Versatile Valencia: capital of sun and fantastic food!
Five days in and around the wonderful city of Valencia, the third biggest city in Spain and capital of the autonomous community with the same name. Famous because of paella and oranges, but so much more to see. A city to fall in love with and certainly worthwhile to visit. Some suggestions and insider tips below…
Arriving May 21st on a Sunday morning, we were not aware that the 2nd edition of TastArròs Festival was taking place at one of Valencia’s famous plazas: la Plaza del Ayuntamiento (city hall plaza).
The festival is all about gastronomy: 25 restaurants settle on the square to celebrate the fantastic Valencian product rice is. All local collaborators gave their best to let neighbors and tourists enjoy their dishes: plenty of choice there was! The cosy atmosphere made the experience complete!
Fútbol: Mestalla Stadium
Valencians (Spanish: valencianos) have a second love next to good food and drinks: football. Visiting the temple of Valencia CF, Mestalla Stadium, is highly recommended. We were lucky to attend the last game of the season where the neighbors of Villarreal were the opponents.
Mestalla Stadium is one of the oldest stadiums in Spain and recently underwent a makeover, to give the façade a huge facelift. The 55,000-seater stadium has very steep stands. Although the stadiums lacks modern facilities, it’s a real eye catcher. Valencia CF started plans for the construction of a 75,000-seater in 2007, but works were halted and the project is still on hold.
The atmosphere and hospitality of the ‘valencianos’ was just fantastic and it was awesome to see some of my colleagues and friends of Valencia CF again before the kickoff. The little desserts and the famous Jamon Iberico were tempting us all, especially when the cured meat was hand cut right in front of us.
Bicycles or bicicletas: ideal means of transport!
Biking in Valencia is cheap and especially easy. We used ValenciaBIKES: they have different shops in Valencia and you can return the bike by the end of the day at any of the shops (service was perfect!). Turia Gardens (Jardín del Turia) is one of the largest urban parks in Spain. It runs through the city along nine kilometres of green space, leisure and sports areas, and quiet spots where you can unwind.
The Turia Gardens are the perfect place for runners, cyclists, families, etc.. and are crossed by 18 bridges full of history. Can you believe they nearly turned the former riverbed into a highway trough the city? Luckily the former riverbed now passes by the city’s main museums and monuments on either bank and is about 9! kilometers long. It links different points in Valencia not to be missed, like the Serranos Towers, a gate in the old city walls that surrounded Valencia, currently converted into a wonderful viewpoint over the historical centre and gardens; the Valencia Institute of Modern Art (IVAM) and the Museum of Fine Arts.
Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
The City of Arts and Sciences is a must-see architectural complex. It is the most important modern tourist destination in the city of Valencia and a real highlight designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Dandela. Although it was originally budgeted at €300 million, it has cost nearly three times the initial expected cost. On the other hand the complex has boosted the tourism and we can only encourage people to visit the city.
Vamos a la playa
Next to the fact that Valencia is the ideal destination for a city trip, it’s also an ideal city for a beach vacation. So why not enjoy the beach for a day or two ;-). The city is located near the coast and owns sandy beaches like La Malvarossa, Las Arenas and Patacona, which makes Valencia one of the most ‘complete’ cities in Spain. These are easy accessible by bike, bus, tram, car or you can just walk there. Las Arenas is located next to the harbor and is the busiest beach, as you have the most facilities there and mainly because it’s located most near the centre of the city. Patacona is located a bit further, but it’s worth the extra effort. It’s a lot calmer there and you’ll meet mainly locals there at some of the cosy terraces. I can only recommend this one! Of course you have more rustic beaches, especially when going more to the south.
Comida y bebida
Casa Navarro is a spectacular restaurant. We ate right on the Mediterranean, directly across from the sea. The restaurant is located at Patagonia beach, away from the tourist strip at the beach, in an area called Alboraya. A lot of our Valencian acquaintances highly recommended this place, don’t miss it!
La Más Bonita Patacona is a nice restaurant near Casa Navarro. You will notice the turquoise colors from the outside. It has a nice terrace in front, but you just have to walk through the place to see the ‘lounge’ garden, definitely worth it.
From a healthy breakfast over salads to tostadas: the menu is quite extended and the food is good. The place is busier than the other restaurants, so be sure toget there in time if you want to enjoy some time in the garden.
More towards the city center you have a small restaurant called El Pederniz (close to the train station) which stood out for us because of the charming owner. You don’t really need the menu as he will walk you through every step of the way and will give you some good suggestions (don’t worry: he speaks several languages). The owner is so knowledgable and passionate about the food he was serving, which came through in the quality of the dishes. Very welcoming host that made us feel at home (and offering some ‘chupitos’ at the end) :). We highly recommend this one! Certainly try the croquetas, scallops and squid!
El Mercado Central is Valencia’s historic central market. The market itself is divided into various but somewhat ambiguous sections depending on the type of food available, almost all of which is very local, very fresh and very traditional. We ate breakfast here every single day. Of course you just have to try the ‘Jamon’ , the staple dry-cured Spanish meat that you can see in bars across the whole country and also an integral part of daily life in Spain.
Casa Del Maco
A last recommendation that I would like to make is Casa Del Maco.
During one day, we made a small roadtrip to Benissa, Calpe and Dénia. It’s all worthwhile if you’re staying in and around Valencia for a longer period and renting cars is also quite cheap. The Casa Del Maco is a restored 18th century farmhouse at the foot of the Sierra Bernia Mountains, located in the village of Benissa. It only has a few guest rooms, so it is a very peaceful little ‘hotel’. Breakfast, pool and the view were all amazing! We didn’t know before, but the owners are also Belgian, so they can give you quite some recommendations for restaurants and must-sees in the neighborhood. In brief, Casa Del Maco is highly recommended by us and the ideal place for some time off!
- Mestalla Forever Stadium Tours
- El Mercado Central
- Casa Navarro
- La Mas Bonita
- El Pederniz
- Ciudad de las Artes y las ciencias
- Casa Del Maco
- Time to momo Valencia travel guide (NL)