When I told people I was going to Valencia, the response was often “why there?” Spain’s third city is a fantastic place for a city break: less geared towards tourists than Barcelona, it has great weather, is full of life and there’s plenty to see and do. Here are my favourite picks from our trip…
El Cabanyal and the beach/promenade
Don’t miss El Cabanyal on your way to the seafront. This historic fishing quarter is under constant threat from Valencian officials who want to bulldoze part of it to make way for a new development leading down to the seafront.
Catch the beautiful painted and tiled houses while you can, and in some of the more unloved corners you may feel that you have stepped into another world entirely.
The beach itself is huge and lined with some upmarket bars and restaurants, all with lovely terraces to help you while away an afternoon.
You can wander through the savanna, equatorial Africa and Madagascar, and even eat your lunch in full view of the zebras and rhinos.
While the aquarium – the Oceanográfic – sometimes felt a little exploitative, Bioparc is the best way of seeing animals in captivity that I can imagine. It wasn’t busy when we visited – if you went in peak season I imagine the crowds could hinder your enjoyment slightly.
Thanks to Sarah from It’s Sarah Ann for this one – when I read her travel guide I knew this was somewhere I had to visit!
The gardens make a great place to spend a few hours. The plants are grouped into different categories, from water species to succulents. The cacti were especially impressive, and the shade house and various greenhouses were great to walk around.
Wander – take in Mercado Central and Estació del Nord
There’s something interesting to see around every corner – especially in El Carmen, whose twisting streets hold an unusual shop, a sight or a square at every turn.
The central market is touted as the top tourist destination in Valencia, and while it’s worth a trip I wouldn’t go that far. Unlike the main market in Barcelona there aren’t many places to eat, but it’s fun to look at some of the unusual products and pick up a few things to take away.
The station is another guide book favourite, and it is beautiful- particularly inside. Certainly worth popping your head in if you’re passing. Or pasear-ing.
Go to the top of the cathedral tower
Perhaps it’s because I’m not of a religious persuasion, but I’m starting to think once you’ve seen one cathedral you’ve more or less seen them all (sorry!). The highlight of this one is the tower, which you can climb all 207 steps of for great views across the city.
Walk or bike along La Turia
La Turia is a ribbon of park which runs around the main centre of Valencia, and is actually the former bed of the diverted river. Because of this, it is crossed by several bridges – all interesting in their own way.
Depending on where you’re based you can use this as a scenic route to the City of Arts and Sciences, or hire bikes and make like the locals whizzing up and down.
No city break is complete without a spot of shopping. There are two branches of Sephora in Valencia (one inside El Corte Ingles) for the beauty obsessed among you. I love getting new beauty bits to try from brands I can’t usually get easily, so I’ll have a post on that coming soon.
If you’re after something a little more Spanish, head to Plaza Redonda where there are lots of lace and ceramic shops where you can pick up gifts or souvenirs.
Just around the corner is Nela, which has a gorgeous array of hand painted fans and embroidered shawls. You can also find turròn and other traditional sweets in various places, as well as in the basement supermarket in the El Corte Ingles on Calle Colòn.
I’m trying to kid myself that I can read a Spanish novel, so I bought some books. How beautiful if this copy of The Jungle Book?
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that Valencia is a great place to visit. I’ve got a separate post coming up on the best places to eat – the most important part of any holiday!