An Insider’s Guide to Valencia

I can’t recreate the paella I ate in Valencia. I’ve tried it at home, and at Spanish restaurants in New York. But it has a flavor in Valencia, where paella was born, that is unlike anything else: a delicate mix of fresh seafood, rabbit, chicken, snails, and — the best part — crunchy rice at the bottom, all infused with saffron.

It has been endlessly chronicled, but the City of Arts and Sciences‘ otherworldly architecture still causes jaws to drop. Along with paella, the glass-and-steel complex that includes a science museum, an aquarium, and a world-class music venue is a symbol of Valencia and its cultural heartbeat.

Find it all at Valencia farmers' market. (Photograph by Annie Fitzsimmons)

The well-preserved city center boasts Valencia Cathedral (home to the Holy Grail, the chalice Jesus is believed to have used at the Last Supper), one of Europe’s largest farmers’ markets, seaside dining, and delightful neighborhoods that have yet to be discovered by the casual tourist.

Hospes Palau de la Mar, a restored palace on a centrally located residential street, is my favorite hotel in the city. Breakfast is best enjoyed over a couple of hours in the beautiful interior garden. But best of all, starting rates are reasonable, especially compared to other high-profile cities in Spain.

That’s why I decided to ask the hotel’s general manager, Patricia Garcia Vizcaino, what she loved about her home city.

Here’s her insider advice on the best of the best in and around Valencia:

Annie Fitzsimmons: Why is visiting Valencia special compared to more traversed Spanish cities like Madrid and Barcelona?

Patricia Garcia Vizcaino: “Valencia es la tierra de las flores, de la luz y del color” is part of our Valencia anthem and we are proud about it. It means Valencia is the land of flowers, sunlight, and colors. There is so much here that has helped us be a very popular European destination, starting with the remarkable architecture of the historic city center and then the modern City of Arts and Sciences by Calatrava.

Of course, Valencia is also the birthplace of one of Spain’s most popular dishes, paella. I love eating it by the sea, in the Saler beach area.

AF: What should visitors not miss when they visit Valencia?

Plaza de la Reina is one of the busiest public areas in the city. (Photograph by Brennan Paezold, Flickr)

PGV: The City of Arts and Sciences and the Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe; The Lladró Museum, a huge complex where the famous Lladró porcelain is created; Albufera National Park, home to the largest lake in Spain and incredible wildlife; and the Bioparc Valencia, a zoological park

AF: What is your perfect day in Valencia when the weather is nice?

PGV: Breakfast in Plaza de la Reina, a visit to the Bioparc or golfing, lunch in Barrio del Carmen, a walk through the Turia gardens, a concert in Palau de la Musica or an opera in the Palau de les Arts, dinner in a restaurant next to the sea, and a cocktail in a lounge bar in Barrio del Carmen or Ruzafa.

AF: What if it’s too hot or rainy? What do you like to do indoors?

PGV: Visit the Central Market and buy food and flowers, go to the Oceanogràfic or one of Valencia’s many museums, or play a sport indoors.

AF: What are some of your favorite day trips around Valencia?

PGV: A visit to El Saler, a beach half an hour from Valencia, and Albufera National Park; the botanic garden at the University of Valencia, originally founded in 1567; The Monastery of San Miguel de los Reyes just outside the city; and La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its incredible Gothic architecture.

AF: Tell me about eating out in Valencia. Do you prefer eating by the water or in town?

PGV: I like both places — by the water and in town, but adore homemade dishes in restaurants with old traditions and architecture. Valencians like to eat out, so there are so many good restaurants, tapas places, and bars that serve food.

Annie Fitzsimmons is Intelligent Travel’s Urban Insider, giving you the dish on the best things to see and do in cities all over the world. Follow her travels on Twitter @anniefitz.

Comments

  1. Valerie Oner
    Valencia, Spain
    March 12, 7:04 am

    Dear Annie, what a great article on Valencia. May we include three extra tips? 1) Try visiting the RASTRO fleamarket on sunday morning at the Valencia Soccer Stadium. 2) Try to eat paella on the tourist free beaches of El Saler and Pinedo. 3) Try a Bed and Breakfast while visiting Valencia: http://www.valenciamindfulnessretreat.org

  2. Rocio Marti
    Valencia
    January 3, 6:12 am

    Hi Annie!!

    Congratullations for your great work! Your blog is very interesting,
    I specially liked the part of the markets. Although it is true that Mercado Central is the most beautiful but there are also other markets such as Mercado de Ruzafa or El Cabanyal that are more authentic. There you can find local people buying fresh products everyday!
    I am working in a tourism company and we write a blog in which we try to provide advice about what to do in Valencia from a local perspective. Please, have a look!
    http://blog.livingvalencia.com/en/

  3. Escape Hunter
    International
    December 13, 2013, 1:54 pm

    It’s an incredibly beautiful city. Diverse and pumping with dynamism.

    I find Valencia’s architecture especially attractive – I don’t think it’s less interesting that Barcelona’s… just that this city is smaller.
    http://www.escapehunter.com/escapes/spain/sprawling-architecture-010413.php

  4. Jhon C.
    July 26, 2013, 10:06 pm

    Spain have much attraction like the history and culture of the country but the best thing I think is the wine and crops, a good alternative to visit and learn about the workings of fine wines

    Niso wine tours, the authentic Spanish experience

  5. JJ Jhonson
    www.jakpost.travel
    January 29, 2013, 12:25 am

    Art is often be our reason to visit some place. Valencia sure will provide us with that excitement. Spain, Asia’s country sure make us want to go there and stay there for quite a long time

  6. Nomad Travel
    World
    January 26, 2013, 6:03 am

    And of course a visit to the city of arts and science and Oceanographic is definitely worth. The entrance ticket is quite expensive, but there are several promotion with good discounts. Last year we were able to have entrance tickets at 50%!
    http://www.nomadtravellers.com/content-menu-hidden/77-travel/113-how-to-get-50-discount-at-the-entrance-ticket-of-the-city-of-arts-and-science-of-valencia

  7. Nomad Travel
    World
    January 26, 2013, 5:59 am

    I think it’s worth to mention that in Valencia you shouldn’t miss the linear urban park that was build were the river was previously flowing, before being moved to a different route. It’s something unique.

  8. Neyza
    Indonesia
    January 25, 2013, 4:22 am

    Valencia is one of my favourite city in Europe. Its indeed beautiful, whether in the city or spent time in the beach with your friends or family. Very nice article :)

  9. Arnar Olaffson
    Iceland
    January 24, 2013, 6:14 am

    Thanks so much for sharing the nice information about Valencia, Spain. I love to spend my vacation by visiting different different places. This time I am planning to visit some other different locations as I have confused between two places Iceland or Spain. Iceland is lovely planet and travelers love to go there and spend there valuable time with their family and friends

  10. Ester Giner
    Valencia
    January 18, 2013, 7:55 am

    Dear Annie,

    Many thanks for the fantastic article about Valencia, Spain. For further information about this exciting city please pay a visit to http://www.turisvalencia.es or to our blog http://www.valenciacity.co.uk/ or even become our fan and profit our offers and prizes on facebook.com/visitvalencia

    At your disposal for any other enquery.

    Best wishes:

    Ester Giner
    UK PR and Communications Executive for Valencia Tourism, Spain

  11. LG Escape P870 GPS
    http://www.backcountrynavigator.com/
    January 17, 2013, 10:08 pm

    Valencia is indeed a beautiful city in Spain. With plentiful beaches and shops you can’t go wrong with a trip here.