Travel Guide – Valencia, Spain
Author: James Robertson | Last Updated: 7 Jul 2018
Valencia is one of the lesser known city’s in Spain. You could say it sits in the shadow of Barcelona, Madrid and Seville but I prefer to think of it as the younger sibling who likes to do its own thing and is not worried about competing for attention.
A trip to Valencia is perfect for so many reasons. It has lovely soft sand beaches, an old town full of amazing architecture, a modern cultural centre with a futuristic design and acres of wildlife in its wetlands and lagoons.
Add to this some delicious local food and traditional dishes like paella and horchata & fartons, a vibrant nightlife and passion for street art and you sure have lots of see and do in Valencia.
Within a 30 minute tram or bus ride from the centre you will find glorious stretches of unspoilt soft sandy beaches. The main beach is called La Malvarossa, this is where yachts come in to dock, restaurants and bars line the promenade and sun bathers group on the beach. Walk along the palm tree lined walkway, bustling with cyclists and joggers to seek out a quieter spot if you want seclusion. Admire the hand carved sand sculptures or cheer on the beach volleyball and football games. The water is clear and inviting here and lifeguards man the many look-out posts during the summer months.
Valencia Old Town
Narrow cobbled streets hide Roman and Gothic architecture within the Old Town known as Ciutat Vella. Wander through the maze of old buildings and enjoy a stop at the many open plazas and terraces for coffee or a beer and soak up the atmosphere. Sights within the Old Town are quite close together and easy to explore. The most notable buildings and plazas are:
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Mercat Central
- Silk Exchange
- City Hall
- Ceramics Museum
- Plaza de la Reina
- Plaza de la Virgin
Valencia City of Art and Science
Stroll along Turia Park, the dried-up river bed that was converted into a lush green park area. It’s a great spot for local kids to play sports or ride bikes so if you don’t fancy walking hire a bike and join them. Towards the end of the park, just before you get to the sea you’ll find the iconic City of Arts and Science. Locally its known as Ciutat de las Artes y Ciencies and is probably the most photographed spot in Valencia. The huge, gleaming white buildings collectively create a backdrop that is like something from a science fiction movie. Around this area you can do fun activities like kayaking, boating and zorbing on the water.
Most of the building in this complex are open to the public. They include:
- Oceanographic Aquarium
- Opera House
- Science and Technology Museum
- Hemisferic IMAX Cinema
The famous rice dish Paella originates from Valencia and the locals are very protective of it. To be deemed as a traditional paella there are very strict rules about the ingredients and the cooking method. Ask a local and they will tell you that only paella in Valencia is the true paella. Another local dish that has an air of mystic around its origins and recipe is Horchata. It’s a cold sweet, milky drink made from ground tiger nuts and is served with the amusingly named Fartons. They are long soft, bread-like, sweet cakes. Both are much yummier then they sound and you’ll find little Horchata bars all over Valencia.
South of the city is a huge freshwater lagoon called Albufera. This nature reserve wetland is used for growing rice and fishing and it provides protection for many species of bird and variety of plant-life. There are walking routes open to visitors throughout the landscape. You can easily take the public bus, the tourist bus or join a group tour which includes a boat ride.
Valencia Fallas Festival
From the 15th-19th March every year thousands of people visit Valencia to join in the Fallas Festival. Teams of locals get together build giant, intricate sculptures known as Fallas. The process of collecting donations, working on each piece, and constructing the Fallas takes many months. The sculptures are made from papier-mache, moulded onto a wooden support, then sanded into shape and painted. On the first day of the festival the Fallas are unveiled and it’s a competition between the different neighbourhoods of Valencia to have the most impressive one. Most Fallas are figurines, brightly coloured, quite garish and caricature like. During the festival there are many separate celebrations involving music, wearing traditional clothes, dinners and parades. On the final night of Fallas between 10pm-midnight the sculptures are burnt and fireworks are lit. The whole city becomes a hot, burning, inferno.
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A special shoutout to our good friend Perri Johnson for providing this informative travel guide to Valencia. Perri is a travel enthusiast and blogger with over 13 years’ experience in backpacking, traveling, living and working overseas. Currently exploring Spain while based in Madrid. She writes about her travels and shares tips, guides and advice on visiting Spain through her blog Seeking the Spanish Sun.
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Categories: Travel Guides