This post is part of the series Valencia
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An old history, unique architecture, variety of museums, amazing beaches, palm trees lined streets, great climate, nice locals, interesting culture, lovely food, amazing markets, and buzzing nightlife … Valencia has it all! But for all that, the city is often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighboring cities, Barcelona and Madrid.
Valencia, the third largest city in Spain, has a lot to offer to its visitors! A long weekend won’t be enough if you want to explore every juicy corner of the city. Valencia has something for every single traveler and foodie – from great architecture to the best paella; from exotic drinks to the best beaches in Europe! The city vibe is unique. The atmosphere – chilled out! And the weather – never-failing … with an annual average temperature of 23°!
During my first of all three full days in the city, I decided to explore the Old Town and all its Plazas, small streets, churches, small shops and other hidden jewels. After several “turn lefts” and “turn rights” I was kind of lost, but that’s hows the magic happens! Valencia is colourful and vibrant. So better put your “to see and do” list aside and let the street vibe guide you 🙂
Valencia is the ultimate city to walk! Walking, as well as biking (you can rent a bike everywhere in the city), is incredibly easy. You can use the Bus and metro System too. Especially if you travel from the airport to the city centre I recommend you to take the Metro Lines 3, 5 or 9. You can choose among single tickets, combined tickets, and monthly passes.
Notice: there is no UBER in Spain! MyTaxi or Cabify are kind of similar apps that are available to download and use their service during your visit. MyTaxi is the better option if you want to pay via credit card.
What we also did is to go for option Number 3: Valencia Card! You can buy Valencia card for 24, 48, or 72 h. The card offers the free use of all public transport, as well as discounts on some sites and attractions in Valencia (Oceanografic Aquarium Ticket, Oceanografic Valencia Aquarium Ticket, and many others)
Where to Stay
Well, Valencia is definitely a city where I would recommend you to book a hotel or B&B somewhere near the Old Town! Pretty everything from here is in a walkable distance – the most interesting Plazas, shopping centers, the City of the Arts and Sciences and a bunch of pubs, bars, and restaurants.
If you are flying to Valencia, the airport is situated 8 km west of the city. There are many options to get to the city center from the airport, but the best one is to take the Metro Line 3, 5 and 9 to the Station Colon or Xativa (takes about 45 minutes).
Our Hotel “Vincci Palace” had the perfect location! Only 5 minutes of walk to Xativa Metro station and 5 min to Plaza de la Reina.
Plaza de la Reina
We started our city tour from Plaza de la Reina. This place is literally the heart of Valencia! It marks the Kilometre Zero which meaning that all distances are traditionally measured from here. The History of Plaza de la Reina goes back 130 years as it was named after the beautiful wife of Alfonso XII.
Plaza de la Reina is not only packed with numerous cafes, tapas bars, shops, and restaurants but it’s also home to many tourist attractions. It hosts one of the most interesting and important attractions of Valencia – its Cathedral, as well as the El Micalet bell tower.
El Micalet is located right behind the cathedral and is a must visit for many visitors. The tower is more than 50 m high and you can climb to the top thanks to its spiral staircase with 200 steps. From here you can enjoy the amazing views of the city and even the sea.
The center of Plaza de la Reina hosts a lot of flowers, orange trees and numerous benches, from where mostly locals watch the world go by.
Horchateria de Santa Catalina, a two-hundred-year-old café, is also one of the must-see attractions and most renowned cafeteria in Valencia! Here you can enjoy Horchata – the sweet local drink from Valencia!
Plaza de la Reina is the perfect starting position for exploring the Old Town of Valencia called El Carmen. From here you can easily “get lost” in order to explore the small boutiques and beautiful architecture and ancient vibe of Valencia! The cobbled streets of El Carmen are very beautiful, unique and easily walkable. In only 10 minutes you can get to Plaza Redonda, Plaza de la Virgen, Plaza del Ayuntamiento, Barrio del Carmen, and many other attractions.
Saint Mary’s Cathedral
The first must-see attraction of Valencia is located between Plaza de la Reina and Plaza del Virgen at the beginning of the Old Town. Thanks to the tower El Micalet, the church can be seen from all over the city. It’s absolutely the best spot in Valencia to start any walk – so did we!
