What I did and saw:
Old Turia Riverbed-
The Turia River is a symbol of Valencia that used to run through the city. It was then diverted and the old riverbed has been transformed into an expansive, impressive park. It is a great place to bike through, play sports, exercise, or just walk through.
City of Arts and Sciences-
Located in the old Turia riverbed is the City of Arts and Sciences. They are a series of impressive, beautiful buildings that house different art and science museums.
Les Falles is a festival that is put on every year in the city of Valencia. Impressive, satirical structures are built and displayed throughout the city before being burned at the end of the festival. Leading up to the burning there are children setting off firecrackers throughout the day, and bigger fireworks and some live music at night. While I was not able to see the structures burned, I was able to see the structures before they would burned and take in the festive atmosphere.
Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart-
The Serranos Towers and the Quart Towers are two old city gates that are virtually all that is left of the old city walls of Valencia. During opening hours they are free to visit and go up, and they offer some great views of the city.
Valencia has some beautiful and historic architecture throughout the city. Their cathedral is even said to be a possible location of the Holy Grail. The bell tower attaches to the cathedral is know as “El Micalet” or “El Miguelete.” Although it was never finished, it is still a functioning bell tower. It also has a very affordable entry fee that allows visitors to climb the stairs to the top for some great views.
Free walking tour-
As I have mentioned before, I like doing free walking tours, and I think they are a great way to get context and recommendations on a new city. I usually prefer to do Sandemans tours, as I have found them to be great quality in the variety of cities they are available, but they unfortunately do not run tours in Valencia at the moment. However, there was a free walking tour that left from my hostel, so I was able to join that and it was very good.
Institut Valencia d’Art Modern-
The IVAM (Institut Valencia d'Art Modern) offers free admission on Sundays (as well as certain hours on Fridays and Saturdays). I thought it was a great musuem, and it is very interesting even for someone that is not a big art aficionado.
The Albufera is a massive freshwater lagoon in the Valencia area. It is believed to be the place where paella was invented. I decided to make a trip outside the city of Valencia with some friends to try some paella in its birthplace. However, the bus system was not running regularly, so it turned into more of an adventure than we had planned. I was able to try some paella at Restaurante la Albufera, and while it was good, I personally think some of the paella I had in the center of the city was better.
La Llotja de la Seda-
The Old Silk Exchange, or La Llotja de la Seda, was built in Valencia in the 15th century. It is free to enter and wander around the impressive building.
Gargoyles and graffiti-
Valencia has a lot of gargoyles on various buildings around the city, many of which displayed in "interesting" positions. There are a few different possible explanations for the uniquely positioned figures. Some believe that they are a form of worker protest against their bosses, while others believe the gargoyles are meant to signify the sins of humans. Whatever the real explanation is, they are worth keeping an eye out for. Valencia also has quite a bit of interesting graffiti that is worth keeping an eye out for as well.
Mercat Central and Mercat de Russafa-
Valencia has some great markets, and I was able to visit a couple of them. The central market, or Mercat Central, is a very large market set in a beautiful building. The Mercat de Russafa is housed in a less impressive space, but it has some high quality things inside. While I was in the Mercat de Russafa I visited Coffee Time Artisan Roasters for some craft coffee, and I also picked up some soap and spices inside the market.
Where I at and drank:
Restaurante El Forcat-
As mentioned above, paella was invented in the Valencia area. I had some incredibly tasty paella at Restaurante El Forcat in the city center near the Torres de Serranos. The service was also excellent, and if you go at lunchtime during the week the "Menu del Dia" is a great deal.
Bluebell Coffee Co-
Bluebell Coffee Co. is a great place to get coffee. I had my best cup of coffee in Valencia there, and they have some great food options as well. They even serve a craft beer made with their coffee.
Olhops Craft Beer House and H2OL Craft Beer Lab-
While wine is king in the Iberia region, Valencia does have a couple high quality spots for craft beer. There is even a place called Hop Cream that serves delicious ice cream made from craft beer.
If you are looking for a high quality cocktail in Valencia I would recommend Apotheke. Apotheke is a great speakeasy with a quality cocktail menu.
Mayan Coffees is another great coffee place in Valencia. While they don't have as many options on the menu as Bluebell, they do serve excellent coffee.
El Cafetin is a nice place to try the famous "Agua de Valencia."
Tasca El Botijo-
If you are looking for a local, well priced meal Tasca El Botijo in the Carmen neighborhood is a great option. The pâté I had there was excellent.
Horchateria Santa Catalina-
The horchata in Valencia is very different from the horchata in Mexico. Valencian horchata is a nut milk made from tigernuts, so it is not nearly as sweet as Mexican horchata. It is very popular in the city, and is typically served with some type of pastry that is dipped into it. Horchateria Santa Catalina is a great place to try it, but depending on the timing there could be a long wait for a table.
Gelateria La Romana-
If I am going to have something relatively unhealthy I want it to be worth it, and the gelato from Gelateria La Romana is. It is some of the best gelato I have had outside of Rome.
Where I stayed:
The River Hostel-
Positioned next to the old riverbed and in the old city area, the River Hostel had a very nice location. It was also very inexpensive (when not during Las Falles). There were privacy curtains, outlets, and lamps for all the dorm beds. Also, the staff gave some good recommendations for walking tours and bike rentals.
Urban Youth Hostel-
Urban Youth Hostel was a good place to stay overall. It was about a 20 minute walk to the City of Arts and Sciences, and about an hour walk to the old city. The lockers are a bit inconvenient if you are in one of the top bunks due to their positioning in the room, but there were roll down curtains, a shelf, and an outlet for each bed.
How I got around:
Both times I’ve visited Valencia I have gone via train from Barcelona. The train station in Valencia is a beautiful station that is situated next to the old bull fighting arena. As I mentioned earlier I tried to take the bus to the Albufera area, but the bus service did not turn out to be as dependable as the train service. While in the city I mostly walked to get around, and I also hiked through the old riverbed area.
My favorite thing:
I loved the festivities for Las Falles, and the paella I had at El Forcat was absolutely delicious. Also, I really like what had been done with the old riverbed area.
My least favorite thing:
While accommodation prices for most of the year can be relatively inexpensive in Valencia, around Las Falles time the accommodation will sell out far in advance and can get significantly more expensive.
For next time:
Next time in Valencia I would like to spend some time at the beach in Valencia, and I would also like to spend more time in the old riverbed area.
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