Your full guide to Valencia

Your full guide to Valencia

Valencia balances for a long weekend trip; not too big to make you tire and not too small to make you bore. Throughout its more than 2,000-year history, Valencia passed through the Roman period and from time to time was under the ruling of the Moors and the Spanish. This gives the city a special interference in architecture, cuisine, culture.

Valencia (1)

Valencia (1)

Spain’s third largest city is home to some of the most striking architecture in the country, adding to the wealth of elegant Art Nouveau buildings that line the streets, as well as Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance monuments. To my surprise, being the third largest, the city looks dirty. There's a lot of individual demolished buildings which as a disadvantage ruins the architecture but as an advantage offers graffiti space to artists. Looks like the money has been spent on churches and cathedrals than the rest of the city.

Plaza de la Virgen is the physical heart of Valencia. Take a seat at one of the bars overlooking the square where once Roman soldiers rested after battles, to enjoy views of the Cathedral of Santa Maria, the Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, and baroque Generalitat Palace.

Valencia_Turia Fountain & Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados

Valencia_Turia Fountain & Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados

Turia Fountain in the centre of the square depicts Neptune with eight women pouring water into a basin – each representing the important irrigation channels that feed Valencia.

Originally built on an ancient Roman temple that was later a mosque, Valencia Cathedral is a Gothic building, although it preserves many elements from other periods from the Roman era to the Baroque era. It supposedly houses the Holy Grail, the cup Jesus drank from at the last supper.

Valencia_Cathedral (1)

Valencia_Cathedral (1)

Valencia_Cathedral (2)

Valencia_Cathedral (2)

Valencia’s two most emblematic church towers are El Micalet, or “Little Michael,” is attached to the city cathedral, while the bell tower of the Santa Catalina Church is at the end of Calle Paz. The name “Micalet” actually refers not to the tower itself, but to the giant bell suspended atop it. Exterior wall of the church of Santa Catalina in Valencia has fragments of ancient statues can be seen, which usually people miss.

Valencia_Santa Catalina Church (2)

Valencia_Santa Catalina Church (2)

The Tribunal de Las Aguas meets outside the Door of the Apostles of the Cathedral, every Thursday at midday, keeping alive a one thousand year old tradition. The tribunal is made up of eight farmers who still wear the typical black blouse of the Huerta (the irrigated fields around València). They sit in a circle on wood and leather 17th century chairs, and make their rulings.

The iconicValencia would not be the city it is today without silk; that's how the rest of the city was afforded to be constructed. La Lonja de la Seda (Silk Market), built between 1482 and 1492 when much of the silk coming into Europe was transported through North Africa, Valencia was the perfect location to the rest of the continent. Going up the room with richly-decorated 15th century ceiling, was where the tribunal sat to work out disagreements between traders. You can benefit from the free admission on Sundays and holidays from 9:30 am to 3 pm.

With its colourful Art Deco facade, the Central Market houses some 400 stalls that sell the freshest produce from land and sea. You can grab or sip something at Central Bar, it's muy chulo! Don't forget that it's open from Monday to Saturday from 7 to 3 pm.

Santos Juanes Church is one of the oldest in Valencia. It is also known as the church of San Juan del Mercado (Saint John of the Market). It was built in the 14th century and its original architecture is gothic in style. The church was originally built as a hermitage on the site of an old mosque in 1240. It had to be reconstructed in the 14th and 16th centuries due fire damage.

Valencia_Santos Juanes Church (1)

Valencia_Santos Juanes Church (1)

San Nicolás Church, also known as the Sistine Chapel of Valencia, was founded in the 13th century. The entrance is a bit expensive but the impressive frescoes, depicting the lifes of Saint Nicholas of Bari and Saint Peter Martyr, designed by Antonio Palomino, are well worth a visit.

Valencia_San Nicolás Church

Valencia_San Nicolás Church

There are so many churches around, some of which I  list so you know which is which: Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, San Marti Church, Church of San Andrés , San Juan de la Cruz), Church of Santísima Cruz (old Convent of Carmen).

Inside Ceramics Museum, there’s a great collection of Valencian ceramics yet it's hard not to fall in love with the exterior of this 15th century Palace of the Marqués de Dos Aguas. The entrance door of this Rococo palace is highlighted by a statue of the Virgin Mary, water gushing from the her hands.

The city is rich in green spaces, from the Royal Gardens to the Botanical Garden. Here, you’ll find orange trees and monumental trees as well. If you want to get deeper into nature, you can take a day trip to Albufera Natural Park, a nature reserve with a freshwater lagoon, rice fields and up to 250 species of birds.

As you may gather from the 18 bridges that arc their way over the park, Túria Park was once Túria River, but it was re-routed after it burst its banks in 1957, causing devastation throughout Valencia and killing 81 people in the process.

Founded in 1913, Museo de Bellas Artes houses more than 2,000 pieces of work from artists such as Sorolla, Goya, Velazquez, Murillo and many more iconic artists. It is the second largest art gallery in Spain and even has sections dedicated to sculpture, contemporary art and archaeological findings. Its free entrance makes it even more attractive.

But perhaps the most special part of this museum is the courtyards that can be found inside. The one that stands out in particular is El Patio del Embajador Vich (The courtyard of Ambassador Vich) with its incredibly rich blue colour, pictured below.

Valencia_Museo de Bellas Artes (0)

Valencia_Museo de Bellas Artes (0)

I had no idea Valencia was full of graffitis! Barrio del Carmen is crammed with world-class street art. You’ll find it no matter where you go, but be sure to wander the streets and alleyways around Plaça del Tossal and Carrer d’En Gordo to see the best. Do not miss Serrano and Quart towers that are left of the medieval wall that surrounded the city.

Valencia_Serrano & Quart Towers

Valencia_Serrano & Quart Towers

Carmen Contemporary Culture Center is a repurposed 13th century convent which is now home to a revolving selection of contemporary art exhibitions whilst also being the host of numerous cultural events.

Valencia_Carmen Contemporary Culture Center (3)

Valencia_Carmen Contemporary Culture Center (3)

Ruzafa, the area behind Nord Train Station, has gone from scruffy to fashionable with more and more cool cafés, bars, restaurants and shops popping up in the early 20th-century buildings that are typical of the neighbourhood. Where Barrio del Carmen is charming and historic, the Ruzafa neighborhood is hipster and artsy.

The original Puerta del Mar, built in 1356 served as the exit door of the city towards the Mediterranean. In 1946, the architect Javier Goerlich Lleó, built an entirely new building on the old door's site, with an aspect that resembled one of the old entrances to the city, Puerta del Real that was built in 1801.

Valencia_Puerta del Mar

Valencia_Puerta del Mar

Don’t worry if you can’t make it to Valencia in March for "Las Fallas" celebrations as you can still visit the Fallas Museum that houses ninots ‘pardoned’ and kept for preservation. And if you will, do expect noise and bustle, it's not like Nice Carnival. During the celebrations, the streets are filled with beautiful papier-mâché statues called ‘ninots’ that stand as tall as buildings. These statues take a whole year to make but are set on fire and burned to the ground as the city erupts in a blazing glory of fireworks and earth-shattering firecrackers.

Valencia_Las Fallas Museum (6)

Valencia_Las Fallas Museum (6)

Valencia also reminded me of Athens when I went by the port. It doesn't make sense to have the sea in front and not make use of it in a better way. All the tourist attractions are in the old town, the blogs I went through before my visit, didn't even talk about the promenade, what a shame.

Valencia Marina is an area developed when the Port was modernized to host the 32nd America’s Cup, combining culture, training and enterprise with sports, tourism and gastronomy. Marina is also an ecosystem for innovation in business such as Bankia Fintech.

