Valencia was founded by the Romans. After the Romans, one by one the Visigoths, the Muslims and the Arabs arrived in Valencia. Among all, the Arabs left a profound legacy with their irrigation systems, recipes and artistic influences that are relevant and noticeable right up to the present day.
Valencia offers a great combination of city strolling, sun and beach, old and new with fantastic things to choose from, and plenty of cool things to do!
We were lucky enough to be shown around Valencia by two friends who are living in this beautiful part of Spain.
1. Relax with breakfast & Valencian orange juice, at Plaza de la Virgen
First thing that you should do is to acclimatize to the local pace of life. Relax, breath and take your time to enjoy this city.
And then start you day with a breakfast in the historic sites of this ancient city.
In Valencia there are two types of breakfast:
- at 8 am a small breakfast: Desayuno with a fresh orange juice, coffee and something sweet. The orange juice is not to be missed because Valencia is the land of oranges
- at 11am there is late breakfast: Almuerzo, a sandwich (for some accompanied by their first beer or wine),
One of the best places to have breakfast is in Plaza de la Virgen for breakfast. This lively little square is home to the 14th Century Miquel bell tower of the Catedral de Valencia, the beautiful domed Basilica de Virgen de Los Desamparados, and the Palau de Generalitat.
So, you will have a coffee with a lovely view.
2. Explore the City of Arts of Sciences
If you come to Valencia a visit to the City of Arts and Sciences is a must. It is a scientific and cultural leisure complex which can be enjoyed with family or friends, covering around two kilometres of the former riverbed of the River Turia.
Following catastrophic flooding in 1957, the river was diverted in the southern section of the city and the old riverbed, now dry was used to create a ten kilometers long park crossing the city center. It was here that it was decided to locate the new complex, on flat land on the right bank of the final stretch of what was once the River Turia.
Be sure to plan your trip to the City of Arts and Sciences, because there is a lot to see:
No trip to Valencia is complete without visiting the Oceanogràfic; Europe’s finest and most futuristic marine complex.
With seven different marine environments, almost 45,000 specimens of 500 different species can be seen, such as dolphins, belugas, walruses, sea lions, seals, penguins and sharks. Reserve at least half a day for the trip.
Tips: During the summer you can sleep with the sharks. You actually are allowed to sleep in the Oceanografic.
It is a digital 3D cinema, with a huge 900 metre concave screen, which almost envelops spectators. Several films are screened daily, mainly educational documentaries of no more than 45 minutes which are suitable for all audiences. The Hemisfèric was inaugurated in 1998 and was the first building in the City of Arts and Sciences
Príncipe Felipe Science Museum
With the philosophy “Not touching is prohibited” you can imagine what kind of museum this is. It is that type of museum that offers different interactive exhibitions about science and technology.
Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, which is the Opera house
If you are a music-lover then the Palau de les Arts is the place for you at the City of Arts and Sciences. From October to November, its programme includes operas, concerts, zarzuela and ballet. When not being used for performances, you can visit the building by booking in advance on the website.
It is a huge, open-access garden where you can stroll around and take in the typical Mediterranean plants and contemporary sculptures.
The most recent building at the City of Arts and Sciences, the Ágora is a versatile venue hosting a wide variety of events. It is not usually open to the public and cannot be visited.
The Assut D’or Bridge
The bridge crosses the former riverbed of the River Turia, between the Science Museum and the Ágora. It a very interesting piece of art.
3. Try the local goodies in the Old market
The old market is one of the best places to visit in the city. Every old Spanish city has such a market, but Valencia has one of the most beautiful ones in the whole country. Its façade is tiled with beautiful tiles.
The old market is not only beautiful, but it is also a great place for a budget traveler. While strolling along the numerous stalls with fresh fruits, seafood and other goodies, you can try some nuts, sweets and other snacks free. After walking through the whole market, you will feel full after trying all of this.
4. Don’t miss the Orxata
It is a typically Valencian drink. Called horchata (in Spanish), or orxata (as the locals say), it is a drink made from tiger nut. Don’t be afraid of the name, this drink has a sweet milky taste, it is very refreshing in the hot summer days, and as the locals say, great for hangover.
Farton Pastries it is a sweet pastries that are made to be dunked orxata. They are made of flour, milk, sugar, oil, and eggs.
5. Be like a child in Bioparc
“Reflections of Africa in Valencia”
The Bioparc Valencia opened in 2008. It is a new generation zoo conceived with the zoo-immersion philosophy. When you enter the park, you feel totally submerged in the wild habitats that have been recreated here: the Savannah, Madagascar and Equatorial Africa. You can enjoy, practically without barriers, spectacular landscapes in which different species co-exist as they would in nature.
6. Hire a bike
Valencia is perfect for riding a bike.
It’s perfectly safe in Valencia’s web of narrow streets, pedestrianised squares, parks and seafront promenades.
