Updated: May 20, 2022
Valencia is the third largest city of Spain (after Madrid and Barcelona). It almost never rains, (300 days without any rain) and the average temperature is 20°C. In the old city center, you can find several UNESCO World heritage sites. I visited the city twice now and would love to go again. What makes this city so special? The weather of course, almost always sunny, the delicious food and drinks, the beautiful architecture (both modern and old), the atmosphere and of course the beach. What do you need more?
Here’s my top 5 in sunny Valencia:
1. Biking through the river and visit: The City of Arts and Sciences
Created at the southeast end of the former riverbed of the river Turia this place was turned into a park and is well known for its cultural and architectural complex, designed by the famous architect Santiago Calatrava. The park (Jardín del Turia) is a nice place to escape from the city center and enjoy nature, culture and architecture. I chose to rent a bike in the city center and drove through the City of Arts and sciences all the way to the beach. The bike trails link up nicely with bike lines in the city center. Bike rental is about 9 € for one day.
What to visit?
- L’Umbracle, a gardened esplanade and exhibition zone with beautiful views
- The Hemisfèric which holds a Large-format cinema, IMAX Dome.
- Oceanogràfic, nice to visit if you are travelling with kids. Here you can find the biggest aquarium in Europe. Admission price: 23,30€ for adults, children under four years are free.
Besides these 3, you also have ‘The museum of Sciences’, the ‘Palau des les arts’ (the opera house of Valencia) and ‘The Agora’ (an event hall used for concerts, conventions and international sporting events) Besides the Oceanogràfic I only saw the outside and architecture of the other buildings. But you can buy a combined ticket to visit Oceanografic, Hemisfèric and the museum of sciences at a price of 29 €.
2. Enjoying local specialties at Food Markets
Valencia is a true paradise for foodies. There are several food markets of which I would recommend two to visit: The Central Market and Colón Market. Will you manage to resist buying the delicious local fresh products there? I couldn’t.
1) Mercado Central, Plaça de la Ciutat de Bruges, Valencia.
You need to visit this market, not only for the beautiful Art Nouveau building situated in the Old City, but also to see the amazing amount of fresh local products that are sold there. It’s one of the oldest running food markets in Europe and was completed in 1928. I couldn’t stop admiring the beautiful high dome and the decorative ceramic tiles on the floor. If you stay at a place with your own kitchen, you can definitely find all necessary ingredients to make the local specialty: Paella Valenciana! Did you know that this traditional dish was invented in Valencia? Click here for the recipe.
2) Mercado Colon, Carrer de Jorge Juan, 19, Valencia.
This market is no longer a working fresh market, but the building is absolutely worth visiting. This beautiful Art Nouveau building opened in 1916. I was sitting on the terrace at one of the many bars and restaurants you can find there now. I ordered the famous local cocktail: Aqua di Valencia (made of orange juice, cava, wodka, gin and sugar). A must try!
Or if you are not into alcohol, I can recommend you the other local drink: Horchata at one of the Horchata refreshments stalls, you can find here. Horchata is a fresh vegan milky drink made of tiger nuts (a root vegetable, known to be a super food) water and sugar.
For tasting this local specialty, I would recommend you visit ‘Horchatería de Santa Catalina’, Plaza Santa Catalina, 6. One of the oldest horchaterías in Valencia. Besides having a horchata with churros or fartons (another local sweet delicacy), the interior is very traditional decorated with beautiful ceramic tiles. Which brings us to the next place to see in Valencia: the old city center!
3. Strolling around in the Old City Center and going back in time!
I always had a weakness for the old cobblestoned streets in medieval cities. Strolling around in the heart of Valencia was one of my favorite things to do. Of course, I couldn’t miss the UNESCO World Heritage sites here: ‘La Lonja de la Seda’ (Silk Exchange), ‘El Tribunal de las Aguas’ (Water Tribunal) and Las Fallas (Carnaval).
, Carrer de la Llotja, 2, Valencia.
This masterpiece of Valencian gothic architecture was built in the late 15th century. You can find this building in front of the Central Market. The entrance is free. A must see is the main hall (sala de contratación) for the numerous twisting columns and the details of the vaulted ceilings.
2) El Tribunal de las Aguas, the Door of the Apostles, near the Cathedral.
This centuries-old tradition can be witnessed every Thursday at 12:00 sharp (except on public holidays). The Water Tribunal of the plain of Valencia is the oldest law court in Europe. Although the place was quite crowded it was a nice opportunity to go back in time with these black smocks dressed elected farmers, sitting in the circle on 17th century chairs. The decisions they are making are still binding.
3) Las Fallas, Plaza Del Ayuntamiento, Valencia. Yearly held in March, starting with a daily Mascletà. I was lucky to be there in March 2019 and witness the Mascletà from a terrace on the 5th flour. La Mascletà is an ear-splitting firework display to be seen and heard every day at 2pm during Las Fallas. It’s in fact the celebration of the start of springtime and is comparable to Carnaval in Rio or Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Other things to see in the Old City Center are the Cathedral and El Miguelete (the octagonal belltower of the cathedral). If it’s not too hot you can climb up the 207 steps where you can meet Miguel, the famous bell. Like most historic centers in Spanish cities the heart of Valencia is made for wandering. In between the sightseeing there are plenty of little streets with cafés and restaurants. Also worth a visit on the northern side of the old-town is the spectacular ticket hall of the Estació del Nord, I was astonished by the quality of the mosaic work on the ceilings, walls and floors. Close to this magnificent station you can enter the Barrio Ruzafa, best place to go to enjoy Valencia’s nightlife.
4. Visiting trendy Ruzafa: street art, restaurants, bars and nightlife
If you are a fan of street art, like me, you are at the right place in Ruzafa. Vinz Feel Free is definitely one of the most recognizable street artists in Valencia.
Previously this neighborhood was inhabited by Latin American, Maghrebian and Chinese immigrants. Nowadays you can find here a lot of quirky bars, vintage shops and alternative nightclubs. Ruzafa has become the most fashionable neighborhood of Valencia and the best place to have dinner in one of the many restaurants, my favorites are: