What are the first images you conjure up when thinking about a holiday in Spain? Tables laden with tapas? Bullfights? Flamenco dancers? You won’t be wrong, but if you have your sights on Valencia, you’re going to have to adjust your visor just a little bit.
Here are our absolute must-see places in Valencia that will give you a great substitute for more traditional lists, while still taking in the best of Valencian culture.
Free Things To Do in Valencia
In a city as ancient and rich in history as Valencia, you won’t want to only spend your time tanning and swimming! In fact, it’s quite easy to find free activities, and take in much more of the city. There are even some Museums that don’t have an entry fee, including the must-see Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia.
But, you still have to go to the beach, obviously.
Pinedo Pueblo Beach
We recommend that you head out to one of the more secluded beaches in Valencia, with uninterrupted views over the ocean and protection from the wind with thanks to being close to the port. We’re talking about Pinedo Beach, one of the best beaches in Valencia!
What’s more, you don’t have to drag your sun umbrella with you as Pinedo Beach offers huge free-standing beach umbrellas for free.
This sunny, sandy beach is just outside of the city of Valencia, a 20-minute bus ride if you catch the #25 Bus. But, it’s so worth it – Valencia’s inner-city beaches are constantly getting a bad rap for being polluted and dirty, whereas at Pinedo, the sand is clean and the water is beautifully blue and clear thanks to its semi-remote location.
Everything you’ll need for the day is offered right at or near the beach – restaurants if you get hungry, and amenities such as fresh drinking water, toilets and showers.
Get Lost in the Valencia Old Town
Also known as Ciutat Vella, which directly translates to Historic Centre, Valencia’s old town is one of Europe’s largest historic centres and exploring it could well take up a whole day.
Valencia is over 2 000 years old and has had a multitude of cultural influences over this time, from the Romans to the Visigoths. Not to mention the time it was invaded by the Moors who set up Mosques around town, only to relinquish them to the Christians again.
You can see evidence of these many previous civilizations in the architecture and art that give the Old Town its distinctly charismatic atmosphere.
If you’re on a budget but still want to be educated about the history of the city with a professional guide, we’ve got you covered. For a reasonable price, we recommend signing up for a walking and small tasting tour within the old town, and it’s offered in English.
Once you’ve completed walking around the old town learning about the various architectural and cultural influences, the guide will take you to the Central Market whereby your tastebuds will be enriched with the traditional Spanish specialities.
But, if you don’t have time and really want to discover the heart and soul of the Old City in a short period, make sure you put these sights on your list:
Wander Around the Valencia Cathedral
A visit to Valencia is not complete without a visit to the esteemed Cathedral of Valencia. Otherwise known as the Metropolitan Cathedral–Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady (of Valencia).
It is more commonly regarded as the ‘Seu’. Consecrated in 1238 by the first bishop of Valencia, this Gothic cathedral was originally built upon a mosque, that was in turn ‘built on’ a Visigothic cathedral.
In one of the cathedral’s chapels is a Holy Chalice that is widely regarded by Christian historians as being the authentic cup used at the Last Supper!
A number of mysteries haunt the Cathedral; including the mystery behind it having three entrances, the significance of the mural engravings that point to more ‘murderous times’, and hunting for remnants of its time as a Mosque. Find out more here and be sure to inspect the walls and doors for clues!
(Note: There is a small entry fee, yet the building’s exterior and architecture is worth marveling at as well – so we still recommend you take a stroll around it if you don’t want to pay a fee.)
Visit the Second-Most Narrow Building in the World
Yes, it’s in Valencia! A house centrally located within Plaza Lope de Vega within the Old Town is officially the narrowest in Europe, and the second-most globally, beat by about 100cm. The old facade has remained constant throughout, and its width is a mind-blowing 107cm!
To access the curiously cramped house, you’ll have to enter through the Mediterranean Bar and Restaurant La Estrecha, which became part of the house when the owners knocked down the walls that once separated them. Because it’s so narrow, it can be quite tricky to get to the bar, but that just adds to the charm and makes it a more ‘intimate’ experience.
Valencia Tourist Card
Although Spain is one of the cheaper European destinations, traveling can still be costly. Unlike any other tourist pass, Valencia has uniquely curated a great deal for travelers.
For a reasonable price, tourists can purchase the Valencia Tourist Card that will permit them free public transport as well as entry to 40 Museums and Monuments, and reduced rates at over 50 locations, including shopping.
We highly recommend you invest in this card because transport is one of the biggest expenses for a tourist, and you’ll want to see as much as you can. Bonus: the card includes free transport from the airport!
You can use the card on any of Valencia’s many modes of transportation: bus, tram or metro. You’ll even receive a coupon for free tapas and drinks to enjoy in the heart of a city that’s created some of the world’s greatest dishes. Yes! We are frothing too.
Depending on the length of your stay, the Tourist Card is offered in three sets; for 24, 48 or 72 hour periods.
Things To Do Near Valencia: Day-trips
Valencia, one of the largest natural ports in the Mediterreanen Sea, is situated in the southeastern coast of Spain at the confluence of the Turia River and the Meditterranean Sea. This makes it the perfect base to set out on many incredible adventures.
La Albufera National Park
If you want to leave the city behind and explore the outskirts, we recommend you head to La Albufera, a national park only 10km outside of Valencia.
