Spain has some wonderful cities, and Valencia is no exception. On one hand, it has an amazing old quarter, with a really spectacular cathedral and numerous other wonderful buildings, and then there’s the stunning modern part of the city, which includes the City of Arts and Sciences. There are even stalls close to the cathedral selling the pans that paella is made in (paellerias) – Valencia is famous for paella. The city can be traced back to at least 138 BC, so you can imagine that there’s a wealth of history and culture – but of course not just that, it’s a sea side port city, with a lovely natural park within easy reach, plus it makes for an interesting corporate entertainment location – as well as being ideal for all other types of tourism.
For the moment, Valencia is still “relatively” undiscovered by English-speaking tourists, although cruises have been stopping off there over the last couple of years. It’s an all year round destination, assuming you don’t mind going during the time of the year where sunshine is not 100% guaranteed. If you’re coming from Ireland or the UK, even travelling during winter, there’s a good chance the weather will be much nicer than back home. From time to time there can be a couple of stormy days, but you may be lucky and experience highs of between 16 to 20°.
Valencia is a city that you could spend quite a bit of time in, without any problem whatsoever. There is really no lack of things to do and see, in fact quite the opposite, and of course it’s on the coast, so once you feel like going to the beach, you can go to sunbathe and listen to the sound of the sea. In fact the city has some fine beaches.
Another thing you’ll notice about Valencia, that’s really nice, are the amazing outdoor spaces that are interspersed in many locations in the centre of the city. Really clever use has been made of the city space, and you’ll see lots of sports happening along what was the riverbed. In the middle of some of the main avenues there are really pretty areas, which have been manicured cleverly with flowers, plants and lovely, mature trees.
Over 300 days of sunshine each year
Many British and Irish tourists gravitate towards the splendid city of Barcelona, the fine, capital city of Madrid or head straight to the coast. However Valencia, a city which averages over 300 days of sunshine each year, can actually offer the whole package! The city itself has a couple of good beaches, plus there are a few lovely beaches also to be found on the outskirts. Yet unlike some coastal tourist resorts, almost no matter where you turn in the centre of the city, you either see fine architecture or nature adapted perfectly to the city environment. There is an endless list of historical and cultural attractions to see, and for now this is a relatively undiscovered city, which offers an authentic experience.
Festivities (fiestas) and things to do all year round
If you plan ahead, you could take in one of the many fabulous fiestas that happen in the city during your visit. From the famous Las Fallas in March, to Maritime holy week, and from Valencia’s July Fair to the world-renowned tomato food fighting Festival – La Tomatina – these are just a few of the amazing events that you can enjoy when you visit Valencia.
Did you know???
Did you know that Tripadvisor voted Valencia as being one of Europe’s top 10 emerging destinations? Did you know that Valencia is the trendiest city in Europe, according to provide go users? There is no doubt the Valencia is an up-and-coming destination, at the time of writing in 2014.
Things To Do
La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia – The Silk Exchange Valencia
Plaza del Mercado, Valencia 46001 – Phone: 962084153
The Silk Exchange of Valencia is one of the most iconic buildings of the city Back in July 1931, this building was declared to be a National historic and artistic monument. In 1996 the silk exchange of Valencia was declared a UNESCO world Heritage site, which you can read more about here. You’ll find it in the city centre, just in front of the central market.
It was built somewhere from 1482 to 1548, and today it’s one of the city’s main tourist attractions. This prosperity in Valencia peaked during the 15th century and this is why the building was constructed. Its design was inspired by the silk exchange in Majorca, and it functioned in the centuries afterwards as a silk exchange. Built in Valencian Gothic style, it is an exceptional example of this latter Gothic style, which illustrates so well the prosperity and power of a great mercantile city.
Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciencas – City of Arts & Sciences
Avenida Autopista del Saler 5, Valencia 46013 Phone: 902 100 031 Website: http://www.cac.es/
I have included this in the architecture part of this guide, purely because it really stands out in the city of Valencia because of its avant-garde style of architecture. Of course there’s much more to the City of Arts and Sciences then its architecture, however it is an architectural symbol of Valencia. The architects responsible for it are Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, and regardless of your taste in architecture, it’s hard not to be impressed by the six different large elements that make up the complex.
The Príncipe Felipe Science Museum – which is an interactive, science centre
The Oceanogràfic – Europe’s largest aquarium, which is home to more than 500 marine species
The Hemisfèric – where the IMAX Cinema and digital films part is
The Reina Sofía Palace of the Arts – which is dedicated to opera
The Ágora – which is a multipurpose space where a variety of activities and concerts take place
The Umbracle – landscaped part
Torres de Serran – Serrano Towers
The Serrano Towers, which were built during the 14th century are one of the best preserved monuments in Valencia. Also one of the most iconic structures, the towers were one out of 12 gates which were within the old medieval city wall, and they were the main entrance to the city. They also had a defensive of purpose, and for a period of 300 years, between 1586 and 1887 they were a prison for noble people.
