If there is one city in Spain that you must visit, then it is Valencia. Situated at the banks of Turia river, this vibrant city in Spain offers one experience that you will never forget! It literally has everything : history, grand architecture, deeply-rooted culture, interesting gastronomy, vibrant nightlife, and not to forget its long stretches of sandy beaches.
We were here for the first time ten years ago, and we had a feeling that we barely scratched the surface of this wonderful city. We felt in love, promised to come back, and last year, we did come back! This time we had more time, as we were travelling with our mobile home, so we were able to really explore almost every corner of this fantastic city! Our rediscovery of Valencia is one experience that we will never forget!
THE VALENCIAN EXPERIENCE : PLACES TO VISIT
For all of you out there who also want to have The Valencian Experience, we recommend this list of the places that you definitely should visit. These places are either in the center or just outside the city. But don’t worry, they are all accessible either by private or public transport.(Please click the link for an overview of transportation in Valencia.)
I. The Cathedral and the Basilica
The Cathedral of Valencia, also known as St. Mary’s Cathedral, was built between 1252 and 1482. Its most important part is the Chapel of the Holy Grail which houses the Chalice which Valencia claims to be the original chalice that Jesus used during the Last Supper. Two of the other main features of the cathedral are the La Miguelete (an octagonal tower with 207 steps) and the cathedral museum which houses quite a good collection of paintings. Entry to this religious building is 5 euros per person. We were lucky that there was a Eucharistic celebration going on; we were able to enter the chatedral and the Chapel of the Holy Grail for free.
The Real Basilica de la Virgen Desamparados on the other hand is located just next to the cathedral and it is the place of worship dedicated to the patron of the city. It is a bit smaller than the cathedral, but it possesses a very magnificent altar and dome. Again, normally it is closed and open only at certain times of the day. But when we were there, a mass was ongoing so we were able to take a peep inside.
II. Mercat Central (Central Market)
Valencia’s Mercat Centralentral is one of the biggest roofed markets in Europe, some 8000 sq. m. in size with over 1200 stands. It is a very magnificent building, made of steel and crowned with a spectacular dome which is 39 meters high. It sure is a must to see this building when in Valencia. There are stands of different Valencian products such as sweets, cheese, wine and bread. Also lots of meat and poultry products for sale, and of course vegetables, fruits and seafood. It certainly offers a blast to one’s senses. A delight to just hang around here and look at the business going around.
III. Ciudat de las Artes y Ciencias
The City of Arts and Sciences is the biggest recreational and cultural center in Europe. It is sure a must to visit this area when you are in Valencia and let yourself be astonished by its wonderful ultra modern architecture. The Hemisferic, Science Museum and Oceanograpfic is open for visit. It is also possible to avail of combi-tickets .
We visited this area on December 8 (2014), Feast of the Immaculate Conception and a national holiday in Spain. We did a combination ticket : Oceanografic and Museum delas Ciencias Principe Felipe. The ticket cost 29.70 per person and Hans had to pay 22.55 (with senior citizen discount).
The Oceanografic boasts as the largest aquarium in Europe. It is made up of different buildings such as Dolfinarium, Mediterranean, Wetlands, Temperate and Tropical Oceans, Antarctic, Arctic and islands, and Underwater Auditorium. Being inside the Oceanografic is an experience of itself, because you are situated in most ultra-modern buildings. The most of the buildings are wonderful, but we found the entrance fee to this a pricey one!
The Museum delas Ciencias Principe Felipe, is a 21st- century science museum that is educative, interactive, innovative and entertaining and provides information regarding evolution of life, science and technology . There is also an exhibit of the development of the buildings at the Ciudat.
The Hemisfèric, which was inaguarated in 1988 and the first building to be open to public, is the largest hall in Spain. Located outside the museum, it looks like one big eye, with its reflection in the water.
IV. Visit to Lonja de la Seda
The Lonja de la Seda, also known as The Merchants’ Exchange is Valencia’s most prominent Gothic civil building. It is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. We visited this building, after having gone from the Central Mercat, as it was just opposite it. Entrance fee is 2 euro pp and 65+ have 50% discount. Inside the Hall is the Trading hall with its 24 magnificent spiral pillars-columns, the Consulate Room and Tribunal Hall which stands out because of its wooden ceiling and tiled floors.
