Valecia, Spain Bucket List (Besides the Beaches)
If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably heard about one of the best things to do in Spain, which is visit the country’s third largest city, Valencia.
Well, if this is true then you are a step ahead of me because before I went to Spain, I ashamedly admit that I had never heard of Valencia. But I soon learned that Valencia is a regular stop for tourists plodding the path between Barcelona and Madrid, or vice versa. To me, Valencia, Barcelona, and Madrid are the Spanish trifecta of awesome.
So, while Barcelona and Madrid are the most famous of the three cities, Valencia is a part of this terrific threesome for good reason. Valencia, the smallest of these cities, is the perfect combination of small town charm and vibrant city living. Not only is there a thriving food and nightlife scene, but there is also a relaxing and rejuvenating green space that wraps around the river on the outskirts of town, making it easy to spend 3 days in Valencia. Walking along this vast greenway, you will encounter the other worldly, modernist buildings of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, designed by Santiago Calatrava. But the modernity of such structures is balanced by the charming character of the old quarter, which has a stunning array of colonial Spanish architecture that transports visitors back in time. This old world Spanish charm is enhanced with a diverse array of traditional, Spanish dishes that are served well into the night; dishes that alight the taste buds with the richness of the local huerta, or fertile fruit and vegetable farmland that surrounds the outside of the city.
- Ciudad de las Artes y Las Ciencias
Before you set foot inside the Ciudad de las Artes y Las Ciencias, you are memorized by the modern structure that emerges on the horizon, like an other-worldly spaceship in the distance. This modern edifice houses the Hemispheric, Oceanographic, and Science museums and is a truly an awe-inspiring site to behold. But once inside, you can actually feel adventures by attending a film in the enormous IMAX theater, which is located just inside the Hemispheric Museum. Also explore the informative, entertaining, and interactive exhibits of the Science Museum, which emphasizes the development of recent scientific discoveries. Lastly, descend into the underwater world of the Oceanographic Museum (my favorite) which is Europe’s largest aquarium. An assortment of dolphins, belugas, walruses, sea lions, seals, penguins, turtles, sharks, rays, sawfish, jellyfish, starfish, sea urchins, and crustaceans all call this place home. Get an up close and personal view of these animal’s behavior and way of life, through this museum’s state of the art exhibits. Due to the size of the complex, I suggest taking a day and discovering all the mysteries that this magical facility has to offer.
Hours: See the website. Times vary based on season and which museum you are visiting, so check out the website here..
Admission: Prices vary based on the museum and which combination ticket you purchase, so check out the website here.
Address: Príncipe Felipe science Museum
Avda. del Professor López Piñero nº 7 – 46013 València.
Avda. del Professor López Piñero (Historiador de la Medicina) nº3 – 46013 València.
C/. Eduardo Primo Yúfera (Científic), nº 1B. 46013. València
- Restaurante Navarro
To truly appreciate the rich food culture of Valencia, visitors must dine at this culinary landmark, located in the heart of the city. Restaurant Navarro has been serving up traditional, Valencian cuisine since 1951, with historic cooking methods passed down form generation to generation. Currently, the Bayarri sisters are continuing this family tradition and run Restaurante Navarro. They practice the same culinary techniques of their grandfather, father and uncle before them, all of whom previously owned the restaurant and taught these ladies everything they know about cooking.
This restaurant is quite famous, so I suggest booking a table in advance on their website. On offer here are a diverse array of Mediterranean themed dishes that are perfectly executed and masterfully seasoned. The menu here is quite diversified, with something for even the pickiest eater in your group. An assortment of soups, salads, meats, seafoods, desserts, and (of course) paellas are all served here. I opted for the seasonal vegetable paella since I am a vegetarian. Needless to say, there were no leftovers. The paella was perfectly cooked, with a crisp crust on the bottom that expertly complimented the airy texture of the rest of the dish. All in all, this was an out of this world restaurant experience that I would recommend to anyone visiting the area.
*Serious foodies should consider a day trip to El Palmar, the premier rice-growing region of Albufera, where some of the best paella in the world can be found.
