VALENCIA: WHY SPAIN’S THIRD LARGEST CITY IS ONE NOT TO BE MISSED
Previous city breaks to Spain have always left me wanting more of the architecture and culture so naturally Valencia came to mind when looking for a 3 night city break to celebrate our wedding anniversary last autumn.
I must admit in the past I have kind of overlooked Valencia and felt that it’s lived in the shadow of Barcelona or Madrid, having been to both of these on a couple of occasions! But No, that is not true! For Valencia is Spain’s third largest city after Madrid and Barcelona and geographically lies between the two. It is now one of my favourite European cities as it allows for a quieter pace of city break but absolutely no compromises. For me there were so many unique stand-out experiences, great transportation links and value for money and in general something very authentic about the city.
Here is why I think Valencia is a city not to be missed and what you can do in 3 days and because I loved it so much I’m afraid this is a bit of a long one, you may want to get some comfy slippers on and grab your favourite tipple!
PIED À TERRE
We arrived into the city for 10am and got a cab to our hotel. We opted for a Pied a Terre as our base right in the heart of historical Valencia or Centro Histórico North, within walking distance to a lot of sights. Hotel Lotelito was one of those brilliant finds down a small alleyway situated above a bar of the same name and was just what we wanted. A beautifully light and airy corner room with 3 sets of French doors opening out onto the hustle and bustle of the streets, situated right next door to the Opera House and 2 minutes from numerous boutique shops and all the bug fashionista names from Balenciaga to Sephora to Zara!
Carrer de Virues 6
Tel +34 963 060 930
Bookings can be made directly via Hotel Lotelito’s website
AYUNTAMIENTO (TOWN HALL)
The city’s council have been based here since 1934 and as well as housing various offices of the administration, the town hall great points of interest are permitted between 08:00- 15:00. These include the crystal ballroom, which is totally regal and stunning, the historical museum and the City Hall balcony, providing panoramic city views over one of the busiest squares in this district known as Plaze del Ayuntamiento
Plaza del Ayuntamiento, 1
Tel. +34 963 525 478
ESTACION DEL NORTE
(NORTH TRAIN STATION)
This is a train station façade that you will want to check out even if you’re no train spotter! It mainly serves the local train network as there is also a high speed train network. When you enter the station the ticket booths are restored to their former glory and serve as some old world glamour.
Estacion del Norte
Tel: +34 902 32 03 20
More information can be obtained from the Renfe trains website
PLAZA DE TOROS (BULL RING)
This is located right next door to the railway building and was built in a neoclassic style between 1850 and 1860. It is quite an interesting building in terms of the different bricks used in its construction. It houses many concerts and the famous July Fair.
Plaza de Toros
Tel: +34 963 519 315
More information at the Plaza de Toros website
One of my favourite parts of Valencia being a bit of a foodie! The building was designed back in 1914, although not actually used for purpose until 1928. It has a very modern architectural feel to it with the adorning colourful glasswork. The market houses 959 stalls and is a delight of sights, smells and sounds. There is a food hall portion which really is not to be missed especially if you are a fan of paella and Ceviche.
Plaza del Mercado, s/n
Tel. +34 963 829 100
More information available on the Mercado Central website
This is also known as The Silk Exchange is located in front of the central Market. This building is one of the most civil gothic buildings in Europe and was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in December 1996. Architecturally this is a beautiful building and is a must visit. There is a chapel dedicated to the immaculate conception downstairs and also a short film is shown about the construction of La Lonja and it’s uses over the years – I was most surprises to learn it was a prison at one point in its historical past.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Tel. +34 962 084 153
These towers are representation of military construction in a gothic style and were used as gates protecting. Until 1874, the towers were known as Torres de la Cal (limestone Towers). The towers were also used as the women’s prison through their lifetime.
Today they house the locksmith’s museum inside but you can also climb the steep stairwells and pathways to get a fantastic view of the city and escape the scorching city temperatures.
Guillem de Castro 89
Tel. +34 96 35 25 478
These towers are at the other end of the city to the Quart Towers, so could serve as look out points from another direction. Their construction began in 1392 and interestingly were used as a prison for the noble persons of the city from 1586-1887. Again these are an example of gothic style construction and are open for you to climb if you have a head for heights. Your rewards will be the endless panoramic views of the city, which this place is a great vantage point!
