Valencia (map) is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. While its two bigger sisters steal much of the tourism limelight, Valencia has quietly risen through the ranks and is now a worthy contender. The city has much going for it; a stunning medieval core, a multitude of architectural styles, urban savvy, colourful festivals, a vibrant nightlife and gastronomic scene, and a laid-back beach vibe. There are so many things to do in Valencia, making it an attractive destination for all sorts of visitors.
What I particularly like about Valencia is the fact that many attractions in the city centre are within walking distance whilst the City of Arts & Sciences, beaches and marina are easily accessible via the city’s efficient public transportation network. Visit in the spring and you’ll be greeted by gorgeous floral scents as you stroll around the city and its parks. In the summer, its beaches and festivals take centre-stage whilst the famous Fallas Festival is the main attraction in late-winter (mid-March). Should you choose to visit, and I highly recommend you do, here are ten things to do in Valencia:
Things to do in Valencia
1. Explore the City of Arts & Sciences
The City of Arts and Sciences is a true architectural gem and a must see in Valencia. Consisting of a series of stunning, highly photogenic buildings strung along the old river bed of the Turia, the City of Arts and Sciences was designed by Santiago Calatrava (a native of Valencia) and Félix Candela. You can spend the whole day exploring the city, with its blue reflective pools, clean white surfaces and leafy parks.
I recommend visiting the Oceanografic (Europe’s largest aquarium) and the Museum of Sciences. A wonderful place for a meal is the Submarino restaurant located in the Oceanografic – it’s not cheap but the experience of dining while thousands of fish swim around you is certainly unique!
Buy an all-in ticket for the City of Arts and Sciences or a ticket for the Oceanografic.
2. Get lost in the Old Town
Valencia’s Old Town is a labyrinth of streets and alleys with something to see around every corner. Pastel and bold coloured façades mingle alongside ancient churches and bustling markets. There is a great variety of restaurants, cafés, art galleries and intriguing shops. My advice is to wander aimlessly through the maze of streets, admire the architecture and drop into any of the lovely cafés and shops. This is one of my favourite things to do in Valencia. You can also opt to join a historical walking tour of the old town.
3. Find the Holy Grail
I’m not sure why people are still searching for the Holy Grail. It’s right here… in Valencia. I won’t tell you where but it’s not hard to find. When you do find it, prepare yourself for a truly enchanting experience! Oh, and find out why the locals believe it’s the one and only Holy Grail.
4. Explore Valencia’s history and architecture
Of all the things to do in Valencia, this is probably my absolute favourite! Valencia can trace its past to the 2nd century BC when it was founded as a Roman colony. The city was later occupied by various powers including the Byzantines, Visigoths and the Moors. In the 15th century, Valencia experienced a time of rapid economic growth. Also known as the Valencian Golden Age, it was a period in which arts and culture fluorished in the city. In the early 1900’s, the city experienced another revival with many new buildings and monuments built. Remnants of this colourful past can still be seen, from the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum (at the Archeological Museum) to the beautiful 15th century Silk Exchange (Lonja de la Seda), the Cathedral, the medieval city gates and the stunning Art Nouveau buildings scattered around the city.
The best way to get acquainted with the city’s history is to go on a walking tour and visit some of the world-class museums such as the National Ceramics Museum (with its breathtaking façade) and the Museum of Fine Arts San Pio V (located in a beautiful convent and home to a stunning collection that includes works by El Bosco, Goya and Velázquez). Make sure to look up when you’re at the Cathedral or the Silk Exchange – you’ll find some intriguing sculptures, some highly erotic, that adorn the façade. Oh, and find out why the bat is the symbol of Valencia!
Join a historical walking tour of Valencia.
