Valencia City Guide

By Matt May with updates from Molly Sears-Piccavey

The historic city of Valencia is located on the Mediterranean coast of Spain around three hours east of Madrid and four hours to the south of Barcelona. The city has a cosmopolitan feel, and offers something very different from the coastal resorts of the Costa Blanca which are around 2 hours drive to the south. Valencia town hall

Valencia is not a traditional holiday destination although it is close to the Mediterranean coast. It makes a great city break location, perfect for a weekend. Valencia is dominated by historical buildings and quaint streets, reflecting the cities Roman and Moorish history. The Old Town (Barrio del Carmen) is the place which most visitors make a bee-line to. The nights here are particularly lively (especially at weekends).

Valencia has its own Metro system which means getting around the city is very easy. Tourist information offices in Valencia offer free street maps for visitors. Armed with a Valencia street map you can find information on all the major attractions. Most native Valencians don't speak much English, so you may need to take a Spanish phrasebook.

You could also try to find a copy of the local in VLC Magazine which is published in English and free to visitors. You can find the magazine in most public locations throughout Valencia. It will become your up-to-date travel guide as it is published every week and offers great reviews of restaurants and bars for visitors. It also has a calendar inside with listings of the upcoming festivals, exhibitions and attractions within the city.

Here are some ideas of things to do and places to visit in and around Valencia. