Science Museum Principe Felipe in the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia - Colourful buildings with balconies in the neighbourhood of Russafa in Valencia - Things to do in Valencia, Spain
SPAIN

19 Exciting Things to do in Valencia, Spain – An Insider’s Guide

By on 10/08/2017

Valencia is one of those cities that have come up on people’s radar as a popular European city break destination only in the last few years. Take ten years ago – a lot of people would not have heard of Valencia, let alone known where it was. At best they would have guessed that it was in a Mediterranean country. A pretty good guess, as it has that Mediterranean ring to its name.

I have family in Valencia, so I have been visiting on a regular basis for the last 15 years. During this time, I have seen the changes that this city has gone through. I have to admit that I didn’t used to be overly impressed with the place. Unlike other Mediterranean destinations, I didn’t find it particularly warm, welcoming or interesting. But this has changed in the last few years and I am glad I have seen it evolve into a city that invites you to explore its secrets and stories.

So grab some comfy shoes and get exploring this exciting city. With so much variety of things to do in Valencia, there is something for everyone!


For Culture Vultures

City of Arts and Sciences

Welcome to the future… Actually, if the future looks like this incredible cultural and architectural complex, take me there right now!

Designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, the complex includes a concert hall, a science museum, Europe’s biggest aquarium and a 3D cinema with a 900-metre (yes, 900 metres!) screen amongst other amenities. But what will truly blow your mind is the architecture itself. You will have seen nothing like it!

Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia - Things to do in Valencia, Spain

The Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia is an opera house and cultural centre

If you want to visit the science museum (Principe Felipe), the aquarium (L’Oceanografic) or the 3D cinema (Hemisfèric), you can purchase individual tickets or a combined ticket for the entire complex.

Top tip: Visit twice if you have time – once during daytime and once when it’s dark. You will be amazed how different the place looks when the lights come on.

Modernist Architecture at the North Railway Station

The North Railway Station (Estación del Norte) is one of the architectural jewels of the Valencia. Built in the modernist style at the beginning of the 20th century, the façade shows the most typical elements of Valencian culture – oranges, barracas (Valencian traditional houses), La Albufera lake and women dressed in traditional costumes.

Exterior of the modernist North Railway Station in Valencia - Things to do in Valencia, Spain

North Railway Station or Estación del Norte

The railway station is still actively in use today and it’s one of the busiest train stations in the country, with rail links to Madrid and some of Europe’s major cities. It is located in the city centre, so it’s easily accessible.

Modernist façade of the North Railway Station in Valencia at night - Things to do in Valencia, Spain

Estación del Norte at night

Top tip: Don’t just stay outside and admire the façade. Go inside to see the beautiful wooden ticket booths decorated with ceramic mosaics and murals.

The Round Square (Plaza Redonda)

The Round Square… I know, a complete oxymoron. But bear with me… This unique space is one of Valencia’s most charming spots. Or at least, it used to be. It has recently been restored and the old fashioned haberdashery, lace and embroidery stalls that edged around the square have been replaced by, in my opinion, characterless modern stalls that now sell souvenirs. That old town feel has disappeared, but I think it’s still worth a visit for its unique design. It is located in the centre of the old town, which can be a bit of a maze of narrow streets, so you may have to hunt around a bit to find it.

Plaza Redonda with fountain, shops and cafes in Valencia - Things to do in Valencia, Spain

Plaza Redonda

Top tip: Although it’s open most days, the best time to visit is on a Sunday morning. The stalls close at 2 pm but there are a few tapas bar in the square and the surrounding area. Perfect for a Sunday aperitivo.


For History Buffs

Valencia Cathedral and The Miguelete

There was once a Roman Temple here, which later became a mosque. But on the 13th century construction of The Cathedral began and it went through a number of architectural styles until it became what it is now. It’s worth stepping inside just to admire the intricately painted dome, and the Holy Grail used by Christ at the Last Supper is (allegedly) kept in there too.

Valencia Cathedral painted dome from inside - Things to do in Valencia

The impressive painted dome inside Valencia Cathedral

You can climb the Miguelete (which means Little Michael) belfry tower for a fabulous view of Valencia’s old town.