IV. Plazas (Ayuntamiento and Dela Virgen)
These two squares, Plaza Ayuntamiento and Plaza dela Virgen, are considered two of the most visited squares in Valencia. The first is located in front of the municipal building and post office, which is not to be missed when you are in the city. It has a big fountain in the middle and lots of charming flowershops. During Christmas season, Plaza Ayuntamiento offers a chance for ice-skating for children and adult, and there is a giant Christmas tree at the center. The Plaza Dela Virgen is found at the historic center of the city and dominated by Turia fountain, with statue of Neptune and eight naked women. It is near the basilica.
V. Estacio del Nord
The Estacio del Nord, the main railway of the city, is situated right next to the Bull ring. We came here by chance because we just wanted to take some pictures. But once we came inside the station, we were delightfully surprised! The station has its own history : it was constructed in 1906, inaugurated in 1917 and was declared a historical national monument in July 1983. Upon entering the station, on the right side is a separate room, free to be visited and that room is really magnificent! The walls are decorated with painted tiles; the details are really amazing! The ceiling is adorned with mosaic decorations and patterns. The train lockets are in old style, made from wood and again, decorated with mosaic. The ceiling of the station is wonderful, adorned with mosaic! On the walls of the station, on some small corners are written Pleasant Journey in numerous languages, again in mosaic. The building is one delightful surprise. Surely a must to see in Valencia!
VII. Playa Malvarossa and Playa Garrofera
Valencia is not only about historic monuments and sights. It also has a wonderful beaches . Located near the Marina Real, Playa Malvarossa is one of the most famous beaches in Valencia. It is about 1 km long and 35 meter wide. It is also ideal for surfers. Bus #19 and 32 go to the beach.
For a more quiet day in the beach, go to Playa dela Garrofera in El Saler, which is just a short distance from the city. It is adjacent to Parque National Albufera. It is a nice sandy beach, by the dunes, with a nice view of the harbour from Valencia. Ideal place for long strolls, kite flying and sunbathing.
VIII. Parque National Albufera
Albufera National Park is located very near to the city center and considered the biggest Natural Reserve in Europe. It boasts of having the largest lake in Spain, which is 3000 hectares. Playa Garrofera, is part of the big park. Hans and I enjoyed biking here at the park. Traditional boats are anchored here, and if you want, you can take a boat trip around the lake (which we didnt do). There are a lot of birds on the poles in the lake. The lake is also a popular spot for picture taking especially the newlyweds. It is also popular for its magnificent sunset, however, we did not have the privilege to witness that. Also take time to explore the whole park, easily to be done by biking.
IX. Museum Faller
Some basic informations about the Festival Fallas in Valencia : a Fallas is a peculiar, satirical monument made of flammable materials which is raised in the squares and main street junctions of the cities, towns and villages of the Valencian region. The monument is exhibited to the public for various days before being burned on the eve of the day of St. Joseph (March 19) To better understand this Valencian festival, a visit to one of the Fallas museum in the city is a must. A good one is the Museum Faller, located just on the street opposite the Palau Reina Sofia. Entrance fee is 2 euro per person. The museum houses exhibits on the history of the Fallas festival beginning from 1934 up to 2014. Along the halls are different posters and mini-monuments that were “pardoned”and not burned during the festival. It is a educative and insightful look at the festival which is celebrated every 15th -19th of March.
X. Towers of Quart and Serranos
Coming from the Basilica, walk the whole Calle Caballeros until you arrive at Torres de Quart. This tower, together with Torres de Serranos, are 2 of the 12 gates of the city that were left standing and formed part part of the old medieval walls. The Torres de Quart played a key role in stopping Napoleon’s troop during the War of Independence against France. You could still see the marks of cannonballs on the tower walls. Entrance fee is free. And from above, you have a nice view of the city.
Torres de Serranos, on the other hand, can be reached by by following the Calle Serranos, coming from the Basilica again. This tower, on the other hand, was used both for defensive purposes and as a triumphant arc. Entrance is 2 euros per person.
XI. Cerveceria 100 Montaditos and Restaurant Neco Buffet Mediterrano
Cerveceria 100 Montaditos is a sort snackbar found in great cities like Madrid and Valencia. This establishment has various branches scatterred in Valencia. They offer cheap drinks and snacks. And in Sundays and Thursdays, all snacks and drinks cost 1 euro. And you bet, during these days, the place is really full!
Neco, on the other hand, is located in Centro Comercial El Saler, opposite the Ciudad delas Ciencias. The restaurant offers a buffet of Meditarranean dishes for only 9.90 per head. There are lots of choices from soup, to bread and spread, paella and some mediterranean dishes which I am not familiar too. Also a choice of desserts as ice cream, yogurt, fruits and cakes are available.
There you are. We hope that this list will help you in planning your visit to Valencia. Have a nice time!