Valencia boasts a multitude of architectural styles, from the Gothic medieval period to Renaissance and 20th century Art Nouveau. Some of the most beautiful medieval examples include the Cathedral and Silk Exchange (above) whilst Art Nouveau enthusiasts should visit the Estacio del Nord (the train station), the Central Market and the buildings around the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
5. Go square-hopping
The Old Town of Valencia is a maze of streets and while you’re out on a stroll, you’ll soon discover the many hidden squares, each with its own distinct character. What I truly enjoyed doing was going from one square to another – square-hopping – stopping for a coffee or a drink each time and watching local Valencians go about their daily activities. At the Plaza de la Reina, at the main entrance to the Cathedral, you’ll find a terrace that serves a fantastic sangria!
You can continue your square-hopping in the neighbourhood of Ruzafa, southeast of the city centre. This vibrant and atmopsheric neighbourhood is absolutely worth exploring!
Valencia has many culinary treats. Being the home of the world famous paella, this delicious rice dish features prominently on many menus but Valencia has lots more to offer. From tapas/pintxo bars to Michelin star establishments, there’s a broad range of restaurants to choose from. My favourites include La Riua, a popular paella restaurant; Sagardi, a pintxo bar and grill; Alma del Temple (a contemporary, reasonably-priced restaurant in the Caro Hotel); La Lola (a quirky restaurant near the Cathedral serving modern Valencian cuisine); and Vertical (a Michelin-star restaurant with fantastic views of the City of Arts & Sciences).
Join a tapas tour of Valencia.
If you’re spending a day at the city’s beaches, I can recommend the paella at La Ferradura and the wonderfully atmospheric La Lonja del Pescado.
Two other Valencian treats you shouldn’t miss are horchata (a refreshing drink made of tiger nuts) – try the Horchateria Santa Catalina, near the Plaza de la Reina – and the fresh juices (Valencia is famous the world over for its oranges) at Zumeria Naturalia in Carrer de la Mar. If you’re looking for something a bit stronger at Zumeria, ask for the Agua de Valencia (orange juice with cava and vodka).
7. Tantalise your senses in Valencia’s markets
There are many markets in Valencia but there are two that are absolutely worth a visit: the Central Market (one of Europe’s largest) and the Cólon Market. The fresh produce, seafood, cheeses and meat are guaranteed to get your appetite going. In addition, these are two of my favourite Art Nouveau buildings in Valencia.
The Ruzafa neighbourhood is also home to a large indoor market at Plaza Baron de Cortes. The home-made burgers at the Filo butcher are mouth-watering good!
8. Visit Bioparc
Another amazing attraction in Valencia is the Bioparc, a huge park that showcases Africa’s flora and fauna. You’re probably scratching your head and wondering if this is something you absolutely must do in Valencia. I had the same reservations when I heard about it but I’m very glad I went. The park is absolutely amazing, hence its mention in this list. The Bioparc is organised in accordance with the various eco-systems in Africa and the animals roam around freely. Some of my favourite sections include Madagascar (where you can get very close to the lemurs), the hippo area and the savannah. The Bioparc is easily one of the most beautiful zoos I’ve been to and I can definitely recommend it for a lovely morning or afternoon stroll. Buy your ticket for the Bioparc.
9. Hit the beaches
When you’re done exploring the city, head for the beaches! The city’s main beaches are Las Arenas and Malvarossa, both a short metro ride away from the city centre. The long boulevard that runs along the length of the beaches is a favourite spot for local Valencians to see and be seen. There is also a variety of cafés and restaurants along the boulevard. The main attraction, however, is the broad arc of white sand and the bright blue Mediterranean Sea. There are other gorgeous beaches situated just south of Valencia (an easy bus ride away) such as Playa Pinedo, Playa El Saler and Playa Devesa (an off-the-beaten-path nudist beach). These beaches are relatively less crowded than the city beaches and are more popular amongst the locals.
10. Stroll the length of the Turia River park
In 1957, Valencia was hit by a devastating flood that killed many and left the city underwater. As a result of the flood, the decision was made to divert the Turia River to the southern outskirts of the city. When the river was diverted, the dry river bed became a contentious issue for the city government. Plans to build a highway along the river bed clashed with the locals’ demands to create a park. The locals won and this is arguably the best thing to happen to the city in its modern history.
