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48 Hours in Valencia

Goodbye Barcelona. Hello Valencia. It’s official, the whole world is now discovering Spain’s third-largest city.

Valencia has experienced a remarkable rebirth over the past fifteen or so years. You could point to the City of Arts and Sciences development at the turn of the century as a key milestone.

Voted one of Spain’s Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain, alongside the Alhambra, Sagrada Familia and Bilbao’s Guggenheim, the complex, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is truly spectacular.

City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, Spain.

City of Arts and Sciences

Further fuel was added when Valencia hosted the America’s Cup in 2007, a modern sporting canvas to illustrate the city’s burgeoning self-confidence.

Since then, it has been a steady ascent to global recognition – a destination you have to visit.

Valencian writer and journalist, José Ombuena, mused somewhat romantically that ‘Valencia was here long before our dreams…it will be here long after.’ That is certainly true; however, the time to visit is now. 

This pearl of a city is so far removed from its chippy Catalan cousin, Barcelona, further up the coast.

Valencia is all heart and soul, sustainably embracing its future while proudly retaining its historic identity.

For a visitor, a Valencia vacation becomes a moment that lingers long after you’ve left the city.

Plaza del Ayuntamiento, Valencia.

Plaza del Ayumtamiento

Stay

Choosing the right place in the right location is an important consideration, especially with the varied districts and the coastal strip in Valencia. Here are a few to consider…

Hotel One Shot Mercat 09

For the One Shot hotel group only two things matter; style and location. With several hotels in Spain’s premier cities including three here in Valencia, they seem at ease with quality over quantity.

The Mercat 09 is our favourite in Valencia. Close to the city’s famous Central Market and 15th-century Silk Exchange as well as within walking distance of the always awesome Plaza del Ayuntamiento, you don’t get much better than this Old Town location if you want to be at the heart of everything.

Hotel One Shot Mercat 09, 4 star boutique hotel in Valencia Old Town, Spain.

Hotel One Shot Mercat 09

Caro Hotel

Located in the Seu-Xerea neighbourhood of Ciutat Vella, you sort of feel the exclusivity of the area as you walk its ancient streets.

Don’t worry about the pronunciation, just know that you’re in the Old Town and it’s a top-tier barrio you can call home when visiting Valencia.

The five-star Caro Hotel suits its setting: refined and understated. If you end up booking a room at the Caro, you kind of know you deserve it. 

And if you arrive during the heavy heat of summer take comfort in the knowledge that a splash pool awaits.

If you are a serious foodie you’re certainly in the right city but as well as exploring the culinary hotspots check out Caro’s renowned Alma del Temple restaurant.

Special doesn’t quite capture it.

Caro Hotel, five-star hotel in Valencia, Spain.

Caro Hotel

Balandret Hotel

Away from the bustle of the city centre the Balandret Hotel pitches you in Valencia’s Malvarrosa area; for us Brits, the beach.

This long strip of fine sand is the most popular playa in Valencia. And with its even finer promenade of seafood restaurants, the only place to go if authentic paella is your idea of lunch heaven.

The hotel is right on the beach and the city sightseeing bus stop over the road. If you are spending 48 hours in Valencia the 21-room Balandret Hotel is a good shout for a beach and city combo.

Dining Room, Balandret Hotel, Valencia, Spain.

Balandret Hotel, Malvarrosa Beach

Do

It would be easy to spend a week in Valencia. Maybe even the rest of your life! But if you’re here for just a couple of days, having a plan is always a good thing.

Check out a few of the things to do in Valencia that fit nicely into a 48-hour window.

Ciutat Vella

The Old City district of Valencia whisks you back to Ancient times as you walk in the footsteps of history. 

Set in Valencia’s most famous barrio, El Carmen, the mix of Roman and Arabic, with the odd splash of Modern, is a heady brew; an outdoor ‘museum’ which you’d happily pay an entrance fee to view. 

Valencia Cathedral and El Miguelete bell tower, Valencia, Spain.