Valencia Cathedral nestled amongst the city buildings - Things to do in Valencia

Valencia Cathedral seen from the Plaza de la Reina

Top tip: Entrance fee is €7, which includes an audio guide. But if you don’t want to buy a ticket, you can just pop in through the entrance in the Plaza de la Virgen during the service to check out the beautiful dome.

The Silk Exchange (La Lonja)

La Lonja is one of the most famous civil gothic monuments in Europe and it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in the 15th century, Valencia’s golden age, and it was used for silk merchants to negotiate and work out contracts. There is also a prison within the building for merchants who did not pay their debts.

Entry fee is only 2 Euros Monday to Friday and free at weekends. So there’s no excuse not to visit really.

Medieval building of the Silk Exchange with flag in Valencia - Colourful buildings with balconies in the neighbourhood of Russafa in Valencia - Things to do in Valencia, Spain

The Silk Exchange

Top Tip: If you’d like to take photos of the spectacular Hall of Columns while it’s empty, be the first one to visit in the day when it opens at 10 am.

Palace of the Marqués de Dos Aguas

Now housing the González Martí National Museum of Ceramics and Decorative Arts, this fabulously ornate palace will blow you away with the Rococo designs on its façade. There is so much going on around the main entrance that you will struggle to process the details and make sense of it. But that’s the beauty of it… you can stare at it for hours and find something new you hadn’t seen before. Admittedly, I didn’t go inside, but it is said that the interior is just as opulent as the exterior.

Exterior of the Rococo Marques de Dos Aguas Palace in Valencia - Things to do in Valencia

Façade of the Marqués de Dos Aguas Palace

Top tip: Entrance to the museum is €2.40 during the week and free at weekends, but it’s definitely worth paying the €2.40 to get the place for yourself.

Serranos and Quart Towers

Built in the 14th century, both the Serranos Towers and Quart Towers are all that remains of the old town defence walls. There was a time when Serranos was used as a prison for nobility and Quart as a prison for women. Entry fee is €2 each during the week and free at weekends.

Medieval Serranos Towers with arch gate in Valencia - Colourful buildings with balconies in the neighbourhood of Russafa in Valencia - Things to do in Valencia, Spain

Serranos Towers

Top Tip: Climb the stone staircases of Serranos Towers for the best view of the city of Valencia.


Spain City Break Inspiration
Photographic Journey through Alicante’s Old Town


For Foodies

Treats and Tastes Tour with Valencia Urban Adventures

One of the most exciting things that you can do in Valencia is taking a foodie tour. Everyone knows that Spanish cuisine is one of the most varied and delicious in Europe. Ok, being Spanish myself, I am a little bit biased. But I do believe this to be true. And there is no better to discover the regional delicacies of Valencia than by taking a tour with Valencia Urban Adventures. Lenny, the VUA host knows the city inside out and all the secret places that only locals know where you can taste one of the best Ibérico jamón (Spanish cured ham), Valencian olive oils, the best quality Spanish saffron and let’s not forget the best version of the famous Valencian horchata de chufa (tiger nut milk).

Lenny’s markets walking tour will not only take you to these local gems to sample these beautiful morsels, but you will also learn about the differences between jamón serrano and jamón ibérico, the different types of olive oil, how to differentiate 1st and 2nd quality Spanish saffron and where in the world some of the now typically Spanish ingredients came from. Oh, and let’s not forget tapas and wines too! As Valencia Urban Adventures tag line goes… Best. Day. Ever.

Iberico ham and cheese platter, olive oil, horchata de chuff and saffron in Valencia - Colourful buildings with balconies in the neighbourhood of Russafa in Valencia - Things to do in Valencia, Spain

Some of the delicious goodies sampled during the Treats and Tastes Tour

Top tip: Book your Valencian Treats and Tastes Tour with Lenny and receive a 15% discount by quoting my special code ‘15BROGAN’.

Central Market (Mercado Central)

Valencia’s Central Market is not just a foodie’s paradise, but it’s said to be one of the most beautiful market halls in Europe, housed within a modernist building built in the 1920s. It is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Valencia, but in particular, if food is your main driver to choosing a destination. Despite its popularity, it is still a neighbourhood market, where you can observe every day local life, and sample the best produce that the Valencian region can offer.

