What to do in Valencia:
7 insidertips from me as a local!
Your trip to Valencia has been booked, you are looking forward to it, but you are still wondering: what to do in Valencia? On Google you will find the same highlights almost everywhere, you definitely want to visit the touristic places too, only you are looking for the magical hidden places, more information about historical buildings and funny facts about the city.
I can help you with that; My name is Suzie, half Dutch and half Spanish and I have lived in the beautiful city of Valencia for years! As a true local I can tell you everything about Valencia …
1. City of art and science, but just a little different
La Ciudad de las Artes y las Cièncias is one of the most visited places in Valencia, it is a unique collection of modern buildings designed by the world famous Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. It’s worth visiting for the architecture, but there’s a lot more to see in the buildings themselves:
- L’Hemisfèric, also called “the eye”, this is immediately recognizable by the shape of the building. This building is used as a cinema and it is only possible to watch the films lying down!
- L’Umbracle, open-air disco but also a garden full of plants and flowers, take your Instagram-worthy holiday photos under the palm trees here!
- Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Very beautiful opera house and what not many people know is that you can actually go inside with a guided tour. The opera hall is completely covered with trencadis, these are the broken ceramic tiles that also completely cover the outside of the opera house.
PS: These tiles have also fallen off the building, so they had to do this labor-intensive work all over again!
- L’Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe, fun for young and old! You can find more tips in the blog Valencia with kids. Skip the line tickets aquarium
- Museo de las Cièncias Príncipe Felipe, in this Science Museum it is important to stimulate your senses by experimenting with technology. The rules are; forbidden NOT to touch, NOT to feel and NOT to think. Even if you don’t want to visit the museum, go inside the building to admire the architecture inside and perhaps visit the souvenir shop. Discover the whisper corner on the outside at the entrance… You can whisper from one corner and then you hear it in the other corner!
- Agora, built as an event location for exhibitions, conferences, concerts, but also for example Valencia Fashion Week. Not for long, however, as hardly any events were held in it, so a new plan has been made for a museum. CaixaForum is scheduled to open in early 2021.
Photo tip: In the city of arts and sciences you can now also shoot your perfect holiday photo with the letters of Valencia!
Discount tip: If you want to visit multiple buildings, buy a combination ticket, this is cheaper. You also get a discount if you purchase a Valencia tourist card. You can therefore visit the buildings on different days if you prefer. I recommend buying the entrance online to avoid the queue.
2. Old center: these are the hidden places
Valencia has a beautiful historic center where you can get completely lost. In the El Carmen district you will find the Cathedral of Valencia, several museums and the square “Plaza de la Virgen with the Turia fountain”. The old center is not only for lovers of cultural history, but also for those who want to discover street art in unexpected places. Be sure to get off the beaten track and look for “the house of the cats”. Opposite you will find the Centro del Carmen museum, which is certainly worth a visit. I also really enjoy the Jardin Botanico where as a cat lover you can see many street cats having a siesta between the beautiful oasis of plants. You will only find these hotspots and hidden gems by getting lost in typical Spanish streets full of nice boutiques and authentic restaurants. In the evenings the atmosphere is very different from during the day, as you can also dance until late at night in the cafes around plaza tossal or enjoy live jazz at Jimmy Glass cafe. On the weekends you will be amazed when you experience a flamenco performance at Cafe del Duende.
Children’s tip: strolling through El Carmen is also fun to do with children, go together in search of the ninjas of the well-known street artist David de Limón.
3. Taste at Mercado Central
This central market is one of the largest covered markets in Europe, here you will find all kinds of fresh local products such as the delicious Spanish Iberico hams and different types of cheeses, but also oranges and olives and many more goodies. With a choice of over 1,200 stalls, there is plenty to see and taste. Actually, there are too many choices and often people walk around there without knowing what to buy. We advise you to compose your own tapas picnic and eat it in the park (see tip 7)! Of course a delicious Spanish ham should not be missing, but on the market you will also come across fresh fish and meat. Outside at the restaurants you can deliver your own fish and meat and have it grilled!
For even more insider tips and recommendations, I would like to take you on the central market tour!
TIP: The market closes at 3:00 PM, but everyone is already tidying up at 2:00 PM, so the best you could do is to visit the market in the morning, put together your own picnic and have an Valencian lunch with your own tapas at 2:30 PM at the park!
