Valencia, or the “Bright City,” is a vibrant port town where the Turin River meets the Mediterranean Sea in the southeast of Spain. As the third-largest city in Spain, Valencia has a population of over 800,000 people and boasts a diverse culture with influences from its ancient past (including the Romans and the Muslims) and modern-day developments.
I recently traveled to Valencia on a girl’s trip. We enjoyed exploring the picturesque, winding streets of the old town and sitting for long, leisurely afternoons sipping Aqua de Valencia while munching on tapas. We never ran out of things to do while finding plenty of time to relax.
Valencia also has a thriving nightlife scene, with many bars, clubs, and live music venues to choose from. Of course, with its prime location on the Mediterranean coast, Valencia is the perfect destination for beach lovers, with miles of sandy beaches to enjoy (the water was still too cold in late March!).
Overall, the city is full of charm, history, and excitement, offering something for every type of traveler. Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient architecture, modern museums at the Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias, trying its famous cuisine, or simply lounging on the beach, Valencia is a destination that won’t disappoint.
Things To Do In Valencia
Valencia is a bustling city with so much to do and see. Here are some great things to do in Valencia when you are visiting this beautiful port town.
Visit Historical Sites
Get your dose of culture and history by exploring Valencia’s rich heritage and iconic landmarks. Some of the best places to visit are the following:
1) Valencia Cathedral
A Gothic-style medieval church built between the 13th and 15th centuries is a must-see for any visit (what trip to Europe is complete without entering at least one church?). The Valencia Cathedral boasts extra significance as it is home to what is believed to be the famous Holy Grail from the Last Supper. A street performer dressed as Indiana Jones (iconic hat, music, and all) won’t let you forget. The church’s interior is stunning, with its vaulted ceilings and stained glass.
The Valencia Cathedral also houses the Miguelete bell tower, completed in 1492. Earn your tapas by climbing the 207 steps up. The top gives you beautiful panoramic views of the city. Unfortunately, they won’t let you ring the old church bell.
2) Torres de Serranos
A can’t miss for any history buff; the Torres de Serranos is a historic landmark and one of the city’s most well-known monuments. Built in the 14th century, the Torres de Serranos was originally one of the twelve gates that formed part of Valencia’s medieval city walls, serving as the main entrance to the city from the north into Valencia.
The towers are built in the Gothic style and feature two semicircular arches that connect the towers, creating a gateway that allows traffic to pass through (and now makes a great spot for photos). These walls show the damage from when Napoleon tried to take Valencia during the Peninsular War, 1811-12.
3) La Almoina Archaeological Museum
This place blew my mind. In the 1980s, work was being done to build an underground transportation system in Valencia. Workers stumbled upon the dream of Indiana Jones himself- the ruins of an ancient Roman city circa the 2nd century B.C. Wander through the museum (which was empty when I went) and use your imagination to transport yourself back to the times of the ancient Romans.
You can also see down into the museum without actually going in, as a glass covering over the top allows you to look down into it. More recently, another ancient Roman city was found in Valencia that archaeologists are currently excavating.
4) La Lonja de La Seda and Mercado de La Seda
Another great place to let your imagination take you back in time to medieval Spain is the Silk Market. This UNESCO World Heritage site was built between 1482 and 1548, during the height of Valencia’s silk trade, which was one of the most important economic activities in the city at the time.
The architecture of the building is stunning; you enter through the cutest courtyard (with tons of Valencia orange trees) and into an open-concept building with intricate stone carvings that features two towers that flank the main entrance. The light here is an influencer’s dream as the sun streams through large, open windows.
Explore Valencia Markets
Valencia is a great place to find some fresh produce and artisan products. Some of the best markets to visit are:
1) Mercado Central
The Central Market, also known as Mercado Central, had me create a fictional life in Valencia. A day where I wake up and take a leisurely stroll here to pick up fresh, local ingredients to cook a delicious meal.
It is truly a feast for the senses with its impressive architecture and abundance of fresh produce, seafood, and local delicacies. I ate some of the best strawberries, empanadas, and croquetas of my life and bought some nuts and spices, including Spanish saffron and Marcona almonds, to take home. For anyone else who also loves some good produce (look at these heirloom tomatoes), this market is a dream.
2) Mercado de Colón
This is a more modern market with chic boutiques and trendy cafes- perfect for those stylish, hipster vibes. Occupying two floors in a gorgeous Art Nouveau-style building, this is where you go for unique souvenir shopping and cute little trinkets for yourself. There is some adorable jewelry and great vintage stores. Mercado de Colón also has many contemporary restaurants and a variety of bars and breweries.
