Valencia, Spain is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And Spain is one of my top countries to be in. I cannot say it is “the one” but it sure is on top. I love the language, the atmosphere, the free feeling people here give you, their loudness and their joy of living. It is like you find yourself in a bubble of laughter and noise.
As far as Valencia concerns, we have visited it various times in all the seasons and have a pretty good idea about its highs an lows. Every single time we came here, you could see trees filled with oranges all other the place, downtown, in the Turia gardens or just walking around the streets. If you taste oranges here, bought from “mercado” or simply from your daily breakfast, you will see they taste totally different than what you are used to. They are much sweeter.
I know Spanish and I did no expect it to be rather hard to understand people here. The thing is they have their own language – Valenciana – which is a sort of Spanish … to me it sounded a lot like Portuguese. they also write in both languages at metro station, airport etc. However, they all also know and understand normal Spanish and I could get along with them.
Must see places
- City of Arts and Science – this is the perfect example of futuristic architecture; designed by the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, it has been one of the most visited places recently. This is mainly due to its shape that looks a lot like an UFO that seems like having landed here. It hosts a Cine IMAX, the biggest aquarium of Europe – l’Oceanographic and some expositions – that of Principe Felipe and Queen Sofia. Everyone that loves architecture should come here and visit at least once.
- Oceanographic – this is another must see when in Valencia. It is located within the famous cultural complex ‘City of Arts and Sciences’. You will have the possibility to see the submarine life in a very nice and big place. You can even participate at a dolphins show. This was the peak of the Oceanographic for me.
- Valencia port and the beaches – these are reference points of Valencia as a lot of events take place here each year and you can also find many historic buildings all around. You can find the Clock Tower, the Wind and the …. Tower and as well la Malvarosa and El Cabanyal beaches. These are the beaches to be in if you like to have fun, luxury, good food and do not mind the high prices. Fr those that prefer a more wild beach, there is the El Saler beach, near the Albufera Natural park. It has wild vegetation all around it. On the beach you can find the best paella at one of the restaurants available here. But more on this later.
- Turia Gardens – this is a 9 km garden that crosses the city from the west to the east up till the City of Arts and Sciences. It has various bridges to pass over it from north to south. I for one have had some amazing walks all around these gardens.
- Bioparc – while you may have been in various zoo’s around the world, nothing compares to this. For me this has been the most beautiful Bioparc I have ever seen. The animals are very well taken care of, it is a very clean place, everything just makes sense in the way they are organized here. The Bioparc has 25 acres and you can see the Savannah, Madagascar and the Equatorial Africa wildlife. We enjoyed it a lot and spend a full day here.
Going to the city center you can visit
- The Cathedral – if you did not know, this is said to be the house of the Holy Grail. Going inside you will just have to see it with your own eyes and decide whether to believe it is indeed the holy chalice or not. You can even see their arguments for this on the website.
- Torres de Serranos
- Lonja de la Seda
- The Central Market
- Torres de Quart
- IVAM – the Modern Art Museum
- The National Ceramic Museum – Valencia is a very big artisan ceramic producer. Therefore, some original ceramic pieces are on sight here. If you want to find out more on ceramics, you can visit the small Manises town and you can see ceramics in a lot of buildings there.
- Plaza del Toros – Take it by foot till the train station you will be just near the Plaza del Toros, which is a must if you would like to know more about the history. For me visiting the bullfighting arena was one of the moments when I realized more about Valencia and its history, one of those shocking moments when you find out so many things and cannot believe they have actually really happened. We also visited the Bulls Museum of Valencia and saw the great outfits ensemble the toreadors had, the accessories, some big bulls and the most exciting part and most impressive in the same time, was seeing a movie of a real life bullfight back in the days. It is hard to see that even children were taken to bullfights. I guess this was just a part of their culture and they were used to it. Anyhow, it is a gigantic arena and you can even see where the bulls tried to get to the toreador and did some holes in the wooden As it is a traditional event, bull fighting is linked to a religious event during the year. This is why, there are just three bull fights these days – one in March, one in July and one in October. Anyhow … if you have enough … 😊.
What to eat
People here love eating out. However, what was astonishing for us is that almost all the restaurants close around 4PM – 4:30PM and open again around 8PM. So we kinda’ had to make our schedule accordingly … that if we wanted to eat at a restaurant. The small places like fast food type, are opened all the time.
Yeap .. people say you have to try the paella while in Valencia. Valencia is the place where paella was born. Well, this depends on the tastes. I for one tried it and did not really like it … but had to try as am in Valencia and this is the home of paella. The Valencia food is great as it combines many tastes; but paella is not one of its strong points on my opinion. Some great restaurants where to try paella are La Riua, Casa Roberto and a less expensive one – Restaurante Yuno.
Tapas are a good call. They taste well and are great almost any time of the day. You can find a lot of restaurants specialized in tapas and other such like dishes.
Seafood is great here – it is fresh and does not even smell so hard as we are used to. As it is freshly cooked, it has a totally different taste and is a must taste while in Valencia. Or do they just know how to cook it? I was astonished while visiting the Central Market to see so many varieties of seafood. It is a sea food lover dream.
Fashion style in Valencia
While I expected to see some stylish people here, this is not the case. Despite it being a very big and famous city, people just do not care that much about newest fashion trends. They have all the high brands you would expect to see here, but they just do not take advantage of them or are just too carefree to care for their clothing style as well.
If you come here packed with the latest runway fashion trends you will most certainly be in the spotlight. People here tend to me more relaxed as far as fashion concerns. They like to wear comfortable clothes and clothes that they identify with. I guess, yes this is the word – they actually identify with their clothes. This is why the dressing style vary a lot.
If you want to mingle just make sure you pack a pair of comfortable pants or your most colourful and comfortable dress and a pair of comfortable shoes. I packed my favourite Nike’s and they truly are the best. Work for sport pants, jeans and casual dress – they are just all in one.
I did not see women wearing high heels or fancy dresses. Neither when they go out at the restaurant late in the evening. Yes they do have a smart pant and shirt or a smart – casual dress, but nothing too fancy or nothing with heels.
We mainly moved around Valencia by foot- as stayed 7 minutes from old city centre and from there it was easy to get around anywhere. However, when we could no longer walk and were too far from the hotel, mainly took a cab, but took the metro twice as well. Whatever you choose is great; as both the metros and the taxis are very clean.
All in all, Valencia food experience was great, we ate at some very good restaurants, some of them some family businesses and the food really had that homey taste. Far be it from starving here. You have to try the seafood and the oranges!
I would come back here all over again, for its food, for its culture, for its people, for its amazing combination of old and new architecture, the relaxed sense it gives me and for its all year round sun.