The Turia park stretches almost 9 kilometers from the Bioparc to the City of Arts & Sciences at the southern end. Whereas a highway would have divided the city into distinct western and eastern halves, the park plays a pivotal role in uniting the city, bringing the locals together for all sorts of activities – there are cycling and jogging paths, water parks and facilities for a multitude of sports and cultural activities. Moreover, the rehabilitation of the river bed paved the way for the planning and construction of the magnificent City of Arts & Sciences. A stroll through the park (between the Alameda station and the City of Arts & Sciences) is a must-do, if only to enjoy the beautiful trees and flowering shrubs, and to admire the city’s historic bridges.
There you have it: my favourite things to do in Valencia! I hope these tips will help you to truly appreciate this fabulous city!
Note: A big thank you goes to the City of Valencia Tourism Board for hosting me in your wonderful city. All opinions expressed above are, as always, mine.
[…] Things to do in Valencia […]
[…] Arts and Sciences (website) truly is a magnificent architectural marvel, definitely one of the top things to do in Valencia. Please scroll down to view some of the many photos I took during my tour of this awesome […]
[…] about things to do in Valencia. Search for hotels in […]
[…] Read about things to do in Valencia. […]
[…] Read about things to do in Valencia. […]
[…] Ten things to do in Valencia […]
[…] Read about things to do in Valencia. […]
[…] Ten things to do in Valencia […]
[…] Ten Things to do in Valencia […]
[…] I was in Valencia for a conference and I was honoured to speak in this iconic building. Read about things to do in Valencia. […]
[…] Read about things to do in Valencia. […]
Thank you Jabin! 🙂
Awesome article dear! I am glad to find your blog.
Thank you Karen for your comment and tip about the Ruzafa neighbourhood.
Excellent article. You just summarized the best spots of our city. Braaaaavo. I would also recommend you to visit Ruzafa neighbourhood. This is kind of the bohemian district of Valencia full of interesting bars/restaurants, shops, art galeries …
Haha, that only means one thing… you have to go back to Valencia! 🙂
Oh I can’t believe I haven’t done half of the things here even though I’ve been to Valencia. Especially like #4.
Cheers Linda! I totally agree with you. From Bilbao to Seville and Madrid to Barcelona… and Valencia, Spain’s cities are amazing! I always enjoy the fantastic mix of old and new, the culture, art and of course the food! 🙂
Most people would think that Spain’s beaches are its number one attraction, but I’ve learned that its cities are! They’re exciting, vibrant places, usually a fascinating mix of history and modern architecture – as you show here. Valencia has escaped my attention so far, but clearly it’s as beautiful and interesting as the other cities I love. Having lived in Spain for many years I’ve found much to love and much to criticize too, but each time I visit a new (to me) city I am captivated afresh by this country’s remarkable history and love of life. I’m really more of a country girl, but for me Spanish cities are the heart of the country. Guess which is next on my list! Thanks!
[…] What did you think about this amazing European city? I think it’s worthy of multiple visits! There is so much to see, do, and eat in Valencia, and you simply cannot beat the friendly people and warm Mediterranean climate. The city is […]
[…] we consider about this extraordinary European city? we consider it’s estimable of mixed visits! There is so many to see, do, and eat in Valencia, and we simply can't kick a accessible people and comfortable Mediterranean climate. The city is […]
[…] is going to be good. Very, very […]
Thanks for your lovely comment! Love your new mantra! 🙂
Hi, just wanted to say, thank you for enjoyed Valencia for me ahead of time. It’s my kind of place to see in Spain. I have been 2 Barcelona twice and loved it so much. As I am now hooked on touching every inch of Italy right now, I envy you. I can’t quit my job yet, but I can buy myself a plane ticket every yr. this allows me to nibble a bit, then go back for a bite.
