Agua de Valencia, Paella and street art are just a few things that Valencia has to offer tourists. Often forgotten about for other Spanish cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, Valencia, is in fact a cultural hotspot where art, cuisine and historical sites are a plenty. In the heart of the old town, you will find hidden alleyways covered in elaborate street art as well as trendy bars inviting you in with cheap prices and beautifully tiled facades.
If you’re more of a beach-goer, Valencia’s coastal scenery will equally cater to your needs. Valencia is most famously known for its Festival Las Fallas, which celebrates the welcoming of Spring. During this vibrant time, street parties are held throughout the city, ornate wooden statues are burned and fireworks are fired at all hours of the day. If you are looking for a trip to a spirited city, I think Valencia is the place for you, no questions asked.
Start Day one of my making your way through the centre of Valencia, through the rabbit-run streets of the Cuitat Vella. The Cuitat Vella, or the old town, is where the majority of the major attractions are situated, such as the Llotja de la Seda and the Mercat Central. Though despite the old town being medieval and rich in history, the trendy bars and restaurants, as well as the contemporary street, create the perfect juxtaposition.
Plaza de Toros
Is there anything more stereotypically Spanish than bullfighting? Located south of central Valencia, near the train station, you will find one of the oldest bullrings in all of Spain. Although a contentious issue in Spain, the southern region of Spain continues this tradition. With a capacity of over 10,000, it is clear that bullfighting was a core element to Spain’s cultural heritage. During the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, the bullring was even used as a detention centre for prisoners. With a rich and interesting history, this site is a must-visit!
Centro del Carmen de Cultura Contemporánea
Located in the heart of the Ciutat Vella (old town), you will find the Centro del Carmen de Cultura Contemporánea. The renovated 13th-century convent is home to various exhibitions relating to contemporary art, juxtaposing with the rich antiquity of the building and town. The former convent rooms, such as the Chapter House, Refectory, and old Dormitory, have been cleverly transformed into elaborate exhibition spaces. Visit here to learn more about Valencia’s rich art world.
The Mercat Central is located in the heart of the old town in El Carmen and is an indoor market selling a variety of produce and goods. The 20th-century building exhibits a colourful and ornate Art Nouveau exterior with blue and yellow tiles and high reaching roof. Wander around the market, admiring the colourful fresh produce ranging from fruit and vegetables to artisanal coffee. Or stop for a bite to eat at the tapas bar hiding at the back of the Mercat! Don’t miss this gastronomical site!
Llotja de la Seda
Llotja de la Seda serves as a reminder to the economic success of Valencia during the 15th and 16th century. The gothic-style building neighbours the Mercat Central in the heart of Valencia and features many interesting architectural delights. Haunting gargoyles hang over the roof of the buildings, and inside, you will find spectacular vaulted ceilings. Step back in time by wandering this special Valencian site.
Plaza del Ayuntamiento
The Plaza del Ayuntamiento is the central meeting point in the heart of Valencia. Its significance comes from the multitude of important buildings that encompass the square, including the town. The openness of the Plaza perfectly contrasts with the beautifully designed buildings that tower over the square, depicting classic Spanish architecture. Gather in the heart of the city here to admire the surrounding buildings!
As you wander around the old town, keep an eye out for the Spanish architecture and street art. However, do not forget to look up and admire the strangely decorative drain pipes that adorn the walls of the old town. As I wander around the streets of the Cuitat Vella, I find myself looking out for these delightful little gems that are scattered around. In other European cities, there is, of course, beautiful and ornate architecture. However, I have never heard about these decorative downpipes. Take your time waltzing through the streets of the old town to capture these oddities.
Placa de la Verge
Situated in the heart of the old town, you will find the square Plaça de la Verge. The square is the location of several famous sites in Valencia, including the cathedral. In the centre of the square, there is a grand fountain that depicts Neptune as well as the local river Turia. Locals gather around to people-watch, wait for friends or simply admire this architectural masterpiece. Join the locals in appreciating this beautiful location.
As you wander around the old town, you will soon realise the swathes of art that cover walls, shops fronts and shutters. In fact, there isn’t graffiti just peppered around the town, instead contemporary art, classic landscapes and even comedic sketches. Street artists dedicate time to creating elaborate and engaging exhibits for tourists and locals. Snap pictures in front of these interesting sites for the perfect addition to your Instagram feed.
