In the middle of the Spanish Mediterranean coastline lies Valencia, a charming city backed by mountains and plains. It is situated on the banks of the Turia river on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula and is the third largest city in Spain, after Madrid and Barcelona. The city’s winding streets, modern museums, pious cathedrals and mediterranean shores are not to be missed.
The architecture ranges from the historic to the avant-garde. The mixture of traditional and contemporary architecture, amidst the palm trees and crisp blue skies is a real wonder. Valencia is also famed for its art galleries and fabulous local cuisine, such as traditional Spanish paella, which originated from this very city. The birthplace of paella!
The city also boasts vivid orange trees all over. That’s right, orange trees! It was a feature that struck this London city girl the most. As charming as it may be, I’d stick to the juicy oranges sold at markets.
First up, top tips:
- There are two underground lines that link Valencia’s airport (Aeropuerto de Manises), the city centre and the port: the line 3 (Rafelbunyol-Aeroport) and the line 5 (Marítim Serrería – Torrent Av. / Aeroport). The metro station is on the ground floor of the regional flights terminal and the journey takes around 25 minutes. Fàcil!
- Valencia’s city centre is easily walkable but the reliable Metro de Valencia, or the tram is also useful. The metro is easily connected and even plays classical music!
- Be aware that time schedules for food, shops, etc, are different in Spain than in other countries. Mealtimes are generally later so bare that in mind. This student had no problem adapting to this one.
- The weather in Valencia was gorgeous when I visited (yes, even in February) but it can be irregular. Summer is a safe bet but it’s always best to check online prior to your trip.
- The traditional Valencian dishes to sample are paella, fideua, puchero and cocas. Also try alioli sauce, turrón, and horchata.
- Valencia’s airport has flight links to the main cities in Europe and America. You can also easily reach the city from Madrid on the high-speed train (AVE.) for another Spanish city trip.
Where to go and what to do:
– The Central Squares –
The plazas or squares in Spain are often tree-lined, that are normally ringed with various lanes and obscure roads, leading out onto different courtyards, and in some cases, even more pretty plazas.
One of the most beautiful squares in Valencia is the Plaza de la Reina, or ‘Queen’s Square’. Located in the heart of the old town area it showcases some of the city’s most distinctive architecture, cafés, restaurants and artisanal craft markets. Tuck into some tapas while you dine al fresco.
– Valencia Cathedral –
(Plaza de la Reina)
Built over a Muslim mosque – that was built over a Visigoth basilica, that had been built on the former site of a Roman temple – this beautiful thirteenth-century building has a lot of different styles (Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, neoclassic) that reflect Valencia’s rich history. An architectural jewel that is a symbol of the cultural identity of Valencia.
– Valencia’s Central Market –
I’m a huge foodie and I may be biased when saying that the best people usually are.
The historic Central Market of Valencia is quite unique and well worth a visit. Not only is it a great modernist building to admire, it is also somewhere where visitors get a closer insight into the daily life of the Valencianos.
The market itself is divided into sections, depending on the type of food available such as fish, meat, a fruit section and so on. There are some really interesting stalls here: some of the fruit and vegetables may look strange to visitors, and so may some of the traditional meat products which are still popular here but not in northern parts of Europe. I’m a big fan of markets, the electric ambience, fresh fruit and veg makes me a happy bunny, so I was glad I visited the city’s main market. I thought it was a fine place to gather some ingredients, munch some snacks and sip on some fruit juice. The traditional shops, bars and cafés around the perimetre of the building means that the area itself is also a nice spot for a stroll whilst listening to the distant ringing of the church bells.
– Playa de la Malvarrosa –
A visit is not complete without walking barefoot on the soft sand of this long, wide beach any time of year. I admired the broad stretch of sand and both the beach and seafront promenade are lively yet peaceful all day long. You’ll find all sort of restaurants, bars and pubs to refresh in, and many activities that take place on its vast space.
– Turia Gardens –
In the Turia Gardens you will find two bridges designed by famous architect Santiago Calatrava. One is Pont de l’Exposició (popularly known as ‘La Peineta’ — ‘The Comb’) and the other is l’Assut de l’Or (or “El Arpa” — ‘The Harp’). Calatrava’s futuristic works have many admirers but also numerous detractors. Go visit and decide for yourself.
– The City of Arts and Sciences –
While the city contains many monuments, Valencia’s modern crown jewel is the City of Arts and Sciences, a futuristic entertainment-based complex of museums, cinemas, theatres, and more. It is one of the 12 treasures of Spain. The L’Hemisferic includes observatories, planetariums and theatres while the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (Palace of Arts) is host to architectural buildings, theatres and symphonies. L’Oceanografic (the aquarium) is an architectural beauty and is home to underwater galleries of various marine life.
– Nightlife –
There are numerous bars and clubs in the city and self discovering these amidst the plazas is part of the fun.
Es Chupito is a bar that I recommend and will always remember due to the shots of fire and exciting concoctions. Cosy with lively salsa music and offering a selection of more than 600 shots! Sí, 600! It’s safe to say that there is something for everyone. There are some really fun options and clearly plenty to choose from. Each shot is 2 euros (a Londoner’s dream).
Mya is a club located in the basement of L’Umbracle. A stunning building that is the entry port to the City of Arts and Sciences, located on the riverbank. Mya’s main room plays electronic dance alongside current music. In the other two areas you will hear latin beats and R&B/hip-hop music. The highlight of any night for me is always the dancing, so I was so hoping that Valencia would get it right. They totally did. The music was great, it was a cool, fun place and the flow of songs had us dancing until very very late. A definite recommendation for a night out to shake it out. There is also a reliable cloakroom that will keep a hold of your things for a small fee.
During the summer, the party continues upstairs as you will find yourself in L’Umbracle.
L’Umbracle is already an impressive place to visit because of its beautiful building, palm trees, flowers and large variety of other plants but during the summer months you can enjoy great parties here in the open air. Free entrance to Mya and L’Umbracle is available with a little bit of guest-list research at the time that you are going. The girls and I got in at 1.30am for free. A beautiful place to dance while you watch the sunrise!
So there you have it. I hope this guide points you in a helpful direction. Valencia is a lovely blend of both an exciting yet truly peaceful city to visit.
(Photography by Sandali J.)