Valencia is not just about its 300 days of sunshine a year and its beautiful beaches. Indeed, Spain’s third largest city offers a great combination of cultural attractions, gastronomic discoveries and a lifestyle which attracts every year more tourists and expatriates.
We have selected for you 10 of the best activities you can do in Valencia.
1. Take a walk in the El Carmen neighborhood
El Carmen is located in the historic center of Valencia, in the Ciutat Vella district. This emblematic area is certainly one of the most beautiful in Valencia and has grown between 2 walls: one Arab built in the 11th century and the other Christian built in the 14th century. Vestiges of this time, it is still possible to admire the Torres de Serrano and the Torres de Quart.
Between these two towers gates you will find a labyrinth of small cobbled and colorful streets. It is now time for a walk and why not put your map away and let your feet guide you through these ancient streets ? That way every little square or historical building will be a real discovery and the surprise will be even more special.
The main attractions of this district are the Central Market of Valencia (see below our recommendation #6), the Lonja de Valencia, the Church of San Nicolas, the Portal de la Valldigna as well as the many museums that can be found there (Modern Art, Prehistory, Ethnology)
El Carmen is always full of life with its many street cafes which fill up as the day progresses. By nightfall, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and bars, some open until 3am.
2. Watch a sunset in the Albufera
The Albufera Natural Park, 10km south of Valencia is home to Spain’s largest natural lake. Surrounded by rice fields, which glow golden in autumn, it is a magical place to watch a sunset. As a matter of fact, it is so beautiful that in various Arab poems, it was referred to as “mirror of the sun”. We let you admire 🙂
It is also a great place for bike and boat trips are available, making it an ideal place for a day out with the family.
3. Visit the City of Arts and Sciences
Although recently built (1998), the City of Arts and Sciences is the city’s most famous building. But only a few people know all the activities that can be found there.
This complex is made up of 6 ultra modern main buildings:
- the City of Sciences, an interactive science museum with many exhibits. You don’t have to be a fan of sciences to enjoy it. It is also very educational for children with plenty of activities to keep them entertained. This building has the shape of a whale skeleton.
- The Oceanographic, the largest aquarium in Europe with more than 500 different species of animals and its famous shark tunnel.
- The Hemispheric, a 3D cinema allowing the projection of science and nature documentaries on a hemispherical screen. It was built in the shape of an eye.
- The Umbracle, an open-air and free botanical garden.
- the Palau de les Arts, a modern theater for opera and other artistic performances.
- the Agora, a covered place where concerts and sporting events are held every year.
You don’t have time to visit ?
You can simply have a walk between these buildings to enjoy the architecture. It is a very photogenic place.
4. Walk or ride the Turia gardens
The Turia Gardens were built in the river bed of the Rio Turia, the latter having been diverted to the south of the city in order to avoid floods like “The Great Flood of 1957” which caused the death of more than 80 people. Going from the west of the city to the east (almost up to the sea) for a total of almost 10km, they represent today the largest urban green space in Spain.
The park can be walked or cycled along. The landscaping has been well thought thanks to the contribution of several urban planners and landscapers. They divided the park in several sections and they reconstituted the old river landscape. For this reason, it is possible to observe a wide variety of plants and trees in the gardens.
Finally, if you cycle or walk along the Turia garden, you will pass under 18 bridges connecting the rwo parts of the city, all dating from different eras with different architectural styles.
5. Go to Port Saplaya and enjoy its beaches
Obviously, we could not not mention the beaches of Valencia. The Malvarrosa beach easily accessible from the city center is the best known. However, we have decided to introduce you to Port Saplaya, a small marina belonging to the city of Alboraya.
Port Saplaya is nicknamed “Little Venice” with its canals that crisscross the streets and its colorful houses. A pretty walk around the port, along the water, boats and pastel-colored buildings awaits you.
You can then reach the beach to rest and enjoy the sun. Like the majority of the beaches in Valencia, this is a beach of fine and golden sand. Both Valencians and tourists come to relax in this little corner of paradise.
6. The Central Market of Valencia
In Spain, there are many covered food markets. In Valencia alone, there are more than a dozen. However, the one that draws our attention is undoubtedly the Central Market.
This large modern building is not only an architectural marvel, but it is also a place where you can immerse yourself in the Valencian culture and fill your pantry with fresh products. Composed of more than 300 stalls, it is the largest fresh produce market in Europe. You can find all kinds of fresh products : fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, seafood and even cheese. The products are fresh and of good quality.
For the more gourmets among you, it is also possible to eat some tapas inside the market.
7. Eat a Paella or an Arroz al Horno
The gastronomy of Valencia is world famous for its Paella Valenciana, this dish made with rice, chicken and rabbit. Note that recipes containing seafood or fish are not traditional recipes.
Paella Valenciana can be tasted in many restaurants in town or in neighboring towns (especially in the Albufera Natural Park, where rice is predominantly grown).
However, this is not the only dish made with rice from Valencia. Indeed, Arroz al Horno is much less well known, but many Valencians prefer it to the paella itself. Besides rice, it is made with pork, chickpeas, tomatoes and potatoes.
We therefore recommend that you try these traditional recipes during your stay in Valencia.
8. Drink a horchata in Alboraya
Horchata is a traditional drink from the region of Valencia, and more specifically from Alboraya, a town located 3km north of Valencia. It is a refreshing and milky drink made from chufas (a tuber made mostly of water and sugar). Although originally from Africa, these tubers are now cultivated in Alboraya thanks to its climate and the state of its soils.
Served frozen and usually accompanied by fartons (pastries), it is mainly consumed in hot weather. The best horchata vendors can be found in Alboraya, including the highly recommended Horchateria Daniel.
9. Take a walk in the Jardins del Real or Viveros
Within all the green spaces in the city of Valencia, we have chosen to introduce you the Jardins del Real, also called Viveros. This park, built in the center of Valence, occupies the former site of the Royal Palace.
There is a wide variety of trees, plants and flowers which make it an ideal place for hot summer days. It is also very well decorated with sculptures and ponds, including a lake with swans and ducks. Finally, the Museum of Natural Sciences was installed within the old restaurant of Viveros; a center dedicated to the conservation, the study and the dissemination of the scientific and natural heritage of Valencia.
For children, there are play areas and this park is ideal for a day out with the family.
10. Visit the port of Valencia
The port of Valence represents the city’s desire to show itself as a modern and forward-looking city. Indeed, since the America’s Cup was held in 2007, the port has been constantly evolving and is characterized by a futuristic architecture. A nice walk around the port can be done. You will go through an area of trendy bars and restaurants with sea views such as the High Cube, the Veles e Vents or the Marina Beach Club.
For rollerblading and skateboarding enthusiasts, you can also have fun on the few dedicated tracks along the walk.
Our recommendations for the best things to do in Valencia end here for this week’s article. However, we have decided to continue this list with a new article in a few weeks as Valencia is a city full of surprises and there is always something to do. If you want more information about Valencia or its area, you can contact us at [email protected]