If you're planning to travel to Valencia, this is the article for you. I spent a week in the city and will soon be moving there for a month as there are so many things to do in Valencia.
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- Things to do in Valencia
- Climb the tower of the cathedral
- Grab a bite at the Mercado Central
- Visit the Silk Exchange
- Climb one of the city gates
- Check out the street art in El Carmen
- Optional: visit the bullring and bullfighting museum
- Spend a day at Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
- Go for a walk in the Turia Park
- Spend an afternoon at the beach
- Have a real Valencian paella
- Go for coffee in hipster Ruzafa
- Take a break at the Jardines del Real
- Order horchata from a street vendor
- Private customized tour of Valencia
- Other tours of Valencia
- Don't forget travel insurance
Things to do in Valencia
Climb the tower of the cathedral
The Valencia Cathedral is without a doubt one of the city’s most breath-taking buildings. Built between the 13th and 15th centuries, the architecture is infused with a number of stylistic influences, including Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. For just 7€ you will get access to the entire cathedral and an audio guide to explain its features as you go along.
Inside the chapel, you’ll find one of Goya’s famous paintings and a chalice supposedly used by Jesus Christ himself at the last supper. Look up and you’ll be able to enjoy the intricate artwork that spreads across the ceiling.
Once you’ve conquered the interior of the cathedral, prepare yourself for yet more enchantment as you make your way to the Belfry, which is known as the Miguelete. Climb the spiral staircases and walk out onto the terrace for what is probably the best aerial view of Valencia. Even if you’re not keen on heights, it is worth heading up there for the panoramic vista of this exceptionally picturesque Spanish city.
It is worth noting that while the Cathedral is always open to those who want to go and pray, it is closed to visitors with audio guides on Sunday. If you’re looking for one of the more cultural or historical things to do in Valencia, this should hit the spot.
Grab a bite at the Mercado Central
There are few things that delight tourists more than a good market and Valencia’s Mercado Central doesn’t disappoint – in fact it should be right at the top of your itinerary when you visit Valencia.
Its expansive array of fresh produce is a veritable treat – especially for those who want to embark on a Spanish cooking adventure. If you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen in your accommodation then this is a great place to stock up on local delicacies before whipping them into something gourmet back home.
If you don’t have a kitchen then don’t panic. In addition to the grocery stalls, there are also a number of stands that do ready-to-eat food so you can grab a bite on the go. You’ll find paellas, tortillas, salads, cakes and more within the delicious aisles of Valencia’s food market.
Take note that the prices at the Mercado Central are higher than you would pay in your average Valencian supermarket. However, it is definitely worth paying the mark-up not only to experience the market like a local but also to get a far superior quality of produce. Plus you are supporting local businesses, which is always a good feeling.
Visit the Silk Exchange
The Silk Exchange, or La Lonja as it is known in Spanish, is steeped in such a fascinating history that you can’t help but be drawn in by it. You’ve probably heard of the Silk Road that once ran through the Middle East and into Europe. If you haven’t then you should read up on it because it is well worth knowing about.
Well, one of the most important products that traveled along this famous road was silk (duh!). Silk was a huge status symbol back in the day and it still is to a certain extent – although it is far more accessible nowadays. Back in the 1400s, silk was only worn by the wealthy elite and royalty, so it was a really big deal.
This silk was created in China and then brought along the Silk Road until it ended up in Western Europe. There, it was then sold to the rich. Valencia was one of Europe’s hotspots when it came to buying silk. So much so that it didn’t take long for Valencia’s silk trade to become so prosperous that the building in which the silk was sold was no longer big enough and they had to build a new one.
The Silk Exchange that you see today in Valencia was built in 1492 and its distinct Gothic style thrills visitors from all over the world on a daily basis. You won’t find any silk left in the building today, but this grand edifice is a symbol of Valencia making its mark on the world as a city of great importance. Allow yourself to be truly awestruck as you wander through its cavernous halls.
Climb one of the city gates
There are two city gates that you can climb in Valencia: Torres de Quart and Torres de Serranos. I thoroughly recommend climbing at least one of these during your holiday in Valencia.
Torres de Serranos is the older of the gates and stands at a height of almost 33m. It was built somewhere in the 1390s and it is still considered the main entrance to the city of Valencia. Given that the tower is over 600 years old, it looks really good for its age!
The enormous tower was originally built as part of the city’s defense system and was used to keep out invading armies. However, it also doubled up as a prison for noblemen, among other things. Today, this tower, located in the North of the city offers up one of the best aerial views of the city.
The Torres de Quart isn’t as old or as big or as pretty as the Torres de Serrano, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. The view from the top is actually, arguably, even better than its more glamorous twin. This is because it is located right next to the Mercado Central and the Silk Exchange so you’ll get a good view of their sprawling enclosures if you climb this gate.
Admission to the towers is just 2 EUR and tickets can be bought at the tourist office by the entrance. For the price of a coffee, it is well worth snapping some pics of this sensational vista of one of Spain’s most beautiful cities.
