1. Enjoying the one-of-a-kind tourist attractions
I don’t throw these words around in the form of recommendations lightly. But Valencia’s ‘tourist attractions’ are probably among the cutest in the world, especially for kids. I could wait to bring these photos back to Murcia to show my students. Chances are, you’ll easily stumble across these attractions while exploring – but there’s an easy chance you’ll miss them. Supposedly ‘the world’s narrowest building’ (decide for yourself if it actually lives up to this title after closer examination) and the house of cats were great points to plug into my Google maps because they took me through the most beautiful streets in the old center. Likewise, the old center is generally an entertaining area to spend the day.
2. Sampling the city’s incredible booze and regional foods
If you haven’t heard by now, Valencia can pride itself on being the originator of paella with it’s unique regional strain of arroz (rice). Also attributed to this ingredient is the popular rice liqueur, ‘crema de arroz’. Sounds weird, yeah? It’s not. Both are delicious. I can attest to this based on more than one tasting experience! Further, the region is an exceptional location for the byproducts of agriculture. Famous Valencian oranges can be found in abundance at fruiterias and food halls. And should I even start on Valencia’s wine? Order it. Everywhere. You won’t be disappointed. Check out my post on feasting in Valencia for more information and locations.
3. Vintage shopping
It’s no secret that Valencia is uniquely cultured in terms of arts and sciences – something else that stuck out to me was the fashion-forward edge Valencia had over most cities. You’ll learn this not only from people watching, but additionally through the city center’s shopping experience. It’s not all your run of the mill Pull & Bear and Massimo Dutti. You’ll encounter beautiful vintage boutiques with collections that will catch your eye and have you holding women’s fashion to a higher standard than before.
4. Getting lost in Valencia’s stimulating street art scene
Part of why I was hooked on Valencia immediately: the art. After initiating my usual ‘getting lost’ ritual in an effort to feel out the city, I was quickly tripping over pretty and bizarre paintings on sides of buildings, walls, pipes and shop doors. While many cities offer this free treat to visitors, it was unexpected in Valencia. Not every Spanish city has this going for it. I didn’t expect to receive this in Valencia. You can see a little more about Valencia’s Underrated Street Art Scene here.
5. Getting to the beach
This agenda item is quite literal and a meant as a warning. Getting to La Malvarossa beach can consume a good chunk of your time. The beach is not just a few streets away from the hustle and bustle of Valencia’s destination center. I figured I would walk, despite the estimated time from the center, according to my Google maps being an hour and ten minutes.
I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to see more of Valencia, capture countless photo opportunities and work off all of the empanadillas I devoured that morning. Beyond the old center of Valencia, it’s just a typical, residential city. Nothing too glitzy or charming to feast your eyes on, rather a glimpse into the everyday life of Valencia beyond touristic areas. Between the historic center and the beach are a few of miles of your average, however lively, city life.
While it was nice to get a feel for the day-to-day life of Valencia residents, I realize it wasn’t the best use of my little time there.
My mother and brother, who I visited with, opted for renting bicycles to get to La Malvarossa. They followed the ‘river’ in order to get to the beach and avoid getting lost or riding on the bustling streets. Unfortunately for them, it sounded like the journey was about three times the distance each way when taking that route.
As far as public transport goes, the buses I found appeared to take nearly forty minutes to get there anyways, which is why we scrapped that option from the get-go.
But I have to say, the sight of La Malvarossa did not disappoint. I got there just in time for the sunset and it was magnificent. In true Spanish form, mountains lay at one end of periphery while the city lights illuminated in the opposite. The beach was massive and lined with restaurants and hotels. I would absolutely recommend checking it out – likewise, I would recommend being smarter than us.
Plan ahead if you want to take a bicycle (reputably the best way to see Valencia in general) or simply splurge on a taxi.
5. Getting your history fix
This is where European cities truly have us Americans beat. The history behind each cobbled street, seemingly ordinary wall or crumbling building will blow your mind – and your US history books – out of the water. Valencia is no exception. A refreshing side to Valencia – especially for the traveler who isn’t historically-inclined – one can fulfill their obligatory dose of sightseeing without committing too much time or money.
Starting with the old silk market, or, Lonja de la Seda, a UNESCO World Heritage Site right in the center of town. It costs one or two euros to enter and is quite a unique experience when you’re trying to imagine what it looked like hundreds of years ago. It is now deemed ‘a shrine to commerce’.
Lonja de la Seda: Plaza del Mercado, Valencia 46001
It’s also important to mention the Turia ‘river’ which is actually no longer a river at all. What used to surround the city flooded in the 1960s and claimed hundreds of lives, leading the community to divert the Turia into the Mediterranean. In essence, this involved intentionally drying up the river and converting it into a park fitted with running tracks, volleyball courts and basically everything imaginable as far as outdoor activities go. You can reach it by crossing through the remainder of the city’s wall.
7. Stay in an awesome AirBnB
My mother, my brother and I shared an awesome two bedroom flat for two nights. First off, the manager of the property, Jose, was so freaking friendly as far as AirBnB hosts go, it was great after the trying drive from Murcia and for my family’s first impressions of southern Spaniards. He helped us with our bags and explained everything crucial in Valencia to us on a map.
As far as the property itself goes, it was spacious, beautiful and comfortable. The location couldn’t have been more perfect. Quite literally in the center of the center and on the top floor of a building with a terrace overlooking the Plaza Redonda, a small outdoor marketplace lined with restaurants. So even when we needed to retreat and take it easy, we were able to experience the life of Valencia and not feel as if we were missing out. We had an excellent view of Santa Catalina’s bell tower and the rooftops of the city. It made for a beautiful sunset glass of wine.
Oh – and most importantly, the terrace came with a couple of sweet four-legged friends!
This place was only 65 euros per night, which felt like a deal considering it was more luxurious than most hotels one could afford for that price. Here’s the link to our Valencian dream flat.
8. Get to know Valencia’s historic center
I always emphasize wandering when I talk about travel, but it truly was the best way to spend most of the little time we had here. I’ve visited about a dozen Spanish cities and I’m confident in saying Valencia is exceptionally beautiful and picturesque. The colorful, detailed buildings that fill our minds when we think of Europe will exceed your expectations in this capital. Further, even the city center of Valencia has a laid back, local, family vibe that will keep me wanting to return forever.