Cathedral and El Miguelete

Amongst this veritable feast for the eyes, sights to behold include Valencia Cathedral and its Gothic-style bell tower, El Miguelete; the Silk Exchange – La Llotja de la Seda – fittingly accorded World Heritage status; and the Torres de Serranos, one of the old gateways through the city’s former 14th-century fortified wall.

City of Arts and Sciences

When you first catch a glimpse of the futuristic design of Valencia’s La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias you will be forgiven for wondering how on earth such an explosion of modernity sits only 5km from the centre of one of Europe’s great medieval cities.

The word, juxtaposition, might have been invented to describe this odd marriage of the ages.

Bank on needing a good half day to enjoy the full experience. We’d recommend taking in the Oceanogràfic, Europe’s largest aquarium, including a visit to the dolphin exhibition.

Dolphin Exhibition, Oceanografic, Vaelncia.

Dolphin Exhibition, Oceanografic

Booking a screening at the Hemisfèric digital 3D cinema is worth it, especially if you are here with the kids.

Just sit back with the supplied specs and headphones and stare up at a 900m concave screen that seems to envelop the audience. Probably a good idea to secure your seat by booking online before your visit.

The science museum thrives on the motto ‘no touching is prohibited’. We love this. This is a doing, not a viewing, experience. It’s an engaging and educational way to discover science in action.

Science Museum, City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia.

Science Museum

Finally, make sure to visit the Umbracle. Not only is it an impressive garden zone of 17,000m2, but it also offers sanctuary from a hectic day and provides the perfect spot for all you pack-lunchers.

Umbracle, City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia.

Umbracle

Valencia Festivals

Did Spain invent the fiesta? You’ve got to think the answer is yes when you consider even the most modest of villages seem to have several each year. 

It is Valencia, however, that can lay legitimate claim to Spain’s festival capital. Every month there seems to be another thing that requires celebrating.

But if you are going to pick two to be in town for then it has to be Las Fallas or the July Gran Feria de Valencia.

For most of July, Valencia is a riot of colour and sound as traditional dress is worn, fireworks scorch the sky and music of all variations is played from dawn to dusk.

Culminating with the Flower Battle on the last Sunday of the month when women, sitting on top of floats, fight it out. Weapon of choice. You guessed it, flowers. 

They’ve been enacting this for over 140 years but the unbridled enthusiasm would make you believe it was the first.

Gran Feria de Valencia.

Flower Battle, Gran Feria de Valencia.

From 1st-19th March you have Las Fallas. Inscribed in 2016 on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List, this festival takes you to another level.

A bewildering concoction of drama, absurdity and madness fills the streets as the whole of Valencia joins in what is supposedly a gentle nod to the arrival of Spring.

Millions are spent on the creation of these works of art – La Falla – that often depict celebrities and politicians.

An expensive Spitting Image, you might conclude. But with one catch – after parading them in all their glory they then proceed to burn them all! You’ve got to love the Valencians.

A float at Las Fallas festival, Valencia

Las Fallas

Turia Garden

Even visitors to a great city, hungry for discovery and entertainment, seek out a green space. A place for reflection, gentle exercise or maybe to sit down on a blanket with an ice cream.

In Valencia, that place is Turia Garden. As Central Park is to New Yorkers, Jardín del Turia is the spiritual home for Valencianos.

One of Spain’s largest urban parks, its nine kilometres course their way through the city, offering up gifts to joggers, ramblers, cyclists and nature lovers. 

Sometimes a stroll in a park, momentarily interrupted by a beverage on one of the many café terraces, is all you need to confirm your Valencia trip was one of your better ideas.

People relaxing in Turia Garden, Valencia, Spain.

Turia Garden

It would be easy to spend a week in Valencia. Maybe even the rest of your life!

Dine

Where to eat in Valencia? Big question. There’s no easy answer as this city has got to be up there as one of Europe’s great foodie capitals. The various barrios have their own distinctive charms and standout restaurants. Here are a few to whet the appetite.

Foodoo

Nothing fancy at Foodoo but you won’t find many better places to grab a lunchtime menú del día in a big city. Inexpensive 3-course meal plus coffee, a handy central location and a neat little kid’s menu.

