The Ultimate Valencia Travel Guide

After 2 months in Valencia, Spain, I've compiled the ultimate Valencia travel guide with everything to do in the city. CLICK to start planning your trip!

Like I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t spend as much time working in Valencia like I’d originally planned. In fact, if you had seen me digital nomading in the month of August, you would have laughed at the absurdity of my work life. But those stories are for another post.

I knew that two months in Valencia would go by quickly, especially since I spent three of those weeks traveling outside the city. I had to make my time in Valencia count, and looking back at my photos – my roommate Tiffany and I did an amazing job. I did, I kid you not, 99% of all the activities I set out to do in Valencia. I went on a food tour, a street art tour, day trips and even several local events. Therefore, with all my Valencian “expertise,” I present to you the ultimate Valencia travel guide– fondly known as almost everything to do in the city.

 

1. Check out the street art in El Carmen

After 2 months in Valencia, Spain, I've compiled the ultimate Valencia travel guide with everything to do in the city. CLICK to start planning your trip!

Unplugging = happiness.

If you’re a street art lover, you’re in luck. Valencia has a thriving street art scene, with murals, graffiti, and paintings dotting the city. Although El Carmen is home to a huge number of pieces, the best way to gain a deep understanding of the artwork and respective artists is by taking the Urban Adventures Street Art in Old Valencia Tour. Lenny is a dynamic and knowledgeable guide and her obsession with street art means you’re guaranteed to leave armed with knowledge about Valencia. She also hosts a food tour too!

 

2. Get your tan on at the beach

After 2 months in Valencia, Spain, I've compiled the ultimate Valencia travel guide with everything to do in the city. CLICK to start planning your trip!

La Malvarrosa Beach

Spaniards love to hate their city beaches, but as an Angeleno, I can honestly say the Valencia city beaches are quite nice. The most popular (and easiest to access) is Malvarrosa. The city center empties out in the summer, but you can find all the Valencians are at the beach. For a slightly quieter and cleaner beach with fewer tourists, head to Patacona. No matter which you pick, you’re in for a good beach day.

 

3. Picnic at Turia Gardens

Once upon a time, Turia was a river that ran through the entire city of Valencia. After it flooded, the water was diverted to dams and the remaining land was turned into a park. At 9km long, Turia runs throughout the entire city, from the Bioparc all the way to the City of Arts and Sciences. It is an excellent place to have a picnic or just take a stroll. No matter what time of day, it’s always filled with people walking dogs, exercising or just hanging out. During the summer, you can find live concerts, outdoor movies, and other cool events as well. I suggest grabbing some fresh eats from Mercado Central or Mercado de Russafa and making a lazy afternoon of it.

 

4. Eat your way through the Mercado Central

I probably ended up at the Mercado Central at least once a week over the summer, whether or not I needed groceries. The Mercado is essentially a giant farmer’s market that sells every food item your heart could desire. They have everything from foodie souvenirs (hello, olive oil!) to fresh veggies to cured meats to specialty olives. Plus, they also have some bakeries and ready-to-eat meals, so you can eat while you shop. With rows and rows of stores, it’s a foodie’s paradise, and you could easily spend an hour here. Special shout out goes to Mercado de Russafa – a much smaller version of Mercado Central, but easier to shop in since it’s far less crowded. Note that both markets are closed on Sundays.

 

5. Marvel at the Museum of Toy Soldiers (L’iber)

I’m not a huge museum person, but I couldn’t resist visiting this somewhat strange and enchanting museum. Home to the largest collection of toy soldiers in the world (yes that’s a thing), this privately owned museum is guaranteed to wow you. Its recreations of famous historical events and people bring a whole new meaning to making history come alive.

 

6. Visit the jaw-dropping Parroquia de San Nicolas

Every guidebook will tell you to visit the Cathedral of Valencia, but Parroquia de San Nicolas is where it’s at. The “Sistine Chapel of Valencia” has incredibly intricate murals and carvings; the entire interior is a giant piece of art. Special thanks to the Urban Adventures team for suggesting it to me!

