Good weather, delicious food, and an unparalleled atmosphere; Valencia’s culture, gastronomy, and heritage offer countless experiences you won’t find anywhere else.
Original ideas to try
Here are ten things to do in Valencia that I’d recommend as a local to help you really get to know the city and fall in love with it:
1. Enjoy the views from a historically-charged building
When it comes to exploring a city, there’s nothing like seeing it from above. My favourite view in Valencia overlooks the old town, yet is close enough so you can still appreciate the small details.
One of the best viewpoints is the Micalet, the bell tower of the Cathedral, which was constructed between the 14th and 15th centuries. Although climbing its narrow spiral staircase may tire you out, the 50-metre-high views are what will really take your breath away.
Another historically-significant vantage point is Torres de Serranos, one of the old city gates, where you can gaze over Valencia from thirty three metres up.
The Spanish idiom ‘quedarse a la luna de Valencia’, meaning to sleep under the Valencian moon but really referring to being left out in the cold, is a throwback to a time when the city gates would close at nightfall, and late-arriving travellers would have no choice but to spend the night outside the city limits in the open.
2. Go shopping in Mercado Central
Mercado Central is one of the most beautiful buildings you could visit in Valencia. Inside this art nouveau construction located in the city centre, you’ll find over 250 stands with local produce.
I love a stroll around these stands to browse and buy fresh, seasonal produce, so I definitely recommend it, and there are souvenir shops, takeaway food stands, and much more for you to discover. Mercado Central is open from Monday to Saturday, from 7:30am to 3pm.
3. Try authentic Valencian paella
There’s nothing more sacred to a Valencian than paella: just one change from the original recipe, and a few extra ingredients like peas, and we can’t resist complaining: ‘that’s not paella, that’s rice with stuff in it!’. So, when you’re in Valencia, you have to take the chance to try Valencian paella – real paella.
Where’s good for paella in Valencia? One of the most recommended places for authentic Valencian paella is El Palmar, a district found in the heart of the Albufera de Valencia. But please, never order it for dinner – that’s sacrilege!
4. Get to know El Carmen through its street art
Valencia has its alternative side, and El Carmen is where you’ll find most of the city’s street art. In the old town, street artists have filled the streets with colourful murals full of satire and social commentary.
So, if you like street art as much as I do, go for a wander through its streets – there are some really original pieces to check out. My favourites are the ones by artists Barbiturikills (keep an eye out for their iconic bunnies), DEIH (who has a futuristic aesthetic), and David de Limón (whose famous ninja can be found all over the city).
5. Try the city’s two most iconic drinks
Legend has it, a girl once offered King James I a drink he’d never heard of. When he tried it, he exclaimed ‘això es or, xata!’, which could translate into English ‘this is gold, my dear!’. This is how the famous Valencian drink, horchata, got its name.
Horchata is made with tiger nuts, and tastes incredible when served cold. To me, drinking a cold glass of horchata marks the beginning of summer (though the weather’s great all year round).
But that’s not the only drink you have to try – don’t forget about Agua de Valencia (Valencia water)! And no, I’m not talking about the tap water there, rather a traditional cocktail that uses orange juice, cava, vodka and gin, amongst other ingredients.
6. Observe the Tribunal de las Aguas
Did you know that Europe’s oldest judicial body is in Valencia? It’s called the Tribunal de las Aguas (meaning ‘the Water Court’), and was created to settle any disputes arising between the various irrigation communities who used water from the River Turia to water their vegetable gardens.
This Court was formed of eight representatives, one for each irrigation canal, and every Thursday at 12:00 they’d meet at the Catedral de Valencia’s Gothic door in Plaza de la Virgen (the most beautiful square in Valencia in my opinion) to talk out any issues they might have had. Isn’t that something!
7. Go on a bike trip to Horta Nord
If you’d like a first-hand look at the vegetable gardens of Valencia, take a bike trip to Horta Nord. One of the most recommended roads is the Vía Xurra, a greenway which starts in Valencia.
However, if you’re not much of a cyclist, like me, you can always follow the path on foot. I do this regularly – to me, it’s a special place where I can switch off and chill out. We’re really lucky to have it right next to the city!
8. Walk through gardens and be transported into the future
The 10km-long River Turia is one of Spain’s largest urban gardens. It’s perfect for a stroll, sports, or for sitting down and enjoying the nice weather.
The Garden of the River Turia’s most stand-out location is the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, where futuristic buildings catch the eye of anyone visiting the Garden – along with the odd film director who couldn’t resist shooting some footage.
9. Enjoy a sunset on the Albufera
If you ask any local where to find the best sunset in Valencia, they’re sure to point you towards the Albufera. I always go there to watch it and sit on this dock to enjoy the view (but arrive with time to spare, because it gets busy fast).
To make the experience even more special you can go for a boat ride, with boats departing from various locations until the sun sets.
10. Experience Las Fallas
If you don’t know when to visit Valencia and you’d like to experience the city in all its glory, I recommend visiting during Las Fallas. It’s one of the world’s most intense and spectacular festivals, when hundreds of colourful figures are displayed all over the city. Then, on the last day (19 March), they set them all on fire!
But that’s not all: every day they let off a mascletà, a firework display in Plaza del Ayuntamiento that makes the ground tremble. On top of that, there’s also outdoor parties, parades, and an incredible atmosphere.
I hope you enjoyed these ideas for what to get up to in Valencia, and that you have such a good time you can’t wait to come back. Get searching for a flight to Valencia, and let this amazing destination surprise you!