The future’s orange
Overdose on architecture, paella and sunshine
Spain’s third city, Valencia is less crowded than Madrid or Barcelona but offers just as much appeal. The City of Joy is the birthplace of paella and the alleged home of the Holy Grail, so you can be sure of a good time eating and drinking your way around town.
Mild winter temperatures mean you can make the most of Valencia’s beaches for most of the year, while you can also feast your eyes on stunning art nouveau architecture. Hire a bike and cycle along the Turia Gardens that arch their way six miles around the city, dotted with sculptures, fountains, sports fields and buskers. Shop for designer wares on the Golden Mile of Calle Poeta Querol or at the art nouveau Colon Market, which houses cafes, restaurants and shops. Head down to Malvarrosa beach to savour a leisurely lunch at Casa Carmela with its local specialties such as seafood fideua. Then wander around Cabanyal-Canyamelar, the atmospheric old fishermen’s village with rows of cute, tiny pastel-fronted houses that cry out to be photographed.
Enjoy the lively nightlife scene – stop off for a horchata, a traditional drink made from tiger nuts, at Casa del l’Orxata. Call in for dinner at Ricard Camarena Restaurant and sample what the two Michelin-star local chef calls ‘agriculture a la carte’. For a nightcap pop into Cafe Madrid where you can enjoy an expertly mixed cocktail from its snazzy roof terrace or hang out in the trendy Ruzafa district in the kitschy, antique-festooned bar La Bella de Cadiz. Book your flights to Valencia today.
Valencia holiday FAQs
Make the most of your Valencia holiday
The Fallas festival is a memorable celebration held each March when the streets come alive with a raft of extravagant papier-mache puppets of celebrities and politicians which are ceremoniously burned down a few days later. Meanwhile crowds gather daily at 14:00 to witness the Mascleta, a deafening explosion of gunpowder and firecrackers.
What are the best things to do in Valencia?
- The City of the Arts and Sciences is a masterpiece of modern architecture occupying a 35,000 m2 stretch of the reclaimed Turia riverbed. The brainchild of local starchitect Santiago Calatrava, the complex comprises four spectacular main buildings featuring an opera house, a science museum, a 3D cinema and an aquarium. A network of pools and promenades surround the structure which can all be explored in multiple ways.
- Valencia’s 13th Century cathedral was built on a Roman site that was later a mosque. It’s predominantly Gothic with Neoclassical side chapels. Its many highlights include its museum, rich Italianate frescos, a pair of Goyas and, most famously, what’s claimed to be the Holy Grail Jesus supped from during the Last Supper. Climb the 207 steps in the bell tower for sublime city views.
- The Museum of Fine Arts houses Spain’s second-largest art collection in a beautiful 17th Century building that was once a seminary college. It showcases works from the 15th to 19th centuries by the likes of Pintoricchio, Andrea del Sarto, Van Dyck, Murillo, Velazquez, El Greco and Goya. The Gothic and Renaissance eras are especially well represented alongside proponents of the Valencian school, such as Sorolla, Pinazo and Benlliure.
- Housed in a handsome art nouveau structure complete with domes adorned with stained glass and mosaics and completed in 1928, Central Market is a colourful place alive with sensory delights. The market has over 1,200 stalls heaving with fresh fruit and vegetables, especially oranges, tomatoes and beans, meat, cheese, spices, nuts, fish and seafood, making it one of Europe’s largest food markets. To taste some of the typical produce, pause for some tapas or a bocadillo and a drink at chef Ricard Camarena’s Central Bar.
- Built in 1482, La Lonja de la Seda was the city’s silk market and remains a powerful symbol of Valencia’s mercantile clout today. The UNESCO-listed building is an impressive structure and is one of the finest examples of civil Gothic style. The grandiose Sala de Contratacion houses lofty, twisted pillars while the Consulado del Mar was where a maritime tribunal once sat. A citrus-studded courtyard connects the two.
What are the best places to visit in Valencia?
Ciutat Vella is Valencia’s historical centre where you’ll find most of the city’s key attractions, including Valencia Cathedral, La Lonja de la Seda and Central Market. Wander its atmospheric tangle of narrow lanes and orange tree-lined squares and take in the street art dotted around the El Carmen neighbourhood which comes to life at night. For a taste of local life browse the 1,000-odd stalls of the Central Market, visit the impressive Gothic structure that is the city’s silk market and join a paella cookery class.
Cullera is a lively seaside town tucked between mountains and the sea on the Valencian coast with a well-maintained old town and 11 safe beaches to enjoy. A medieval castle and the neo-Romanesque Mare Deu del Castillo shrine are worth seeking out, as are the Dragut Caves Museum and the Cullera Lighthouse. Enjoy 10 miles of sheltered beaches and cliffs and go fishing in one of the freshwater lagoons that surround the area.
Marina Beach Club near Las Arenas beach and the Valencia Marina is considered one of the country’s finest. Enjoy outstanding views of the Med, a beautiful pool area, two restaurants and a stage hosting international DJs. In summer it houses the city’s largest outdoor terrace, while the menu offers local and modern cuisine including traditional Valencian paella and many other rice dishes. Order their signature Aguas de Valencia cocktail (a potent combo of cava, orange juice, gin and vodka) and enjoy the tech-house beats and chilled vibes.
Valencia’s beaches bask in the morning sun before nearly anywhere else in Spain and the sea can be warm enough for swimming from April through to November. The most central beach, Las Arenas, gets packed out by a party-loving crowd that flocks here for the beachside bars, sun loungers and volleyball court. Malvarrosa is quieter and has more of a local’s vibe while still retaining essential facilities like toilets and bus stops. Quieter still is Patacona, a little further out with cleaner water and plenty of space. Pinedo is more sheltered with dedicated spaces for pets, water sports and nudists. The beaches get wilder as you head further south, with El Saler offering water sports, while La Garroferra has long grass and rolling dunes beyond the sands.
How to travel around Valencia
Valencia’s Metro network is fast, inexpensive and convenient. There are 10 lines (including underground and tram) covering the airport and most of the city. For unlimited use save money by buying a discounted ticket available in one-, two-, and three-day durations. Children six and under travel free. Valencia’s a small, flat and very walkable city. Several companies offer free walking tours, or you can hire a bike using the city’s Valenbisi scheme.
Is Valencia good for families?
Valencia has plenty of family-friendly attractions, including the Turia Gardens, Albufera Natural Park, Gulliver Park and the Marina, plus seven Blue Flag beaches to enjoy.