Old Meets New: Take In Valencia Architecture
Valencia is a treat for architecture lovers. The city seamlessly blends old-world charm with modern design.
The Old Town has that classic European city charm with narrow, cobbled streets, colorful buildings and little plazas hidden around every corner. You will also stumble upon olive and orange trees planted hundreds of years ago.
On the other end of the spectrum is the City of Arts and Sciences, or La Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias, a futuristic complex with a planetarium, aquarium, an opera house, and a science museum. The stunning futuristic buildings designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava are a sight to behold, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a sci-fi movie.
The walk (or bike ride) from the Old Town to the Ciudad de Las Artes y Ciencias should be done through the Turia Park, a vast stretch of urban greenery that was created from a river bed after the river flooded and needed to be diverted.
Enjoy Valenica Paella
Valencia is the birthplace of the famous Spanish dish paella. Indulge in this delicious rice dish made with saffron, vegetables, and your choice of meat or seafood. You’ll find countless restaurants serving this local delicacy, but it might not always be authentic (the rice at the bottom of the pan must have a certain crispiness). Get Paella for lunch, just like the locals do.
If you want the real deal, head to Albufera, a village outside Valencia known for its authentic Paella. The rice is grown in this region, so you can’t get more farm-to-table than that! They say the strange taste of the tap water is what makes the rice so good.
Casa Salvador has been in business since 1950 and is situated in an old Valencian country house on a lagoon. It is a fun journey from the city center to experience the setting and the history.
You can also find authentic Paella on the beach. La Pepicawass is the place to go for this and it did not disappoint. The seafood was incredibly fresh and the rice perfectly crispy. Be sure to book in advance, as this spot can fill up quickly.
If you are looking for Paella closer to the old town, La Riua is a classic.
- The Beach: If you are in Valencia during the summer, check out the long stretch of pristine beaches. With golden sand and crystal-clear waters, Malvarrosa Beach is the perfect spot to unwind and relax. Take a stroll along the promenade, rent a bike to explore the coastline, or bask in the Mediterranean sunshine. And if you’re up for some beachside fun, head to Las Arenas Beach, where you can find trendy beach clubs and watersports activities.
- Tapas: Let’s talk about tapas because no trip to Spain is complete without indulging in these delicious small plates. Valencia has a vibrant tapas scene and plenty of bars and restaurants serve these tasty dishes (we particularly enjoyed Cafe Boatella). From classic Spanish favorites like patatas bravas, gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp,) and jamón ibérico to local specialties like esgarraet (roasted red peppers with salted cod,) your taste buds are in for a treat. Enjoy with a bottle of wine or two.
Sip Drinks From Valencia
Horchata is another Valencia specialty. It is a refreshing, creamy drink made from Tiger (chufa) nuts. When I heard it was milky, creamy, and on the sweet side with no alcohol, I was a little turned off (I was in vacation mode).
However, I decided to give it a try at Horchateria de Santa Catalina and I have to say, it was refreshing and enjoyable. I didn’t find it too sweet or too heavy, but it was the perfect siesta-time snack.
When it is time for the alcohol, make sure to try Agua de Valencia, which is basically a mimosa on crack. It is fresh orange juice (squeezed from the famous Valencia oranges) mixed with cava, gin, and vodka.
It comes in a cute little pitcher, perfect for two to share. Snag a table outside at Sant Jaume Cafe for some good people-watching while you sip on this delicious cocktail.
Where To Stay In Valencia
Whether you wish to stay in a luxury hotel, a budget-friendly hotel, or anything in between, Valencia has the perfect accommodation option.
- The Westin Valencia – A five-star hotel located in a historic building with elegant rooms, a spa, and a rooftop pool.
- Caro Hotel – Situated in a 19th-century palace, this boutique hotel offers luxurious rooms, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views.
- Hospes Palau de la Mar – A five-star hotel housed in a restored palace featuring stylish rooms, a spa, and a gourmet restaurant.
- Only YOU hotel – Located in the city centre this hotel has a great location with many attractions within walking distance and a metro station.
- Hotel Las Arenas Balneario Resort – Situated within the El Cabanyal neighbourhood this hotel is located close to Malvarrosa Beach and Port of Valencia.
- Vincci Palace – Located in the city centre, this four-star hotel offers comfortable rooms, a rooftop terrace, and a central courtyard.
- Hotel One Shot Mercat 09 – A trendy boutique hotel with modern rooms, a rooftop pool, and a central location near the Central Market.
- SH Ingles Boutique Hotel – A historic hotel with well-appointed rooms, a charming interior courtyard, and a convenient location near the Valencia Cathedral.
- Hotel Neptuno – This four-star beachfront hotel has a buffet breakfast, 50 rooms and an onsite restaurant called Restaurante Tridente.
