This is a long-promised blog post for my Mum and sister ahead of their trip! Words only start to describe how much I loved my weekend in Valencia, Spain: a brilliant city break option travelling from London or elsewhere in Europe.
I went with my best friend in January on what was #1 of 12 trips I intended to take that year, as part of a New Year’s resolution to travel and see more of Europe. Such a cracking start. January is technically ‘out of season’ so flights are ludicrously cheap even for weekend travel, however we still hit over 20 degrees centigrade on our second day in Valencia. Such a welcome respite from an English winter.
Not only that, a weekend in Valencia will be pretty cheap for most with bargain food, drink and accommodation options to be found. I highly recommend spending some time here!
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
OLD TOWN | this central area is gorgeous and a must for any weekend in Valencia. You can’t fail to miss the incredible gothic Valencia Cathedral built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Try its full name on for size: The Metropolitan Cathedral–Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia, or in your best Valencian, “Església Catedral-Basílica Metropolitana de l’Assumpció de la Nostra Senyora de València”.
Also check out: to the north is the Plaza de la Virgin and the Royal Basilica of Our Lady of the Abandoned (Los Desamparados); to the south is Queen’s Square (Plaza de La Reina) which was abuzz on Sunday morning when we ate breakfast outside in the sunshine.
HIRE A BIKE | all Old Town highlights should definitely be explored on foot, but in order to get a broader feel for this vibrant city we hired city bikes (so just top up and go). The Turia Riverbed Park snakes all the way through the city, and is completely devoid of traffic (for those more stable on two legs than two wheels). It’s a truly amazing green space, with sports courts, running tracks, art installations and children’s play areas – offering plenty to do over a weekend in Valencia.
Also check out: easily cycle to the nearest beach immediately out of the city at Cabayal and try Paella at La Pepica, or continue further North to La Malvarrosa beach.
CITY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES | this series of alien like structures houses all manner of attractions, from a planetarium, aquarium and IMAX, to a performing arts centre, opera house, sculptures and many indigenous plants. If you’re stuck for things to do I’m sure they’ll be something on, but we just enjoyed walking around and snapping pics.
Also check out: Mya is a huge showy club attached to L’Umbracle section if you have the stamina to party: we purposefully got there ‘late’ at 1am on a Saturday, but it was dead. People were piling in around 3am when we’d decided to call it a night! Gotta love the Spanish.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
RUSAFFA | there wasn’t time to spend long in this working-class-now-gentrified barrio, but you instantly got a good feeling about it. We stopped for an afternoon drink in the sun at a pavement cafe. With a lot of Middle Eastern and East Asian influence, it’s reportedly the cool cousin to more mainstream Barrio del Carmen.
Also check out: on our first night (a Friday of a weekend in Valencia) we arrived late and popped in to a couple of bars in Carmen, whose main road is Calle Caballeros. You can’t go wrong: everywhere’s busy and the Spanish love to socialise.
MERCADO CENTRAL | the buzzing central market opened in 1928 is housed in a magnificent building, and is worth half an hour of your time at least. If you’re organised you could pick up supplies, otherwise just admire the meats, seafood and cheeses from over 300 suppliers.
ARCHITECTURE | one very significant impression that Valencia left on me was the totally stunning architecture throughout the city. There is an eclectic mix of styles, of which I won’t pretend to know anything about, but keep your eyes up whilst walking around!
Also check out: the Valencians seem to love a giant doorway!
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
GETTING LOST | the old town in particular is a wonderful nightmare for back tracking on yourself. Even though on paper it looks like a fairly easy to navigate city, for some reason we always seemed to end up disoriented in the back streets. Stick to wearing trainers for sore foot relief!
LOSING YOUR BAG | Valencia – like any Spanish town I think – can easily be a party town if you want it to be. Not in a trashy UK way, but just because people of all generations start late (a dinner at 10pm, bar at midnight, club at 3am style agenda). We had a couple of silly mishaps on Calle Caballeros: in the very first bar an mini-argument unfolded over mis-advertised cheap cocktails, and later on I stupidly left my bag on a stool. Luckily Valencians are a nice crowd, and it was safely handed in behind the bar.
DELAYS | I love how you can nip on a cheap flight from London for a European city weekend break. Our flights were just £58 return in January with Ryan Air and we stayed in an Airbnb to keep costs low. But…. whilst we were meant to depart Valencia at 18:25, there was a 5 hour delay. Arrggghhh. On Sunday night. I think it was about 2 or 3am before we got to bed 🙁
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
HORCHATERIA | these establishments serve a milky drink made from tigernuts, water and sugar, served ice-cold and with accompanying fartons. Horchata originated in Valencia and dates back as far as the 8th to 13th centuries, when the city had a very Muslim presence. There are lots of options – most serving hot chocolate and churros as well – although Horchateria Santa Catalina has good reviews. We didn’t get around to trying it during our first weekend in Valencia.
AND KNOW THIS: Valencia is also the birthplace of paella. Well, technically it originated in L’Albufera, 15 minutes outside of the city, but close enough! Be sure to hunt out this local speciality when you visit.