Plaza de los Fueros, s/n
Tel. +34 963 919 070
This attraction was opened in 2008 and describes itself as an innovative zoo in which barriers are not visible and provide a somewhat safari feel. It covers 100,000 square metres and is within easy reach of the city, a short bus/taxi ride away. The aim of the zoo is to bring the visitors into the environment of the animals rather than vice versa and I have to admit it does give you a more immersive experience. I did have my doubts about this place as I am not a fan of conventional zoo’s for obvious reasons. The Bioparc’s main objective are to ensure that there is respect for the animals by means of education, environmental protection and general awareness of conservation and sustainability, which if you know me are my utmost priority. When we were there, the African subcontinent was a huge theme with the big 5 featuring heavily, however in future years there are plans to expand taking over in total a land space of 20,000 square metres to incorporate wildlife and flora form Southeast Asia and South America.
This could be a great educational opportunity for children and adults alike. Additionally try out the Bush House at The Bioparc for lunch options. You can see the wildlife beside you as you eat in the open.
Ideally I would recommend spending the afternoon here however we spent the best part of 3 hours here and this was plenty to incorporate a late lunch in the park.
Av. Pío Baroja, 3
Tel. +34 902 25 03 40
Lots more information available from Bioparc’s website
SEU XEREA FUSION
We made some rather special dinner reservations as it was our wedding anniversary, and I cannot recommend this place enough for a special fine dining experience. Located just off one of the other squares in the Centro Historico North, Plaza del Virgen is Seu Xerea Fusion. The cuisine is described as global local food. I would call it Mediterranean with a twist of something special. Go try it for yourself when in Valencia!
Conde de Almodovar 4
Tel. +34 963 924 000
Unfortunately the restaurant has closed since our visit.
JARDINS DEL TURIA (TURIA GARDENS)
The gardens are classified as one of the largest parks in Spain and runs right through the city covering 9 km of green space. This space was once the riverbed running through the city but now has been converted into beautifully spaces containing fountains, murials, paths and is a hit with runners and cardio burners around the city. You can enter Caberra park and take the path straight up to the city of science and arts. It took us 40 minutes however you can always get the metro. Additionally there are points of interest en route such as the modern and fine arts museums.
Jardin del Turia
Antiguo cauce del Turia
For more information, click here
CIUDAD DE LAS ARTES Y LAS CIENCIAS
(CITY OF THE ARTS AND SCIENCES)
In my opinion, you will need to allocate a whole day to spend at this place if you want to sample everything it has to offer. The best way we figured to get to the Science City is to take a leisurely stroll through the Turia gardens, which end at the entrance of the Park. You will need tickets to enter certain attractions at the park, so take a look at my top tips towards the end of the post. The City of The Arts and Sciences is the concept of Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava and is a true ultra-modern example of art in it’s own right. Each building here complements the next, creating this innovative masterpiece.
Welcome to Europe’s largest aquarium covering seven different marine environments and including marine life such as dolphins, belugas, walruses, penguins sea lions and sharks just to mention a few.
I would advise leaving about half a day for the aquarium alone.
02.HEMISFERIC IMAX FILM
This is a 3D digital cinema where the concave screen that is 900 and gives you the feeling it is wrapping around you. There is a timetable of scheduled movies on all day which you have to pre-book on the day so that you get the film of your choice. Films are no longer than 45 minutes and ensure you plan this into your visit to the Science City as this is quite an experience where you are provided with a set of innovative 3D glasses which allow you to change the language and volume of the movie.
03.PRÍNCIPE FELIPE SCIENCE MUSEUM
If you are science mad like me, child or adult you will love the interactive science based interactions and displays showcased in this building. There is a life-size model of the double helix running from the ground floor to the top floor. This is an amazing space and you can also take part in a number of workshops here.
The building also houses a few eating outlets including a fantastic Italian restaurant with stone baked pizza and more fine dining options if you fancy. There are also the usual laid back eateries perfect for snack and cold bites.
04. PALAU DE LES ARTS REINA SOFÍA. OPERA HOUSE
From October to November the opera house has a menu of concerts, operas and ballets on offer. You would need to make a reservation for these for one of the evening showings. If there are no shows on you can go and visit the mind blowing interior.
This is the newest addition, however it is more of a venue for hosting events and cannot be visited. You can still admire the futuristic building from outside.
06. THE UMBRACLE
This is a lovely green Mediterranean styled garden with modern-sculptures placed along the paths. It also sits above the public car park, if you choose to make your way by car you can rest assured that the complex had on-site parking.
Ciudad de Las Artes y las Ciencias
Av. del Professor López Piñero, 7
Tel. +34 902 10 00 31
More information available directly at The city of Arts and Sciences website
PLAZA DE LA VIRGEN
After all that science and art, it was time to head back to the historical centre and take in the atmosphere at the one and only square to be seen in during the evening! Plaza de la Virgen turns from a super busy, coach loads full of tourist and street entertainer packed open area to a beautifully picturesque square with lots of inviting bars and al fresco dining options. I would definitely suggest grabbing an outside table at one of the many restaurants and watching the world go by with a glass or two or jug in hand! The tapas are also pretty amazing around here!
