In case you weren’t already in on the news, Valencia is a gorgeous Mediterranean city on the east coast of Spain. It’s not typically a common stop on the usual tourism circuit in the country however, with most travelers opting to visit nearby Barcelona instead. For anyone who makes the great decision to visit this city though- it certainly won’t disappoint!
I’ll admit- I’m a little bit obsessed. After studying abroad there during college, and spending several months living there, (and visiting again in 2016!) I’ve compiled my list of the top ten “must do” experiences:
1.) Relax at the Plaza de La Virgen-
The architectural beauty and history speak for themselves in this iconic and central plaza of the city. You can spend the whole afternoon here relaxing, people watching, and taking in the views of the old part of the city. The cathedral (a former mosque) is a beautiful centerpiece, and the colorful buildings and aroma of nearby restaurants simply add to the experience.
2) Sample Food at El Mercado Central or Mercado Colón
Both locals and tourists alike enjoy visiting Spain’s lively public markets. The Central Market (Mercado Central) is located near the heart of the city, and provides plenty of photogenic sights with its assortment of colorful fruits and veggies, as well as some chances to gawk at the hanging fresh meats. Considered one of the oldest European markets still running, visitors shouldn’t pass up the chance to try and buy some local deliciousness here. Alternately, you can check out the Mercat de Colom, which has many great places for horchata, as well as some arts and crafts!
3) Eat Paella & Drink Agua de Valencia
Paella, a Spanish culinary tradition, all began in the Valencian region of Spain. The delicious mixture of rice, meats, seafood, and vegetables create a flavor that some might argue is the very essence of España! Try it at one of the many restaurants along the beach near the America’s Cup Port- or Playa Malvarrosa. It doesn’t get more authentic than it does here, in the place where it originated! While you’re out, check the menu for Agua de Valencia- a local cocktail made of champagne, orange juice (of the famed Valencian oranges), vodka, and gin.
4) Discoteca Night
Spaniards know how to party. With salsa clubs and discotecas staying open all night, and the metro opening at 6am, there is no excuse NOT to stay out all night, catch a sunrise on the beach, and then take the metro back to your hostel at sunrise. The dancing scene, the music, the drinks, and the overall environment are unlike any other city. Here, you’ll actually experience dancing like it was meant to be! You can’t have a true Spanish experience without partaking in the thriving nightlife- and with countless options, you have no excuse! I would recommend L’Umbracle Terraza, located in the City of Arts & Sciences, as a good start! If beach-side clubs with swim up bars and a top-notch dress code are more your scene, check out the Marina Beach Club and Lounge.
5) Stroll and Shop the Central Plaza del Ayuntamiento
With its marbled streets, unique shops, beautiful buildings, and sprinkling of fountains, this area of the city has a sophisticated and very refined air to it. Stroll the streets in the nicest outfit you packed, stop in and try some tapas or grab a glass of vino, and hit up the shops like Zara, Mango, and of course… El Corte Inglés. Visit this area on a weekend night and you’re sure to witness some live music too.
6) Climb the staircase to the top of El Miguelete
The Cathedral of Valencia, constructed at the end of the 13th century, has surely seen its fair share of history. At one point a mosque, and now a Catholic Church home to the real Holy Grail, the beautiful interior of the church is worth a visit if nothing else. However, climbing the bell tower (added in 1459) and its 300ish steps is a MUST. For a very inexpensive ticket, guests can climb the winding narrow stairs to the top of the cathedral, and spend time near the old bell (called the “Little Michael” or “El Miguelete”), while also enjoying a fabulous view of the city, the surrounding area, the ocean, and more. It is simply beautiful, and the history of the church makes it more so.
7) Marvel at the Architecture of the City of Arts of Sciences
Words cannot accurately describe the unique, futuristic, and stunning architecture of renowned architect Santiago Calatrava’s magnificent City of Arts and Sciences. With construction beginning in the late 90’s , this area has rapidly become a cultural, architectural, educational, and entertainment based space, and a must for all visitors to the city. Simply walk around, gawk at the beautiful structures, or maybe pay a visit to the planetarium, the 3D cinema, or the large aquarium as well. You will not regret it!
8) Try Horchata near Plaza de La Reina
The Horchatería Santa Catalina was founded in 1835, and has a noble tradition of serving up a local breakfast dish like no one else can. True horchata originated in this city. Come into this restaurant in the Plaza de Santa Catalina (within walking distance of the Cathedral), and order yourself a glass of horchata, with a side of fartones. The servers will gladly oblige, and you will then find yourself in heaven.
Horchata, a milky drink made with tiger nuts, sugar and water goes perfectly with the doughnut like dippers, called fartones. Sit a while enjoying this local treat, and soak in the lively plaza atmosphere as well. Another great place to find excellent horchata options is the Mercado de Colón (mentioned above)!
9) Walk or Swim the beautiful Playa de la Malvarrosa
This amazing urban beach, north of the city center, has beautiful views and great Mediterranean swimming in summertime. Come in July or August and you’ll find yourself surrounded by local beach-goers, soaking in the glorious Spanish sunlight, some choosing to tan au-naturale.
The water feels great, there are a few food vendors, and if you’re hungry there are shops and restaurants all along the beachfront promenade. If you have time, you can walk down to the old America’s Cup Port (home of the world’s largest sailing competition) to explore. If you want a fancy dinner with a great view, check out the Restaurant Panorama.
10) Climb the Historical Torres de Serranos
These towers formed what was once one of twelve entries through the original medieval city gates. Constructed in 1392, they are one of Valencia’s most iconic sights. Visitors can walk up into the towers, read a bit about the history, and check out the surrounding view. If time permits, visit the nearby Torres de Quart too- a place riddled with bullet holes from Napoleon’s troops. Overall these are quick stops, but worthwhile visits!
Interested in an awesome day trip to the nearby hot springs ? Check out this POST for info!
Also, check out this list of great DAY TRIPS and SIGHT-SEEING TOURS while you’re in Valencia!
For details on visiting the nearby medieval beach town of Peñíscola, click here!
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