Dive into the Valencian culture by tasting the local dishes and regionally cultivated goods. Start of the day by exploring the exquisite San Nicholas church, Valencia’s very own Sistine Chapel. Test out the local dish, Paella with Rabbit, herbs and caramelized rice, you will not be disappointed. Then, learn about the delicious oranges that come from Valencia, tasting the famous Agua de Valencia at the medieval orange orchard, where you will learn all about this homegrown fruit.
If you are looking for the perfect day trip from Valencia, Albufera is the perfect place. This beautiful lagoon is a mere 3o minute bus journey from the hustle and bustle of Valencia’s buzzing centre, making it the ideal place to escape city life. The region is known for its vibrant and luscious nature and wildlife. In fact, this region is known for growing rice that is then used in famous Valencian Paella. Soak up the sun in this glorious lagoon. Book a ticket here for a fully organised day trip and boat ride!
Immerse yourself in Spanish music and dance by enjoying a Flamenco show in the heart of Valencia. The intimate and evocative venue promises a pleasant evening as well as a delicious Mediterranean meal before the show. Despite not originating from Valencia, this tradition is practised all throughout Spain and is to be enjoyed in every city. Book tickets here to ensure a front row seat!
It would not be right to visit the site where Paella was created without trying the famous dish. The tale goes that Valencian farmers were attempting to use their ingredients with a mixture of rice which resulted in the delightful dish that we now know as Paella. Valencian paella originally includes rabbit and other delicious ingredients which create a rich and roasted flavour. Remember that paella should only be served for a minimum of two people, so don’t fall for tourist traps offering you a single plate of this dish!
Mercat de Colón
Mercát de Colón is a covered market located in the eastern area of Valencia’s old town. The Mercat was designed by architect Francisco Mora Berenguer, the same artist who designed Mercat Central. The market now houses various shops and restaurants, providing a modern update to the classic market shopping experience. Interestingly, the market was named after famous explorer Cristopher Columbus, commemorating 400 years since his great voyage. Treat yourself to some shopping or delicious food at this local market!
Valencia is quite famous for the oranges that are produced in the region. As you wander around the Plaza and calles, look up and admire the fruits that proudly grow above you in this bustling city. In fact, Valencia’s version of sangria is known as Agua de Valencia, which incorporates the region's famous ingredient. Visit an orange farm and orchard established in 1870 and taste the local produce as well as learn about the cultivation methods. Book tickets here to confirm this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Saint Nicholas Church
Hidden along the main thoroughfare of the old town, you will find the beautiful San Nicholas church. Originally built in the 13th century, this church is almost a miniature version of the Sistine chapel due to the frescos that it exhibits. These frescoes were added during the 18th century by painter Antonio Palomino and they depict various scenes, including Saint Nicholas. The shimmering gold that gleams for the artwork and the rich blues that paint the walls are just a few reasons to visit this incredible site. Book tickets here to avoid queuing for Valencia’s own Sistine chapel.
Located next to the Centro del Carmen de Cultura Contemporánea in El Carmen, you will find an unusual edifice on the facing wall. Locals have created and built a miniature apartment in an old wall of a terrace building for the local cat. Rumour has it that the former resident of the apartment used to invite stray cats in for some food and respite from the streets. Subsequently, this quaint doll house-like creation was made. The tiny house depicts the classic Valencian façade with a tiled roof and shutter windows. Stop by this adorable site.
Portal de Valldigna
Hidden in the heart of the old town is this precious gate, marking the ancient entryway into the old city. Built during the 14th century and is named after a monastery located in the surrounding Valencia region. Despite other historical sites being removed to make way for the city’s expansion, the gate still remains. Walk under the passageway in the old town, imagining those who used to pass the city walls.
On your final day in the beautiful city of Valencia, travel further afield to the trendy district of Russafa and relax by the sandy beach before heading home. Start your day by meandering through Turia Park, the former river that once used to nourish the city before the great flood. Arrive at the impressive City of Art and Sciences, where you will find the largest aquarium in Europe Oceanographic. Finish your day with a drink in the buzzing and cosmopolitan area of Russafa in the south of the city.
