market for all your fresh produce!
7. Swim at Las Arenas Beach
Located in the fisherman’s quarter of El Cabanyal, Las Arenas is a wide sandy beach, popular for sports, like beach volleyball or football. If you’re game to brave the cold water, you can even take a dip in the sea. It is an easy tram ride from the city centre.
8. Dine in at La Serena Food and Drinks
Located in the hipster neighbourhood of Russafa, this charming restaurant offers the best feast of Paella imaginable! After mentioning the words paella and sangria to the waiter (who spoke only Spanish), he whisked our menus away and came back a few minutes later with the first course. The entire meal, including drinks, cost around 20 euros each and included five entrees, one after the other, a main course of paella, several mini desserts, a jug of Sangria and shots of liquor to finish it off. The meal is taken at lunch time (preferably outside in the sunshine), and is followed by a long siesta to pass the hottest time of the day!
9. Drink from a Porrón
Have you ever heard of a Porrón?! We ordered this by mistake – I thought it would be a carafe of red wine with two glasses. But when the glasses didn’t arrive, I took a closer look at the menu. There were instructions for drinking straight from this odd looking contraption and I am sure it was designed to make tourists look like a fools. I lifted it centimetres from my mouth and tipped the stream of wine down my throat, hoping for the best. It takes some practice, so I was really very lucky to leave with just a small red wine stain on the front of my white t-shirt!
10. Visit Mercado Colon
This ornate and lavish market place dates from the Valencian Art Nouveau period and was designed by Francisco Mora Berenguer between 1914 – 1916. It is buzzing with the Spanish language and full to the brim with restaurants and bars – the perfect spot to meet friends for a cocktail in the evening!
Have you been to Valencia? Where would you recommend?