Euro City Guides: Valencia
Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Being Spain's third largest city, Valencia has a bit of everything. This fun, unique beach city sits on the Mediterranean coast and offers a bit of both the old and the new. While it is quite large and has plenty of big city amenities, it still holds that feel of small town charm in the old town. There are cool, trendy neighborhoods with tons of cool street art and hipster-y bars, but there is also plenty of things that are traditionally Spanish. It's also home to the famous Valencia oranges! If you drink orange juice anywhere in Europe, it probably comes from here.
I was welcomed with warm, sunny, 75 degree weather my entire trip, which was in early November. Being in such a temperate part of the world, Valencia seems to have a climate similar to San Diego or Los Angeles. I stayed in the AC Hotel close to the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias, which was the perfect location because it was halfway between the beach and the old town.
Valencia can be reached from pretty much anywhere in Spain by bus or train. They also have an international airport, which I believe has some cheap routes between some major European cities, especially in the UK. Any Spanish bus line will go here, but I recommend taking the Renfe, Spain's high-speed train, if you're coming from Madrid. Multiple trains leave daily from Atocha and take roughly 1hr30min each. Once you're in the city it's a bit spread out outside of the old town. The two areas you'll probably want to go to are the beach area and the old town. The huge science center is about halfway in the middle of the two, which is where I ended up staying, but there isn't a ton going on in that neighborhood. It was about a 5-10 minute cab ride in either direction. Once you're in the beach area or old town it's super walkable and you won't need to take a taxi, but it's probably the best way to get between the two. The taxis were between 5-10€, so they weren't bad. You could also try to navigate their public transport system, which I'm sure is good, I just can't really speak for it since I didn't use it.
Being a decent-sized city, Valencia has plenty to see. With the old and new being juxtaposed against each other, you can visit the super modern science center complex or you can explore cool old buildings in the old town, or both! There's definitely enough to keep you busy, I spent 4 full days here, which felt sufficient, but if I had one day less it definitely would've felt rushed.
Mercat Central: Valencia is known for it's markets, and this one is the most famous and most central. It's cool to go inside and look, but it's mainly local meat and produce. There are a lot of local farmers selling their products, so if you need to get any produce this would be a fun way to get your grocery shopping done! There are a few spots where you can find some baked goods or fresh fruit if you're looking for a snack. Price: Free.
La Lonja de la Seda: This small, historical palace is one of the main sights to see in the city. If you've been to famous palaces like the Alcazar in Sevilla or the Alhambra in Granada then it might be a bit underwhelming, but it's beautiful in it's own way, and we love some good Spanish architecture. The courtyard is full of blossoming orange trees, and the intricate design of the building is beautiful. It is pretty tiny, so it won't take you too long to see it. Price: 2€.
San Nicolas Chapel: This chapel is absolutely beautiful, and I would make this your primary destination in Valencia. I believe (?) that it inspired the Sistine Chapel in Rome, which you can see from the artwork on the ceiling. It's completely different from any other chapel you'll visit in Spain. Price: 5€.
Plaza La Reina: This is the main plaza in Valencia, and it's full of bars and restaurants. You'll probably end up wandering around here eventually, but the bars and restaurants are typically overpriced and tourist trap type of places.
Barrio del Carmen: This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city center, and it's full of exciting nightlife and cool things to see. It has a grungier vibe, and there's tons of cool street art and bars.
Catedral de Valencia: I didn't actually go inside the cathedral, but I saw a bit of it while going through to climb the tower. It has the same Gothic architecture you'll find in any Spanish cathedral. Price: 8€.
El Miguelete: To get to this tower with insane views of the city, you have to go through the cathedral. This is definitely the best lookout point in the city, and I recommend coming here around sunset! Price: 2€.
Playa del Cabanyal/Malvarossa: This is the main beach in Valencia. The whole area around the beach has cool shops, restaurants and bars, and the beach itself is huge and stretches out for miles.
Museu de Ciencias: Located in the City of Arts and Sciences complex, this museum has tons of cool, interactive exhibits that are always changing. While the complex itself is really cool and a great place to take pictures, I would recommend visiting the museums as well to get the full experience. Buy tickets online in advance to save some money, and get a combo ticket with the aquarium! Price: 8€.
Torres del Serrano: These two picturesque posts were once a defensive lookout point for the old city. They don't appear to be too tall when viewed from the street, but when you climb up you get great views of the city from a different perspective! Unlike El Miguelete, Serrano is on the outside of the city, so you get a nice view of the park and surrounding neighborhoods, and the tower itself is super cool to explore. Price: 2€.
Jardin del Turin: This massive garden/park stretches all the way from the old town to the beach. If you're looking for a scenic route to walk from the old town to the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias and the beach then you could take this route, but it will take awhile. Great place to go for a walk or bike ride!
L'Oceanografic: This is the aquarium in the City of Arts and Sciences. I'd recommend it maybe even more than the science museum, it's really cool and you get a picture of marine life from all over the world. I've also heard that it's ethical (as much as an aquarium can be), which made me feel better about visiting since they are helping with sustainability initiatives. It's pretty big, so I'd recommend taking a few hours for this place. Price: 31.30€, combo ticket with science museum: 38.60€.
Restaurante Oslo: I absolutely loved this place! They're a trendy vegetarian spot with a modern twist on traditional Spanish food. So many great options. *Make a res*. https://restauranteoslo.com/
Navarro: This is the place to go for paella, which originally came from Valencia! They're well-known for all of their paellas, but especially for their veggie paella, if that's your thing. Don't forget to order your paella a day ahead! *Make a res*. https://restaurantenavarro.com/en/
Le Favole: This is a really nice, cozy Italian spot. Incredible pizza, pasta and wine. I highly recommend it for a dinner on the nicer side! https://lefavole.es/en/menu.php
Casa Montaña: This traditional Spanish bodega is well-known for their incredible wine and tapas. Amazing quality food, and a great, traditional experience. *Make a res*. https://www.emilianobodega.com/en/
Mercat de Colon: Definitely check out this market for different types of drinks and snacks. I ended up visiting Ma Khin Cafe, which was a Burmese restaurant with really great food! https://mercadocolon.es/en/
Valencia has some pretty good nightlife. I didn't go clubbing when I was there, but I've heard they're good. There are also some cool rooftop spots, and local breweries as well. There's tons of variety here, so whatever your scene is, you can probably find it! I went to a few good bars that I recommend checking out.
270 Grados: This cool rooftop bar has great views of the city. It's located at the top of the Barcelo hotel, which is right by the science center, halfway between the beach and old town. There isn't a ton of nightlife in this area, but if you're staying in the area you should absolutely check it out. Their drinks are a bit pricy, but worth it for the views and atmosphere.
Tinto Fino Ultramarino: This cute wine bar in the old town is a great place to stop before going out, or after dinner, since they close pretty early. It's a cozy spot, and they have great wine recommendations.
Cafe Negrito: This is one of the iconic old bars of Valencia. It's a cool bar, but pretty chill and unpretentious. The drinks are cheap and the vibes are good.
I had a great time in Valencia, and I know you will too. This city is really fun, and it really does have something for everyone.
For more pictures of Valencia, check out my album on Flickr.