It was the Easter break and we had found an amazing bargain to travel to (Romania) flying from Valencia instead of Madrid where we live. We have visited almost all of the regions of Spain, but we had never been to Valencia. So, we figured this was a great opportunity to get to Romania cheaply and at the same time visit Valencia and experience this vibrant Mediterranean city.
Valencia, Spain´s third largest city if somehow frequently overshadowed by the more popular city of Madrid and the trendy city of Barcelona. Wrongfully overlooked, at least this has kept the crowds that flock its other two neighbors. This city gives you a unique experience that few cities if none are able to do. Valencia achieves this by delivering a perfect mix of a historic origin, a taste of sur
real futuristic architecture and tops it all with the charm of the beach. All of this elements combined make Valencia, an ideal destination for an authentic Spanish experience, coupled with the tranquility of the Mediterranean Sea.
7 WONDERFUL THINGS TO DO IN VALENCIA
TAKE A STROLL AROUND THE CIUTAT VELLA (OLD TOWN)
Valencia dates back to 138 BC when it was first settled as a Roman colony. As a way to celebrate the soldier’s courage, the Roman Empire gave this new found territory as a price to its soldiers that settled it and named it “Valentia”, the Roman word for courage. Thus, the city´s current name of Valencia. Typical of Spanish historic centers, here you will find cute cobble stoned streets, impressive cathedrals with even more imposing towers and lots of squares filled with great restaurants and lively tapa´s bars.
We recommend Plaza de La Virgen which is the city´s main square as your starting point. Here you will find “La Basilica de los Desamparados” and Our Lady of Valencia Cathedral which many historians believe to be where the true “Holy Grail” is located at. While you are there, take a look at the bridge that connects both buildings. It was use by the bishop and clergy to cross over to the church so they didn´t mixed with the “commoners”.
The Turia Fountain is located in the center of the square. It has eight figures pouring water which represent the eight affluent streams that flow into the river Turia. Another important fact is that, Valencia also was under Muslim rule, but there are no remains because when the Christians/Visigoths came, they destroyed all Muslim architecture in the city. The Cathedral of Valencia sits where the former central mosque of Valencia was located.
“La Lonja de Seda” is considered as the most emblematic gothic building in Valencia. It was constructed as a symbol of wealth and power to attract merchants during Valencia’s Golden Century. Here, merchants from all over Europe gathered for business. During this time, silk was the product in highest demand. Because of this, Valencia thrived in economic prosperity, wealth and power. Thus, during the 15th & 16th centuries, the city became known as the silk capital of Europe.
ENJOY THE LOCAL PRODUCE AT THE MERCAT CENTRAL
This building is a jewel of modernist architecture built in 1928. But, during the middle ages (1261), this used to be square were an open bazaar was held, making it one of Europe’s oldest market. If you feel like preparing your own authentic Spanish or Valencian dish using the freshest ingredients, then you should definitely get them all from the Mercat Central. Everything sold here is locally produced, so expect only the best quality. Make some time in your schedule since its only open from 7am to 3pm. Don´t worry about expensive prices, this is not the usual tourist trap market, in fact, this is where the locals go to buy their produce.
LOOK FOR EUROPE´S NARROWEST FACADE
On Lope de Vega #6, you will find a building with a façade of only 107cm considered as Europe´s narrowest façade and the second narrowest in the world. What used to be a normal house is currently part of an old bar called “La Estrecha”, which means, The Narrow. Because of its width, this historic house didn´t had any bathrooms (what?) Don´t worry, the bar owner remodeled the interiors installing bathrooms and making apartments but kept the original floors intact to preserve its history. This is a cool spot for a selfie and also while you are there, take a quick bite or just sit for a drink.
TASTE THE LOCAL DRINKS - HORCHATA & AGUA DE VALENCIA
Horchata is the local non-alcoholic beverage made from a nut found all over the region of Valencia called “chufa”. But, the best nuts are considered to originate in the fields of a small town called Alboraya. You can have Horchata basically anywhere you go on Valencia but, we had ours on a small kiosk in Plaza de la Virgen. The lady was very kind to us and gave us the whole story on the process of making the drink. It tastes really good, kind of milky, nutty and very sweet. It was served extra chilled and with a pastry called farton for you tip in the drink. We loved it and it was super refreshing.
