One of the best places I’ve visited on a summer holiday was Valencia, down the coast from the more popular Barcelona. Quieter, cheaper, and arguably more authentically Spanish, Valencia was a less touristy and slower paced city break. For those who prefer relaxing and exploring by foot, rather than having a jam-packed sight-seeing schedule, Valencia is well worth a visit at any time of year.
What to see & do
- Torres de Quart and Torres de Serranos – these gothic-style towers were once part of the city’s defensive wall. They each cost just a few euros to climb up the steep stone steps to the top.
- Valencia Cathedral – marvel at the grandiose gothic-Catholic design and climb to the top of the cathedral for panoramic views of the city.
- City Hall – the architecture around city hall is just so typical of Western European cities. You can even go inside and gain access to a viewing platform for free!
- Mercado Central (central market) – this huge market hall can’t be missed, for its incredible architecture and distinctive aromas.
- Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange) – a UNESCO world heritage site, the Silk Exchange opposite the central market was once one of the most important buildings in Valencia. Grab a map and give yourself a tour of this historical site, and finish up on the orange tree patio, a tranquil little garden hidden in the heart of the city.
- L’Oceanografic and Culture Park – the incredible aquarium and sunken culture park are probably the top attractions in the newer parts of Valencia. You don’t even have to go inside (the tickets are a hefty €29,70 for the aquarium and €38,60 for the cultural park of arts and sciences) to appreciate the striking beauty of the modern architectural complex.
- Old City – gorgeous cobbled streets make it easy to walk around the Old City for hours, stopping for ice cream and coffee along the way. Join a free walking tour or do it yourself!
- Jardi del Turia – circling half of the Old City, these gardens stretch from the Turia River in the west, right to the Oceanografic near the harbour.
How to get around
The easiest way to get around Valencia is by walking, as most of the best tourist sights are within the Old City. To get to the beaches and harbour, you can buy a tourist card to use on buses, metro and tram, which also provides discounts for some of the city’s attractions.
What to eat & drink
As with anywhere in Spain, you MUST try the local variations of paella and tapas! Try La Riua, a restaurant near the cathedral for some of the best mixed seafood paella, with a view. For a more budget-friendly option, try authentic tapas from Bocadella Tapas, a quaint little restaurant situated between the Old City and the beach at Playa del Cabanyal.
Alternatively, on your visit to the central market, stock up on fresh produce for a delicious picnic.