Valencia the third largest city of Spain has much to offer more than just Oranges and Paella. Often over shadowed by the bigger sisters Madrid and Barcelona the city has its unique offerings as an amazing mix of classic ancient and modern architecture, fine local cuisine and festivities like Las Fallas and La Tomatina.
Things to do-
The Old Town- Like any other Spanish old town, the cobbled roads and mysterious alleyways hold most of the attractions for the visitors. Beautiful Gothic Churches, splendid historical buildings, vibrant squares, native cuisine in the bustling terrace restaurants, Tapas bars and open cafes leave the tourists spellbound.
Plaza de la Reina- You can admire the beauty of the Old Town through this busy square. Surrounded by colourful flowers and trees laden with oranges, relaxing benches, numerous options to eat and drink it is the house for the other two main attractions The Valencia Cathedral and the iconic Bell Tower El Miguelete right besides the majestic Cathedral.
The Gothic- style octagonal Bell Tower has 207 steep spiral steps which when conquered give a bird’s eye view over the beautiful city.
The famous Valencia Cathedral reflects a mix of various architectural styles from Gothic to Baroque and even Romanesque rendering this landmark strikingly impressive. The Cathedral also claims to be the home of The Holy Grail the authentic cup used by Jesus in the Last Supper.
Enjoy the original Valencian delicacies at the lovely Tapas bars, terrace restaurants and cafes that throng the entire Plaza. You would fall in love with the vivacity in the air as we did.
Valencia City Hall and Plaza del Ayuntamiento- Taking a stroll from here towards the main station you would encounter the City Hall. A major landmark of the city with a majestic Clock Tower and a perfect balcony offering the best spot to view the major events in the city like daily Mascleta or fireworks during the world famous Fallas Festival ( A unique festival celebrated in March every year attracting tourists from world over. The whole city seems be set ablaze with fire crackers burning down the giant Fallas. As they say this festival in not for faint hearted!! 😊). The Hall is Closed on Saturdays.
Beautiful fountains adorn the square and give excellent capturing opportunities specially during evening when they lit up to mesmerize the crowd.
Marqués de Dos Aguas Palace- Pump up your energies and keep walking the welcoming streets of Valencia and appearance of some or the other unusual beauty would surely take you by surprise. Impressive Ceramics Museum at Marqués de Dos Aguas Palace dated back to 15th and 17th century adorning a magnificent alabaster entrance, with Virgin of the Rosary overlooking the mix of two streams symbolizing prosperity and life. Even if you do not want to explore the inside of the museum the magical artwork on the exteriors would leave you enough to cherish.
We winded up Day one as travelling and covering such big area on foot with a little kid is fun mixed with challenge. Day two had something which was of more interest to our little one 😀
Statue of Francesco de Vinatea in Town Hall Square
Estación del Nord (The North Station)
Plaza de Toros (Bullring)
Reach the Heart of the City Plaza de la Reina early morning to catch your hop on hop off bus for the city tour. As the bus makes way through the busy road Carrer de la Peru you wont be able to move your eyes from the grand facades and flower adorned balconies with the beautiful Santa Catalina Church Tower at the end.
The City of Arts and Sciences- A must visit scientific and cultural recreation centre on the river bed of River Turia near Turia Gardens. The spectacular complex has been majorly designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. First rendezvous with this ultra modern architecture will give you a feel of Tomorrowland.
The city spread in an area of around 2 kms includes The Prince Felipe Museum of Science, L’Hemisferic 3D cinema and planetarium, The Oceanografic park and aquarium, The Opera House ( El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia), the Umbracle Gardens and the Agora Building.
You need at least a day to cover all places so plan in advance to save on time. You can also secure tickets online to avoid long waits and missing on the slots of some good 4D movie shows.
We spent half a day at L’Oceanografic, Europe’s biggest aquarium housing more than 45000 specimens of 500 different species in varied marine environments. An amazing experience of the aquatic life from such proximity. Kids seemed to be in love with this place. The Dolphin show at the Dolphinarium was the show stopper.
