Valencia is becoming increasingly recognised as a must-visit destination. Once overshadowed by tourist favourites Barcelona and Madrid, this mediterranean coastal city is making a name for itself. It is easy to see why; Valencia is home to a thriving gastronomy scene, an interesting blend of classic and avant-garde architectural styles and a spectacular beachfront.
City of Arts and Sciences
The City of Arts and Sciences is arguably Valencia’s best asset. The seven-structure modern complex is the brainchild of architect Santiago Calatrava. The Valencian-born architect has built all over the world and is recognised for his avant-garde, futuristic designs. Inspired by animal anatomy, his structures often mimic animal skeletons. The City of Arts and Sciences is his largest work and is a microcosm within Valencia’s 9-kilometre city park, the Turia Gardens. Surrounded by pools of water, the City of Arts and Sciences is as tranquil as it is awe-inspiring. The complex is multi-purpose, encompassing an IMAX cinema, science museum, aquarium, opera house and even an open-air nightclub! However, the most astonishing thing is the architecture itself. Learn more about the stories behind the buildings on TripAdvisor’s top-rated activity: a guided tour followed by a rooftop tapas dinner and wine-tasting. On these small-group experiences, guided tour and experiences operator Sea Saffron has put together their top tips on exploring the City of Arts and Sciences before viewing it from the highest viewpoint of the city complete with panoramic views of Valencia!
A Rich History
One of the most unique things about Valencia is the contrast of architectural styles. The historic centre dates back to the 11th Century but in the narrow streets you can find remnants of Baroque, Gothic, and even some Moorish architecture. The centrepiece of the Old Town is the Cathedral of Valencia, said to be the home of the Holy Grail! The silk exchange building, known as the Lonja, is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its beautiful Gothic interiors and historical importance. Silk was formerly the main industry of Valencia, making it a booming commercial city in the 15th and 16th centuries. One of the lesser-known gems of Valencia’s Old Town is the Church of San Nicolas. This church was restored in recent years, unveiling ceilings adorned with stunning frescoes leading to its reputation as the “Sistine Chapel of Valencia”. Learn about this landmark, and the rest of the Old Town before a unique dining experience set amongst the original 11th Century city walls. This is a truly immersive experience culminating in a tasting menu of traditional valencian tapas and regional wines.
Valencia is a foodie heaven. The birthplace of paella, Valencia has cultivated rice since 711BC. Therefore, no trip to Valencia is complete without trying traditional paella valenciana. The traditional recipe is made with chicken, rabbit, green beans and butter beans, sometimes with a special addition of snails or artichokes. As well as paella, you can find many traditional and fusion tapas bars and restaurants across the city. You are never a stone’s throw away from something delicious. Valencia is the proud owner of Europe’s largest food market, Mercado Central. This impressive art-nouveau building hosts hundreds of vendors with everything from fresh fruit and vegetables and confectionery, to even live eels! Nestled in the aisles is the trendy Central Bar, the tapas bar of Valencian Michelin-star chef Ricard Camarena. The city of Valencia now boasts 5 restaurants with Michelin stars, as well as 21 Michelin-starred restaurants across the wider Valencian region.
Sunshine and Beaches
Sun-seekers will be pleased to know that Valencia is situated right on the Mediterranean coast. Playa Malvarrosa, the beach closest to the city centre, stretches for 1800 metres and is the perfect place to relax and unwind. Valencia is celebrated for its climate and has on average 300 sunny days per year. Foodies will be glad to know that the beach has many highly acclaimed paella restaurants. La Pepica, though touristy, is one of the most famous. It was frequented by Ernest Hemingway when he lived and wrote in Valencia and was also, historically, the restaurant of Kings. The marina of Valencia is also a good option for a relaxing afternoon; opt for a cocktail and watch the sunset over the beach.