Hola from Valencia, Spain’s third largest city has everything you could want in a holiday destination all packed into one place. From breath-taking beaches to history and culture, and of course delicious food, Valencia is an exciting place to visit. This balmy Mediterranean port lies south and west of Barcelona and lives up to the local saying of “A piece of heaven fallen to Earth”.
Valencia has a rich history dating back to when it was founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC and called Valentia Edetanorum. Then, in 714 AD, the Muslim Moors occupied the city and introduced their language and customs, the influence of which you can still see in the city. Later, in 1238 AD, the Christian King, James I of Aragon conquered the city and reintroduced Christian customs and religion. Valencia experienced its golden age in the 14th and 15th centuries when it flourished as one of the Mediterranean’s strongest trading centres.
Note: not all palm trees are kept in cages!
Most travellers touch down in Valencia Airport, it’s just 8km (5 miles) away from the city and has flight connections to over 20 European countries as well as convenient domestic connections from Barcelona and Madrid. From the airport, there are three easy ways to reach the city centre – private taxi, metro and the airport bus. The airport bus is the least expensive option but takes the longest, priced at around 2.50 euros (£2.17) for a 30-min trip. The metro is a great option and usually my first choice, it will take you to the city centre in around 20-mins for 4.90 euros (£4.26)
Here’s a pro-tip: The Valencia Tourist Card is a great option for travellers exploring the city. It includes unlimited travel in the city over 24, 48, or 72 hours valid on the bus and metro, including the airport line.
Valencia is one of those places that you can visit all year round and still be able to enjoy a host of activities! Here are my favourite things to see when I visit:
- La Lonja de la Seda – The Valencia Silk Exchange is a 15th Century building that is a great example of gothic architecture and is a UNESCO Heritage Site. The silk trade was a huge part of Valencia for centuries and a pivotal part of its economy. The building is intricately designed, with swirling columns and tall detailed ceilings. It’s well worth a look!
- Old Town – Soak up Valencia’s beautiful and historical old town. It is perfect for wandering around on foot. Full of cafes, street art, boutique stores and winding streets, these are my favourite spots in this beautiful medieval district:
- Valencia Cathedral is a magnificent piece of gothic architecture dating back to the 14th Most fascinating is the Holy Chalice that is housed here, believed by some to be the Holy Grail. The 207-step climb up the Cathedral Tower, El Micalet, is worth the breath-taking view of the city and its many, blue-domed rooftops.
- Barrio del Carmen is on the North side of the old town and is bohemian, chic and vibrant, exactly my kind of place! It’s full of boutiques, trendy bars and cafes and nightclubs. Some highlights of the district are the Towers Serranos, Quart Towers and Mercado Central.
It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood!
- Turia Gardens – this is one of the largest urban parks in Spain. It runs through the city for over 9 kms where there was once a flowing river. The park is crossed by eighteen bridges and passes by the city’s main museum and monuments down to the City of Arts and Sciences. It is a beautiful green space!
- City of the Arts and Sciences – This is always on my list for a visit! This ultra-modern complex of science and culture was designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. It has several buildings full of fun and educational activities surrounded by beautiful reflecting pools:
Reflect upon the beauty of this architecture!
- Oceanographic is Europe’s largest aquarium containing over 500 species of marine life including dolphins, whales and sharks set in seven different marine environments. The tanks are spacious and carefully designed for the best quality of life of the myriad sea creatures. You’ll need a few hours here to enjoy all of it.
- Prince Felipe Museum of Sciences is another amazing building in this complex. There are educational and interactive exhibits that are fun for all ages.
- Football – The sport is almost a religion in Spain, and Valencia represents with their home-town team Valencia CF. I recommend you watch a La Liga game and lose yourself in the exciting and vibrant atmosphere.
- Beaches – You shouldn’t visit Valencia without spending some down time enjoying the sunshine and the salty air. Here are my favourite beach spots:
- El Saler Beach is a white sand beach just 13km outside of the city. This stunning beach is adjacent to the La Albufera Natural park, so don’t be surprised if you spot some wildlife.
- Malvarrosa Beach is within minutes of the old town. This is a beautiful strip of golden sand that stretches for a kilometre along the seafront.
Here’s another pro-tip: Try and plan your trip with the Tomatina Festival in mind. This celebration is essentially a big tomato fight in the streets of the town of Buñol, 36 km from Valencia. Don’t forget to wear goggles!
When most people think of Spain and food, I’m sure most will immediately say tapas! Not all Spanish food arrive on tiny plates. These are my favourite spots to enjoy a full meal of Spanish cuisine:
- La Pepica – Founded in 1898, it is famous locally for its paella. Right on the seafront and decorated in typical Valencian fashion, this restaurant is fabulous!
- La Riuà – This local family business offers up traditional Valencian cuisine and has even won awards. You can expect all sorts of Mediterranean dishes including fresh fish and meat from the region.
I’m on a seafood diet; I see paella, I eat it!
- El Poblet – Enjoy a fine dining experience of creative gastronomy at this two Michelin star restaurant. As you are seated, you’re given a postcard to write about your foodie experience throughout your meal, and El Poblet will even mail it for you. The food is excellent, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, and the interior design is superb.
From late night cocktails and live music to dancing the night away in one of Valencia’s top clubs, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful place. Valencia is one of the greatest party cities in Europe! Here are my favourite, must-visit venues:
- Café del Duende – The perfect spot for live music. They specialise in flamenco, but their range of entertainment is constantly evolving with anything from jazz nights to poetry and storytelling by local independent artists.
- Urban Café – This cool spot near the City of Arts and Sciences is famous for its comedy shows and cocktails. It’s a great spot for pre-party drinks and they even offer wine tasting sessions in their stylish lounge. Cocktail making classes are also on offer if you want to leave with a new skill.
- L’Umbracle – If you want to party from dusk till dawn, then this is the spot for you. This sophisticated open-air venue is based in the City of Arts and Sciences and is a huge club, featuring several rooms playing different styles of music. A trendy outdoor terrace and even an underground basement club make this spot the place to be.
Here’s another pro-tip: The area of Calle de Caballeros, which begins at Plaza de la Virgen, is where many people go to bar-hop and enjoy evening tapas and drinks.
After all the exploring, eating and dancing, a good night’s rest is in order. When it comes to accommodation, Valencia has something available for every budget and comfort level. When I stay in the city, these are always my top picks:
- Venecia Plaza Centro – Situated in Valencia’s main square, la Plaza del Ayuntamiento, this hotel offers attractive décor with beautiful views over the square. It’s completely central and within walking distance to the old town and lots of restaurants and bars.
Like a lady, this part of town should be called “venerable” not “old”!
- Marques House – This cosmopolitan luxury hotel is located in a historic 19th Century building on the ‘golden mile’. Rooms are modern and spacious, and the hotel is also home to a boutique cocktail bar called Café Madrid that is a great spot for unwinding.
- Melia Plaza Valencia – This popular hotel, set in a classic building, offers amazing views of Valencia from their rooftop sun terrace. Although a small hotel, you can still enjoy their facilities such as a gym and sauna.
Valencia is a treasure trove of culture and architecture, both old and new. It offers one of the most beautiful and relaxing city-breaks in all of Europe!