 

7. Go on a free walking tour

Free walking tours are AWESOME because 1) they’re free and 2) the guides are extremely knowledgeable about the city. I try to do them in every city I go visit because it’s a great introduction to a new place. The Valencia Free Walking Tour is pretty lengthy (nearly 4 hours), but covers a good chunk of the city. Here’s a brief overview of some of the things you’ll see:

  • La Lonja Silk Exchange: Once upon a time, the Silk Exchange was it exactly what it sounds like..a silk exchange. It then evolved into a center for local trading and commerce before it stopped being used. Nowadays, you can still find people outside the Silk Exchange on Sundays, selling and bartering their collectible items.
  • Cathedral of Valencia: This Mosque turned Cathedral has quite the interesting history, both architecturally and as a symbol of the evolution of religion in Valencia.
  • Plaza de la Virgen: This was our meeting spot for the tour and is one of the largest plazas in the Old Town. Here, we learned about the historical significance of the Water Court, Turia Fountain, and Basilica de la Virgen.
  • Plaza de la Reina: this is the main square of Valencia and really the heart of the city. Here you’ll find a multitude of shops and restaurants, as well as the entry point into the Old Town.
  • The Old Town (Ciutat Vella): There is so much to see in the Old Town, and this tour gives you an excellent taste. You’ll see La Estrecha (the thinnest building in the city), Plaza Redona (a round plaza) and the Central Market.

As you head deeper into the old town, you’ll get even more information about Valencia, stopping by the Market Square and Government Palace. Basically, even if you’re only in Valencia for a few days, I highly recommend this tour to get a taste of the city!

 

8. Climb the Torres del Serrano (and Torres de Quart)

Old Valencia (Ciutat Vella) is sandwiched in between two towers: Torres del Serrano and Torres de Quart, both of which were part of the original city walls. I only visited Torres del Serrano, located at the edge of the El Carmen neighborhood and known as the largest Gothic city gateway in Europe. Fun fact: Torres del Serrano operated as a prison for nobles and knights for 300 years. It has amazing architecture (#Instagram) and for €2, you can huff and puff your way up the stairs for some spectacular views of El Carmen, Turia, and the rest of Valencia.

 

9. Wander through hipster Russafa

Before renting my summer apartment, I asked several people about their favorite neighborhoods in Valencia. The unanimous answer was Russafa, and I completely understand why. Russafa is the trendy meets hipster neighborhood. It’s affordable and has a local feel, but still caters to the “cool kids” with good ethnic food, well-designed cafes, and quirky boutique shops. If you have the time just wander through this area and see what you find!

 

10. Escape the city and visit Denia

Remember how I mentioned that Spaniards love to poo-poo at their city beaches? Valencians are no different and when one local realized I hadn’t been to any non-city beaches, she immediately insisted I take a day trip to Denia. So, when a couple of our girlfriends were in town, that’s what Tiffany and I did. Besides being clean and well equipped with amenities, the water in Denia was perfection. Plus, it’s not as popular to visit as some of the larger beach towns, so it wasn’t overcrowded at all. I recommend staying overnight as it’s about a 2-hour bus ride from Valencia.

 

11. Take a peek into the future at the City of Arts and Sciences

This futuristic area is the new part of Valencia, and the architecture is truly mind boggling. This “city” is made up of a science museum, opera house, Imax theater, garden / nightclub, events venue, and aquarium. Although it’s a long walk from the Old Town, it’s definitely worth the visit.  I suggest coming to this area around sunset for some beautiful views. Did I mention you can do a mini boat ride in the pool?

 

12. Get inspired at L’Oceanografic

The main building worth exploring at the City of Arts and Sciences is L’Oceanografic, Europe’s largest aquarium. Tiffany I went during a special evening series they were running during the summer, which included live classical orchestras playing throughout the aquarium. We also watched a really dramatic and classy dolphin show, complete with lights and classical music. It surpassed my expectations and is  totally worth the 28 euro entrance fee.