Valencia_La Marina

Valencia_La Marina

The most emblematic building in marina is the Veles e Vents. It is a cultural building that hosts exhibitions, live music, theatre, conferences and dance.

Sheltered in a climate that makes it possible to sail every day of the year, sailing is the top activity in the area, with over 800 moorings available for private vessels. There are also options for boat rides where you can enjoy the sunset, food and partying on board.

La Pamela by Manolo Valdés is a monumental sculpture entirely made of aluminum at La Marina de Valencia.

Valencia_La Pamela

Valencia_La Pamela

City of Arts and Sciences overwhelms you in stark contrast to the ancient look of the old town. The project was inaugurated in 1996 by the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava and finished in 9 years. The entrance is not cheap to make up for the 900 million euros spent to build it! It's a scientific and cultural leisure complex consisting of Reina Sofía Art Palace - Opera house and performing arts centre; Hemisfèric - Planetarium and cinema; the Science Museum and the Oceanogràfic.

The top attraction of all is the water lily-shaped Oceanographic which is divided geographically into ten different parts, from the North Pole to the equator.

If you have seen Monaco's Oceanographic, this will not satisfy you I'm afraid. The amazing architecture has been shadowed by the fact that it was just an aquarium with dolphin shows if you ask me. And I wished there were more signs to lead you throughout your visit.

Valencia_Oceanographic (1)

Valencia_Oceanographic (1)

The complex is completed by its most recent addition; the blue building known as the Agora, which formerly hosted the Tennis Open but is now expected to be used as a multipurpose event space, and the Umbracle, an open-air space which is the perfect vantage point for taking photos.

The almuerzo is a sort of second mid-morning breakfast and a rite of passage for the Spanish (especially in Valencia). Spanish people more or less skip breakfast (they may squeeze in a coffee and a small pastry but little else, so by about 10am or 11am they’ll pop our for their almuerzo – and the Valencians do it with serious gusto! Do it like the locals with crusty bread rolls stuffed with jamón and cheese and a little glass of red vino.

Valencia is famous for its sweet and juicy oranges and the ultimate way to enjoy them is squeezed into Agua de Valencia (Water of Valencia). Don’t let the name fool you – there’s not even a drop of H2O in this boozy concoction. It’s actually freshly squeezed Valencian oranges pepped up with cava, vodka and/or gin – punchy stuff.

Valencia is the birthplace of paella, but surprisingly the authentic paella valenciana is made with chicken or rabbit, white beans and snails, not mariscos. Eat at La Riuá, a family owned restaurant that is a favorite among locals since they’re known for cooking award-winning paella that is best paired with a young and fruity, local red wine, like tempranillo. If you're looking for a single portion, as it's usually cooked minimum for two, try few restaurants that cook for one for a few more euros (like Haus) or get one at Central Market to go if you have kitchen facilities.

Valencia_Paella

Valencia_Paella

Did you know?

⦁ Valencia is one of the few Mediterranean cities that still keep its language.
⦁ It's home to the narrowest building in Europe and the second in the world, only surpassed by a 100 cm Brazil known as’ Casa del Metro ‘. Located in Plaza Lope de Vega, its facade is only 107 centimeters from side to side, slightly more than the width of the door.
⦁ The Jewish House is in fact a residential building? It was built in 1930 by Valencian architect Juan Guardiola Martínez by order of José Salom.

Valencia_Jewish House

Valencia_Jewish House

⦁ Valencia’s friendly felines have a Cat House. According to local legend, the former owner of this little blue house on Carrer del Museu left it as a refuge for the city’s stray cats. Local artists have dressed up the property, decorating the tiny home in traditional Valencian architecture and even planting a little “garden” off to the side.

Valencia_Cat House

Valencia_Cat House

⦁ There's only one bath house left out of the 10 Moorish ones. Visitors can still see some of the restored 13th-century architecture on Carrer dels Banys de l’Almirall, 3-5.

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