Torres de Quart – Quart Towers
The Quart Towers are another of the 12 gates that could be found within the city’s medieval walls. Built in the 15th century, when you think about how they have withstood so many wars, it won’t surprise you to know that they were declared a national monument in 1932.
There are some small signs of bullets within the thick walls, which date back to the War of Independence, and taking the time to go up in the towers is worthwhile – for me, I could feel an immense sense of history. But apart from the history, there are also wonderful views over the city.
Catedral de Valencia – Valencia Cathedral
It’s hard to find the right words to describe how impressive the Valencia Cathedral is, between the most beautiful ornate stonework, the intricate, proud design – one thing that’s for sure is that you don’t need to be religious to appreciate this wonderful structure.
As is the case in quite a number of the towns here, the Cathedral was built on the site where there used to be a Roman temple. Later on this temple became a mosque, and the Cathedral that you see there today dates back to around the 13th century.
The architectural styles are varied, beginning with Romanesque, going to Baroque, which is evident if you wander around and observe each of the three doors. The main door (Puerta de los Hierros ) is Baroque, the door of the Apostles (Puerta de los Apóstoles) is Gothic and the door of the palace (Puerta del Palau) is Romanesque. Inside you’ll see wonderful frescoes.
El Torre del Miguelete – The Miguelete Tower
The Gothic style tower, that you can see by the entrance of the main cathedral door, was constructed in 1381, although it’s belfry dates to the 18th-century. The Miguelete Tower is one of Valencia’s most symbolic monuments, and apart from its impressive, solid structure, all you have to do is go up to the top of the tower to find out why. From there you get the most amazing views over not only the city of Valencia, but also the fertile land that surrounds it.
Ermita San Miguel de Soternes Valencia
This hermitage has quite ancient origins, properly dating back to around the 14th century. Until quite recently it was surrounded by an orchard, and it is made up of a hermit’s house, some outbuildings and a fenced garden area. The main altar is neo-classical.
Santísimo Cristo del Pouet
This shrine is the smallest in the city of Valencia, and possibly in the whole of the province. It was restored in 2000, and you’ll find it in the district called Campanar, in Evaristo Crespo Azorín Street.
The story of how the shrine was set up is interesting. Apparently after a flood of the river Turia, the locals found a wooden cross in the flood waters. To give thanks they are erected the shrine, so that they could worship there.
Ermita de Santa Llúcia Valencia
Built in the year 1400, it is at this hermitage that every year a big party is held in honour of the Saint, who is the patron saint of eyesight. This party is organised by the brotherhood of the blind. It’s a long-running tradition, but also incorporate a variety of religious acts and a small market. It’s located at – la calle del Hospital, which is basically Hospital Street. The nave, which was originally Gothic, was later covered with arches.
Next to the municipal library, in the gardens of the old hospital, is the Hermitage called El Capitulet. This shrine is dedicated to our Lady of the Abandoned.
You certainly won’t be stuck for museums when you visit Valencia, with a choice of 34 museums. This is pretty impressive even for a big city, and is a wonderful choice stretching through the genres of architecture, art, history, ceramics…
Buy a Valencia tourist card, as this will get you free entry into all public museums and monuments. It also gives you as much as 50% of in restaurants and shops which participate in the scheme. The Valencia tourist card comes in all shapes and sizes, to find out more click on Valencia tourist card.
Avenida Pio Baroja 3, Valencia 46015 – Phone: 902 250 340 Website: www.bioparcvalencia.es
Here is a little bit of Africa in Valencia – Bioparc is an innovative zoo, owned by the council of Valencia, where the animals roam in natural habitats and the barriers are almost invisible.
It’s a space of over 10 hectares, where both the animals and visitors can feel submerged in wild, natural habitats. As well as seeing spectacular landscapes and animal species, you can also feel reassured by the fact that Bioparc is committed to both conservation and sustainability.
Where to Sleep
5 Star Hotels
If you fancy a bit of luxury when visiting Valencia, then consider some of these hotels. These are five 5-star hotels, which have positive feedback, in Valencia.
The Westin Hotel, Amadeo de Saboya 16, 46010 Valencia, Spain
No. 3 of 99 on Tripadvisor at time of writing
Phone: 963 625 900
Within walking distance to the old quarter of Valencia, you’ll find the five-star Westin Hotel. It has an impressive facade, of Modernist architecture. It combines the old with the new, being a completely renovated mid-century building, so you get all your mod cons inside. Staff are very friendly, the hotel is charming and although central, it is a quiet location.
