Almost a year ago, one of my sisters and I were heading to Spain to travel across the south of the country. We only had 15 days off and way too many cities to visit, so we needed to make them count! The best tip I can give you for situations like this: make a list, and classify based on priorities. And yes, we left some options for a future trip.
But when listing all the destinations we wanted to go to, I knew that Valencia was mandatory for me. Do not ask me why, because honestly I didn’t know much about Valencia at that time, but I was so looking forward to meeting her.
And I fell in love… Madly. Those cute little streets, the beautiful parks and the old buildings. Also of the city’s most modern and state of the art side. But let’s go step by step here…
How to get there:
You can travel to Valencia either by plane, car or train. We decided to go by train, taking the AVE trains from Barcelona. The ride will take you a couple of hours, but the advantage is that the train will leave you at the city centre, making it easy to walk or take the subway to your hotel.
Where to stay:
The city centre is the best option, with a wide number of hotels and beautiful airbnb apartments. In our case, we decided to go for a NH hotel. It was located a little further, but the truth is that on the last day we were renting a car and we didn’t know if the old town was easy or not to drive around. Also the NH had the parking included, and that was a bonus.
What to do:
We stayed 2 days in Valencia. It was perfect. We decided to go: day 1, the city of arts and sciences and day 2, the old town.
The city of arts and sciences is an entertainment-based scientific, cultural and architectural complex, designed by Santiago Calatrava and Feliz Candela. To be a little on topic, for those who have been in Buenos Aires or Barcelona, Calatrava is the same architect behind the Women’s Bridge in Puerto Madero (Buenos Aires) and the Montjuïc’s Communications Tower at the Olympics Stadium in Barcelona. (and for those who know me, you know that this super important information got stuck in my brain thanks to traveling with an architect as a sister. You know how baby sisters can be, right?)
Anyways, this big project is an impressive example of modern architecture and its now an icon of Valencia. Situated at the end of the former riverbed of the river Turia, the park includes galleries, museums, an IMAX and an aquarium (the biggest in Europe).
I am not going to lie to you, we did not visit all the museums here. We did go to L’Oceanogràphic (aquarium) and to the 3D movie theater. Plus the park is great to relax, walk around or even jog if you are looking to train during your stay.
Moving around Valencia is simple. On our second day, we took the metro from the hotel to the old town, which was like a 5 to 10 minutes ride.
We started by walking the beautiful Valencian’s streets, on our way to the Silk Market (Lonja de Seda in Spanish). This building is a main monument of the city and a masterpiece of civil Gothic architecture, which was used as a place for mercantile transactions in the old times. All kind of exchanges were made here, but due to silk being the most important industry at that time, the place is known as the Silk Market.
The Silk Market was built during Valencia’s golden age, and declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1996. It is very well conserved and deserves the visit. The entrance ticket is only 2 euros.
Across the street from the Silk Market, you will find the Mercat Central (Central Market). It is one of the oldest ones in Europe, and a must to go try some of the Valencia’s unique flavors.
A few steps from there, you will find the Palace of the marquisate of Dos Aguas. This big house with its strong rococo style, houses the National Ceramics Museum. And I know this may not intrigue anyone, but it is a great opportunity to walk inside a palace that dates from the 15th century (at least this was the reason I used to get my sister in!). Inside, you can visit a wide variety of rooms and the ticket fee is pretty accessible.
Valencia’s Cathedral was our next stop. Do you want a curious tip? There was a mosque there, before the Cathedral was built. Also, they say the Holy Chalice is kept there.
Lastly, the Turia Gardens are beautiful and a great option for picnics, walks, cycling or just to relax on a break.
What to eat:
There is no way to be in Spain and not try the paellas and tapas. I think that is pretty much what we ate during our 15 days!
Next post I will tell you all about Seville, another Spanish city that got a special place in my heart.