Check out the street art in El Carmen
If you like street art, you’re going to love El Carmen in Valencia. Just like most arty neighborhoods, this part of the city was historically run-down, neglected, and not a particularly pleasant place to visit. But, the good thing about it was that it was cheap to live in. As a result, all the hipsters who had big ideas but tiny bank accounts moved in and started to brighten the place up.
Walls quickly became covered in vibrant colors and designs depicting just about anything. Some murals are deeply political or have intense philosophical meaning, while others are just there for aesthetic purposes. There are drawings that cover entire walls and some that are no bigger than your hand. The range is part of what makes El Carmen so fascinating to explore.
Give yourself a couple of hours to wander through the streets in this neighborhood and have your camera at the ready. Some of the art is more famous than others, for example, those done by Escif or Julieta, two renowned street artists who can’t seem to get enough of Valencia’s walls. However, just because they are better known, doesn’t mean you will like their art the best. Wander around and see what stands out for you personally.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about El Carmen, and also the saddest in some respects is that graffiti is not officially permitted. While the authorities generally turn a blind eye to it, murals are often covered over or taken down overnight. This might be devastating to whichever artist slave away on it in the first place, but it means that there is a fresh new wall up for grabs.
For this reason, the streets are ever-changing as new art is painted on an almost daily basis. This means you can come here over and over again and have a completely different experience every time.
Optional: visit the bullring and bullfighting museum
Before I start talking about bullfighting, I would like to make it clear that I am completely against it. I think it is cruel and I have not attended and will not ever attend a bullfight. With that being said, I appreciate that not everyone shares this view and so I have included it in this article in case you are interested in watching this traditional Spanish spectacle.
Regardless of your views on bullfighting, the bullfighting museum, or Museo Taurino in Spanish, will teach you all about the history of the sport without you actually having to see any of it live. If you’re like me and you don’t want to support the sport, but you would still like to learn about it, the museum should be your first stop.
Perusing the museum, you will learn about the historical and cultural importance of bullfighting and how the practice has evolved over the years. Once you have finished in the museum and you have a better understanding of what bullfighting is all about, stroll over to the bullring and finish the experience.
If you’re not keen on watching a bullfight, you can still go to the bull right and take a look around. If nothing else, it is an impressive building, built between the 1850s and 1860s, and the architecture alone is worth admiring. Of course, if you want to watch a bullfight then you’ll need to buy a ticket for a certain day when they have an event on. Otherwise, you can go whenever you like just to look around.
Spend a day at Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, which translates as the city of arts and sciences is Valencia’s number one tourist attraction. It is also one of the 12 treasures of Spain, along with the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. So, yeah, it’s a pretty big deal.
The fun starts before you’ve even set foot inside the museum thanks to its incredible architecture. The futuristic building took nearly ten years to build and cost around 900 million euros – three times the original budget! But, it is one of the biggest complexes of its kind in all of Europe and it makes for a spectacular day out – so it was probably worth it in the end. It won’t take you long to see why this is one of the best things to do in Valencia.
The complex is divided into different buildings, each with its own theme. The centerpiece is known as L’Hemisfèric and is supposed to resemble a giant eye. It is surrounded by a pool of water and inside you’ll find an IMAX cinema, planetarium, and laserium. In essence, this is the visual part of the museum.
Next up you have The Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, which is housed within a building that resembles the skeleton of a whale. The museum covers a wide range of different areas, including human biology, space, and electricity.
The Umbracle is the next world and comprises a landscaped walk under beautiful arches, flanked by Valencia’s indigenous plant life. As you might imagine, the colors and smells of this part of the complex are out of this world, with lavender and honeysuckle being just two of the dozens of plant species you’ll find here. There are also dozens of free-standing sculptures here, designed by world-famous artists.
There’s still more to go! The Oceanographic (L’Oceanografic) is another of the Ciudad’s buildings and it is the biggest aquarium in Europe. An enormous number of animals call this watery wonderland home, including beluga whales, dolphins, crabs, tortoises, walruses and fish of every color – and that’s just to name a few.
Finally, there’s the Palau de Les Arts Reina Sofía, which is dedicated to the performing arts. Opera, theatre and musical performances are all regularly put on here so check the schedule and see what’s on when you visit. If you’re lucky you might be able to catch something truly spectacular.
Go for a walk in the Turia Park
If you’re at a loss for what to do in Valencia, taking a stroll through Turia Park is a great way to kill an hour or two. At one end of the park is Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias so if your brain is starting to hurt from all the learning in the complex, you can shake it off by nipping over to the park next door.
Turia Park is the largest urban park in Spain and stretches nine kilometers through the city. As you wander through it, you will encounter beautiful gardens, trails you can follow, and sports areas. From the skate park to the athletics stadium, everyone’s sporty side is catered for in this phenomenal park. Plus, with the weather being gorgeous in Valencia virtually year-round, there is never a bad time to visit the park.
If you’re traveling with kids (or you’re a big kid yourself) check out the Gulliver Park, inspired by Gulliver’s Travels. It’s free to enter this play area, which comprises an enormous Gulliver lying on the ground, with slide, stair, and ramps forming his limbs and clothes. Even if you don’t want to climb all over the structure with the children, it is still a unique and fascinating thing to see!