Hotel Las Arenas Balneario Resort, Eugenia Vines 22-24, 46011 Valencia, Spain
No. 4 of 99 on Tripadvisor at time of writing
Located close to the F1 street circuit, and by the beach, is the gorgeous Hotel Las Arenas Balneario Resort. If possible try to book a sea facing room, for wonderful views and relaxation. This five-star hotel is in a great location for relaxing on the beach, but is a little further from the old town.
The Caro Hotel, Almirante, 14, 46003 Valencia, Spain
No. 5 of 99 on Tripadvisor at time of writing
Phone: 963 059 000
This five-star hotel in Valencia is a restored palace, which actually needed an archaeological project, which was privately funded, as part of its restoration. However the beauty of this is that the true identity of the palace has been revealed, and and one of the many jewels that has come to light is the oldest mosaic in Valencia.
Inside the hotel you’ll find ultra-hip decor, wonderful food, excellent service… and all of this a short distance from where everything happens.
Hospes Palau de la Mar Hotel, Navarro Reverter 14 – 16, 46004 Valencia, Spain
No. 11 of 99 on Tripadvisor at time of writing
Phone: 963 162 884
A beautiful hotel, in a brilliant location, which is within walking distance of most important things. If you appreciate that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you’re going to love breakfast at this hotel – it’s delicious and rather extensive.
Although it’s natural to expect a high level of service at a five-star hotel, this boutique hotel in Valencia has outstanding staff, who are especially helpful and friendly.
SH Valencia Palace Hotel, Paseo Alameda, 32, 46023 Valencia, Spain
No. 12 of 99 on Tripadvisor at the time of writing
Phone: 963 375 037
A five-star hotel in a central location, this hotel used to be known as the Melia Valencia Palace. It also features 500 m² of space which is dedicated to relaxation and beauty, with a spa, Turkish baths and lots more. It is frequently used for both weddings and conferences.
Where to Eat
Food in Valencia
I’m not sure if we had bad luck before, but certainly we found the food in Valencia to be a little bit hit and miss. However the good news is that we have had some really good food in Valencia since then – be it that our luck has changed or that the food has improved …who knows? The recent trip included some good bar food and the restaurant for lunch, which is an Asturian restaurant, described further below. Also from over the years, there are two restaurants that stand out as being memorable (and a third for the wrong reasons) – one of which was rather expensive for paella, but was in a gorgeous setting, and the other was, and continues to be a really good Argentinian restaurant.
The names of these two restaurants are:
Asador Mar de Plata – the really good Argentinian restaurant (we’ve eaten here a good few times)
Av del Primado Reig 177, 46020 Valencia Phone: 963 695 364 Website: http://asadormardelplatavalencia.com/
This restaurant serves excellent meat as one would hope in a restaurant of its genre, and the guy who served us was super – really friendly and actually, a bit of a character. The price is reasonable considering the quality of meat that is being served.
Arrosseria L’estibador – Gorgeous Upmarket Rice/Paella Speciality Restaurant
Paseo de la Dehesa, 3, Entrada Romualdo, 46012 El Saler, Spain – Phone 961 830 540 Website: http://www.lestibador.es/
Having lived in Spain since 2003, it won’t surprise you to know that I’ve eaten my fair share of paellas. I won’t say that I eat paella obsessively or religiously, but Sunday is often paella day! So I guess I’ve come to consider myself a little bit of a connoisseur. The paella we had in this restaurant was very well presented, and tasty, and the location was really gorgeous.
They served us some kind of elaborate bread and dips to begin with, which we sort of assumed was on the house as we didn’t order it, and it was really good. However it wasn’t so good to see it on the bill. Our conclusion about this restaurant was that its setting is lovely, and it is a high-class paella joint, but all of us have had better paellas elsewhere. We felt it was a bit pricy for what it was. However others on TripAdvisor have ranked the restaurant as the best in the area of El Saler – check it out here Valencia restaurant review.
I guess the most honest perspective about this experience is that we went there without realising that we would pay for location and reputation. If at the time when we went there we had known about its reputation, no doubt we would have expected to pay top dollar and would have realised that the bread and dips were most likely going to be part of the bill. So in the end of the day, like many things in life, it is a question of expectations. Based on other people’s opinions, I would definitely give it a try again, knowing that this is a special location treat by the beach. By the way, they also cater for special occasions, weddings and they have a kids club.
And the name of the one that I remember for the wrong reasons ….
Cerverceria Freiduria San Patricio
The one that stands out for the wrong reasons, can be found on the beach….and its name is Cerveceria Freiduria San Patricio. As we weren’t too sure which one to choose, and of course with them being on the beach (Malvarosa), we were aware of the possibility that they would be mediocre, we chose this one because of part of its name translating into Saint Patrick. Bad choice.
