Valencia
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Valencia

By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor
The third largest city in Spain and the home to the world-famous Paella, this small Mediterranean city brings in the new with its "modernista" architecture but holds on to the past with its characterful old town. The perfect city to visit for a bit of warmth, a slice of beach, an insight to Spanish culture and of course plentiful tapas.

Our Editorial team's advice

Valencia, the resplendent capital of the Valencian Community, seduces all types of travellers and its level of diversity is one of the main reasons for this.

You can go to the beach, explore the old town, cycle around the Turia Gardens, discover museums, visit the City of Arts and Sciences or the famous Albufera Nature Reserve. With Valencia's size, all of this can be done in a single day.

With 800,000 inhabitants in the old town and 1 million in the rest of the city, Valencia is a modern city whose proximity to the sea has been used to its advantage and whose borders extend beyond the fortified old town walls.

The old town is home to the Colón Market and Silk Exchange, both bearing witness to its commercial past. The Gothic cathedral can also be found here, as well as the various gates which remain standing that once marked the city limits. In the 1980s, the Valencia started to change with the emergence of modern art and the transformation of the riverbed by Ricardo Bofill into a 7.5-mile garden. This is when the City of Arts and Sciences was born. Designed by Calatrava, it holds an interactive museum and the largest oceanographic park in the world.

Valencia has plenty of activities to offer both during the day and in the evening. There are many restaurants in the city centre and along the promenade by the beach which offer exquisite tapas including some local specialities. Valencia meets all requirements when it comes to good food and drink.

To see

Calatrava's City of Arts and Sciences has become one of the symbols of the city. It includes an oceanographic park, a natural science museum, an Imax cinema and the Palau de les Arts (an opera house and performing arts centre).

The interactive museum, which opened in 2000, will surprise you with its fascinating of its exhibitions and architecture. Covered in large windows, it bathes in natural light.

The old town deserves a thorough visit. Don't miss the Silk Exchange building, with its Gothic and Muslim influences. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, intense economic and financial activity is generated here. City Hall Square is shaped like a triangle and dates from the beginning of the 20th century, displaying a mix of various styles: doric columns and Art Deco statues.

If you visit Valencia in March, particularly from the 15th to the 19th, you will be part of one of the city's biggest celebrations, which is famous around the entire world: Las Fallas. Las Fallas involves parades, music, street parties and firework displays. Valencians prepare for this celebration all year long by making ninots (large puppets) which they burn at the end of the festivities.

To do

Head to the Valencian Institute of Modern Art (IVAM) is home to a large collection of 20th century works of art and there are also temporary exhibitions which are often of fantastic quality.

We recommend you try some of the tapas at the Colón Market, a sort of local, Valencian Covent Garden, which was once the centre of orange exports and vegetables in general in the 19th century. Nowadays, it is home to several bars benefitting from a pleasant environment and unique decor.

If food is not your top priority, the 400 merchants of the 800m² Central Market also offer a large variety of local products.

If the city gets too much for you, there are eight public beaches to relax on after exploring the cultural city centre. All of the beaches are accessible by foot or a short bus.

pros

  • +  The city's cultural and historical wealth
  • +  The many beaches
  • +  The City of Arts and Sciences
  • +  The food
  • +  The Almeaeda promenade
  • +  Very lively nightlife

cons

  • -  The views of the industrial port from the beach
  • -  The lack of architectural harmony in some of the districts

To think about

Driving in Valencia is easy and the distances you'll need to cover are relatively short. Renting a scooter might prove to be a good solution since you will be able to ride around all of the city's districts, including the historical centre. Several companies offer this service.

Nature lovers may wish to visit Albufera Park with its 10,000 different species.

To avoid

Valencia is known for its high summer temperatures, so we recommend you visit the city slightly off season, to avoid the scorching heat and business of the summer months. This being said, the weather is generally pleasant all year round.

To try

When visiting Valencia there are some specialities that you must try.

Valencia's two typical drinks are "Agua de Valencia" (literally translates to "water of Valencia"), is a blend of champagne and natural orange juice, and "Chufa Orgeat", which is generally served with "fartones" (sweet strips of pastry),

As for dishes that you are likely to come across, Valencia is the home to paella and its alternative, fideuá. You can taste many varieties of these dishes in traditional restaurants along the promenade which specialise in rice. Rice can be eaten in various ways: "à banda" (cooked in fish stock), with seafood, with meat, with vegetables and even in the form of black rice (with squid ink).

To bring back

You will find several interesting shops around the Colón Market including many local clothes and jewellery designers who make original and creative products.

"Chufa Orgeat" was brought in by the Muslims in the 8th century and the monks were the first to transform it into orgeat. Note that it is fragile to transport!

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