Is Valencia worth visiting? If you’re reading this then that’s probably exactly what you’re wondering! This handy little guide is going to get right down to it, with nine top reasons that showcase why we think Valencia is totally awesome and well worth a visit this year.
Valencia is the capital of the autonomous community of Valencia and is the third-largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. That means there’s sure to be a whole load going on. Truth is, Valencia is a town with its own distinct culture, food, and dialect, plus an array of seriously wondrous sights and attractions.
They range from the enthralling Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias – perhaps the single largest science museum in Europe – to the orange-tree-sprouting Turia Gardens to the glistening sand of the Spanish mediterranean coast (yep, the coast is within reach!). Wanderlust stoked? Good. Now, let’s delve deeper with our list of reasons why is Valencia worth visiting…
One of the reasons we LOVE Valencia is that it’s a city break and a beach vacation rolled into one. There are some great beaches within walking distance of the city center and its most popular attractions, as well as some lovely coastal areas that are easily accessible by car or public transport to the north and south.
El Cabanyal (known as Las Arenas by locals), Malvarrosa, and Patacona lead the way in the urban core. All these beaches spread along one strip of coast, so you can easily take a walk along the shorefront and check them all out. El Cabanyal is the closest to the city center. It’s even served by metro stops. If you’re looking for a busier beach that has amenities like lounger rentals, restaurants, and public toilets, then this is your best bet.
Malvarrosa Beach is by far the most famous beach in Valencia. It’s also easily accessible from the city and has plenty of services. There are even special sections for surfing, windsurfing, canoeing, and stand up paddle boarding. Others will enjoy diving at the Malvarrosa Reef. In the summer, expect to see locals enjoying the beach volleyball courts and hanging out in the nearby cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Great weather makes a great holiday, and that’s one of our top reasons why Valencia is worth visiting! The city is on Spain’s east coast and has a Mediterranean climate with an average of 300 days of sunshine a year – yep, 300! The winters are relatively rainy, but the springs, summers, and falls are mostly balmy and dry.
The hottest month of the year is August, with highs of 88°F and lows of 70°F. July has similar temperatures, while June and September still have nice, warm days that are just about perfect for wandering the sights and parks. Winter is the coldest time (obviously), and January is the coldest month, with highs of 62°F and lows of 41°F.
Because of its mild climate, Valencia is pleasant to visit all-year-round but if you’re looking for heat and plenty of sunshine, then visiting between June and August is your best bet! However, for fewer crowds and weather that’s still pretty darn nice, the shoulder seasons (March to May and September to October) are a fantastic time to come.
It’s no secret that Spanish food is the bomb-diggity, but since the country is made of up several different regions, each place has its own specialty. Valencia just so happens to have some of the all-time greats of the Spanish kitchen…
Its pièce de résistance is paella. This dish is probably one of the most well-known Spanish dishes and it comes from this very Valencia region. Naturally, there are umpteen restaurants that serve the specialty across town, but our favorite has to be the classic at La Riuá, a family owned tavern strewn with Moorish tiles on Carrer del Mar.
Another typical dish from Valencia, often overshadowed by its more famous cousin, is Fidueda. Think seafood paella but with noodles. Ohhh yeah. This is definitely one for any seafood lovers out there, as the dish typically includes monkfish, squid, and shrimp all in one.
More of a sweet tooth? Then don’t fret as the city also has several amazingly delicious dishes to satisfy that sugar craving. A must-try during those hot summer days is a cool glass of Horchata, a sweet, milk-like drink made of white rice, cinnamon, and sugar. It’s vegan too. In Valencia, it is typically served with Fartons, a sweet bread glazed with sugar.
The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
If there’s one attraction that shoulders above all the others in Valencia it has to be the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias – the City of Arts and Sciences. Among Europe’s – nay, the world’s – largest and most striking museum complexes, it combines eight separate zones to offer an immersive and hands-on experience that’s great for all ages.
Top of the bill here is probably Oceanografic, the single biggest aquarium on the whole continent. Delve in there and you’ll encounter deadly jellyfish, elegant belugas, beefy walruses, and a whole load more. Next door is the amazing L’Umbracle, a mix of botanical gardens and greenhouses that nurture native plant species such as lavender and palms.
And it doesn’t end there, because this vast attraction also houses its own IMAX museum, the prestigious Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía opera house, and an open-air performance space. What’s more, the whole thing is considered a masterpiece of modern architecture, showcasing whitewashed buttresses and huge floor-to-ceiling windows. It looks like a UFO!
All the other attractions!
It’s hard, we know, but try not to get too hung up on the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. There are stacks and stacks of more sights and monuments, buildings and attractions to see in Valencia.
For something a little more historical, then the Valencia Cathedral should be on the top of your list. It is the most important religious building in the city, and is thought to be the home of the original Holy Grail, the cup said to have been used by Jesus during the last supper.
The UNESCO-rated La Lonja de la Seda palace is also here. It’s seen as a masterwork of Gothic buildings and dates from the late 1400s. Inside, you can see the original trading halls and a beautiful orange garden.