So, thanks for all the helpful info and inspiration to travel.
This is my new mantra,
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.
Glad you enjoyed Valencia! 🙂
I loved Valencia… it was perfectly sunny the whole time I was there? Didn’t get a chance to check out the arts and science centre annoyingly… spent to much time wondering around Old Town in total bliss 🙂
[…] into a leafy park which stretches almost 9 kilometers. These days, the park is home to a variety of Valencia’s best attractions including the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, extensive flower gardens, fruit orchards and […]
Have to agree with you, Valencia is a great place to visit but seems to overshadowed by Spain’s more well known cities.
Strolling around the old town at night is fun, so many people out strolling, and loads of bars and restaurants to stop off at.
Superb article! All Valencian wonders in one place and with such juicy and appealing photos!
Just one little addition to your #4 – you didn’t mention that nearly all museums in Valencia are either totally free or have free entrance on weekend. Here’s a list of all museums with information on the days with free entrance: http://www.traveling365.com/2012/11/valencia-museums-with-free-entrance/
Thank you for these great tips and the nice shots 🙂 I really need to visit Valencia one day – seems to be a great city!
Enjoy Valencia! I’m sorry but I’m not familiar with the Family Card.
My wife, 6yr old twins and I are visiting Valencia in a few days, first time and really looking forward to it. We are there for 4 days should we get the family card? I was not sure of difference with tourist card.
Thanks for the Bikeshare tip Jenny! 🙂
We were only supposed to spend 4 days in Valencia for la tomatina and ended up loving it so much, we stayed for 9! You forgot to mention the amazing Valencia bikeshare. It only costs about 14 euro for a 7 day membership and helped us get around quickly and easily!
I have been looking for somewhere to spend a few days in October when I have time off from work in Gibraltar. Your description of Valencia has made me feel very enthusiastic about this city so I think I may be visiting soon! Thank you for all the good tips and advice.
It’s a tourist card that gives you unlimited use of public transport and discounts at restaurants, museums, etc… You can find more info about the card (and a discount) at the bottom of the post.
What’s a Valencia card???
Have a great time in Valencia! I’m sure you’ll love it. Don’t forget to get your Valencia Card! 🙂
Thanks for this super long post, I’m off to Valencia in just over a week for the first time!! 😀 If I was already excited, I’m twice as impatient now lol, those images look amazing!
[…] Valencia’s rich history, modern architecture, and colorful festivals make it a must-see destination. Here are the top 10 things to do in Spain’s third-largest city. [Velvet Escape] […]
Thanks for your comment. I loved Valencia – see it as a ‘provincial’ version of Barcelona (though that description probably doesn’t do it much justice as it’s so distinct) and had a wonderful time there. It’s definitely a city I can highly recommend.
Extraordinary architecture – and yummy food shots! Valencia looks a place I’d love.
[…] you’re looking for a city with lots of culture and history, and a few beaches to boot… head for Valencia!Back to SpainAnother week passed and I was back in Spain again, this time in Costa Brava, the […]
Glad you enjoyed the post Marin! 🙂
Spent four days there in September 2011. I absolutely loved the city, the people, the food and reading your blog just took me back. Thanks!
Yes Valencia is finally well and truly on the map, well worth visiting and it is very easy to walk around and see so much. Glad you mentioned the Holy Grail – a little know fact (or fiction?) about the city. Easy to get too as well – one of the latest AVE connections.
Was here for a month stay last year. Truly the most underrated major city in Spain.
Surely a place I woul want to visit! Just beautiful!
It’s nice to see Valencia is finally getting some respect. I was there five years ago and really enjoyed it. It should be on everybody’s list of place to visit in Spain.
Woohoo, thank you Lisa for your kind comment! 🙂
Excited, hungry & thirsty …. a few words to express my feelings having read your article! As lovers of Spain, we must congratulate you on sharing your knowledge and obvious passion for Valencia. It is now high on our list of places to see and visit in Spain.