Top tip: Look out for the stalls with a ‘La Cocina del Mercado’ poster, buy some fresh fish or shellfish and take it to one of the little restaurants just outside to get it cooked for a small fee.

Russafa Market

The Russafa area of Valencia has gone through a bit of a process of gentrification, however, it remains a typical Valencian neighbourhood, with its own neighbourhood market. Markets are central to the local community in Spain, and Russafa market is a great place to observe everyday life and interact with locals. You can see, however, how it is all gradually changing, with the market catering to new demand. Typical fresh food market stalls are slowly being replaced by specialist shops focusing on one type of product such as olive oil, honey, etc. Despite this, it is still one of my favourite spots in Valencia.

A little family visit before heading back to London… #broganinspain 🇪🇸

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Top tip: Combine your visit to Russafa Market with breakfast in the Churrería in nearby Calle San Valero. Churros are a delicious typical Spanish breakfast.


Love Spain? – Take a day trip to Alicante’s Old Town


For Trend Setters

Street Art Tour with Valencia Urban Adventures

Say ‘street art tour’ and most people will think of cities like London and Berlin. But you probably didn’t know that Valencia is a street art lover’s paradise. I was very kindly invited to explore the El Carmen neighbourhood by Lenny from Valencia Urban Adventures, on her Street Art in Old Valencia tour. We hunted for the best pieces of graffiti and urban art in the area, and I was blown away by the quality and creativity of local artists such as Deih, La Nena Wapa Wapa and Escif, and the cheekiness of David de Limón, who springs up on you where you least expect him. We also found lots of cool murals by international artists such as Disneylexya, Fasim and Atila_the1.

But what is most special about this tour, is Lenny’s in-depth knowledge about each of the pieces. She knows a lot of the local artists, so she has a very good understanding of the meanings and political messages that they are conveying.

Street Art Graffiti by Deih & Xelon - Things to do in Valencia

‘The Robot & The Explorer’ by Valencian street artists Xèlon and Deih

Top tip: A visit to Valencia would definitely not be complete without joining Lenny’s Old Valencia Street Art tour, so make the most it by booking your place and taking advantage of a 15% discount by quoting my special code ‘15BROGAN’.

Russafa – Valencia’s hippest area

Formerly a working-class neighbourhood, as I mentioned earlier, Russafa has been going through a process of gentrification for a number of years now, with all the controversy that comes with it. Russafa is now the ‘hipster’ quarter of Valencia, and home to some of the best tapas restaurants, cafes and art galleries in the city. From bookshop-come-cafes to small breweries and vintage boutiques, Russafa has everything for those looking for the latest trends.

Colourful buildings with balconies in the neighbourhood of Russafa in Valencia - Things to do in Valencia, Spain

Traditional apartment blocks in Russafa

Bike parked outside Dulce de Leche Boutique Cafe in Russafa - Things to do in Valencia

Watch the world go by from the Dulce de Leche Boutique Cafe terrace

Top tip: Visit Dulce de Leche Boutique Café and try their Cold Brew coffee. The perfect pick-me-up in the Valencian scorching weather.

Mercado Colón

Located in the heart of one of Valencia’s most important commercial areas, the Mercado Colón is one of the most emblematic Modernist buildings in the city. His architect visited Antonio Gaudí’s workshop, and you can clearly see his influence. No longer a market, it was recently refurbished and it now houses a number of upmarket shops, bars and cafes, including one of the best Horchaterías (horchata bar) in Valencia.

Modernist façade of the Colon Market in Valencia - Things to do in Valencia

The beautiful façade of the Mercado Colón with its tiled motifs

Interior of the Colon Market with steel arches in Valencia - Things to do in Valencia

The interior of the Mercado Colón

Top tip: Visit at night when the market is all lit up. The building looks spectacular, but it’s the atmosphere here that makes this place special.


