In July we went to Valencia with the entire family, looking for sun, sea, good food, and fun activities.
Valencia in a nutshell
- Valencia is, after Madrid and Barcelona, the third largest city in Spain.
- In this region they speak Valencian.
- The best-known Spanish dish, paella, was invented over here.
- Valencia is also called the orange city.
- The River Turia flows through the city.
- Founded in 138 BC. by the Romans, it was then dominated by the Moors and afterwards by Christians.
- It is on average warmer than in Barcelona, but temperatures are less extreme than in other southern Spanish cities.
How do you reach Valencia?
We flew in just over two hours from Eindhoven to Valencia. It takes about 15 minutes to get from the airport to the city center. You can take a taxi, bus, or metro. The Aerobus (line 150) leaves every 20 minutes and the metro every 10 minutes.
- Aerobus; 1.25 euro
- Metro:3.90 euro
- Taxi: 20 euro
Where to stay?
There are countless hotels in Valencia. From cheap to extremely expensive. We do not like staying in the center and as Valencia is at the sea, we chose a beach hotel. The best hotel is Las Arenas Balneario Resort, but unfortunately it was fully booked. We stayed at hotel Neptuno. The hotel is separated from the beach by a promenade. The rooms have sea or harbor views. Nearby are numerous restaurants and it is a cozy area for a stroll in the evening. The rooms are tidy. There is a rooftop sun terrace and a cozy bar along the beach. They serve a nice breakfast. There is a lot of parking space in front of the hotel and there are always cabs waiting. Next to the hotel there is a ticket office where you can book tickets, rent bikes, etc.
In case you are traveling on a budget, you can check this post.
Cycling in Valencia
The best way to discover Valencia is by bike. There is not that much traffic in the city and it is flat, making for an easy ride. You can of course make a trip on your own, but we booked a guide. This way you get a good impression of the city in a short period of time.
We booked a bike ride at Tours in Valencia. Suzie, the owner, is Dutch who lost her heart to Spain. Her colleague Petra, also from Holland, was our enthusiastic guide.
At 10 o'clock we met at Plaza de la Reina. Around the corner we picked up our bikes and we were ready to explore the city. At every major point of interest and every cozy place, Petra stopped for a short explanation and to give us time to take some pictures.
10 things to visit in Valencia
Plaza de la Reina
This square is in the heart of the city and is named after Queen Mary de las Mercedes de Orleans, the first wife of King Alfonso XII. On the square is the Cathedral of Valencia. Built in the 13th century but expanded regularly during the next the centuries. The main entrance has a beautiful 18th century baroque gate, Puerta de los Hierros. According to legend, the holy grail should be preserved here. Climb the bell tower for a spectacular view of the city.
At the Puerta de los Apostoles, a unique courtroom meets every Thursday afternoon. The so-called Water Court settles disputes between farmers about water distribution and irrigation in a few minutes. No long-term lawsuits but quick decisions. The judge’s seats can be found at the entrance. Since 2009, the Water Tribunal is on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Enjoy the view:
Silk Exchange (La Lonja)
This is one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in Europe. It is therefore a Unesco World Heritage site since 1996. In the 15th century it was the headquarters of the silk trade. The Market Tribunal and the first Spanish court also resided here. The turret was a prison. Traders who could not afford to pay their debts were locked there until their family paid for them.
This is Europe's largest indoor fresh market. I think La Boqueria in Barcelona is more fun, but this one is also worth a visit. The Art Nouveau building, with its beautiful glass roof, was built in 1912 and consists of more than 400 stalls. I love the sight of the beautiful hams, vegetables and fruit stalls, fresh fish, and more. At the back there is one bar where you can taste some tapas.
At the back of the cathedral you will find the L'Almoina Archaeological Museum. Here you can find ancient ruins such as Roman baths dating from 138 B.C. There is a glass floor in front of the entrance of the museum, giving you a glimpse of the excavations.
Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas
This former palace of the Marques de Dos Aguas is one of Valencia's most beautiful buildings and houses the National Ceramics Museum.
Jardin del Turia
In the past, Turia River crossed the city. Due to the many floods they decided to change the crossing of the river. The dry-laid river is now a 9-km long park. It is constructed without a real plan, making it a very varied course. It is a green strip through the city with sports fields, zoos, bike paths, hiking trails, and more. Here you can see the Valencians jogging, walking the dog, or just enjoying a quiet afternoon.
If you travel with children, you should not miss the Gulliver's playground. The giant from the same story is tied to the ground. The children who play upon him look like Lilliputters.
On the way you pass some beautiful bridges like the Puente del Mar and the Flower bridge.
Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciencies (City of Arts and Sciences)
At the end of Turia, you arrive in the modern part of Valencia. The architect Santiago Calatrava was allowed to do his thing here. This futuristic-looking part of the Turia must definitely be on your to do list.
The Palau de la Musica is Valencia's Concert Hall.
The Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, following the Opera House in Sydney, is the second ultra modern opera house ever built. With its height of 75 meters it is Europe's largest opera house.
L'Hemisferic (eye of wisdom) contains an IMAX cinema and a planetarium.
Museo de las Ciencies (Science museum) resembles the skeleton of a whale. It is an interactive science museum that is very suitable for children.
Enjoy the view!
If you are looking for a first aid post, you can go to Museo de las Ciencias. One of our teenagers was a bit too enthusiastic. Thanks to the help of guide Petra and our Spanish-speaking friend, Thibaut was back with us again two hours and seven stitches later.
Museo de bellas artes
This one of the most important museums of modern art in Europe. You can enter it for free, yet it attracts few visitors. If you are not into art, you can just enjoy the beautiful exterior.
Torres de Serranos
This city gate of the 15th century was recently restored. The bullet holes, caused by Napoleon ‘s army, are still there and are now nesting places for the many parrots. Climb the towers and enjoy the view.
Plaça de L’Ajuntament
This giant square is dominated by Ayuntamiento City Hall and Correos Post Office.
Marina Real Juan Carlos I
At the round square next to Hotel Neptuno you can take a train to make a round trip through the port. The ride takes 45 minutes. On the way you cross the giant ramps where the children will undoubtedly enjoy themselves.
Of course, we had to visit a local wine house. I wanted to book a tour with Tours in Valencia. Unfortunately, Suzie, the wine specialist, was on her honeymoon. She was so kind to share a good address with us. So we drove to Requena (+/- 60 km outside Valencia) to Chozas Carrascal. Upon our arrival, we found out it was closed. We called at the office and the daughter of the owner wanted to give us a "short" tour. More than two hours later, after a great tour and after tasting some delicious wines, we stood outside again. Chozas Carrascal once started as a small domain selling its grapes to other winemakers. Since 2003, they produce their own wines. Las Ocho (8), Las Cuatro (4) and Las Tres (3) are respectively a delicious red, rose, and white wine.
The domain also has 50 hectares of olive trees, producing the most tasteful olive oil ever.
Click the dots to see more pictures.
In my next blogpost I will tell you all about the best places to eat in Valencia.
Do you know some other nice things to see in Valencia? Feel free to share them below.
Looking for a nice city guide? Here are some suggestions. I liked Time to Momo because it has a great citymap inside.