With more than 300 days of sunshine each year, sandy stretches of beaches as far as the eye can see, and beautiful historical buildings and plazas at every turn, there’s a lot to love about the Spanish city of Valencia.
It’s not as iconic as Barcelona or Madrid, but that is a part of its appeal. Even though it’s Spain’s third largest city, it’s easy to find your own little piece of Valencia and discover its charms. Valencia has a relaxed vibe, it’s very easy to navigate, people are friendly, the food is cheap and delicious, and you don’t need to spend much money to enjoy what the city has to offer.
Valencia is perfect for walking to see the beautiful buildings and plazas, peruse the vintage clothing stores, admire the street art, sample appetising tapas, relax in the sun beside the city’s fountains, or chill out in the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Cycling around the city is another great way to see the sights.
Best time to visit Valencia
Valencia is a year-round destination due to the warm climate. Summers are sunny and clear, and it doesn’t get too cold in the south of Spain. It can get very hot in the summer though, so autumn and spring are perfect times to visit.
However, if you want to tick the La Tomatina Festival off your bucket list, Valencia is the ideal location to base yourself. The tomato throwing festival is held each year on the last Wednesday of August in the nearby town of Bunol.
I recommend arriving in Valencia a few nights before the festival, have fun at the ultimate food fight, then stay for a few days after. During my festival stint, I noticed many people came to Valencia solely for La Tomatina and the crowds cleared out the very next day.
Valencia is also a popular pilgrimage for another festival, Las Fallas. This festival is held from March 15-19 each year and originates from the pagan celebration of farewelling winter and welcoming in the spring. It’s said the festival stems from a practice of carpenters and others artisans in Valencia of using candles perched on planks of wood called ‘parots’ to see by during the wintertime. Eventually, this practice evolved and the parrots were dressed in clothing to represent a well-known person in the community. When spring came, the craftspeople would take the parrots outdoors and burn them to celebrate the end of winter.
The Las Fallas Festival is five days of celebrations during both the day and night. Expect to be woken up each morning of the festival at 8am by firecrackers in the street. Fireworks displays are held each day and on the night of 19 March, large figures made from items such as cardboard, wood, and papier mache are lit on fire around the city. You can check out images and videos from this year’s festival here.
Top Things To Do In Valencia
Valencia has a number of historical buildings spread across the city, as well as plazas populated with pretty fountains and palm trees that give it a welcoming sub-tropical feel.
Highlights include the Torres de Quart, Turia Gardens, Valencia Cathedral, Miquelet bell tower, a bullring that looks like a miniature version of Rome’s Colosseum, and the wild beaches.
All the main sights are within walking distance and you can orientate yourself by the main plazas – Plaza de la Virgen, Plaza de la Reina and Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
Plaza de la Reina is near a number of key sights including the 13th century Valencia Cathedral, which stands on the site of an old mosque. For a panoramic view of the city, climb the 207 steps of the Cathedral’s Miguelete Bell Tower for a couple of euros.
Part of Valencia’s old city walls still remain and can be seen by visiting the Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart. Restorations are ongoing to the towers, but sometimes they are open to the public and offer good views of the city.
The local beach Playa de Las Arenas (also known as El Cabanyal) can be reached by the metro system in about 15 minutes from the city centre. Take a stroll down the palm tree lined promenade Paseo Marítimo and stop for a bite. You can eat or drink at many bars and restaurants spread along the long stretch of the beach enjoying fresh juices, paella or seafood.
Due to the length of the beach, it’s easy to find a spot all to yourself to pull out your beach towel but bring a hat, sunscreen and maybe even a beach umbrella as there’s no shade. The beaches have boardwalks running down intermittently so it’s even wheelchair accessible. There are also lots of free bathroom facilities spread along the promenade.
If you’re looking for something a little less touristy, head to Valencia’s wild beaches near the Albufera Nature Park. These beaches are located south of the port and Playa de Las Arenas. You can find a guide to the wild beaches here.
One of the best ways to reach the wild beaches is by bike. There are plenty of bike rental options in the old town.
There was once a river in Valencia, but due to regular flooding, the river was diverted and the riverbed is a now a 9km linear park called Turia Gardens.
The park is filled with trees, water features, and sculptures and crisscrossed by 18 bridges. By walking or cycling through the park you can reach the Bioparc Zoo in the west or the distinctive City of Arts and Sciences complex in the east.
The Bioparc features a variety of animals including leopards, lemurs, lions, giraffes, gorillas, rhinoceroses and elephants. Entry is €23.80.
The City of Arts and Sciences complex houses a science museum and Europe’s biggest aquarium, Oceanografic. Entry to the Oceanografic is €28.50.