Hours: Mon – Sat: 1.30-4pm daily, and Sat. night: 8.30-11pm
Price: Rices are between €11-18, while the set menu is €22
Address: Carrer de l’Arquebisbe Mayoral, 5, 46002 València, Valencia
- La Lonja (The Silk Exchange)
Located in the center of the city, this Unesco World Heritage site, was originally the home of the silk and commodity exchange in Valencia. Constructed in the late 15th century, this building is one of the most famous civil Gothic monuments in all of Europe. The entire edifice surrounds a courtyard filled with aromatic citrus trees, that are a delight to walk through in warm weather.
Within La Lonja itself, there is the la Sala de Contratación. This room contains three longitudinal and five transversal naves, along with eight columns that support the entire, domed ceiling. There is also the Consulado del Mar, which is where the maritime tribunal sat. Also visit top floor, with it’s stunning, coffered ceiling that was relocated here from another building. Lastly, explore the two upper floors, which were used as a prison for those who could not pay their debts. Make sure to get the audio guide (€3) since the amount of printed material here is limited.
Hours: Mon-Sat: 9:30am – 7:00pm and Sun: 9.30am-3pm.
Admission: Adults are €2 and children are €1, with free admission on Sundays.
Address: Lonja, 2 46001 – Valencia
- Mercado Central
Since the Mercat Central de Valencia was first established in 1839, this Modernista-covered market has provided the residents of Valencia with fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, and meats that better the lives of the local community. Because of this market’s popularity, over 300 vendors call this place home. Therefore, this facility has transformed from a simple market, into a major cultural attraction for tourists and locals alike.
Meander though the narrow rows between the food stalls, and take in the vast array of sights, sounds, and colors that adorn this fast-paced, epicenter of daily life. Impressive seafood counters display an assortment of species that I didn’t even know existed, while a quaint tapas bar lets you relax and watch the many people hustling by.
While here, make sure to try the Calabaza Asada, which is a generous piece of roasted pumpkin that can be served for dessert when adorned with caramel sauce and whipped cream (Yum). Also not to be missed is the Horchata de Chufa, an icy cold, milky drink that is made from Tiger Nuts, and the Fartons, which are pastries that are not as sweet as doughnuts, but not as savory as bread rolls. Once these elongated, thin pastries emerge from the oven, they are dusted with a healthy amount of powdered sugar and then dipped into Horchata, to soak up some of the sugary, milky goodness.
Hours: Mon-Sat: 7:30am – 3:00pm
Admission: Free because it’s a giant market.
Address: Plaza Ciudad De Brujas, S/N 46001 Valencia
This Valencia neighborhood is the new town’s most exciting corner. Russafa was once a downmarket barrio that has become a trendy and vibrant hub of activity. By day, there are quirky galleries and vintage shops to explore, that make for a fun and relaxing way to discover the city. At night, Russafa becomes the center of culinary and cafe-bar nightlife, with such delicious offerings as tapas, vermouth bars, and literary cafes. Be sure to visit on the weekend when local nightlife is at its most vibrant and exciting.
- Jardines del Turia
Located along Valencia’s Rio Turia, this 9km-long, botanical paradise is the perfect mix of playing fields, playgrounds, walking/cycling paths, and extensive fields; a perfect place for a picnic or even a bit of sunbathing in nice weather. As it curves through the eastern part of the city, the park becomes a peaceful way of navigating this busy place. This park is also a great place to relax and people watch, as you listen to the multitudes of children giggle through the park’s tremendous playgrounds.
- Museo de Bellas Artes
This light and airy art gallery is one of Spain’s finest. This spacious building houses an exquisite collection of late-medieval altarpieces, as well as paintings from several iconic, Spanish masters. Museum highlights include Goya portraits, a haunting Velázquez self-portrait, and an El Greco John the Baptist, among many others. Downstairs, there are a series of rooms dedicated to a local painter named Joaquín Sorolla, who is renowned for capturing the emotional turmoil of ages past, through his evocative portraiture.
Hours: Tue-Sun: 10:00am – 8:00pm
Admission: Free Admission
Address: Calle de San Pío V 9 Valencia, Spain