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If you can stand the heat, Valencia is one of the best European cities to visit in the summer. As the third biggest city in Spain, the centre of Valencia has a real neighbourhood feel and almost everything is within walking distance. And thanks to its array of attractions, restaurants and nightlife, there’s really something for everyone.
Free activities in Valencia
In the historic centre of the city, there are plenty of buildings of great architectural interest. Inside its train station, for example, there are floor-to-ceiling painted tiles alongside carved-wood paneling. It’s right next to the 19th century bullring, which you can only enter on bullfighting days or on guided tours.
Valencia’s main green space is an open park that’s built on an abandoned riverbed. Exploring it from the start to finish will take you from west to east of the city over the course of a few hours on foot. But if you’re renting a bike, it’s the best way to get from one side of the city to the other. For those looking for a beach break, there’s a cycle trail that will take you directly from the city centre to the seaside in just 20 minutes. If you need a break from the sandy beach front, the port, which once hosted the America’s Cup, is also nearby.
One of the largest attractions for Valencia is its City of Arts and Sciences. The huge complex of futuristic buildings is home to an arts performance space, a science museum, an IMAX theatre and an enormous aquarium. Even if you don’t plan to go inside any of the ticketed attractions, it’s worth trekking to the site for the architecture itself, which was designed by Valencia-born Santiago Calatrava. At night, the whole area is always gloriously lit up.
For those with younger children, the Bioparc is another option. And the zoo, don’t forget the zoo which is entirely dedicated to animals from Africa with conservation in mind. It has an open layout that’s designed to make visitors feel like they’re getting up close to the animals.
A touch of culture
Valencia’s most famous advocate is probably Ernest Hemingway with traces of the Nobel prize-winning author which can be found all over the city’s bars and restaurants. Many of the sights were also the subject of Hemingway’s prose, like the city’s famous bullring, making the city an ideal space to soak up literature. Hemingway aside, there are many museums doting the landscape through-out Valencia, often with entrance fees of just two euros. Some also offer linked tickets so you can visit several locations for less than 10 euros. The Ceramic Museum, for example, is one that’s as grand in its exterior as it is in its interior.
Eating out in Valencia
While restaurant options are really endless in Valencia, the city’s most famous dish is definitely its paella. Try La Riua in the city or La Pepica by the sea for the traditional version. Or, if you don’t mind the distance, head out to Albufera Nature Park, where the dish was invented, to sample the real thing.
And there are some great bakeries to be found all over the city that are worth checking-out for breakfast or a simple snack. And if you’re staying somewhere that provides for a self-catered option, it’s impossible to miss the central market where the startling variety of ingredients will make most chefs jealous.
For fine dining, Quique Dacosta’s Michelin-starred El Poblet comes highly recommended. Many of the dishes have come from the chef’s three-star restaurant in nearby Denia and offer a great mix of flavour and theatre. And for a more budget conscious choice, there’s also a casual option downstairs at Vuelve Carolina.
Time for drinks
If it is time to quench your thirst with a refreshing drink, there are plenty of places to stop for drinks in Valencia, with many offering food as well. For something on the quirky side, head to Café de las Horas, a day to night bar offering a great selection of cocktails. Here, you’ll be able to find one of the city’s most famous offerings – Agua de Valencia. Their recipe, made up of orange juice, vodka, gin and Cava, packs quite a punch.
Not all of the city’s beverages are alcoholic though. Cool and refreshing horchata, a traditional drink made from tiger nuts, can be found all over Valencia. But if you’re looking for an authentic experience with a view, head to Horchatería Santa Catalina.