Where to Eat & Drink in Valencia
If you’re hungry or want to pick up some fresh fruit or pastries, make sure you head along to the Mercat Central de Valencia – the central market. It’s considered one of the oldest European markets with a market existing at this location since 1839. It’s open 7am to 3pm Monday to Saturday and features more than 400 traders.
There’s everything from fresh juices, fruit, and empanadas here that are easy to grab and go, and if you have kitchen facilities where you’re staying, you can pick up fresh seafood and meats.
You can also pull up a stool at the La Huertana bar for a coffee and pastry. It’s a great place to people watch You might also like to try horchata – a milk-like drink made with ground tiger nuts (similar to almonds), water and sugar. It is typically served with fartons – a type of sugary pastry.
Another popular place to try horchata is the Horchatería de Santa Catalina near the Plaza De Reina. You can spot it easily with its colourful mosaic tiled entry way.
Just outside the market entrance facing Placa del Mercat and towards the Valencia Cathedral side there’s also an unassuming churros stall serving fresh, piping hot churros with chocolate sauce.
For dinner options in Valencia, you don’t have to go far from the city centre. There are lots of possibilities around the Plaza de la Reina and Placa Redona. You’re spoilt for choice for tapas and pintxos bars and choices start as cheap as a euro each.
Go further out and you’ll find tapas bars on most streets so take a seat and choose from a range of options and pair it with a Spanish wine.
A list of the most popular tapas bars can be found here as well as a guide to tapas ordering etiquette.
One of my favourite cafes during my stay in Valencia was the Almalibre Acai Bar near Placa Redona. You can’t go past the filling acai bowls, and they also have vegan burgers on the menu.
For ice cream fans, make a beeline to the ice cream shop near the tower in Plaza de la Reina. It has all the usual suspects, as well as some flavours I would never think of putting in an ice cream such as Red Bull, fabada (a Spanish bean stew), anchovy and gin and tonic.
For bars and nightlife, head to Barrio El Carmen, which is bounded by Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart and backs onto Turia Gardens.
While in Valencia, you have to have at least one meal of paella. Paella originated in Valencia, and the traditional version is served with rabbit, chicken, snails, and vegetables. Pair your paella with a glass or two of Agua of Valencia – a refreshing mix of juice from Valencia oranges, cava, gin and vodka – you’ll easily find it in many places, especially at the bars along Playa de Las Arenas.
Where to stay in Valencia
There’s plenty of accommodation options in the Old Town near Plaza De La Reina. I stayed in a bed and breakfast called B&B Hi Valencia Hotel which is suitable for the budget conscious or those with a little more cash to splurge on rooms with shared bathrooms or private rooms. There is a sister hotel B& Hi Valencia Canovas which looks across to the Turia Gardens.
Backpackers seeking out the party lifestyle should head to the centrally located Red Nest or Purple Nest hostels.
In the high season of summer, hotels start at about €50-€60. You can get a dorm bed from around €15 per night. Prices are higher around the Las Fallas and La Tomatina festivals when the city is at its most popular.
The Barrio El Carmen neighbourhood is a recommended spot to stay and has plenty of AirBnB and other accommodation options. The Barrio del Carmen area is only metres away from popular restaurants, bars and cafes and bounded by Turia Gardens and the city’s towers.
Find and book these hotels on our favourite accommodation search website: Booking.com
Another great alternative for accommodation in Valencia is Airbnb, where private rooms start at $13 and offer a unique way to experience the city from a more local perspective.
Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Sign up now and receive a discount to put towards your first Airbnb stay!
How Much Time Do You Need in Valencia
I stayed three days in Valencia which included half a day going to the La Tomatina Festival but I wished I stayed at least another two days. There was a lot more I wanted to do but I had a flight to catch back to Australia.
If you’re on a tight schedule, you can cover off the highlights in two days, but based on my experience I recommend at least three to four days to really enjoy it all – explore the historical buildings, eat your own weight in tapas, and laze on the beaches.
Valencia is well connected to other Spanish cities. You can catch a high-speed train to Madrid in three hours, and it’s not far from other beautiful Spanish cities such as Malaga, Granada, and Alicante.
Check out the below itineraries for more inspiration if you plan to visit Valencia:
About The Author: Lisa Owen is The Little Adventurer. She’s a passionate freelance writer, photographer, hiker and all round outdoor lover with an insatiable thirst for adventure. You’ll most likely find her hitting the hiking trails, skydiving, chasing waterfalls or weaving her way through cobblestoned streets. She’s currently taking a break from public relations to follow her travel dreams. You can follow her current six-month trip around the world on Instagram.
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Have you ever been to Valencia? What tips and advice would you give to first-time visitors to this great city?