Valencia – aka the birthplace of paella – is positively bursting with culture, food and quintessentially Spanish architecture. An influx of investment and development over the past decade has transformed Valencia into a thriving European travel destination.
The port city’s elegant monuments, flourishing restaurant scene and long stretches of traditional Spanish beaches has tourists flocking to the city in droves. If you’re in the mood for a cultural city escape, a lazy beach holiday or a chilled-out break for some food and retail therapy, Valencia has got you covered.
Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences has rapidly become the city’s number one tourist attraction. The unique, futuristic complex famed for its innovative architecture is devoted to scientific and cultural discussion and education, and is a thoroughly worthwhile visit for the whole family.
Valencia Cathedral, also known as Saint Mary’s Cathedral, is a stunning example of Gothic architecture, and houses some wonderful 16th century works of art, making it the ideal spot for a wander before exploring the rest of the historic Carmen neighbourhood. The Basilica of our Lady of the Forsaken, The Silk Exchange, City Hall and the Central Market are some other must-see monuments in Valencia that showcase the very best of Spanish and European architecture.
Once you’ve had your fill of culture, Malvarrosa and Las Arenas are both sprawling, idyllic Mediterranean beaches that are accessible from the city centre in about 20 minutes. Head to these sandy shores for the day, grab a beer and some beachside tapas and stay to soak up some vibrant nightlife when the sun sets.
Eat and Drink
Paella tends to take most of the glory when it comes to popular dishes in Valencia. However, the traditional dish of fideuà, a fish-based paella with noodles, is well worth trying. The quality of vegetables and seafood in Valencia is second to none, ensuring that dining out in the city is a foodie’s heaven.
Head to the Cabanyal quarter near the beach or La Tassa district to source some of the best traditional paella in Spain, while the old fishermen’s quarter of Calle José Benlliure is renowned for its fresh and fragrant seafood paella. Make sure you save time to grab coffee and people-watch at the ultra-atmospheric Plaza de la Virgen.
For nightlife and a young crowd, Ruzafa is the place to be. Malvarrosa is home to some smart and trendy clubs, while Carmen is Valencia’s original night-time destination and home to some of the country’s best nightclubs.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking to stay near the centre of town, Mercado Colon is one of Valencia’s accommodation hotspots. It offers budget backpacker-style digs alongside spacious, chic apartments and large chain hotels. It’s close to the historic centre for sightseeing and is well connected by the metro to other parts of the city.
Barrio el Carmen offers hippie, boho vibes in abundance and is situated in a prime central location close to pocket-sized cafés, bars and art galleries that are brimming with homespun character.
If you’re looking for a beachside getaway, Las Arenas is home to some stunning resorts and apartments just a stone’s throw away from the shore.
La Calle Colon should be your first port of call if you’re looking for quality high-street fashion. Featuring household brands such as Zara, Mango and Pull & Bear, La Calle Colon is one of Valencia’s prime shopping hubs.
The Mercado de Colon (Colon Market) is also well worth checking out. The delightful marketplace makes for a perfect spot to stop and have a mid-morning coffee and immerse yourself in a traditional Spanish market.
La Calle Quart beckons the fashion-forward to its independent boutique stores and sits on the doorstep of some wonderful bars and restaurants for when you’re finished shopping.
Valencia Like a Local
Although El Carmen is considered a traveller’s hotspot in Valencia, few tourists know to check out the streets of Calle Alta and Calle Baja as well. The charming, well-hidden bars that line these historic streets have locals flocking to soak up their traditional and cosy atmosphere night after night.
Sit and enjoy a Valencian cappuccino on one of the city’s tree-lined plazas, or enjoy a weekend picnic in one of the city’s green, urban parks. Finally, be sure to visit Valencia’s chaotic yet traditional Central Market for a sneak peek into the day-to-day life of Valencianos.