Spend an afternoon at the beach
There are several beaches within close proximity of Valencia’s city center – you just need to decide which one to visit. La Malvarrosa Beach is considered one of the best beaches in Valencia. It sports a few restaurants and cafes along its edge and plenty of soft golden sand. For a city beach, it is one of the better ones you’ll find.
Connected to La Malvarrosa Beach is Las Arenas Beach, which tends to be a bit busier but is still blissfully undeveloped. There’s a promenade nearby if you want to find somewhere to eat or drink and it is easy to access the beach on foot or using public transport from the city center.
If you are willing to travel a bit further afield, there are lots of other beaches all around. It might take you a bit longer to get to these beaches, but it is always worth it. The sand is invariably powder soft and clean and there is plenty of space for everyone without it feeling crowded. El Saler, Patacona and La Devesa are among the better known of Valencia’s beaches.
Have a real Valencian paella
Valencia is the home of paella, arguably Spain’s best-known dish. As such, you cannot go to Valencia and not eat paella – that would be a travesty. Head over to one of Valencia’s restaurants and treat yourself to this traditional dish in its hometown.
For those of you who do not know what paella is, it is rice tinted with saffron, cooked with tomato onion, pepper, and garlic. Traditionally, chefs would throw chicken, rabbit, and snails into the mix, but you’ll often find it with seafood, chorizo, vegetables and all sorts of other things.
Go for coffee in hipster Ruzafa
In just a few years, Ruzafa has gone from the kind of place you would avoid at all costs to somewhere you wouldn’t miss for the world. The hipsters have moved in and gentrified the area just enough to be edgy and cool, but not so much as to price people out. If you’re keen to experience ‘real Valencia’ this is where you need to go.
Tourists tend to stick to the Old Town when they visit Valencia, therefore Ruzafa has a much more authentic and local vibe. Among the fresh produce markets and cool bars, you’ll find dozens of Boho coffee shops, complete with piles of books and chessboards to keep you entertained while you sip your artisanal coffee.
Ruzafa is cheap and cheerful and attracts a young and vibrant crowd. If you want to meet people, mingle, and take a break from being a tourist, it is perfect. Plus, the coffee really is very good.
Take a break at the Jardines del Real
It can get tiring wandering around a city on foot all day. Sometimes you need to chill for a bit – ideally somewhere picturesque – and do some people watching. The Jardines del Real is a gorgeous park that juts out of the main Turia Park that runs through the city. It boasts beautiful botanical gardens, featuring exotic plant species and trees.
Within the park is Valencia’s Museum of Natural Sciences, which is worth checking if you’re in the mood to learn or you need to get out of the sun for a bit. Otherwise, just stroll through this leafy paradise or set up camp under one of the trees with a book or a picnic.
While you’re in the area, be sure to also check out the smaller, but equally superb, Jardines de Monforte, which are fabulously romantic. In fact, this garden is a popular spot for wedding photos and it is peppered with wonderful marble statues. There is a distinct tranquility about this park that is unusual to find within a city center.
Order horchata from a street vendor
Let me start by explaining what horchata is and then let me follow it up by saying that it tastes a lot better than it sounds. Horchata is a milky drink made of tiger nuts. It sounds weird, but once you’ve thrown in some sugar and cinnamon it becomes a delightfully refreshing beverage, which is a huge hit with the locals and will be with you too once you’ve had your first taste.
There are loads of places all over Valencia that sell horchata and they are conveniently named horchaterías. Just like paella, you simply cannot visit this Spanish city without trying horchata at least once. Although, it is unlikely you’ll only have it the once as it is surprisingly addictive.
If you want the horchata experience, drink it while you eat a “farton”, which sounds disgusting but is actually a delicious pastry, shaped like a finger and covered in sugar.
- This Valencia tapas tour shows you the city while you walk from one delicious place to the other.
- This cooking class will teach you how to prepare an authentic Valencian paella.
- On this 3-hour-long food tour an expert guide will take you to yummy food stores in Valencia's old town
I like using GetYourGuide because of their strict selection process for the local operators they work with, their great customer service, and the fact that you can often cancel an activity up to 24 hours before it takes place in case anything comes up.
Private customized tour of Valencia
Want to see only the things you're interested in and still learn all about them? That's possible with this private tailored tour. You get to choose the language of the tour, what time it starts, and where you'll meet your guide.
Other tours of Valencia
GetYourGuide offers a wide range of walking, bike, and Segway tours in Valencia. You can find them here. I love using GetYourGuide as they offer great customer service and are highly selective about the local operators they work with.
Don't forget travel insurance
No matter how well you plan your trip to Valencia, there's always something that can go wrong. A reservation may get lost, you can get sick or you can drop and break that new camera. In all of these cases, good travel insurance has you covered.
I've ongoing travel insurance for years to make sure I'm covered for every trip I go on but if you travel just a few times a year, you can get insured for each trip separately too.
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