 

13. Discover your inner chef at La Escuela de Paella y Arroces

I wrote an entire post about how I became a paella “chef.” La Escuela de Paella y Arroces manages to make cooking a two-hour dish both fun and educational. It’s a great way to learn how to cook the national dish of Valencia and get a better understanding of the history of paella.

 

14. Drink ALL the Orxata

Orxata is easily the national drink of Valencia, and Tiffany and I were enthusiastic consumers. This tiger nut drink tastes like a better and refreshing version of almond milk and is best consumed alongside a fartón, a slightly sweet and light breadstick. The best place to get it is Casa de l’Orxata, although the most famous version is from Santa Catalina. Try both and thank me later. Tip: Casa de l’Orxata is located in Mercado Colón, which is an excellent location to spend a lazy afternoon.

 

15. Visit the birthplace of Paella (La Albufera)

While Valencia is known for its delicious Paella Valenciana, what most people don’t know is that the true birthplace of paella is La Albufera, a small town just outside the Valencia city center. It’s easy to do a half-day tour from Valencia, which includes a peaceful boat ride, transport to and from the town, and a 3-course paella lunch. Yum! You can also take the city bus and book the bus and lunches separately if you want to go on your own schedule. Even though it’s not far from the city at all, La Albufera feels like another world with its expansive green fields and quaint town center.

 

16. Party all night at L’Umbracle

After 2 months in Valencia, Spain, I've compiled the ultimate Valencia travel guide with everything to do in the city. CLICK to start planning your trip!

Gardens by day, club by night. I dig it.

For those of you who know me, you know that I am so NOT a clubbing person. I love to dance but clubs are just…no. Usually, anyway. However, every single person I spoke to said I HAD to go to L’Umbracle at least once and let me just say, it did not disappoint. First of all, it’s an outdoor club so the ambiance is a lot more relaxed and classy. There are two levels, with the indoor basement level playing the real clubby music, while the main floor evoking a lounge vibe. So fun! If you want to party with actual Spaniards, don’t bother showing up until 3 am – that’s when the party really starts. That explains why I only went once. I so cannot hang with the Spanish schedule.

 

17. Experience Las Fallas at the Museo Fallero

Valencia is well-known internationally for the Las Fallas Festival – the Festival of Fire. It takes place every March to commemorate Saint Joseph. Although it officially lasts 5 days, I’m told the festivities and shenanigans last a month, with people launching fireworks and partying all night long. During Las Fallas, every Valencian neighborhood has an organizing committee (casal faller) who is tasked with uniting workers and designers to make paper maché and cardboard structures (ninots) representing a designated theme. On the last day of Las Fallas, all the ninots (except the “best” one) are burned to the ground in conjunction with fireworks. The Museo Fallero is where you can see the best ninots from all the Fallas since the early 1930s. It’s fascinating to see their evolution over time, both in terms of materials used and the winning themes. Some of them are seriously so strange…

 

18.  Catch the train to Alicante

We spent most of our summer enjoying a fairly empty Valencia city center. When I asked where everyone was the answer was “the beach!” Since one of the closest beach towns is Alicante, it made total sense that it was where all the hustle and bustle was. Alicante is a smallish beach town about an hour and a half from Valencia and is the epitome of #summervibes. Warm nights, crowded beaches, cool waters and al fresco dining – Alicante is the cool place to be. It’s a little pricey to stay here during peak season, but it’s a fun getaway from Valencia.

 

19. Pay homage to the House of Cats

After 2 months in Valencia, Spain, I've compiled the ultimate Valencia travel guide with everything to do in the city. CLICK to start planning your trip!

When I was first introduced to the House of Cats, I knew I would love Valencia. This house used to belong to an elderly lady who loves cats. When she died, she left her house to the cats of Valencia, and it has since turned into a cat sanctuary. Apparently, nobody is allowed onto the actual grounds, but the cat entrance was built to resemble a miniature house. How cute is that?