Foodoo, restaurant in Valencia, Spain.

Foodoo

La Pepica

Valencia is the birthplace of paella and since 1898 La Pepica is where everyone goes to dine on this classic rice dish. A genuine Valencia dining experience on the promenade at Malvorossa Beach, frequented by Hemingway and countless more celebrities throughout the decades. If you aren’t famous, booking is essential!

La Vita é Bella

No matter how far we travel, no matter where we go, there’s always time for pizza! In Valencia, La Vita é Bella has been serving up its fine Italian menu for over thirty years. Located in Carrer d’en Llop, just off of Plaza del Ayuntamiento, perfectly placed for your pasta fix.

La Vita e Bella, Italian restaurant, Valencia.

La Vita é Bella

San Telmo

Occupying a space in trendy Ruzafa, San Telmo is squarely on the side of meat. Argentinian meat, to be a little more precise. Cooked in the traditional manner, the barbequed flavours are something else. If you’re a steakhouse kind of couple, make your way to Ruzafa.

Guako

Ever sat and contemplated what the food of Venezuela might be like? Problem solved. Check out Guako, not too far from Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium, to sample an authentic Latin American experience.

Guako, Venezuelan restaurant, Valencia.

Guako

This city has got to be up there as one of Europe’s great foodie capitals

Drink

The best bars in Valencia? Where do you begin in a city designed for partying? Like many large metropolitan areas in Spain, the barrio is king and you’ll encounter a unique vibe in each.

Radio City

So yes, there is a bar in the Radio City building but this place, a Valencian institution since 1979, is an eclectic mix of culture and art. A typical week will include Flamenco, Reggae, Karaoke, DJ Sessions and live alternative music. If you’re in Valencia you simply have to step through the doors of Radio City, even if it’s just to say you’ve been there!

Radio City, Valencia.

Live music at Radio City

Harlow’s

A recent addition to the late-night bar scene in trendy Barrio del Carmen. Let Harlow’s transport you back to 1920s prohibition-era America in this small speakeasy where cocktails take pride of place along with vintage seating and early 20th-century jazz music.

Olhöps Craft Beer Lab

Hipster Ruzafa buzzes day and night. There are numerous bars and clubs, one of which Olhöps has two different venues in the neighbourhood. The Calle Sueca one opened in 2014 helping advance the craft beer revolution in Valencia. Their collaboration with Japanese restaurant Sayuki allows them to offer an Asian-Mediterranean fusion experience in their brewery. Our favourite, Olhöps Craft Beer Lab on Calle Carlos Cervera, has 9 taps and a small terrace to enjoy your chosen beer.

Olhops Craft Beer Lab, Valencia.

Olhöps Craft Beer Lab

Many visitors make their way to Valencia for the shopping alone. It's that good!

Shop

Two markets where a visit is almost obligatory are the art nouveau masterpiece that is Mercado de Colón and the modernist Mercado Central de Valencia.

Colón is more of a destination venue where you will find the space occupied by cafés, breweries, lounge bars, restaurants and Valencia’s famous horchaterias. Such a cool place for a rewarding daytime drink or a bite to eat surrounded by the vibrancy of a place idolised by the locals.

Mercado Central is a lot more traditional where you have numerous stalls selling everything from fresh fruit to Jamón, freshly baked bread and pastries to seafood.

Central Market, Valencia.

Mercado Central de Valencia

Calle Poeta Querol runs through the Ciutat Vella district and is home to global luxury brands Hugo Boss, Bulgari et al.

Carrer Colón is probably the most famous street in the city where you will find Spain’s famous department store, El Corte Inglés.

And Ruzafa is the area where the heady blend of vintage and designer can burn a hole in your pocket in the blink of an eye. But just being there, walking the streets and soaking up the atmosphere is all you need to feel part of this addictive barrio.

For us, Valencia is the number one city in Spain and if you have yet to visit the time is now. Let the good folk at Visit Valencia inspire you further and help you get to know their city even more.

 

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