It boasts a beautiful fresh-water lagoon edging on the Gulf of Valencia where you can lounge around the lake in traditional latin sail-boats. The national park is a wetland that contains bodies of waters concealed by rice-fields and forests. However, its natural beauty isn’t the only reason to visit the park.
One of Spain’s undisputed greatest dishes is paella – a savory, rice-based dish flavored with saffron. Aficionados believe the type of rice used can make or break the dish, and it is the variety that is grown in the rice fields of Albufera that is said to make the best paella in the world!
You will be surprised to learn that Spain, along with Italy, is responsible for up to 80% of Europe’s rice production and that Albufera is not only Spain’s predominant rice-producing region, it’s been growing rice as far back as the 10th century.
Where to eat in Albufera
Locals will treat you with scorn if you so much as mention that you’ve had paella anywhere else in the country or the world. This is because typically we would eat seafood paella, but that’s not what you’d order here. The original dish from Albufera is cooked with chicken, rabbit and local white beans called garrafós.
You can find a good paella on virtually every corner of Valencia. However, it’s worth your time to reserve a seat at one of the family-run paella restaurants that have been serving locals for decades.
Our top recommendation is the award-winning La Riuà with it’s quaint blue-tiled walls adorned with plates and gilded frames, and unassuming wooden furniture. It is here, in one of the oldest and quintessentially Spanish parts of the city, that Francisco Castro and PIlar Lozano have been charming visitors with their authentic national dish and dazzling array of rice dishes for decades.
Agriculture is Valencia’s key tenet, and has been for centuries. And whilst rice was a massive source of income for the city, oranges (naranjas) have actually been the chief crop that has evolved the Valencian economy.
Valencia is not only situated within the “Orange Blossom Coast (Costa Azahar), but is the capital of the region too! It was given the name due to the refreshing scent of citrus floating in the air. It makes sense then that Spain is Europe’s leading orange producer with two thirds of the produce coming from the Valencia region.
You’ve probably seen this variety of naranjas all over the world, but rarely spared a thought about their origins. In fact, the oranges in your supermarket at home are named for the variety of orange and not the location where they were cultivated – Valencia.
Hence, visiting Valencia is your chance to taste the real deal, right at the source. What distinguishes these oranges is that they’re sweeter and juicier than almost any other oranges and also have fewer pips, which makes them great for juicing.
You’re going to see plenty of oranges growing on the trees throughout the city. Unfortunately, you can’t pick them as they are solely grown for decorative purposes!
To extend your orange adventure, drive out of the city to the actual Orange Capital of Spain, Burriana. This small town possesses the optimal climate for growing oranges and is overflowing with orange groves. Luckily enough for tourists, Valencia Tours (Guias) provides intimate day-trips to the heart of Burriana’s orange groves with the aid of a knowledgeable guide.
The Orange Tour
During the tour you’ll be able to witness every step involved in the farming and exporting of oranges – from washing the fruit to being delivered to the markets. You’ll also be invited to stroll among the orchards and pick your own fruit from the dwarf fruit trees in the orange grove!
Tip: Do the tour between the months of April and May when the trees are blooming and the oranges maturing.
Before making your way into the countryside to pick oranges, we recommend you take a detour to the main train station, Estación del Norte. Here you’ll find all kinds of ‘odes to oranges’, such as the beautifully painted azulejos (glazed tiles) that adorn the station’s façade.
If you’re looking for a cute memento to take home, you can purchase these hand-painted tiles that feature the Valencia oranges at one of the famous ceramics shops located in Plaza Redonda.
If you’re looking to buy some oranges to squeeze at home, pop in at Mercado Central, one of the oldest markets still in use in Europe.
Then make your way to Café Madrid, a quick 10-walk from the station towards the Old City. This famous cafe is the birthplace of the renowned Spanish cocktail – Agua de Valencia, a heady mix of cava, vodka, gin and freshly-squeezed orange juice. It’s a must on a hot summer’s day.
Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences is an ultra-modern entertainment-related science and visionary culture complex. It’s undoubtedly one of Spain’s biggest points of interest! you’ll see it on a Valencia segway tour, or rent a bike and cruise around.
In 1957 the Great Flood of Valencia caused the river Turia to be redirected, and to pay homage to the river the City’s architect decided to build a sunken park on its former river bank. It has been categorized as the largest of its kind in Europe and has been used as the location for blockbuster movies such as Tomorrowland, featuring George Clooney!
Set on 200 hectares, the City hosts seven futuristic structures, most of which were designed by celebrated Valencian architect, Santiago Calatrava. Our top picks include:
- A building symbolising an eye with an IMAX Cinema, planetarium and laserium
- An interactive science museum in the form of a whale’s skeleton – the largest building in Spain
- A cable-stayed bridge above the arid Turia riverbed – the highest point in Valencia.
- An open-air oceanographic park taking up the form of a water lily; the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe
tip: go to the aquarium late in the afternoon and then dine underwater in Oceanos Submarine Restaurant, as the aquarium is open until late at night
You can buy tickets for the City of Arts and Sciences by upgrading your 24-hour hop-on hop-off bus to include the City and the Valencia Aquarium.
So, what are you waiting for? Have you booked your flights yet? Valencia is an all-inclusive destination that allows you to indulge in fine food and drink rooted in ancient agriculture.
Laze on pristine beaches or simply stroll around the multicultural Old Town with its rich history.
From futuristic buildings to some of the oldest in the world, we couldn’t think of a better place to spend your next vacation!