When being the birthplace of paella isn’t even the best reason to visit a city, you know its going to be amazing.
Spain’s third-largest city doesn’t show up in headlines as often as Barcelona and Madrid, but that doesn’t mean its not worth visiting. Its got a rich cultural history, such as being where the famous Spanish rice dish paella originated from, and a marvelous Old Town.
But these days its known for its innovation. When a river kept overflowing and flooding the city, they diverted the entire thing and converted the riverbed into a park. And thats not even to mention the City of Arts and Sciences with such modern architecture that you feel like you’ve literally stepped into the future.
It’s these parts of the city that entrance visitors and keeps them coming back time and time again. So here’s what to do in Valencia to entrance you too!
Chill at Portsaplaya
This hidden port is tucked in the Northern part of the city. All the buildings are painted different bright colors, apparently because it helped sailors at sea see the shore. These days its mostly good for eye-candy and gorgeous Instagram photos (which is all that’s important, amirite 😉
Next to the port is a stunning beach that is perfect for sunbathing and taking a quick dip. Lined up against the water is a row of restaurants, all serving, you guessed it, paella.
Explore the Old Town
Like most European cities, Valencia has an Old Town tucked in the middle of the modern buildings around it. There’s plenty to see and do here.
First you could visit the Marqués de Dos Aguas Palace, a stately mansion that was owned by a knight back in the day. It is historically significant to the city as it represents the wealth that they had.
Then there’s Plaza de la Reina, which is lined with all sorts of shops, restaurants, cafes, and historical sites, making it an absolute must visit if you’re in Old Town.
In the plaza is El Miguelete Tower at the Cathedral of Valencia, which you can climb up for only 2 euros for a great view of the city.
Or you could climb the tower of the Santa Catalina Church. The Santa Catalina church is the oldest church in the entire city, making it historically significant.
Nearby is also the Plaza de Toros, the bullfighting ring of Valencia. While I understand that bullfighting is a large part of Spanish culture, I would never watch one because I just don’t enjoy watching a bull be maimed and killed. That being said, if you would like to watch one you can buy tickets here.
But my favorite thing to do in the Old Town is to simply wander the streets without a set destination in mind, appreciating the architecture of the ordinary buildings and exploring the alleyways for myself.
Enjoy the cuisine
So as you might have gathered by now, Valencia is the birthplace of paella, meaning that you absolutely have to eat paella while you’re here. In fact, Valencia also has a special type of paella named after it, Paella Valenciana, which is made with chicken instead of seafood.
I must confess, the picture below of paella wasn’t taken in Valencia, it was taken in Barcelona, hence why there’s seafood in it. Somehow, I lost the pictures of paella that I took in Valencia so this will have to do.
But paella isn’t the only thing you should eat here. Valencia is also know for arròs negre, rice cooked with squid and squid ink until the rice is jet black in color. There’s also fiduea, which is basically paella but made with noodles instead of rice. I also really enjoyed the gelato that I ate in Valencia too and highly recommend it.
Stroll through the Turia Riverbed Park
This is the aforementioned riverbed that the Valencians turned into a park. Now instead of being filled with water its filled with bike paths, pedestrian walkways, lots of lush greenery, and bridges running across the place.
At one point in the park, there is a mini amusement park for kids. I’m not sure if this was a one time installment or not, but while I was there there were a number of rides including a ferris wheel, and there were a ton of food booths.
And that brings me to my favorite part of the park, a literal walkway full of flower bushes! With flowers and palm trees lining this particular bridge, it looks like heaven.
Admire the amazing City of Arts and Sciences
This insanely futuristic architectural complex is located within the Turia riverbed. Started in 1998 and completed in 2005, this complex is made up of seven different buildings (an eighth one has been put on hold) and is considered one of the 12 treasures of Spain!
The first building is L’Hemisfèric, a dome-shaped building that functions as a IMAX Cinema, planetarium and laserium. It is said to be designed like an eyelid, and is surrounded by water. While we were there, they were holding a concert of the University of Berklee Graduating class.
As I was watching the concert, I saw one of my friend’s friend’s dads there, and we’re from America. That was one of my favorite things about Valencia, the small community feel despite it being the third largest city in Spain.
The next building is El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe, a museum shaped like the skeleton of a whale. It’s a science museum, whose exhibits are apparently designed more for entertainment than for education.
NOTE: This also happens to be where my sister and I got hit on my a strange Spanish boy. You might be into that, I don’t know, I won’t judge, but I figured I ought to at least give you fair warning: thirsty Spanish boys be lurking!
L’Umbracle was designed to be an entryway to the entire park. It’s full of a plethora of different plant species, and a Walk of Statues, and its super nice to walk in. Supposedly at night this is also a great place for nightlife but sadly, I had to leave before nightfall so I cannot testify to this myself.
Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia is an opera house and performing arts center. It consists of four rooms, the main room, a magisterial classroom, an amphitheater and theater of camera. Also surrounded by water and stunning flowers, this was probably the most photogenic of them all.
The last two I don’t have great pics of because I didn’t visit them. One is the Assut de l’Or Bridge which can be seen in the background of this picture, and the other is L’Àgora, a concert hall and sports venue.
There was plenty to do around the main buildings too. On the water surrounding L’Hemisfèric you can stand up paddle board or run around in those clear inflatable balls. Or you simply walk around, snap photos, and admire the architecture.
So are you convinced yet? Head to Valencia to see these sights for yourself… before the rest of the world gets word!