Going Local

Water Tribunal (Tribunal de las Aguas)

And what on earth is a Water Tribunal? I hear you ask… Declared UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the Water Tribunal of the plain of Valencia dates back to Muslim Spain in the 10th century. Valencia is an arid area so this tribunal was set up to manage and protect the fair distribution of water amongst farmers and communities. Still going strong today, any irrigation disputes are brought to the Tribunal by a complainant, where the accused defends themselves and answers questions. Based on this, the Tribunal makes a decision on the offender’s penalty. The Water Tribunal takes place every Thursday at 12 pm outside the Cathedral gate on the Plaza de la Virgen.

Back entrance to the Valencia Cathedral with the Miguelete Tower - Colourful buildings with balconies in the neighbourhood of Russafa in Valencia - Things to do in Valencia, Spain

The Cathedral gate where the Water Tribunal takes place every Thursday

Top tip: If you want to witness the Water Tribunal up close, get there for 11 am, as it can get very busy. But bear in mind that some weeks everyone gets along and there are no disputes, so the Tribunal itself will get dismantled within a few minutes.

Drinking horchata de chufa

Horchata is the typical Valencian drink par excellence. It is made from chufas (tiger nuts) which are grown only in a few regions of the world, one of which is Valencia. It is a refreshing creamy white drink comparable to almond milk, and it’s  usually accompanied by a fartón – yes, I know, not the most appetising name, but trust me… this light and sweet pastry stick is delicious! Dip it into your horchata and I can guarantee you’ll love it!

Entrance to Horchateria de Santa Catalina with painted tiles - Things to do in Valencia

Horchatería de Santa Catalina – a place with two centuries old tradition

Top tip: Horchatería de Santa Catalina is the oldest and most famous horchatería in town. It’s over 200 years old, and it oozes history and tradition.

Drinking Agua de Valencia

The other Valencian speciality when it comes to drinks is Agua de Valencia (Valencian Water). But don’t let the name fool you. Agua de Valencia is a refreshing cocktail that uses local ingredients such as cava and fresh orange juice, plus a bit of a gin and vodka kick. Dangerously good, it’s so easy to drink!

Aguinha para refrescar #feitaturista #aguadevalencia

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Top tip: Sant Jaume Bar (Carrer dels Cavallers, 51) used to be a pharmacy, but it is one of the best places to try Agua de Valencia. Go on, you will have earned it after all the exploring!

Discover the real Valencian Paella by cooking your own

If you think you’ve tried paella, but not in Valencia… think again. What most people know as paella outside of Spain, is what Valencians know as rice and […] (insert chicken, seafood, etc). And don’t even mention chorizo as an ingredient to a local! The real Valencian paella has chicken, rabbit, garrafón (large white beans), green beans and, sometimes, snails. And that’s pretty much it.

But it’s not really that simple. Learn the secrets of the real Valencian paella by making your own at the Escuela de Arroces y Paella Valenciana. Book with my special discount code ‘BROGANABROAD‘ and get 5% off. You can read a full account of my own paella cooking experience here.

Chicken, rabbit, snails and green beans paella - Things to do in Valencia, Spain

Chicken, rabbit, beans, rice and the odd snail – all you need for the real paella

Top Tip: Try and book a morning class, which includes a visit to the Mercado Central where you will buy the fresh ingredients for your own paella. Well worth getting up in the morning for!


Chilling Out

Relax in Valencia’s fantastic beaches

Valencia just seems to have it all. Culture, food, nightlife… even excellent beaches! You can choose from a number of them too. Malvarrosa Beach is the most famous of all and the closest to the city. It can easily be reached by public transport. It is really popular with both locals and visitors and it has lots of restaurants and cafes nearby.

Empty Malvarrosa Beach with palm trees - Things to do in Valencia

Even in December it’s worth going down to the beach for a stroll

Top tip: For a more peaceful day at the beach but not too far from the city, try Las Arenas Beach or La Patacona Beach. Both easily reached by bus or metro.

Turia Gardens (Jardines del Turia)

The Jardines del Turia snake through the city, on what used to be the Turia riverbed before its course was diverted outside the city. In 1957 there was a devastating flood in Valencia which claimed many lives so to avoid another disaster, the river was drained, diverted and its course turned into a fabulous green open space. It now acts as the lungs of the city and it’s a great place to spend the day, whether going for a picnic, a walk or a long cycle. It is also where the City of Arts and Sciences can be found.