- Hotel Ilunion Aqua 4 – A pet-friendly hotel is located in the Camins al Grau neighbourhood, close to the Oceanogràfic Aquarium and City of Arts and Sciences.
- Hotel Malcom and Barret – A three-star hotel with modern rooms, a terrace, and a good location for exploring the city.
- Hotel San Lorenzo Boutique – Situated in the historic district, this budget-friendly hotel offers comfortable rooms and a friendly atmosphere.
- Ad Hoc Monumental Hotel – A cozy hotel housed in a renovated townhouse featuring simple rooms and a central location.
- The River Hostel – While not a traditional hotel, this boutique hostel is known for its stylish and artistic design. It offers private rooms with unique decor, a communal lounge, and a rooftop terrace overlooking the Turia River.
- Melia Valencia – A large 4-star hotel with a swim-up bar, seasonal outdoor pool, spa and an onsite restaurant.
Where To Eat In Valencia
From Michelin-starred restaurants to Mediterranean favorites and everything in between. Here are some great restaurants in Valencia:
- Ricard Camarena Restaurant – This Michelin-starred restaurant, led by renowned chef Ricard Camarena, offers a gastronomic experience focused on local and seasonal ingredients.
- Riff – Another Michelin-starred restaurant, Riff is known for its creative and contemporary cuisine.
- Canalla Bistro – Another by chef Ricard Camarena, Canalla Bistro offers a casual and lively atmosphere combined with Asian-inspired fusion cuisine.
- La Salita – Chef Begoña Rodrigo, winner of the Spanish version of Top Chef, heads this popular restaurant. La Salita offers a modern and playful take on traditional Valencian cuisine.
- El Rodamon de Russafa – In the trendy Ruzafa neighborhood, delicious small plates.
- Navarro – Located in the heart of the city, Restaurante Navarro is renowned for its authentic Paella and traditional Valencian dishes.
- Boatella Tapas – Quick and delicious traditional tapas bar.
Where To Enjoy Drinks In Valencia
Whether you like to have a casual drink outside, enjoy a cocktail at a rooftop bar, or have a large glass of wine. Here are some perfect places to enjoy a drink in Valencia:
- Cafe Sant Jaume – Go for the Aqua de Valencia. Snag a table outside and stay for the people watching.
- Ateneo Sky Bar – Rooftop bar with great views.
- Rosita Cafe – Intimate with fantastic cocktails.
- La Vermutería – A charming bar specializing in vermouth, a popular aperitif in Spain.
- Casa Montaña – Dating back to 1836, Casa Montaña is a historic bar that exudes old-world charm. It features a vast selection of wines.
How To Get To Valencia
Valencia is well-connected by various means of transportation. Here are the primary ways to reach Valencia:
Valencia has its own international airport, Valencia Airport (VLC), located around 8 kilometers west of the city center. Many major airlines offer direct flights to Valencia from various cities in Europe. From the airport, you can take a taxi, hire a private transfer, or use public transportation like the Metrovalencia subway or bus to reach the city center.
Valencia is well-connected to other major cities in Spain by train. The main train station in Valencia is Estación del Norte, located in the city center. Renfe, the national train operator, operates high-speed AVE trains that link Valencia with Madrid and Barcelona, as well as regional trains that connect with other nearby cities and towns. Be sure to buy train tickets in advance, as they sell out quickly.
Several bus companies provide services to Valencia from various cities in Spain and other European destinations. ALSA and Eurolines are among the major bus operators that serve Valencia. The main bus station in Valencia is Estación de Autobuses de Valencia, near the city center.
If you prefer driving, Valencia is accessible via highways and well-connected road networks. The AP-7 and A-7 are major highways that link Valencia with other parts of Spain and neighboring countries. It’s important to note any tolls and parking regulations when traveling by car in Valencia.
Valencia has a ferry port, Port of Valencia, which connects with the Balearic Islands, including Ibiza and Mallorca. Several ferry companies operate services from the port, offering both passenger and vehicle transportation options.
When Should I Visit Valencia?
There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question. The spring or fall is perfect if you are looking for milder temperatures and fewer tourists. If you go in March, you might even catch the Las Fallas festival, where you can witness the impressive displays of sculptures and fireworks. If you are a sun worshipper craving the beach, summer is the time to go.
So if you are headed to Spain, add Valencia to your list! The sunny beaches, rich history, delicious horchata and Paella, stunning architecture, and Insta-worthy spots make Valencia the perfect stop.
We hope this article has inspired you to visit Valencia, Spain! If you have questions or travel tips to share, please leave these in the comments below.
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We Are Travel Girls Contributor Kim Fenster
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