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10 Amazing Things to do in Valencia

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A modern cultural hub located on the Mediterranean coast and chalk-full of original Spanish culture and cuisine — can you picture anything better? The must-visit city of Valencia has been blessed with an excellent geographical location, loads of history (including some UNESCO World Heritage Sites), and the tastiest paella you’ll ever eat.

The things to do in Valencia vary greatly. In this article we’ve outlined 10 exciting, interesting, and unique things to do in this vibrant city.

1. Start a fight at La Tomatina Festival

Held on the last Wednesday in August, La Tomatina is a joyous, if a bit messy, festival. Hosted 40 kilometers outside of Valencia in the town of Buñol, the world's biggest food fight draws thousands of participants each year. The gist of the celebration is throwing over-ripe tomatoes into the street and at each other. Although born out of a comical incident in 1945 that involved a crazy audience and easily accessible tomatoes, today the festival draws thousands of locals and tourists on the streets and has become one of the most fun, good-natured festivals in the whole country.

Good to know:

  • Entry fee is around USD 12. Or, for almost USD 950* you can ride the tomato trucks.
  • Participants are capped at 20,000 so reserve your spot early!
  • Also, be aware that the small town of Buñol cannot accommodate all the people who come to the festival; therefore, many people choose to stay in Valencia and take transfer to and from the festival.

Suggested tours: La Tomatina 1 Day, La Tomatina Festival, La Tomatina Festival

2. Be “wowed” by the City of Arts and Science

Things to do in Valencia
The City of Arts and Science is aesthetically impressive as well as a hub of entertainment

One of the top things to do in Valencia is visit Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (the City of Arts and Science). This sprawling complex is an ode to modernity and is both aesthetically impressive and able to provide hours of entertainment. The majority of the complex was designed by Santiago Calatrava, a locally born architect who is now world-renowned in his field.

There are multiple buildings scattered about the 350,000-square meter space. They can be divided into 6 different zones, including a 3D iMax cinema and planetarium, an aquarium, a science museum, opera house, and a beautiful collection of native botanical plants.

Good to know:

  • Surrounding the complex is a pool-lined promenade, pleasant for walking or biking. Bicycles and other personal transporters (like Segways) are available for rent.

If you’d like to discover the arts and history of Valencia in its streets, then this tour should peak your interest.

3. Learn about La Lonja de la Seda

This cluster of buildings is a historical landmark and another one of Valencia’s most important attractions. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 due to its cultural value and stunning architecture. The name, meaning “silk trade”, reflects the lustrous buildings’ former purpose as the heart of Valencia’s silk and goods exchange in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Upon entrance to the main building via the sala de contratación (trading hall), the immense wealth and prosperity the city once held becomes immediately apparent. Inside, the twisted, sky-high pillars and vaulted ceilings are classic examples of late-Gothic architecture and is worth a leisurely inspection.

Tribunal del mar and the llotja de l’oli should also be explored. The former was the location of the country’s first ever maritime merchant committee and the latter was used for trading many other goods, including agricultural oils. They are adjacent to the la lonja.

Good to know:

  • It’s worth it to shell out the few euros for the audio tour to get the real story on this place since there isn’t much printed or posted information.

4. Visit Valencia Cathedral

Valencia Cathedral
Valencia Cathedral in the evening

This church is the main symbol of Christianity in Valencia. The Valencia Cathedral, located in the center of Old Town, is a collective display of baroque, romanesque and gothic-style architecture. First constructed in the 13th-century as a temple, it was then changed to a mosque, and finally, a church. This explains the unique mix of architectural styles, all of which are intricate, elegant, and extremely detailed.

A spiral stairway winds up to a terrace, providing a comprehensive view of the grounds. The highlights include the chapel of the Holy Chalice, the chancel of the cathedral, the bell tower (el miguelete) and ‘the door of irons’ - a gorgeously constructed entrance way.

Good to know:

  • The audio guide comes free with the purchase of a USD 8* entry ticket.

5. Get Lost in Barrio del Carmen

A busy, bustling, and exciting section of Valencia’s Old Town, Barrio del Carmen is the most popular section of town. Born in the medieval times, Barrio del Carmen’s current-day clash of old-meets-new makes it one of the coolest locations in Valencia. Palaces from the 13th and 14th century have been transformed into trendy boutiques, cozy restaurants, and vibrant bars.

If you’re in the mood to eat, drink, and just generally have a good time, Barrio del Carmen is the place for you. In addition to a plethora of bars and restaurants to choose from, check out Calle Caballeros, one of Valencia’s best nightlife spots.