The Cathedral of Valencia, also known as the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady or Saint Mary’s Cathedral, was the city’s largest church for almost 800 years. Later on in the history of Valencia, the Majestic Building converted into a Mosque during the Moorish occupation. The cathedral, what you can visit nowadays, was consecrated in the 12th century by the first bishop of Valencia Pere d’Albalat, Archbishop of Tarragona.
Saint Mary’s Cathedral refers to many styles as Romanesque and Baroque. Anyway, the Gothic is the predominant architectural style.
Opening Hours: 01.01.xx – 19.03.xx (Monday to Saturday) 10:00 – 17:30, Sunday Closed; 20.03.xx – 31.10.xx (Monday to Saturday) 10:00 – 18:30, Sunday 14:30 – 18:30; 01.11.xx – 31.12.xx (Monday to Saturday) 10:00 – 17:30, Sunday Closed;
Tickets: Adults 3 €, Children and Students 2 €
The Paella Drama
Where did the Paella come from? If you ask Valencians and Catalans, you’ll get at least two answers. But actually, the original paella comes from the Valencian region. Traditionally, the paella Valenciana was made with vegetables, beans, chicken, rabbit, and snails (well, snails are not on my “to do” list for this life) … plus whatever was to hand around the rice fields and countryside. Paella is traditionally eaten straight from the pan as each person is using his own wooden spoon.
Interesting to know is that the name “paella” or “la paella” is the name for cooking pan itself and not the dish! In Valencia, the people have their own local language (as the Catalans in Catalonia). La “paella” comes from the old word “patella” which means pan.
And if you don’t exactly know how to pronounce the word “paella” – the right pronunciation is “PA-E-YA”!
Where to eat Paella: El Clot at Plaça Redona in the old city is a perfect choice!
Central Market (Mercado Central)
If you are a foodie like me – Valencia, and especially the Central Market (Mercado Central), is your place to be! They are many more markets in Valencia than I could explore within a long weekend. But especially this one had the flair of a market I was searching for.
The Mercado Central has been declared as a ”Heritage of Cultural Interest” site by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. It is also one of the oldest in Europe! The central market was designed in 1914 by Francisco Guardia and Alejandro Soler and was inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII in 1928. Over 8000 m² inside are home to 900 stands who are selling many different types of food, seasonal fruit and vegetables, cold meats, seafood, fish, cheeses, baked goods, sweets, drinks, olives, spices, and lots of wine. There is also a snail stand (as many locals prefer their paella with snails instead of chicken or seafood…).
You have to go inside the market in order to feel it … and to smell it too! Mercado Central is an explosion of colours and flavours. My favourite “fruits” of all were the cured hams and Valenciana sausages. Jamón, or the ham obtained from the hind legs of the authentic Iberian pigs, is a big thing in Valencia! You can find hundreds of different types of Jamón varying in price and quality. The best and most expensive ham called “pata negra” comes from special black pigs who live freely somewhere in the wild nature of Iberia.
Another interesting worth the visit markets are the Modernista Ruzafa Market and Mercado Colon.
La Llotja de la Seda
What you can also visit in the middle of the Old Town is the Silk Market also known as La Llotja de la Seda. The Silk Market has an absolutely lovely and unique architecture that was designed to show off Valencia’s medieval rich society. Nowadays La Llotja de la Seda is a UNESCO heritage site since 1996.
The Silk Market was built in during the golden age of Valencia in 1482 by the architect Pere Compte. But why they named it the Silk Market? Because this place really acted as a market where exclusive tradesmen and merchants used the 2000 m² area for selling and reselling silk during the medieval times.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 to 14:00 and 16:30 to 20:30; Sunday and Public Holidays from 10:00 to 15:00
Tickets: Adults 2 €, Children and Students 1 €
Have you been to Valencia? Do you have any tips or recommendations for someone visiting this lovely city?
Enjoy the day!
Continue reading this series:
Long Weekend In Valencia ~ Day Two