On the outer edge of the old town, across one of the various bridges over the park, you will find the Bellas Artes Museum. The cool and sleek interior invites visitors in to wander around this grand museum, admiring everything from statues to classical paintings. The museum exhibition pays particular attention to Valencian natives such as Joaquīn Sorolla. However, there is a wide range of artists such as gothic paintings to the works of Goya. Head here to get your share of some authentic Valencian art!
Turia is a park that leads from the coast around the northern side of the old town. Historically, the park was a river that ran in from the coast. In 1957, the river famously burst its banks, tragically submerging the city in water and killing 81 people. After these events, and many more floods, the city decided to redirect the river, transforming the grounds into glorious grasslands. Walk underneath the huge arches of the bridges that once used to stand in deep waters and imagine the city as it used to be.
Museo Nacional de Cerámica
You will find the exquisite Museo Nacional de Céramic in the decadent Baroque building right in the heart of the Old Town. The grand grotto-like exterior is just a taster of the delights that are hiding inside. The museum exhibits a variety of ceramics ranging from the 15th to 20th century, predominantly from Spain. Rooms where ceramics are displayed exhibit rococo and neoclassical design, making this an incredibly aesthetic visit.
Located in the stunning City of Arts and Sciences building, you will find the largest sea life centre in Europe; Oceanographic. With other 500 species to admire, the sea life centre is a must visit for marine enthusiasts. If aquariums are not your things, simply go to admire the buildings and the surrounding area. Book tickets here and have a look at the 45,000 creatures living in this aquatic paradise.
City of Art and Science
The City of Arts and Sciences is undeniably an architectural marvel. The modern structure, as the name suggests, is a culmination of art and science which is made evident by the contemporary yet aesthetically pleasing design. Explore the science museum that lies within the complex to learn more about biometrics, climate change and other scientific concepts in engaging ways. Book tickets here to plan your trip in advance!
Just south of Valencia’s central station, you will find the lively district of Russafa. Here, you will find various popular bars frequented by edgy locals as well as cool veggie and vegan-friendly restaurants. If visiting during the day, take a peek at the various galleries that are scattered around the city, or visit the vintage shops such as Vintiker, Trinity Vintage or REUSED. Alternatively, visit in the evening to visit the buzzing bars such as Cuatro Monos or La Madriguera where you are guaranteed a vibrant night.
Torres de Serranos
The Torres de Serranos serve as reminders of the ancient city that Valencia once was. Built during the 14th century, these towering buildings exemplify gothic architecture at its finest. Towering over 30 metres in height, these gates were the former entrances in and out of the city, protecting the city from outside threats. Climb the towers to gain panoramic views over the city of Valencia and imagine this medieval city in action.
Despite having a historic and interesting old town, Valencia also has a variety of beaches where locals and tourists alike can sunbathe, swim or even partake in volleyball. Take a bus or tram from the city centre, and arrive at the beautiful azure coast in less than 25 minutes. Bring a towel and refreshments to enjoy the sandy beaches, or grab a drink from the surrounding beach bars. There are often markets taking place around the coast, so check beforehand- you may be able to pick up a vintage find or a new piece of jewelry to add to your collection.
Where to Stay in Valencia
Hotel Villacarlos - located near the beautiful Arts and Sciences museum and just a short walk from the historic centre
The Little Corner B&B - a mere 8000m away from the Jardines de Monforte near the grand Universitat de València
Palau de Palomar - Stay in the heart of the old town near the historic Silk Exchange and Market Exchange
Sweet Hotel Continental - perfectly located in the old town, just a short walk from the train station.
Melia Plaza Valencia - looks over the main Plaza in Valencia. The hotel is even equipped with a sun terrace for the best views.
Ad Hoc Monumental 1881 - a boutique 19th-century hotel, perfectly located in the antiquated old town.
One Shot Mercat 09 - is centrally located in the Ciutat Vella and is equipped with a terrace and bar for a luxurious stay.
Catalonia Excelsior - just a short walk from Plaza de Ayuntamiento. Why not treat yourself to one of the superior rooms which even have a private plunge pool on the terrace!
MD Design Hotel - the perfect palace to stay if you are looking for a luxury room and scenic views over Turia park.