A city of contrasts, it’s amazing to behold Valencia’s avant-garde City of Arts and Sciences followed by the historic centre, where the scent of orange blossoms fills the air and the bell tower’s chimes echo off the cobblestones. There’s no end to the list of things to do in Valencia, so don’t waste any time in diving right into this marvellous Spanish city!
City of Arts and Sciences
Start by visiting the mind-blowing City of Arts and Sciences, a grand glass and steel complex composed of the Oceanogràfic resembling a water lily, the Hemisfèric made to look like an enormous eye, the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum in the form of a whale skeleton, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia opera house and the Umbracle, an open-air garden which you can visit for free! To save money, try a combined ticket or pick and choose between a 3-D cinema experience at the Hemisfèric, a night at the opera at the Palau de les Arts or getting up close and personal with the dolphins at the Oceanogràfic.
Palau de la Música and Turia Gardens
Further down along the lovely Turia Gardens, nestled in what was once the Turia riverbed, you’ll come upon the Palau de la Música, a beautiful concert hall with a curved glass façade that perches on the edge of a pretty pool. You can span the 9-kilometre length of the gardens in a day by renting a bicycle from one of the many bike rental shops bordering the gardens.
Football in Valencia
Set just a 15-minute stroll back from the Palau, you’ll find the Valencia Mestalla Football Stadium, home to the Valencia Club de Fútbol team, one of the most famous in Spain! Attending a football match is a foolproof way of feeling like a local as you cheer on the home team against the big fish of Barcelona and Madrid.
The Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia
Continuing down the Turia Gardens, you’ll find the blue-domed Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia, which boasts incredible works of art by artists like El Greco, Goya, Velázquez, Sorolla and Tiziano. Best of all? Admission is free!
Valencia’s famous towers
A few minutes’ walk across the gardens will bring you to the soaring Torres de Serranos, a set of towers that offer great views over Valencia. This ancient city gate was one of 12 that guarded the city, and 10 minutes on foot will bring you to another, the Torres de Quart.
At the far end of the Turia Gardens, animal lovers can visit the Bioparc Valencia, the city’s famous zoo, widely considered one of the very best in Spain. The park embodies the concept of zooimersion, in which visitors become immersed in the animals’ habitat rather than the other way around. Don’t expect to see any cages!
The historic centre of Valencia
After you’ve toured the length of the Turia Gardens and all of its treasures, it’s time to explore the historic centre of Valencia. Must-sees include the Valencia Cathedral, a 13th-century masterpiece with vaulted ceilings and the neighbouring Miguelete Tower (if you’re brave enough, climb the 207 steps of the spiral staircase to the top). Steps away you’ll find La Llotja de la Seda, the ancient home of the silk exchange, with a tranquil interior courtyard and stunning spiral columns. Finish up with a look at Valencia’s town hall, in the sunny, wide Plaça de l’Ajuntament.
After you’ve explored all the nooks and crannies of the Gothic side of Valencia, head to the other side of town to the famous Malvarrosa Beach. Wonderfully wide and with fine, white sand, this is the perfect place to work on your tan or try paella at one of the seafront restaurants. According to locals, Valencia is the only city in Spain that has the right to call its rice dishes paella!
If this isn’t natural enough for you, hop on bus 25 from the city centre to the Albufera Natural Park
. On this protected reserve, you can rent bicycles or go on a boat tour through the rice paddies and lagoon and enjoy a truly authentic local meal, made of course with the rice grown locally in the region.