4. Relaxing during your city trip… at the beach!
Valencia is the perfect city trip if you want to combine discovering the city with the beach. The city is located right on the sunny Spanish coast and the weather is nice all year round! The most famous beach is “Las Arenas”, which is easy to reach by bike or public transport from the center of Valencia. Here you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas for a small price; so this means maximum relaxation all day long! If you are looking for some more Ibiza-like vibes, book a lounge bed at the Marina beach club.
TIP: Looking for a quieter beach? Then cycle a little further to Patacona beach, which has the nicest beach bars called “chiringuitos” in the summer months.
5. Beautiful viewpoints for taking pictures
Valencia overview from the Miguelete tower
A visit to Valencia is not complete if you have not admired the city from above. The city gate “Torres de Serranos” is the largest Gothic city gate in Europe and in the past was part of the city walls of Valencia. Today it is used as a tourist attraction and you have one of the best views of Valencia from the tower! If you want to have an overview of the city from the highest point, you have to climb 207 steps in the tower of the cathedral ¨de miguelete¨
Sunset TIP: those who want to enjoy the beautiful sunset or take a picture should actually be just outside Valencia in Albufera, from the boat you have a view that you will never forget. At several places it is possible to rent your own boat or of course to reserve a spot on a shared boat. Great also for marriage proposals in Valencia. (which we are happy to help you with!)
6. Food and drink: what not to miss
When you think of Spain, you think of tapas! Valencia is therefore the excellent city to eat tapas, better said pinchos at a real pincho bar. Pinchos are comparable to tapas, but the way of serving is slightly different. Tapas comes on trays, pinchos can be taken from the display case or the waiter comes by with a large bowl of pinchos. A pincho is a slice of bread or other edible crust with a topping on it and a skewer through it. In many bars it is intended that you keep the picks and at the end they are counted and settled. Order a carafe of Sangria and you have the ultimate Spanish experience!
TIP: you can eat the tastiest pinchos at Orio, this is also where our self guided walking dinner starts. Also ask if you can go to the cellar there, because there is still a part of the Moorish city wall to admire!
Can not be missed; a glass of Agua de Valencia
You will soon notice; you sit on a terrace among the locals enjoying the sun, grasp the menu and your eye falls on “Agua de Valencia”. In your best Spanish you translate “oh that means water from Valencia”, but nothing could be further from the truth, this is a typical Valencian delicacy! This delicious cocktail is a mix of orange juice, cava, gin, vodka and sugar, and is only served in the city of Valencia! So delicious if you want to fully integrate into the Spanish culture!
Make it yourself? See my video recipe here
7. Turia gardens and a secret garden
The Jardín del Turia could not be missed during your stay in Valencia, this 9 kilometer long park is located right through the city. Valencia is located on the river Turia and that river used to run through Valencia. Unfortunately, the river flooded frequently, in 1957 so badly that it caused a lot of damage. In some places in the city you will still see signs with how high the water was at that time, 2 to 3 meters. After this heavy flooding, the river was diverted to the south side of the city and the stretch that ran straight through Valencia has been drained and converted into a fantastic park.
The real Valencians enjoy this park to the full, so there is plenty to see, hear and experience! Be among the locals and walk or cycle through the Turia Park. Whether you go here to have a picnic, exercise, read a book, go for a walk with the children, walk the dog, walk / cycle for a while, it doesn’t matter, there is something for everyone and the park is there perfect for!
Are you in Valencia with children? Make sure to stop at Gulliver Park, this is a playground the size of a giant, literally! They will love this great big playground equipment for climbing, scrambling, sliding, from very young to old! Then cycle or walk further, enjoying nature you will come across several terraces for a coffee break. On the north side of the Turia park you arrive at the Bioparc zoo, with wild animals in their lifelike habitats it almost feels like you are in Africa. Parque Cabecera next to the Bioparc is also great for a picnic here you can continue “cycling” with a swan pedal boat on the water.
Insider Tip: My favourite garden is a hidden garden close to the Turia namely Parque Monforte. Due to the hidden entrance to this park, it remains a mysterious location with beautiful statues and lots of greenery. Many photo shoots are held in this magical place and you can also get married here! I have also done this myself here.