Do you want to spend a few days exploring a beautiful European city? I recommend visiting Valencia, a beloved tourist destination known for its attractions and, particularly, for its Valencian paella, which is one of the best-known and most delicious dishes in all of Spain.
As Spain’s third-largest city, Valencia is situated along the Mediterranean coast. While major Spanish cities exude a distinct urban energy, this port city offers a more relaxed atmosphere and celebrates its natural attractions.
Here, the old meets the new, where you can find the remnants of a Roman colony from 100 AD alongside ultra-modern architecture.
Each year in March, Valencia hosts the Fallas Festival, during which gigantic figures made of papier-mâché in various sizes and colors are displayed throughout the city for a week. At the end of the week, these „fallas” are set ablaze in a grand ceremony, and the community celebrates throughout the night.
However, March isn’t the only time to have fun in Valencia. Every evening, bars and clubs across the city come to life.
Now, let’s explore the top tourist attractions in Valencia and the most beautiful places to visit.
The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia.
What to visit in Valencia first? I recommend starting your tour of the city with the City of Arts and Sciences.
This incredible building with futuristic architecture was designed by local architects Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela. It was inaugurated in 1998.
The City of Arts and Sciences consists of 10 distinct areas or buildings. The first area is the Hemisfèric, which is shaped like an eye and serves, among other things, as a 3D projection room.
When you enter the cinema, you will be given a pair of 3D glasses with integrated speakers, programmed in your own language. Therefore, regardless of your country of origin, you can comfortably sit down and fully enjoy the numerous films.
Next is the Prince Felipe Science Museum, which resembles the skeleton of a dinosaur and is an interactive science museum. It is highly educational and offers numerous activities for children.
In the City of Arts and Sciences, you can also visit the Umbracle, a garden with native Valencian plant species. Admission is free.
Then there’s the Oceanografic, the largest in Europe, which resembles a water lily.
El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia consists of four large halls dedicated to music and performances.
The Agora is a covered square where concerts and sporting events are held.
We must also mention recent works such as the Assut de l’Or Bridge with its 125-meter-high pylon, which was the city’s highest point before the construction of the Calatrava Towers, three skyscrapers named Valencia, Castellon, and Alicante, with heights of 308 meters, 266 meters, and 220 meters, respectively.
The Mercado Central is considered one of the oldest operating public markets in Europe. It is open six days a week and closed on Sundays.
The modernized building with a roof that houses the market was constructed in 1914 and features magnificent stained glass windows and a hall that can accommodate over 400 merchants.
Shoppers can find gifts, souvenirs, and food products at the market. There are annexes where you can purchase fish and animal offal. In the center of the market, there is a large bar that serves tapas.
The National Ceramic Museum
The National Ceramic Museum (Museo Nacional de Cerámica y Artes Suntuarias González Martí) is housed in a palace that dates back to the 15th century and has been reconfigured in a Rococo architectural style.
The main entrance is dominated by a statue of the Virgin Mary. Baptized in honor of the collector who created it, the museum houses ceramic pieces from various origins, especially Greek, Roman, Arabic, and prehistoric.
Traditional Spanish pieces from regions such as Manises, Paterna, and Alcora are on display in this museum, as well as numerous contemporary pieces. These include works by Picasso.
The Turia Gardens
These gardens, the largest urban gardens in Spain, were created when the Turia River overflowed. The gardens are not only well-landscaped but also offer numerous fun attractions, including sports fields, giant chessboards, fountains, and much more.
The Valencia Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Valencia, is one of the most significant tourist attractions in Valencia. Built in a Gothic style, the cathedral stands on the ruins of an old mosque.
Its main attraction is the Holy Chalice Chapel, where, although its authenticity is quite controversial, the Holy Grail, the cup in which Jesus Christ is said to have celebrated the Last Supper, is kept.
The story goes that the chalice, dating back to the 1st century AD, traveled from Rome to Spain centuries ago but was hidden during the Muslim invasion before returning to Valencia in 1427 under the influence of King Alfonso, known as Mamanimaous.
The former mayor of Valencia, Rita Barbera, suggested that the city should be named the City of the Holy Grail to attract more tourists, proposing to move the chalice to a small, more picturesque side chapel.
Plaza de la Virgen
In the heart of the old city, this historic square is home to two must-see monuments, the Valencia Cathedral and the Royal Basilica. It’s worth noting that the entrance to the basilica is free.
A must-visit, especially if you are on vacation in Valencia with children. This unconventional zoo will immerse you in the heart of Africa and bring you even closer to the animals.
Here, you will experience faithfully recreated ecosystems for the well-being of the animals, with minimal or concealed separations and large green spaces.
Unlike other zoos, Bioparc Valencia aims to be much more respectful of the animals it hosts.
They are committed to creating environments as close to the animals’ natural habitats as possible. Watercourses, green spaces, numerous trees… many animals share their space with other species, such as rhinos and zebras, for example.
