If you’re visiting Valencia, Spain for the first time, there are tons of things to do. To make it easy for you, we’ve shortlisted our top 5 ideas that you need to make sure you do while you’re here. It’s also probably a good idea to hire a bike to get around Valencia.
- Historic old town or Ciutat Vella
- Turia Gardens and City of Science
- Marina of Valencia
Historic old town or Ciutat Vella
When you think of Valencia, try and picture a combination of medieval Europe mixed in with a contemporary city. The old town is situated in the barrio or neighborhood of El Carmen with cobbled streets, a multitude of churches and the Central Market.
One of the first things to do stroll around and visit the churches. The best ones to visit are:
- Valencia Cathedral where the famous Holy Grail is housed.
- El Miguelete
- Santos Juanes, my pesronal favourite, which features a combination of Gothic and Baroque styles with the most stunning frescoes inside.
Afterwards, drop in at Plaza Redonda (which literally translates to ‘round square’) for tapas or just a drink. Also, you can visit their little market with typical Valencia ceramics, souvenirs and handicrafts.
La Lonja or the silk exchange is another gem to visit. Located opposite the Central Market you can wander the orange gardens or soak in one of the most famous Gothic monuments from the 14th century. Admission is free on Sundays.
Central Market is something to visit even if just to gaze at the glass ceiling and appreciate Valencian Art Nouveau. Buy some quality ham, cheese, wine and olives while you are here as they offer up some excellent tapas.
The entrances to El Carmen are flagged by two medieval gateways. Torres de Quart is can be reached if you walk in a straight line from the Plaza del Virgen. If you’re in the mood for climbing, you can ascend the stairs to the top of the turret for a view of the city or go on to the Botanical Gardens. Tórres de Serrano also formed part of the ancient city wall and takes you straight to the Turia Gardens which is perfect for biking and brings us to No. 2 on our list.
Turia Gardens and City of Science
The Turia gardens are situated where the river used to run through Valencia. Due to constant flooding, the river was diverted and the city decided to create a beautiful park in its place. The gardens run the length of the city and serve as a perfect artery to get across with your bike.
You can visit the Parque de Cabecera or Swan Park on one side with a lake where you can go out on a paddle boat or visit the Bioparc, the famous zoo in Valencia.
On the other side of the Turia gardens you have the City of Science, designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava. Beautiful modern reflecting pools offer water activities, there’s a bar to relax at or you can visit the Hemisferic (3D cinema) or the opera house if you prefer something more cultural. If you like Jazz, in the summer, the restaurant Contrapunto underneath the Opera House, offers outdoor seating with Jazz.
The Science Museum is also a great option for the day and if you’re thinking about a night out, Umbracle in the summer offers an outdoor terrace club. The Oceanografic is another unmissable opportunity and the dolphin show is a must if you go. For restaurant buffs looking for a unique experience, their restaurant Submarino is quite spectacular. You do need to book ahead.
If you manage to get through all this, you can cycle to the end of the Turia gardens and take the bike path towards our next destination…the Marina.
Marina Real de Valencia
The Marina Real or Royal Marina is where the America’s Cup and Formula 1 was held back in 2007 and 2012. It’s now the perfect place to cycle down to and enjoy the water sports activities they have on offer including kayaking, paddle surfing or just swimming in the lido.
If you want to go out sailing you can rent a boat for a half or full day or go on a sunset cruise on a catamaran. Alternatively, if you’d just like to eat and stare at the water they have a number of restaurantes in the building Vele y Ventes and I recommend trying La Marítima.
On the other side of the Marina you have the city beach Malvarossa. Adjacent to the beach is the Marina Beach Club, which is perfect if you like a bit of pool with beach. If you’re looking for the perfect beach though, read on…
The Albufera is a lake about 11kms from Valencia and the peculiarity of it is that it’s freshwater and located right off the coast of Valencia.
Fishing and rice growing are the main activities of the towns that border the Albufera and if you like watching nature, take a boat trip out to view the flora and fauna.
You can also book a course to make authentic Valencian Paella with a private tour of the Albufera at one of the little barracas or Valencian houses. You can also sample a paella at one of the towns like El Saler, which has restaurants on the beach or go further in to El Palmar, if you have a car. Nou Raco is a restaurant which is a typical barraca located off the lake and enjoys spectacular views.
Finally, if you’re looking to avoid city beaches but want something that’s easily accessible from Valencia, I recommend jumping on a train from Valencia Nord with Cullera as your destination.
It’s approximately 20 minutes on the train and when you get off, there’s a blue bus outside that will take you straight to the beach. Head towards the Faro or lighthouse and enjoy a day lazing in the spectacular little inlet and take in a lunch at any of the beachside restaurants.
Water activities including kayaking, paddle surfing, jet skis are also available if you’re looking for something more active than lazing on the beach. The crystal clear waters will not disappoint.
From experience, it depends on your mood on the day, but the above destinations could be grouped into culture, water, activity and cuisine. If you fancy wandering, take a trip to El Carmen or the City of Science. If you want to experience Spanish gastronomy the traditional way, take a trip to the Albufera and if you want water your best bet is the marina or Cullera for a beach day. Valencia is child-friendly and everything is easily accessible by bike path or walking with a buggy.