Plaza de la Virgen
Not that you’ll ever want to leave the Plaza de la Virgin, but if yo fancy a change of scenery, I can also recommend Cappucino Café which is situated in the nearby Plaza de la Reina, the third square located in the Centro Histórico North. The Cappucino Café serves traditional Spanish food and makes some mean cocktails and of course the sangria is knockout! I would recommend the tapas and seafood in particular.
Plaza de la Reina, 1
Tel. +34 963 15 21 43
A menu is available at Grupo cappucino
After a couple of hectic days, I think the last day should be spent at a slower pace and what better way to do this than by heading to the beach, but first….
CALLE DE LA PAZ
Take a stroll down Peace street and and pass by Plaza de la Reina. Do a spot of shopping on this boutique lined street and when you’re done, why not try some Horchata…
HORCHARTARIA DE SANTA CATALINA
A Horchata are something I think everyone needs to try in Valencia. It is typical of the city and is a sweet milky opaque drink made from pressed tiger nuts. They are served with a sweet and light pastry which serve as the perfect accompaniment. This typical Horcharteria is traditionally covered in floor to ceiling tiles where locals frequent for mid-morning sweet treats.
Horcharteria de Santa Catalina
Plaza de Santa Catalina, 6
VALENCIA CATHEDRAL & CHURCH OF NUESTRE
SENORA DE LOS DESAMPARADOS
If you head out early enough, you can make a trip to the Cathedral in Valencia, which actually sits next to the Basilica. It is dedicated to the patron saint of the city, and is the most religious building in Valencia since the 17th Century. Definitely worth a visit for the beautiful hand carved doorways, however it can get very busy so try to visit as early as possible in the day.
Senora de Los Desamparados
Plaza de la Virgen, s/n
Tel. 34 963 919 214
Find out more at basilicadesamparados.org
OLD PORT & LA MALVARROSA BEACH
The afternoon should really be spent at the beach and the old port. The Old Port and Malvarrosa beach can be accessed by the underground and will take approx. 25 minutes and then you’re on the golden sands and blue seas of the med. Make sure you go and look at the yachts at the port and take a stroll down the beach. I would definitely be checking out the Paella restaurants along the beach and port as this is where the best paella is served. Just see which one has the longest queue and the most locals and that’s where you head! There are many restaurants around this area so you will be spoiled for choice!
Originally the garden was founded in 1567 for the study of medicinal plants and was moved to it’s current location in 1802. The gardens belong to the University of Valencia and has a fantastic collection of cacti and dessert plants. definitely worth a quick visit if you like prickly plants.
La Malvarossa Beach
Carrer de Quart, 80
Tel. +34 963 15 68 00
MERCAT DE LA REINA
If you fancy an authentic night with typical Valencian cuisine whilst watching some Flamenco dancing then this is your place. The cuisine is pretty classic with contemporary twists and beautifully presented. Take a seat at the back of the restaurant to get unobstructed views of the musicians and dancers.
Mercat de la Reina
Plaza de la Reina, 19
Tel. +34 963 92 57 89
Have a peruse of the restaurant’s website mercatdelareina.com
MY TOP TIPS
01. Purchase a Valencia Tourist Card from Visit Valencia (http://shop.visitvalencia.com/en/valencia-tourist-card) which will give you free entry and a number of discounts. You will also get special rates to pre buy access to The City of Arts and Science and a whole host of discounts at eateries in the city. Priced at 25 Euros for 72 hours it is a bargain. This also includes all transportation, in the city via bus and metro. You can use it for the metro to and from the airport into the centre of Valencia. No brainer!
02. If you fancy staying at Hotel Lotelito, do this direct with them as you will receive 1 free voucher per person for breakfast at their own café 2 minutes away! We typically paid 5 Euros for a set breakfast at their café, Pisca which included tea/coffee, juice, granola, fruit, yoghurt, pastries or bread and a selection of conserves. Cooked options are also available and everything is prepared to order.
03. We arranged transfers with the hotel from the airport, which were £20 each way however it is just as easy to get the metro as the hotel is located a 5 minute walk away from the metro station, Colon.
04. Take some flat shoes, you will probably want to walk everywhere as you’ll be addicted to strolling beside the stunning scenes in case you miss something to snap!
05. Keep your eye out for the metro station Alameda. It has some pretty Gaudi style tiling down near the platforms.
So there you have it, a lot of comprehensive reasons why you really need to take yourself off to Valencia! Anyone experienced Valencia? Let me know what your favourites are in Spain’s third largest city….