The park is home to impressive species like elephants, giraffes, hippos, and gorillas. In fact, the park witnessed the birth of the first gorilla in captivity.
If you’re visiting Valencia with children, we recommend a visit to this park. Both adults and children will be fascinated by this place.
Eixample and its Square
Less central and less touristy, the Eixample district is a must-visit during your stay in Valencia due to its chic vibe and architectural charm.
Its (gastronomic) square stands out due to its red bricks and colorful ceramics. It’s a perfect district both for shopping and finding a good restaurant for dinner.
If you travel to Valencia in March, you mustn’t miss this magical spectacle. The festival spans several weeks, but the climax occurs between March 15-19 when over 300 „Fallas” are installed on the city streets. These „Fallas” are ephemeral monuments composed of enormous statues, over 30 meters high, representing satirical scenes. They are burned on the final night of the festival. It’s a truly unique experience.
Plaza de Toros
The Valencia Bullring, or Plaza de Toros, is nothing other than the city’s bullfighting arena. Built between 1850 and 1860, these arenas can currently accommodate just under 12,000 people.
Today, they are still used for various performances, bullfights, and, of course, for sporting events held in the city. These arenas can be visited every day of the week except for Mondays, from 10 AM to 8 PM.
Right next to the City of Arts and Sciences, you can visit the Oceanografic. It is considered the largest aquarium in Europe.
Here, you will find penguins, dolphins, white dolphins, walruses, and many other marine animals. You will undoubtedly leave this place more than delighted, so don’t miss out on this pleasure.
La Lonja de la Seda
The Silk Exchange, or Lonja de la Seda in Spanish, is located in the historic center, near the Central Market, which you can also visit if you’re in the area.
Lonja de la Seda is a kind of trading market, built in the 15th century and is now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, mainly due to its Gothic architecture.
As the Spanish are quite clever, they noticed that tourists loved to wander through this building, so they decided to charge an entrance fee.
As a result, the entrance fee is 2 euros, not a huge price, but this principle annoyed a significant number of people, especially locals. The good news is that, for the time being, admission is free on Sundays.
A true medieval monument that instantly transports even the least imaginative tourists back in time. A must-see. The price is 1 euro for children and 2 euros for adults. On Sundays, entry is free.
Many will say that a vacation in Valencia is incomplete without a few days on the beach. To cool off during the summer season, head to the magnificent beaches with turquoise waters, typical of the Mediterranean Sea, and relax on the long stretches of fine sand.
The city enjoys a privileged location on the Mediterranean coast, and the beaches are wide and long, with clean, fine sand. The most popular beach is undoubtedly Playa de Malvarossa, which starts at the port area and consists of several beaches, including Playa de las Arenas and Playa Cabanyal.
A little further away, you’ll find other beaches like Playa de Pinedo and Playa el Saler, the latter of which also has a small cove nearby.
In the northern part of the city, there’s Playa Sport Saplaya, and a bit further north is the Roman-era Playa Sagunto.
Shopping in Valencia
Like most major cities, Valencia is home to a large number of fashion stores where you’ll find well-known brands. Each „barrio” (neighborhood) has its own market once a week.
In the city center, the streets are wide, lined with trees and numerous architecturally impressive buildings. In addition to the shops on the main streets, there are many other interesting independent stores where you can find all sorts of products.
Valencia also has numerous shopping centers or „Centros Commerciales” in Spanish, such as Nuevo Centro, El Saler, Bon Aire, Parque Ademuz, Aqua, or, if your budget allows, you can visit the Galeria Don Juan de Austria shopping center near Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
There are plenty of shopping centers on the outskirts of the city, like El Osito in the neighboring village of La Eliana, and many others scattered throughout the suburban neighborhoods.
Valencia’s Gardens and Parks
There isn’t a lot of green space in Valencia, but you can still find some tranquility and calm away from the hustle and bustle in the gardens and parks of Valencia.
If you take a look at the map of Valencia, you’ll notice that the city center is bordered to the southeast and northeast by a massive green strip consisting of several different parks.
The first park you’ll encounter when coming down from the Oceanografic towards the historic center is Gulliver Park. If you’re looking for greenery, you won’t find much here. It’s more of a place to relax and take a walk with your family. You can then head down to the Palau Gardens, which have much more greenery.
Large pools of clean water, heated by the sun’s rays and palm trees under which you can seek shade. It’s quite pleasant here. The Palau Gardens are one of the most charming places in Valencia, far from the typical city center congestion, where you can walk in peace. You can enjoy a relaxing picnic in the shade of the orange trees or simply meditate in this oasis of calm and greenery.
Jardines del Real or Viveros
Jardines del Real or Viveros offer plenty of green space, and you won’t hear the noise of cars once you get here. You’ll also find the Museum of Natural Sciences of Valencia here. You won’t get bored if you decide to visit this area.
Cabecera Park is considered the emptiest, most deserted park in the city. You’ll be quite far from the historic center of Valencia when you come here.