Valencia is a modern-looking city with an ancient flare. Avant-garde, ribbed architecture lines museum row known as the City of Arts & Sciences while Ciutat Vella (old town) centers around lofty structures that date back to Roman times. The third-largest city in Spain is perfect for big-city travelers who love learning but seek escape through blossoming parks and serene beaches.
Place of History & Arts and Sciences:
Cross under the Towers of Serranos or Quart and stumble upon the old city’s charming cafés and timeless Plaza de la Virgen. Tucked inside the plaza, the 13th-century Valencia Cathedral is a must-see with its hand-carved stone walls in the Chapel of Santo Cáliz and a Holy Chalice that is said to have been used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. History buffs will enjoy visiting La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was a key place in trading Mediterranean silk since Renaissance times.
Scattered across Valencia’s main parkway is the City of Arts and Sciences. This urban learning center was developed in 1996 to repurpose neglected areas and modernize the city for the new millennium. Named one of the 12 Treasures of Spain, part of the City of Arts and Sciences’ appeal is its abstract, futuristic-looking architecture that looks like Tomorrowland. You won’t want to miss, L’Oceanogràphic, the largest aquarium in all of Europe that is home to over 500 different marine species from across the ocean. Sit in the eye-shaped Hemisfèric IMAX cinema to watch educational 3D documentaries on a massive 900-meter screen.
Primavera Playas & Parks
Rent a bike near the City of Arts and Sciences and zip through greenery and lines of Naranjos (orange trees) leading into Gulliver Park. You may be tempted to pick a snack from an abundant orange tree but eat at your own risk, the sweet fruit will likely be bitter. Bring out your inner child at Gulliver Park by climbing the 70-meter-long Gulliver statue and then sliding down his side. If you keep following the parkway, you will run into enchanted gardens like Jardí de Montfort or Jardì Botànic which is overrun with vibrant flora and fauna.
A trip to Valencia isn’t complete without dipping into crystal-clear waters at one of its Mediterranean beaches. The region of Valencia boasts 280 miles of geographically unique coastlines with some of the most stunning spots just a car ride away. Take a day trip to San Juan Beach or Playa del Postiguet in Alicante to enjoy iridescent waters among a terraneous backdrop. Then hike the 9th-century castle of Santa Bárbara or wander around the La Explanada promenade. If you hope to stay within Valencia City, relax under a shady cabana and stroll through boardwalks filled with restaurants and shops at Playa Malvarossa or El Cabanynal.
Paella, Buñuelos, Horchata, oh my!
Valencia is known for its Paella Valenciana, a meat lovers’ dream made up of rabbit, chicken, and other proteins mixed in with flavor-packed saffron rice. If your are not the adventurous type, we recommend ordering the fresh-tasting Vegetarian Paella. Like the meat filled version, both dishes are a flavor bomb of delights making every bite delicious.
The best Buñuelos in Valencia are found near the old town at the Horchateria Fabian. This family-run sweets spot adds pumpkin to their fritters to make them soft, airy and serves them hot with a side of rich dipping chocolate. Wash it down with a cinnamon-forward, sweet glass of Horchata de Chufa which originated in the Southwestern region of Valencia.
If it’s your first time visiting, we recommend that you plan travel from late April to the end of May or late September to early October. Valencia comes alive in springtime with the sweet, jasmine-y scent of orange trees, lively beaches, and out-and-about locals. Similarly, fall offers a balance of pleasant weather, many cultural events, and fewer crowds.