When I first traveled to Spain a few years back, I didn’t get to visit Valencia. It was on my radar because of Santiago Calatrava’s modern architecture (such as the “winged” Milwaukee Art Museum), but I didn’t know much else about the city.
1. Mediterranean Climate
The city has consistently pleasant weather: mild winters and warm to hot summers. With 300 days of sunshine and an average temperature of 66F/19C, any time of the year is good to visit Valencia and to feel the sea breeze.
2. Beaches and Green Spaces
You are never far from nature in Valencia.
There are urban beaches next to the marina and remote beaches near the Dehesa Natural Park outside the city. The Turia Gardens, created in the riverbed of the Turia after a flood, is one of the largest urban parks in Spain. Winding through the city, it has foot paths, bike lanes, leisure areas, ponds, and cafes. Great for a weekend outing.
About 6mi/10km south of Valencia lies the Albufera National Park, a fresh water lagoon and bird sanctuary surrounded by rice fields. You can take a bird-watch boat ride from the fishing village El Palmar and enjoy the tranquility of Albufera Lake.
3. Gastronomy: Paella and Wine
Much of the food of Valencia is influenced by its seaside location and fertile land. Rice, vegetables, fresh seafood, and citrus fruits are main ingredients in regional recipes.
Valencia is the birthplace of paella, the famous rice stew with chicken, rabbit, and beans. Some other traditional dishes are arroz a banda (rice with seafood) and arroz negro (rice with squid). With hundreds of restaurants in Valencia, you can indulge in regional and fusion cuisine at any price point. Five restaurants have earned Michelin Stars. |
The city is also known for horchata, a refreshing beverage made from tiger nuts, Agua de Valencia (cava, orange juice, vodka, gin), and wines with their own Designation of Origin.
4. World Heritage
Valencia’s historic center is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and features one UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Silk Exchange Market. Dating back to the 16th century, this group of buildings was used for trading in silk. It’s now considered a fine example of Gothic architecture.
The Water Court from the Arab period (8th-13th century) is a legal body established to monitor the use of water for irrigation. It still meets once a week, keeping up with the old tradition, and has been declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Architecture is among the main reasons to visit Valencia, especially its collection of modernist works from the early 20th century.
Don’t miss the Central Market, built with metal, glass, and Valencian tile. Covering more than 8,000 square meters, it’s one of the largest fresh markets in Europe. Other architectural stunners are the Colon Market, an iron structure with a glass roof and ornate brick facade, and the North Railway Station, which features a ceramic ceiling.
6. City of Arts and Sciences
Designed by renowned local architect Santiago Calatrava and Spanish-Mexican architect Felix Candela, the ultramodern science-leisure complex is one of Valencia’s most unique features. It is situated at the end of the former Turia riverbed (easily accessible from the Turia Gardens) and made up of several structures.
Among them are: L’Hemispheric (IMAX theater, planetarium, and laserium) resembling a giant eye, the Prince Felipe Science Museum that looks like a whale skeleton, and the mirror-covered L’Oceanographic in the shape of a lily. The tower of El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or, a white cable-stayed bridge, is the highest point in Valencia (410 ft./125m).
7. Ruzafa District
The current hot spot of the city, Ruzafa is a day and nighttime destination. You can walk there from the city center within 10-15 minutes. Once in the area, take your time to explore boutiques, alternative art galleries, bars, outdoor cafes, eclectic restaurants, and the Ruzafa Market.
8. El Cabanyal District
Located closer to the waterfront, this historic fisherman’s quarter is becoming Valencia’s new “it” area. Trendy bars are starting to pop up, but El Cabanyal is well worth a visit for local history. Take a look at the traditional fishermen houses, decorated with Valencian tiles, and earn about rice cultivation in the area at the Rice Museum.
9. Las Fallas Festival
Every March, Valencia celebrates spring with a grand fiesta. Las Fallas (“the fires” in Valencian) takes place over five days and is a multi-sensory experience involving pyrotechnics.
At the center of the festival is the creation and subsequent destruction of ninots, large statues and monuments placed on city streets. They’re a satirical representation of current events, politics, even pop culture. The idea is that everything bad or corrupted gets burned, then reborn to welcome the new season. Another part of Las Fallas is the offering of carnations to the patron saint of the city, Our Lady of the Forsaken. The bouquets are delivered by over 100,000 people dressed in colorful silk costumes.
As in most of Spain, soccer is a big deal in Valencia. There are two local teams in La Liga, the first division of the Spanish League: Valencia CF and Levante UD. Catch their games if you visit Valencia between August and May. Both teams play near the city center, at Mestalla Stadium and Estadi Ciutat de València, respectively.
Here’s a photo from a Valencia CF match in the Champions League. The team lost to Lyon that night, but the atmosphere was hot for the entire 90 minutes.
What would you like to do in Valencia? And if you’ve already visited, what did you like? Leave a comment!
About the Author (Author Profile)Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English.
Sites That Link to this Post
- City Guide: Valencia, Spain - Jetting Around | August 12, 2016
- Friday Five | In Natalie's Shoes | October 21, 2016
- Savoir There Where To Eat In Valencia Spain's Secret Culinary Capital | October 25, 2016