No it’s not water. Agua de Valencia is the local cocktail made from a base of cava mixed with fresh orange juice, vodka and gin. There´s lots of little bars which serve this drink, most of them serve it on pitchers but, you may find some of them offering it by the glass. Let’s just say it’s kind of the local sangria, it’s very sweet and mild to the taste, but in this case it has loads of alcohol in it, so be very careful you might be drunk without knowing it. Unfortunately we didn´t taste it, but expect to pay for a glass between 5-7€ and a pinch may be around 10-15€
TREAT YOURSELF TO AUTHENTIC PAELLA
We are pretty sure that like us, most people think they know everything there is to know about paella. Actually most of us have it all wrong. Let’s start with the name; paella is not the dish, it actually means pan in Valencian which is what´s used to cook the rice. Ok, now wait for it, the original paella featured rat and duck meat. Wait what, rat? Yes! This is because this dish originated in the rice fields of the Albufera. And what was the main meat that the rice workers could find? Yes, it was rats and duck. During the years the dish was refined because the rich people of the city didn´t want to rat, so currently the authentic paella consists of rice, green beans, chicken and rabbit.
You can have paella basically everywhere. We had ours on a cool restaurant by the beach which made this experience even more memorable. Although it may not sound like much, this is an absolute must do when in Valencia.
RELAX BY THE MEDITERRANEAN COAST & DELIGHT YOURSELF IN PLAYA LA MALVARROSA
Valencia’s prime location comes from the fact that the city seats right in the Mediterranean. With this comes endless coastline boasting some of Spain´s most amazing beaches. The city also has an average of 250 sunny days per year, and because of its location, the city enjoys cooler temperatures during the summer and a relatively milder winter than the rest of Europe.
Who doesn´t love a city that has a beach right in the center? That is the case of playa La Malvarrosa, Valencia´s urban beach. It is very accessible from the city center by public transportation using bus 19, 2 or 32. Because it’s right in the city center it can also be reached walking or by bicycle. Once we got there, we were instantly reminded of our hometown of Puerto Rico and that’s where we truly felt we belong by the sea. The sun, the breeze, the palm trees, in all here was when we got those first glimpses from the arrival of spring.
The beach had a super friendly vibe to it, with lots of kids playing around, families relaxing with their blankets on the sand, ice cream everywhere and people jogging or riding their bikes along the trail. In the strip you will find great restaurants serving local seafood, paella, international cuisine, cocktail bars you name it. We wished we had more time to explore Valencia´s amazing stretch of beaches. Had we visited on summer we are sure it would have been a different story.
GET A GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE IN THE CITY OF ARTS & SCIENCE
For us, this is the #1 must visit place in Valencia. Once we reached this impressive yet massive complex of buildings, Alexa being an architect and me bursting with childish imaginations of the future, we were both left in total awe. It just feel as if you are literally stepping into what the future might look like.
The City of Arts and Sciences is a cultural complex consisting of 6 buildings stretching over 13 kilometers of what was once the natural course of the river Turia. This incredible park was designed by world renowned Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. We were really impressed with how Calatrava portrayed his vision of “the city of the future” while still paying tribute to the river Turia. For this, he used a series of pools which represent the rivers original course which are also fed by natural underwater streams.
The “city” is open year round and features an opera house “El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía”, an Imax cinema/planetarium, “L'Hemisfèrica”, a walkway/garden “L´Umbracle” , the Science museum, an open air aquarium “Oceanografic” and a space for events called the “Ágora”
This might be the most visited place in Valencia so expect huge crowds. If you want to get those epic shots, try to get there really early in the morning, 6-9am before the crowds get in. Trust us is totally worth it. The city also has an open air cafeteria, indoor restaurant and coffee shop. This place can take a whole day worth of exploring. Entrance to the park is free, but there is a fee to enter each building. Pro tip – buy the combo ticket for 31.90€ which lets you enter all of the buildings for one price.
WATCH OUR VALENCIA FILM AND DISCOVER THE CITY WITH US