The Spherical Bird Sanctuary and Shark Tunnel were equally magnetic. In tube-shaped shark aquarium visitors can walk inside with sting rays and a variety of sharks enjoying the attention all around you. One is sure to miss a heart beat as the Tiger Shark passes above your head, revealing its razor sharp teeth. L’Oceanografic will make you forget every buck spent for this out of the world experience.
What to eat- Valencia is a true foodie’s paradise. Its just not cooking for Valencian’s it’s a way of life as they take pride in its authentic cuisines, delicious Mediterranean sea food, world’s finest Oranges and incredible Wines to mention a few.
Paella- Valencia proudly claims the famous Paella as its own made with locally grown rice and added rabbit and chicken or sea food. No visit to Valencia is complete without trying this traditional delicacy. Vegetarians and Vegans can even go for Paella de Verduras (Vegetarian Paella).
Horchata- A refreshing milky drink made of tiger nuts can be enjoyed with local pastries Fartons.
Being a vegetarian can give you a tough time as going to a normal restaurant can leave you hunting for vegetarian options as described in my blog on the Spanish Capital “Madrid” (link given below 😊)
Some native vegetarian food options when in Valencia are Paella de Verduras (Vegetarian Paella), Patatas Bravas ( potato wedges with tomato sauce), Pan con Tomate (bread with tomato puree), Pimientos de Padron (little, green peppers), Alcachofas con pan de pita (artichoke dip with pita bread) , Salad without Tuna or egg (if you mention veg salad tuna and egg would be added by default :-D).
Where to Eat- Countless Tapas bars and restaurants start bustling with crowd during late evenings ( Spaniards have late dinner and unless you in city centre or old town you may find many restaurants closed in afternoon and open only late in the evening to remain open till late night)
Café Bertal at Plaza de la Reina serves good Ice cream and have a fair break fast and dining menu. We had chocolate croissants and nice rich flavoured coffee. Salad and potato fries were some vegetarian options available.
Ochoymedio at Plaza Lope de Vega in old town served good Paella de Verduras (Vegetarian Paella) and had various worth trying Mediterranean cuisine.
La Reina Friendly Restaurant at Plaza Santa Catalina had a great location. We ordered vegetarian salad and were served with Tuna and eggs but the Owner later got the same replaced as a nice gesture. Staff was helpful. Horchata tasted heaven with colourful yum and healthy salad.
We stayed at Hotel Ilunion 4 Valencia. The hotel has excellent rooms, nice and lavish buffet breakfast spread , courteous staff , perfect location (next to Metro Station Beniferri and three supermarkets in vicinity). To our delight we also found a good Indian restaurant for dining at a walking distance from our hotel Restaurante Indian Star that served delicious Indian food at reasonable price. (The hotel does not have tea coffee makers in room which was a little surprise to us).
How to reach- You can reach by any preferred means via bus, train or flight. We preferred Renfe Ave high speed trains which reduced our journey time to 1hr 45mins travelling at a speed of 300km/hr which was an experience in itself. Intercity trains take around four hrs for same. You need to board from Madrid’s beautiful Puerta de Atocha Station for Valencia’s Joaquin Sorolla Station. Many taxis are available outside the station and the metro station is also in proximity. Ticket price per person around Euro 30.
The Madrid Valencia bus departs from the railway station (Mendez Alvaro). The bus journey time is around 4 hours which is why we chose Ave. Ticket price around Euro 27.
Flights from Madrid to Valencia are operated by Iberia and Air Europa. The flight time is 1 hour, the ticket cost is around EUR 110.
How to explore- The city of Valencia runs an excellent bicycle service called Valenbisi and rent bikes to cycle round the city at weekly/hourly hire tickets.
Hop on hop off buses are convenient and perfect way to explore the city. Buses start from Plaza de la Reina at 9:30am. There are two routes for the sightseeing Historic Route and Maritime Route. We took Maritime route for City of Arts and Sciences.
It was a great stay at Valencia. The city has much to offer than its expected to against Madrid and Barcelona. We spent little time on the exotic Valencian beach due to time limitations but this gives us a reason to be back 😊.
For now we packed bags for ‘Barcelona’ our last beautiful stop at Spain after Madrid and Valencia.
Salud mi amigo !! 😊