With a metropolitan area population of over 1.5 million, Spain’s thriving Valencia is the third largest city in the country.Valencia was founded by Romans in 138 BC, and is now a haven for tourists and sun-worshipers because of its year-round warm climate, wonderful beaches, and fine cuisine. We spent our first half-day in Valencia by accident.
We left our mid-summer tour early in the morning and planned to purchase a ticket to Barcelona for the balance of our trip. But the train didn’t leave till late in the afternoon, so we stowed our luggage in a locker in the Valencia train station and walked into the old town, just about a block away. The train station itself is a sight to see. It is very well maintained and constructed – inside and out – with decorative, colorful tiles …. it is a real treasure.
We picked up a map at the near-by tourist office and set out to visit the ancient cathedral. On the way to the cathedral, we were astonished by the magnificence of the pristine architecture all along the way. We marveled at the strong Moorish influence that gives Valencia its character and were impressed by the rich, polished granite sidewalks found throughout Old Town. We immediately knew that we had to return to Valencia to more fully explore this outstanding city. So at the end of our Barcelona vacation, we added another day in Valencia so we could see more of what this dynamic city has to offer. Like other cities in Spain, Valencia is a quiet city in the heat of the day; it is at night when the city comes alive.
What to See in Valencia
The Valencia Cathedral
Originally built in 1262, the Valencia Cathedral successfully blends three great architecture styles in its three portals: Romanesque in the Puerta del Palau, the cathedral’s main entrance; Baroque in the Puerta de los Hierros; and Gothic in the Puerta de Apostoles. The cathedral’s bell tower, Miguelete, is a popular Valencian landmark. The cathedral offered a welcome, cool respite from the warmth outside.
Plaza de la Reina Valencia
The City of Arts and Sciences
A modernistic compound designed by Valencia’s own architect, Santiago Calatrava, construction of the City of Arts and Sciences began in 1996 and is a must see. While the architecture astounds on its own, there is a lot to see inside the five buildings as well. They are: El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía — Opera house and performing arts center; L’Hemisfèric — Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium; L’Umbracle — Walkway / Garden; El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe — Science museum; L’Oceanogràfic — Open-air oceanographic park. There are also places to eat or just wander and enjoy the ambiance. There are entrance fees for most of the buildings, but it is well worth it; you could spend an entire day or more in this modern “city”.
Valencia Central Market
This covered market is one of the most beautiful in Europe and contains more than 1300 stalls. It is a delight for the senses with fresh fruit, seafood and meats around every corner. I couldn’t resist the Valencia Orange juice.
Not your regular zoo, Bioparc Valencia was created by employing the concept of zoo-immersion: immersing the visitor completely in wild habitats. Bioparc Valencia is also dedicated to the conservation of animals, and to promoting the education and awareness of the necessity of preserving natural ecosystems. Come here if you want to experience what it may feel like to be an untamed creature in the wild.
La Lonja de la Seda
This historical building is worth a visit while touring Valencia. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1996, la Longa de la Seda is the site of a former silk exchange. This Valencian Gothic style building was erected between 1482 and 1548 and is free to visit.
Plaza del Mercado Valencia
Tel: 34 963 153 931
Where to Stay in Valencia
Hotel Las Arenas Balneario Resort Valencia
This fantastic five-star resort is located right on the beach and offers relaxation facilities to include a swimming pool with a poolside cocktail bar, a gym, and an on-site spa. The Hotel Las Arenas Balneario Resort property is surrounded by lush gardens, and is close to just about everything in this beautiful city.
We stayed at the 4-Star Vincci Lys Hotel, a short walk from the train station, in a bustling area right in the middle of old town. We loved our newly refurbished room and especially our private balcony that overlooked the street below. Returning to the hotel at about 10:30 pm, it was absolutely magical to hear a combo of street musicians playing mellow jazz below our balcony. We paid under 100 Euros per night, which was a fantastic bargain.
Sister hotel to the Vincci Lys, the 4-star Vincci Palace Hotel is also in the heart of old town. The Vincci Palace Valencia is just a few steps from the Plaza Porta de la Mar and el Paseo de la Ciudadela on the Calle de la Paz. Guests can walk to the Serranos Towers and the Miguelete.
Nest Youth Hostel Hotel
Discover all that Valencia has to offer with Home Youth Hostel as a base. This non-smoking hostel offers a number of amenities, such as a 24 hour reception, bicycle rental and luggage storage. Internet access is available for guests wanting to remain connected during their stay.
Where to eat in Valencia
No matter which restaurant or tapas bar we chose, the food was excellent. Of course, I am a pushover for Paella and Valencia is a great place to sample this iconic Spanish dish.
A family owned restaurant, La Riua is located close to the Plaza de la Reina, in the heart of old town, Valencia. Valencian Paella with chicken and rabbit is a specialty. It was here that we had the best Paella on our entire trip to Spain.
Calle del Mar, 27
We had a delightful dinner at this relaxed restaurant. It is perfect spot for outdoor dining and its location right near the cathedral makes it easy to walk to if your hotel is in the old town area.
Calle de Caballeros 5
46003 Valencia, Spain
Tel: 963 914 822
L’Antina Pintxos and Restaurant
If you are looking for a high quality meal in a lovely restaurant, try this out of the way restaurant. At L’Antina Pintxos and Restaurant, you can partake in a fantastic meal prepared by a Michelin trained chef. And, don’t worry, it won’t cost a fortune. Reservations are recommended.
Calle de Juan Llorens, 31
Tel: 963 381 882
If you are looking for an inexpensive place to relax, have a beer or glass of wine while enjoying a casual meal, Cafe Infinito is the spot. It is located near the University of Valencia, so that should tell the story. Reservations recommended for weekends and closed Mondays.
calle poeta mas y ros, 35
Written by Terri Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com