#ciutatdelesartsilesciencies #jardinesdelturia #valencia #españa

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Top tip: Get away from the hustle and bustle and find the perfect picnic spot here in the middle of the city.


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Disclosure: A big thank you to Lenny from Valencia Urban Adventures, who hosted me on two tours during my time in Valencia. As always, all views are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.

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16 Comments
  1. Reply

    The Jetset Boyz

    11/08/2017

    Dulce de Leche does awesome & oh-so-tasty sandwiches and cakes. Make sure you head there early on in your visit… you’ll then be able to make several repeat visits. Yum!!

    For us, one of the joys of travelling is trying new food & regional specialities. Paella originates in the Valencia region, so when we were there last October we decided to a Paella making experience. We spent a fun half day with a paella master learning the secrets of authentic Paella Valenciana.

    Now we’re hooked and look to do at least one cooking experience in each city we visit. Recently in Barcelona, we did two. It’s so much fun, and you get to meet some really fab people.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      12/08/2017

      Oh great tip! I will be going back to Valencia next month and Dulce de Leche is definitely on my list of places to visit again. And that paella cooking lesson looks fantastic! Adding that to my list! Love cooking experiences too, and I try and do as many as I can when I travel too 🙂

  2. Reply

    Joanna

    12/08/2017

    I love the architecture of Valencia! It looks like it has been taken out of a fairy tale! I travel quite a lot between the Uk and Spain for work so I will add Valencia to my list for a weekend getaway.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      12/08/2017

      Highly recommended if you can go Joanna. There is sooooo much to do in Valencia that even with regular visits over the last few years I haven’t managed to do everything.

  3. Reply

    Ania | Snow to Seas

    12/08/2017

    Thank you for writing such a detailed and thorough post about Valencia! I originally visited the city for 2 days about 4 years ago. I came across a photo of the City of Arts and Sciences and knew I had to go. It’s pretty awesome! The weather was super hot, so we spent a lot of time at the beach. But I need to go back for a second visit now to explore everything I didn’t have a chance to!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      29/08/2017

      Thanks Ania. I’m really happy that you enjoyed the post. There’s so much to do in Valencia that it’s worth going back over and over again. I hope you have the chance to go again. It’s a fabulous city! As you know… 🙂

  4. Reply

    Naomi

    12/08/2017

    I’ve never been to Valencia before and your pictures really makes me want to visit ! Love those cheese and Jamon platter. Is it much different from Barcelona, I’ve only been to one city in Spain. Great post !

    • Reply

      Teresa

      15/08/2017

      I think it’s better than Barcelona as you don’t have to deal with the crowds. Valencia is such an exciting city with so much to do. I’ve been visiting regularly for many years and I still haven’t explored everything! 🙂

  5. Reply

    Sabine

    12/08/2017

    Can you believe it, I have lived in Madrid for 6 years, I have travelled all over Spain in that time and I have not even visited Valencia. 🙂 I guess it is about time, I’d love to go. And with your list, I will know exactly what to do when there. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      15/08/2017

      Valencia is awesome! I think it is slowly becoming ‘the new Barcelona’. I promise you you won’t regret visiting and you’ll have an amazing time. 🙂

  6. Reply

    Nicola

    13/08/2017

    Wow I love your pics and there’s so much info here! I will add Valencia to the list! @backpackingkiwis

    • Reply

      Teresa

      29/08/2017

      Thank you so much Nicola. I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos! Valencia is definitely adding to the list! 🙂

  7. Reply

    Andrew

    14/08/2017

    Good read, another place I need to go to. I still haven’t been to Spain yet!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      29/08/2017

      Thanks Andrew! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. You need to make that visit to Spain soon! Believe me, you won’t regret it 🙂

  8. Reply

    Lucy

    19/10/2017

    Great article with lovely photos, many thanks for sharing.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      19/10/2017

      Thanks Lucy! I’m glad you like it 🙂

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HI, I'M TERESA!

Hi! I’m Teresa, a London-based traveller and photographer who quit her job in the summer 2016 to explore the world. I’ve been to 39 countries and have ticked some adventures off my bucket list. I hope I can inspire you and motivate you to get out there and explore this beautiful world we live in. Follow my updates and discover the essence of travelling with me!

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