Updated May 2013.
I’ve been visiting Valencia for a few years now and always thought it a bit of an undiscovered gem (in tourist terms) – its still is, but post the America’s Cup ( Summer 2007), the opening or the Arts and Sciences Park, Formula 1 street race, Tennis later in 2010, etc etc etc… its now attracting a lot more tourists.
The weather is Mediterranean; so Summers are hot – but not too much so, and Winters mild – especially in daylight hours. The city is big enough (third largest in Spain) to have all the facilities you could need, but no so big as to be self important and over the top. It also has a delightful park (in the old river bed) that rings over half the city – this means that you are never far from a green and quiet space. The river bed is dry now as the course was diverted in the late 1950′s due to constant flooding problems – the river now runs in an enormous culvert to the south side.
After recent developments (say last 15 years) there are now 3 faces to Valencia; the old town based around Bario del Carmen, the outer ring with the Ayuntamiento area and the Eixample (extention) which stems from the turn of the 19th century and finally the new section down towards the port area – which stems from the turn of the 20th Century.
Much of the night time entertainment is centered in Carmen, the Eixample area contains most of the shopping areas and quite a few good areas for night time eating (Calle de Salamanca), and the new area has the City of Arts and Sciences, the Oceanografic and the stunning new symphony hall, (there is also a large modern, and fairly soulless, shopping centre here (El Saler) but if you need any basics they will probably have it).
This splitting is simplistic but sort of covers matters…
One of the joys of Valencia, is that given its size you can wander about easily and not get too lost – but can also see most of what’s available. What follows are a few don’t misses…
The Mercado Central was constructed in 1928 and has a major restoration. The previously hidden roof reveals a central glass dome set into a tiled ceiling depicting oranges in abundance; this is after all the Costa del Azahar (orange-blossom coast).
At Christmas, oranges are everywhere, there is one stall selling only lemons and garlic, and another which sells only snails. In the separate fish hall, the quality and quantity of fresh seafood, from sardines to octopus is excellent.
Across the road is the 15th-century Gothic Lonja (the old silk exchange), again, recently restored with its elegant, twisted columns and tranquil courtyard.
The Cathedral is just around the corner, begun in 1262 on the base of a mosque and Roman temple and completed in 1702, unusual design and layout.
The oldest tribunal in world meets in one of the doorways every Thursday- to hear disputes about the use of water in the surrounding fields.
Mercado Colon in the Eixample is an old nouveau market hall beautifully restored and now contains many cafes in what is a busy shopping area, good place to stop off for a shaded coffee (or wine) break.
Northern Rail Station - Worth a visit in its own right to see the wonderful Nouveau period tiling.
The port/ beach area has many restaurants specializing in seafood of course – especially good for a Sunday lunch – this is home of the Paella so what better place to try one, see listings below for recommendations.
IVAM is the cities’ modern art gallery and hosts visiting exhibitions – there is usually something of interest and its worth a detour.
Festivals – Fallas
Probably the most famous festival in the Valencian calendar is the Fallas; huge statues are wheeled out into the city’s squares and after being judged and prizes awarded they are all torched on the night of 19th March. The lead up runs for about 10 days and builds towards the finale, with huge firework displays on (at least) the last 3 nights before the burning.
The Fallas also has a lunchtime event in the main square, this is called the Mascleta and is basically a 5 minute aerial bombardment. The video below shows it, but simply can not do it justice, the noise is incredible, the ground shakes, the buildings shake, and no; I have absolutely no idea why they do it… Every day at 2.00pm, Plz Ajuntamiento.
The other big night is the Noche de San Juan (mid Summer/ shortest night) – when most of the town decant to the beach for a night of bonfires, bands and general drunkenness… Details here.
The following links will tell you more than I ever could and, hopefully, will be up to date:
Valencia Guias – Bike rental and bike tours
Eating out – Central
El Don Juan – sort of cafe/ smart canteen style place, very acceptable food and reasonably priced. 3 branches in Valencia:
- Martinez Cubells #8, near Ayuntamiento and main shopping area.
- Avenida Aragon #25 (Junto Mestalla), near University
- Serranos #22
NECO – Buffet/ eat as much as you can, lots of salads, so good places for lunch: Branches:
- El Saler (near City of Arts and Sciences)
- C/ Pasqual y Genis 9
La Salvaora – Calle Calatrava #19, in the Carmen district – small and atmospheric, good Spanish food.
L’Hamadriada - Pl Vicente Iborra #3, in the Carmen district – good food, nice atmosphere, pleasant staff.
Casa Paquito. C/ Quart 10. 46001. Valencia. Tel: 96 392 6060. Traditional Spanish restaurant in fashionable nightlife area of Carmen. Set lunch is especially good value and quality.
La Taberna de Marisa. Caballeros 47. 46001. Valencia. Tel: 96 392 1827. Restaurant and Tapas bar. Not the cheapest on the street, but it is the most consistently good and stocks high quality goods; this lady knows her onions and hams and cheeses… and will be happy to tell you all about them. Only a few yards from Plz Tossal.
La Utielana – Plaza del Picadero de Dos Aguas, 3. 46002. Valencia. (other entrance on Carrer St Andreu – which is the alleyway just at the back of the alabaster house/ Ceramics Museum, and the best way to find the restaurant). Tel: 96 352 9414. Traditional Spanish restaurant in main shopping area, simple food well done and excellent pricing. You can see them cooking in the spotless kitchen. Note the somewhat eccentric opening hours: 13.20 – 1600 and 21.00 – 23.00, closed Saturday night and all day Sunday, closed in August)
La Sardineria. c/Bordadores 10. 46001. Almost opposite the Cathedral main entrance, specialises in sardines (as the name suggests), but has other items and a set lunch for about €10. Very good value, especially for this area.
Sagardi. San Vicente Martir, 6. 46002, Valencia. Tel: 96 391 0668. On the tree lined street between Plaza de la Reina and Plaza Ajuntamiento, this is a handy stop off place for lunch or a quick snack. Help yourself to Tapas from the bar display and pay according to the number of cocktail sticks you have at the end (each tapa is pinned together with them) - can get very busy but the crowd turns quickly.
Eating out – Salamanca
Calle Salamanca is in the centre of an upmarket residential area just south east of the old town – and along the Turia. The area gets very lively from Thursday evening onwards and is a good alternative to Carmen, can be quiet in the day, and some places closed Sunday and Monday.
The area where c/ Salamanca and C/ Cisar meet C/ Conde de Altea is particularly busy.
La Flamenca. Salamanca, 34. Nice tapas and montaditos bar a little away from the main run, great staff. Tel: 96 381 5500. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Eating Out – Malvarosa Beach
There are loads of restaurants facing the beach at Malvarosa, most are OK, but I will list the ones I particularly like. All get very busy on Sunday lunchtimes, so unless you have a reservation, get a table by 1.00 or the best seats on the terraces will be gone… room inside is usually available.
Casa Chaparro. Avda Neptuno, 38. 46011, Valencia. Tel: 96 206 3156
Azahar. Avda Neptuno, 10. 46011, Valencia. Tel: 96 371 60 70
Valencia Flats operate a number of places to rent – prices can be quire competitive and an apartment gives you a different perspective.
Flats for you – selection of flats in central area
Places to visit – Bioparc
On the west side of town is the Bioparc, sort of a cross between a zoo and a safari park, the animals are in a naturalistic setting, more details on the post here.