Good to know:

  • There’s more to do than eat, drink, and be merry in Barrio del Carmen. It houses plenty of significant and historical sites like Torres de Quart and Torres de Serranos, the remains of the old city wall.

6. Stroll around Central Market

Whether you come to just wander around or embark on a full-blown foodie-shopping binge, Central Market (Mercado Central) is a top attraction and a great way to spend a few hours in Valencia. The massive 8,000-square meter metal and glass building is a wonderful example of art nouveau. Hundreds of vendors sell food from stalls and restaurants, as well as souvenirs. It’s a known spot for buying the freshest farm and seafood products for cheap. Even the locals shop here.

Good to know:

  • This is a great place to indulge in Spanish specialties like chorizo, jamón, ibérico and cheeses.
  • Central Market is nearly a century old and is one of the oldest markets in Europe!

7. Lounge on La Malvarrosa Beach

Valencia’s uninterrupted Mediterranean coastline is an obvious draw for tourists. The rolling sand dunes and soft golden sand make the beach a particularly good choice.

The 1-kilometer urban beach is just minutes away from the heart of the city. The promenade running behind the sand offers a few year-round bars and restaurants. In contrast, a real authentic vibe is felt when you notice the old fisherman quarters that line the beach.

Good to know:

  • La Malvarrosa Beach boasts full facilities including lifeguard stations, a medical care station, bathrooms, drinking fountains, showers, etc.
  • Because of its proximity to the city, La Malvarrosa hosts many festivals throughout the year, like Las Fallas fireworks festival, the international air show, and an international kite festival. Check the dates before travelling if you are interested in attending.

8. Eat paella

Spanish Food Paella
Paella's bright yellow rice and the different vegetables and meat, makes it a colorful dish

One of the most famous Spanish dishes was created right in Valencia, so it’s naturally a must-try food. The dish we know today originated in the 19th-century, however the idea of real paella is actually an ancient one. Paella’s name comes from the big, iron pan in which it’s cooked.

This full-meal-in-one has many different varieties, but almost always includes white rice, green beans, meat (chicken, duck, rabbit), white beans, snails, saffron, and rosemary.

Good to know:

  • Get off the tourist track to try paella. The smaller and more local the restaurant, the better chance of having an authentic meal. Check on El Canyar Restaurante, less than 2-kilometers from the silk trade and tucked away in the neighborhood back streets.

Try this food tour in Valencia that takes you on a gastronomic experience beyond just Paella.

9. Explore Jardínes del Turia

Turia garden is a must visit in Valencia
The scenic landscape of Jardines del Turia

This park is special because it has not always been in a park — in fact, it has not always been dry land! It was created in the mid-20th century after the banks of the Turia River burst and flooded the heart of Valencia. The flood caused the city a great deal of damage — some parts of Valencia were two meters underwater! In the 80s, the city decided to divert the river, and thus the Jardínes del Turia was born in the old river bed. The area is now a beloved natural escape from the city where people can come to walk, run, cycle, and admire the pine trees and orange groves, and palms.

Good to know:

  • The park is 9-kilometers long and makes for a lovely cycle through the gardens and under centuries-old bridges. Bicycle rentals are available to hire at one end of the park and can be dropped at the other.

10. Experience Las Fallas Festival

If you find yourself in Valencia in mid-March, then this festival of fireworks, music, and bonfires is a necessary experience.If you find yourself in Valencia in mid-March, then this festival of fireworks, music, and bonfires is a necessary experience.

things to do in valencia
Huge papier mâché structures are the heart of Las Fallas

Fallas are huge papier mâché structures that are sponsored by individuals in the city and are displayed during the on-going street parades. They are ultimately burned on March 19th, the final night of the festival. Some cost hundreds of thousands of euros to make!

The festival is wildly entertaining with street parades, all-night parties, paella-cooking competitions, music concerts, bullfights, and fireworks. Valencia demonstrates its prowess in pyrotechnics by setting off fireworks every day at 2pm during the festival in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento.

Good to know: 

  • The main festivities take place a few days leading up to March 19th, however you’ll likely see the beginning stages, preparations, and lighter celebrations up to two weeks before.

The broad range of things to do in Valencia never seems to cease. Days can be spent museum hopping, browsing markets, lounging on sandy shores, indulging in local food and drink, or partying with the locals. The Spanish culture is a welcoming one, and visitors are likely to feel right at home when they visit the vivacious and versatile Valencia.

*Note: Prices are as of March 2018.

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