Our stories from sunny Spain continue. In this post, we write about our trip to Valencia in October 2014. We also share some tips that will help you have a great time in this sunny Spanish city! This is part 3 of 5 in our series Stories from Sunny Spain.
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain and it lies on the Mediterranean coast. It’s an old city, having been founded by the Romans in 138 BC. Throughout history, it has been an important city, and it has witnessed many battles. The city has been the capital of Spain on two occasions, in 1812 and during the Second Republic in 1936 and 1937.
The city has a beautiful historic center with many interesting sights. There are also more modern buildings and museums that attract visitors. Furthermore, you should not forget the gastronomy: this is the home of paella, after all. Last but not least, a visit to the beach is a must, as well as checking out the Fallas in March.
Valencia is a city large enough for a long weekend. Here we have listed some of the main things you should do and see when visiting this sunny city on the Spanish coast.
The Old Town
Many of the main attractions are in the old town. A walk in the ancient Barrio del Carmen is a must. Major monuments include Valencia Cathedral (with the lovely Plaza de la virgen), the 15th-century Serrans and Quart towers, and the Llotja de la Seda. A stop at the Central Market (Mercat Central) is a good idea as well. There are also many medieval churches in the city.
Valencia boasts with many interesting museums and galleries for anyone who is feeling cultural. The Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (City of Arts and Sciences) is an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex. There are an opera and music palace, the largest aquarium in Europe, an interactive museum, as well as an IMAX cinema.
The Museu de Belles Arts de València (Museum of Fine Arts) is a beautiful museum that houses about 2,000 works of art from the 14th to the 18th centuries. The paintings include works by Velázquez, El Greco, and Goya, as well as an important series of engravings by Piranesi.
The Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (Valencian Institute of Modern Art) or IVAM is one of my favorite museums in Valencia. It houses both permanent collections and temporary exhibitions of contemporary art and photography.
Parks and Gardens in Valencia
There are plenty of parks, squares, and open spaces in this city. The largest square is the Plaça del Ajuntament; right next to the Town Hall in central Valencia. My favorite park in the city is Jardines del Turia (Turia Gardens). This urban park runs for nine kilometers through the city and along its main sights. 18 bridges cross the former riverbed and it is the perfect place to spend a day doing sports or with friends. The river Turia had a devastating flood in 1957, after which its course was diverted south of the city.
Those who love parks will be thrilled to hear that there are two botanical gardens. The Royal and Botanical Gardens lie nestled in the Mediaeval Royal Palace. The Botanical Garden was the first of its kind in Spain and it has a large horticultural collection.
I already mentioned paella. However, Valencia is a city that is full of bars, pubs, and restaurants. So basically, you will eat really well there. The markets are also great places to try local flavors.
The markets should also be on any visitor’s list. The Central Market is one of the largest markets in Europe. The building is a splendid example of the modernist architecture of the early 20th century. Another market is the Colón Market, also dating back to the early 20th century modernist era. Today it is a cultural and leisure area, with shops, restaurants, and cafes. A third market is the one in Ruzafa, a few minutes from the city center. Think fewer tourists and more locals. Here you can buy a lot of different types of food, as well as enjoy a tasty coffee Spanish style.
Swimming & Shopping
Many (if not most) people associate Spain with beaches. Valencia is no exception, there are some truly good beaches in the city. Only 15 minutes (and accessible by tram) from the city center lie three beaches: Las Arenas, Malvarrosa and El Cabañal. If you have the time, you should leave the city to visit some of the beaches in its outskirts, such as the beach of El Saler or those in the Albufera natural park. The beaches are not only for swimming, but they are also places for socializing and dining.
I personally love shopping in Spain. Clothes, food, design, books… the list is endless and many of the brands are Spanish. The good thing about Valencia is that the city center is so compact, and shopping is made easy. There are also several malls. In my opinion, however, it’s more fun to go shopping in the center. Writing this makes me want to go shopping!
In case you want to read more about the sights and attractions in Valencia, this page has a lot of good tips.