You’ll have the freedom to zip around Valencia’s top sights, head to the beach or take easy rides through the Jardín del Turia.
In 2012 the city implemented the Valenbisi bike sharing network, which is subscription-based and aimed mainly at Valencia’s residents. Still, there are numerous rental companies across the city.
A good idea is to see the cultural heritage and landscape of the metropolitan area up close with the bicycle and metro combination. There are 18 routes designed by experts that vary by level of difficulty and length. These routes allow you to familiarise yourself with the huerta valenciana (surrounding region including the city of Valencia), archaeological treasures and nature parks, amongst other tourist attractions.
7. Eat Valencia’s famous Paella
Valencia is, perhaps, best known for being the physical and spiritual home of Spain’s most famous dish: paella! Traditionally cooked on Sundays as a family meal, Valencian paella is a hearty feast of rice and vegetables with chicken, seafood, rabbit or snails. It’s not easy to find good paella in Valencia’s most touristic districts, but we did discover a rare gem near the sea.
Tip: Don’t buy paella from the places that have tacky posters displaying pictures of their ‘fresh’ paella, just observe where the locals are eating.
8. Drink Valencia’s Most Famous Cocktail, Agua de Valencia
Agua de Valencia (Water of Valencia) is one of the city’s crown jewels – and certainly a lot tastier than water. A powerful but refreshing mix of Valencian orange juice, cava, gin and vodka, served in a huge sangria-style pitcher, Agua de Valencia is the perfect way to cool down on a hot day. This refreshing cocktail was invented at a lively bar called Café Madrid de Valencia.
9. Attend free walking tour
Attending free walking tour is always a great thing to do in a new town. The guide tells not just boring Wikipedia stuff, but interesting facts about the city, and shows interesting features of the buildings that you would otherwise pass unnoticed. This a great way to discover the city.
These walking tours are called free, but the guides need to earn money, so you should give them a tip in the end of the tour. It is usually 5-10 Euros.
10. See the bull-fighting arena
Another unique and great thing to do in Valencia is visiting the bull-fighting arena. Fortunately, the bullfights are no more held here, but you can still visit the arena and imagine how the fights looked like some years ago. There is also an interesting museum by the arena; it is called Museo Taurino.
The entrance costs just 2 Euros for adults and 1 Euro for groups.
11. Get lost in the streets of the old town
Valencia’s city centre remains in its medieval Old Town, called El Carmen where you can find the most representative buildings. Starting at ‘Plaza de la Virgen you can visit the gothic cathedral and climb to ‘El Miguelete’, the highest tower of the cathedral where you can enjoy of some of the best views. From there, you can take Calle de los Caballeros, which will bring you straight to the neuralgic centre of El Carmen, Plaza del Tossal. This area is full of bars and terraces and it is great to go out at night.
12. Do a boat trip in the Natural Reserve La Albufera
This is a freshwater lagoon where you can find the local fauna and flora at its natural state due to the strict protection of human activities. It is possible to do a boat trip with the traditional fisherman boats. The lagoon is surrounded by the town of ‘El Palmar’, which maintain the original character of fisherman life in Valencia
13. Hit the beaches
When you’re done exploring the city, head for the beaches! The city’s main beaches are Las Arenas and Malvarossa, both a short metro ride away from the city centre. The long boulevard that runs along the length of the beaches is a favourite spot for local Valencians to see and be seen. There is also a variety of cafés and restaurants along the boulevard. The main attraction, however, is the broad arc of white sand and the bright blue Mediterranean Sea. There are other gorgeous beaches situated just south of Valencia (an easy bus ride away) such as Playa Pinedo, Playa El Saler and Playa Devesa (an off-the-beaten-path nudist beach). These beaches are relatively less crowded than the city beaches and are more popular amongst the locals.
14. Take a paella cooking class
Do you like paella? Then maybe you’d love to prepare an authentic paella to impress all your friends and family once your return home. While in Valencia, you can go the extra mile by taking a crash course in paella cookery in an incredible and authentic setting. This paella cooking class offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for it is held in a typical Valencian farmhouse in the Albufera Natural Park. Set among rice paddies and orange groves, Albufera is the birthplace of paella, so really, it hardly gets any more authentic.
15. Witness the insanity and spectacle of Las Fallas
Las Fallas is the main fiesta in the Valencian calendar, and it’s as crazy and fun as they come. And it crowns the list of fun things to do in Valencia, hands down. The festival is celebrated from the 1st to the 19th of March. Think firecracker shows, huge cardboard puppets and a sea of locals in traditional costumes. The catch? Over 700 bonfires are lit up on the last day of the festival at midnight, burning down the incredible puppets. Las Fallas is also considered the largest street party in Europe. Time here is measured in bottles of beer, cups of hot chocolate and cones of churros and buñuelos. If you are a solo traveler, keep in mind this is a party and it is best enjoyed in company. Find some buddies and have fun!