 

20. Attend awesome events by Love Valencia

Want to know what cool events are going on in Valencia at any given time? Love Valencia is the ultimate resource for anything and everything happening in the city. Tiffany and I were enthusiastic followers of Love Valencia and attended our fair share of summer events. Valencia hosts an impressive amount of events (and manages crowds really well), so I highly recommend checking out Love Valencia for the days you’re in town.

 

The 1% (of things I didn’t do):

There are always more things to see! These are a few of the popular activities that I didn’t do. I’m sure there are more than I can think of!

  • Go to a bullfight at Plaza del Toros: I purposely skipped this. I’m all for cultural experiences but I’m not sure I could stomach a bull fight (nor do I want to). If you’re into that sort of thing (no judgments), Valencia is one of the few cities that still hosts fights. You can also opt to do a tour of the bullring. I did it during my visit to Seville and it was fascinating.
  • Go inside the Cathedral of Valencia: I know, I know, I should have done this. I did walk around the entire outside during a walking tour, though so that counts, right? Anyway, one of the most interesting things about this Cathedral is that it used to be a mosque before the Inquisition. Instead of destroying it completely, it was turned into a church. You can still see remnants of Moorish and religious architecture here although I did hear the inside is not as impressive as the outside. Who knows?
  • Walk on water at the waterballs: I am SO SAD I didn’t do this. I honestly just ran out of time and was a bit lazy. This activity runs all summer long through October 31st, so if you’re in Valencia during summer or fall, go make a fool of yourself on my behalf.
  • Climb Torres de Quart: I mentioned this earlier in the post, but these towers are the entry point into the old city. I’m super lazy and it was hot, so I went to one pair of towers and deemed it enough. These ones are free if you want to save yourself a €2 entry fee.
  • Hang with animals at Bioparc: I often get a bit wary of visiting zoos and safari parks because I’m concerned about the state of animal care in these places. However, Bioparc is exceptional and clearly cares for its animals. Not only has it rebuilt wildlife habitats for these animals (no caged animals here), but it’s government managed as well. Plus, there’s even a Bioparc foundation to support wildlife conservation. It’s a bit outside of the main city, but can easily be reached by bike, bus, or cab.

Despite being the third largest city in Spain, people often overlook Valencia as a tourist destination. Those that do visit only pass through quickly (unless they’re there for Las Fallas). However, as you can see, Valencia is chock-full of cool places to go, amazing food to eat, and fun activities. It has a Spanish cultural vibe that you won’t find in some other cities and is definitely worth at least a few days of your trip. You can easily reach Valencia by bus, train, or flight from most major cities in Europe. Check out Rome2Rio for more details.

 

Tell me: have you ever been to Valencia? If so, did I miss any hot spots on this list? Share in the comments below!

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  • Stephanie Rose

    Wow, Valencia has so much to offer. It’s a shame it’s often overlooked. I love that there are so many food and cultural options. I would definitely be hitting up those museums and taking a cooking class, and eating paella, and so much more.

  • This is a city that has never appealed to me but it looks fab. I especially love the city of arts and science. How awesome are those buildings?

    • I ended up there on a whim but ended up loving it! The city of arts and sciences is BEYOND cool. I never got tired of visiting! Hope you get a chance to visit sometime 🙂

  • OMG I love the house for cats! How amazing! We are thinking of doing Spain next year, possibly living there. I would love to visit Valencia, you have also sold it to me well! I love all the futuristic architecture and street art as well!

    • Riiight? Such a cute concept.
      Ah, I want to move to Spain SO badly. I’m hoping to do so sometime in 2017. Definitely check out my blog though – I have quite the extensive collection on a bunch of cities in Spain. You will love it and want to stay forever 🙂

  • Ok! Thank you for making me bad for choosing to visit Northern Portugal the other day, instead of following my original Spain itinerary that included Valencia! 😀
    Seriously though, you did a great job with all those suggestions! So many, some very very interesting and without trying to compile a list out of nowhere!

    • Haha tsk tsk! Although I hear all of Portugal is amazing, so I don’t think you can go wrong there. I hope you get a chance to visit Valencia one day!