Unfortunately we’ve told many people since that occasion, which is around two years ago now, the story of having gambas pil pil, which is a very typical dish in Spain, and so therefore should be a good way to judge a restaurant. Gambas pil pil is a slightly spice garlic prawns dish. If done well, it is often served in terracotta to you, with high quality, big juicy prawns, with have plenty of garlic and a nice, little kick. We couldn’t believe it… They were so tasteless that we had to ask for some garlic mayonnaise in order to be to eat them.
Now years ago, I did plenty of restaurant work when I was in college. Anyone can have a bad day, things can go wrong, and so on… however it was so obvious from the attitude of the staff that this was a regular occurrence. My alarm bells went at the very beginning when one of those horrible white paper tablecloths, that they do use a lot in Spain unfortunately, was put on to our table. That wasn’t the issue – the issue was it looks like the white paper cloth had already been rolled up to throw out and somebody had decided to un-scrunch it and put it on our table for lunch. Anyhow I think I’ve probably made my point, and if you click on the the name of the restaurant above, you’ll see that I’ve linked it to TripAdvisor, where surprisingly (not) I am not alone in my opinion.
La Taberna Asturiana
Calle Doctor Vicente Zaragoza, 5, 46020 Valencia – Phone 963 694 544
Last but certainly not least, is the restaurant that you see the pictures of above. We had a selection of tapas, the salad you can see in the photo which was divine, and some cider as you can also see in the photos – you’ve got to love that little guy pouring the cider! Amongst the tapas that we had were croquetas (croquettes) which are served in many restaurants here, with various fillings, not potato only like I grew up with. Anyhow, my other half has a “croquetas addiction” (to go along with his steak and prawns addictions) – so I often end up eating them, when I may have chosen something different. However the croquetas in the Taberna Asturiana were particularly good. This restaurant ticks all the boxes, and offers a very good price quality balance. The waiter was very friendly and efficient.
Valencia Boat Hire
If you wish to hire either sailing boats or motor boats, one company that covers the Valencia area is Valencia Charter. (Please note that this is not an endorsement, as yet we have no personal experience with them.)
You can find out more about them on their website, which is in Spanish but does have a built in Google translator:
Estación de Autobuses de Valencia – Valencia Bus Station
Avenida Menéndez Pidal 11, Valencia 46009 Phone: 963 466 266
From the Valencia Bus Station you can travel to many places within the province and the main towns of the Community of Valencia. There are also National daily bus services, plus some International services. Below is a list of the bus companies and their respective destinations, which we have taken from the Valencia Local Government website.
Destinations: Calamocha / Zaragoza.
Buses Jimenez – Phone: 963 407 571
Destinations: Logroño – Vitoria – Bilbao – Santander / Tudela – Pamplona – Tolosa – San Sebastian – Irun
Bilman Bus – Phone: 963 478 989
Destinations: Atalaya de Cañete / Badajoz / Caceres / Madrid / Madrid (airport) / Merida / Navalmoral / Tarancón / Trujillo / Xeraco
Avanza Group – Phone: 902 020 052
Destinations: Almería / Gandia / Denia / Granada / Seville / Alicante / Murcia / Barcelona / Benidorn / Cartagena / Elche / Málaga / Toulouse / Marseille / Paris.
Alsa – Phone: 902.42.22.42
Destinations: Valencia – Jerica – Viver – Rubielos – Teruel – Monreal – Molina de Aragon – Alcolea – Guadalajara – Madrid (more itineraries available on the web)
Samar Group – Phone: 963 495 609
Destinations: Lleida (highway) / Castelló – Tortosa (general) / Vinaròs (highway)
Hife – Phone: 963 492 310
Destinations: Torrente – Monserrat – Montroy – Montroy – Llombai – Catadau – Alfarp – Dos Aguas – Millares / / Trav / / Guadasuar – Alzira – Carcaixent / / Tavernes – Benifairó – Simat / / Algemesí – Albalat-Benicull – Polinyā – Riola / / Cheste – Chiva – Buñol – Alborache – Macastre – Chiva / / Chair – Ford – Almussafes – Benifaió – Llombai – Benimodo
Buñyol Buses – Phone: 963 491 425
Destinations: La Costera – L’Olleria – Aielo Malferit – Ontinyent – Bocairent – Bañeres.
La Concepcion – Phone: 963 499 949
Destinations: Montanejos – Segorbe / Moncada / Montanejos – Segorbe / Moncada / Mareny Blau / El Perello / Interior Perelli (The Pouet) / Palmar / CC Alfafar / Montanejos / Puerto Sagunto / Gaibiel / Almedijar / Fuente de la Reina.
Herca Coaches – Phone: 963 491 250
Travicoi – Phone: 963 470 427
International Destinations – please check respective company’s website for routes:
Linebus – Phone: 963 401 979 / 902.335 533
Eurolines – Phone: 963 493 822
Starbus – Phone: 96.349.67.67