Shoppers should be sure to delve into the Mercado Central. It’s been bustling with sellers of all kinds since the 1920s. Today, it’s alive with farmer’s stalls with stacks of plum tomatoes, bright oranges, and tempting legs of Iberian ham.
Knitting the lot together is the Valencia old town (known as the Ciutat Vella), which centers on the stunning Plaza de la Virgen. Go there to wonder at the age-old churches and spires as much as you like, and for a morning coffee and some people watching.
If you’re a fan of walking around the streets and admiring architecture, then Valencia is definitely a town for you. It’s positively packed with incredible buildings that showcase a vast range of architectural styles. There’s everything from Gothic cathedrals, gargoyles and all, to Romanesque churches to futuristic modern buildings.
We’re always left in awe at the Mercat Central de Valencia (or the Central Market of Valencia), which has got to be one of the most beautiful covered food markets in the world. Built in 1928, this building has an amazing iron structure, decorated with vividly-colored stained glass windows and ceramic tiles in the Art Deco style.
For a futuristic experience, as we mentioned earlier, the City of The Arts and Sciences is well worth a visit. Yes, there’s a ton of incredible exhibits within, but actually just walking around the “ taking in the amazing design is a day out in itself. The site was largely designed by Valencia native, Santiago Calatrava, who even created one building that’s said to resemble a giant eye!
Our last absolute must-visit for Valencian architecture is the Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas, the home of the National Ceramics Museum. It has a spectacular Baroque face, ornate balconies, and dramatic stone sculptures.
By far the largest and most well-known festival that takes place in Valencia is Las Fallas. People come from all over the world to experience this weird and wacky tradition, and if you’re thinking of visiting around March time, then definitely plan your trip to ensure you get stuck in.
Las Fallas is a delightful mixture of art, music and processions made in honor of Saint Joseph. There are costumes, fireworks, music, and of course, the colorful ninots – huge papermache statues that get paraded around the streets. These are a real sight to behold, and you may spot a satirical version of your favorite reality TV star, least favorite politician, and even a grotesque version of a Hollywood celeb.
Another great tradition here is the July fair. Celebrated since 1871, this festival has changed quite a bit over the years. Nowadays, you can expect a month of music concerts, bullfighting, fireworks, and the famous battle of the flowers, the event that marks the closing of the festivities towards the end of the month. Women dressed on floats parade through the city center, while crowds throw marigold flowers at them.
The green spaces
Valencia isn’t your typical urban landscape. It’s riddled with parks and green spaces, some of which have a truly unique story. In all, there are over two million square meters of gardens in the town. That’s enough to keep you going for days and days on end.
One park in particular is worthy of special note. Cue the Turia Gardens. One of Spain’s largest urban parks, it actually follows the course of an old riverway that was drained after serious flooding in the 20th century. City planners had the bright idea of converting the whole riverbed into a park, which is now packed with everything from romantic picnic spots to sports arenas.
A little further afield, though still only 10 kilometers away, is the Albufera Natural Park. This freshwater lagoon is the perfect place to recharge and relax away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The park is wildlife-rich and an important stopping point for migratory birds (if there are any birdwatchers reading, it’s time to get packing!). You can rent a boat to take out on the water, and end the day with a magnificent sunset over the wetlands.
The day trips
Don’t look at Valencia as just Valencia. The town is actually a gateway to one of the most enthralling corners of Spain. Go one direction and you’ll find yourself immersed in forested sierras. Go the other way and you can spy out the dramatic Costa Blanca or the beautiful Orange Blossom Coast. To put it another way, there are day outings to suit everyone, from trips to romantic hill towns to hiking expeditions in the mountains.
Here’s just a taster of some of the most incredible day trips you can plan from Valencia…
- Montanejos – The gorgeous hill town of Montanejos sits about an hour inland to the north of Valencia. It’s a stepping stone into wild mountain lakes and gurgling waterfalls on the glistening River Mijares
- Calp – 1.5 hour’s drive south of Valencia, the town of Calp beckons to a jaw-dropping part of the Mediterranean coast. Overlooked by a mighty headland of limestone rock, it’s got beautiful beaches like Arenal-Bol and the ruins of medieval villages by the shore.
- Cuenca – Cuenca is the day-trip destination of choice for those who want a taste of rustic, inland Spain. The town clings to a precipitous ridge and is known for its hanging houses and great cathedral.
- Requena – Sleepy little Requena marks the westernmost border of Valencia province. It’s an off-the-beaten-path mountain town with over 1,000 years of history and streets of pretty, whitewashed Spanish cottages.
Is Valencia worth visiting? Our conclusion
So, is Valencia worth visiting? Of course it is! This city of immersive science museums and sprawling parks isn’t one of the most popular break destinations in the country for nothing. We especially love that it offers a taste of beach life and urban enjoyments in one. On top of that, it’s famed as the home of paella and sports an old town that’s riddled with historic monuments. It’s also a great base for making day trips throughout the Valencia region, which has mountain towns, waterfalls, and stunning beaches in abundance.