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Valencia, Spain Plaza de la Reina with Orange Tree.
16 April, 20245 minute read

Viva Valencia: Unearthing Spain's Vibrant Coastal Gem

Are you looking for your next favourite Spanish city? Valencia sings to the scent of citrus trees and sea breeze with beautiful beaches and an elegant Old Town coupling with bustling open markets and vibrant nightlife. And there’s nothing better than a traditional brunch to kick start the day followed by people watching at a palm-fringed piazza and a stroll around one of Spain’s largest urban parks. So, if you’re thinking that Valencia might well be for you, here’s where you find out more.

Where is Valencia?

Valencia’s situated on the central east coast of Spain. It’s about four hours’ drive south of Barcelona and roughly the same distance inland to Madrid, the Spanish capital. Drive south of Valencia for just over an hour and you’ll reach Benidorm on the Costa Blanca. It’s an ideal setting for day trips with regular buses and trains arriving from Alicante. Flights from the UK to Valencia take two hours and thirty minutes. You can also fly into Valencia/Alicante and fly out of Malaga on a Jewels of Spain tour.

What to see in Valencia

The narrow streets and pedestrianised plazas of the Ciutat Vella (Old Town), are where you'll start an escorted Contrasts of Valencia tour. From here you can sit beside a fountain or under the shade of an orange tree surrounded by elegant Renaissance architecture. Seek out an open-air terrace café in the Plaza de la Reina and you can watch the world go by accompanied by the clip clap of horse-drawn carriages and the chiming of the bells from St Mary’s Cathedral. Explore elsewhere and you’ll find ceramics and lace shops encircling the Plaza Redonda as well as one of Europe’s largest markets, Valencia’s Mercado Central – a must for browsers, grazers and souvenir hunters. Also, the gothic grandeur of Lonja de la Seda (The Silk Exchange) makes up one of Valencia’s four UNESCO World Heritage listings and is well worth experiencing alongside the elegant artwork of the Palace of the Marquis of Dos Aguas.

Valencia, Spain Plaza de la Reina with Orange Tree.
Plaza de la Reina with orange trees

Things to do in Valencia

There’s nothing Valencians like more than taking a stroll down to the Turia River. However, all is not as it seems. This nine-kilometre dry bed was once where the river flowed through the city and out into the Mediterranean. But since a catastrophic flood in 1957, the river’s course was diverted away from the city centre. Now the Jardín del Turia is one of Spain’s largest urban parks. Green fields, pine woods and rose gardens are criss-crossed with scenic walking and cultural trails. It’s somewhere to cool off under palm trees and citrus groves while you watch Frisbee throwers and footballers against a backdrop of 15th – 17th century bridges. Rent a bike or a Segway and you can glide around the green spaces in between visiting the museums, galleries and cultural institutions aligning both banks. The Institute of Modern Art, the City of Arts & Sciences (that includes the Oceanogràfic aquarium) and the Palau de la Música (guided tours are highly recommended) are all amongst the most popular things to do in Valencia. Although, picnicking and people watching are equally as enjoyable pastimes for locals and visitors alike.

Jardin del Turia, Valencia
Jardín del Turia

Foodie fun and fiestas

As you’d expect from Valencia’s proximity to the Mediterranean, the seafood here is outstanding. In fact, this is the home of one of Spain’s most iconic dishes, paella, and there’s nowhere better than under the Art Noveau canopy of the Central Market from where to sit down and sample some of the best. If you’re looking for another Valencian foodie institution, a freshly baked farton is well worth sniffing out. This sugar dusted pastry cigar is a street food staple and the perfect accompaniment to every Valencian’s drink of choice, horchata – a dairy-free milk made from tiger nuts. Also, if you’re someone that loves elevenses, you’re in luck. This is somewhere that loves a mid-morning snack (known as almuerzo) with the city’s brunch bars bursting with scrambled egg and morcilla sausage sandwiches. 

Of course, if you’re visiting Valencia during mid-May, you’ll find even more opportunities to indulge as this is when the city’s culinary festival takes place. It’s a gastronomic whirl of workshops, demonstrations and tasting sessions with some of the world’s top chefs and local legends conjuring up a feast of Mediterranean delights and regional recipes from within participating restaurants. Alternatively, if you like your foodie festivals with a touch more tomato, head to the town of Bunol - just outside Valencia - in August and you won’t be disappointed. This is where La Tomatina takes place on the final Wednesday of the month. It’s basically an excuse to chuck squashed tomatoes at friends, family and random strangers with more than 20,000 visitors helping to create one of the world’s messiest events.

Seafood paella
Spanish paella

Best time to visit Valencia

April/May and September/October are the best months to visit Valencia for comfortable temperatures whereas June/July/August are when the city’s blue-flag beaches are best enjoyed and most crowded. Thanks to all the outdoor space, the city itself never feels too busy although the Fallas Festival, that takes place during the first two weeks of March, is one notable exception. This is when Valencia’s streets and plazas are overtaken by gigantic papier-mache models of Spanish politicians and celebrities. Bonfires, fireworks and feasting takes place to mark the onset of spring as well as a chance to celebrate the region’s cultural ideology through its traditional craftwork and creative arts. It’s a riotous affair and one of the best times to visit Valencia if you’re not put off by lots of people and pyrotechnics.

If you'd like to find out more about our holidays and tours to Spain, please contact one of our travel advisors today.

Chris O image

Chris's backpack maybe gathering dust, but he still fondly remembers walking sections of the Great Wall of China, surfing in California and playing pool in the back streets of Bangkok. He's pleased to say that one of his children has inherited the travel gene and has plans to hike in Nepal - or at least Scotland - in the not-too-distant future.

Chris | About the author

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