  • Joanna Massam

    Fabulous post. Your page is amazing!! I literally want to visit EVERYWHERE!! I used to live in Spain, so have visited many of the cities you have too. However, reading your guides to each place makes me want to go back and do them all again and experience the parts I missed first time round!
    https://lajuaniblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/a-whole-lot-of-bang/ Have you experienced Las Fallas in Valencia? 🙂

    • That’s awesome that you used to live in Spain! I never tire of visiting and hope to stay longish term next year. I hope you get a chance to go back soon! Haven’t been to Las Fallas yet but hopefully in the next couple of years!

  • dany2306

    As a drink lover this is what I understand: I have to try Orxata! I`m still confused by the comparison of beer with the feeling of milk which only makes me want to try it even more!
    On a more serious note, I like walking tours and I`m trying to do one, along with a street art tour where possible, as often as I can. Lots of the time I see some places that are not touristic and I wouldn`t have seen them otherwise.
    PS: walking on water???

    • Orxata is amazing! I became a bit of an addict.
      And yes, I love street art tours because they take you to parts of the city you never knew about.
      “Walking on water” because you can walk inside on those waterballs. So cool, huh?

  • Valencia is one of the cities I completely missed going to when I lived in Spain, and it’s the top of my list! I’d love to relax on the beaches, and every time I see that futuristic architecture, I want to go more and more!

    • It took me three visits to Spain until I finally went, so I totally understand. I hope you get a chance to visit sometime soon!

  • Patricia Steffy

    There is so much to do that looks incredible, I’m not sure where I’d start! I’d love to see the future city, but I’m also drawn to the history and artistry of Parroquia de San Nicolas. I think walking tours are a great way to get an overview of a place, so that would be a must. And, of course, I’d be tasting my way through that huge market.

    • I know, it’s crazy how much there is to do, right? If you get a chance, I recommend going for at least a week so you can cover some of the highlights 🙂

  • The City of Arts and Sciences building looks so beautiful! And the paella… yum! Valencia might need to be somewhere we visit!

    • Seriously such amazingly impressive architecture! And paella is always a good idea. Hope you get a chance to go soon!

  • Paige Brown

    Wow! This is definitely an ultimate guide! The house of cats looks so adorable! There are loads of things on this list I’ll definitely have to keep in mind when I finally get to Spain. I keep hearing about this Orxata – it’s at the top of the list!

    • Thanks Paige! I figured I should write something extensive since I spent so much time there :). I hope you get a chance to go soon! Definitely stop by Valencia for some orxata – I haven’t seen it anywhere else in Spain! Happy travels!

  • I LOVE free walking tours! I went on a private one today and would do it again in a heartbeat!

  • Ferna

    Oh wow that’s a lot of things to do I’m sure I’m not going to get bored. And I also didn’t know that they are one of the largest toy soldier. This post is so informative that I even think I’m also with you. Yay!

  • Travojago

    As a Finn turned into Valenciano I would say that you missed out on the most vibrant and genuine parts of Valencia El Cabanyal and Benimaclet. Especially the architecture in Cabanyal is super cute. Shabby chick is maybe the best way to describe it 😀
    The tip for the free walking tours couldn’t have been timed any better. We just got visitor from back home and we just loved the tours.

    • I briefly went to Benimaclet for dinner and walked through El Cabanyal once but didn’t really spend an extensive time in either place, sadly! I lived in Pla del Remei so I didn’t find myself in those areas often. I’ll keep them in mind for whenever I go back :).

      Yes the free walking tours are amazing! I also really recommend the street art tour, even if you’re a local. It’s truly fascinating to learn about local culture through art, and you visit some less touristy parts of town too 🙂

  • Kiara Gallop

    This is a fantastic guide! The cat house is adorable and I’m loving the sound of the Tiger nut drink. I’m hoping to make it to Valencia next September with the girls so definitely pinning this for future reference 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing this great guide as you mentioned some activities that I love doing when vising a different city. Will definitely keep this post in mind when I visit this town 😉
    Alessandra

    • Thanks for checking it out Alessandra! Valencia is truly a lovely city and I hope you get a chance to visit soon 🙂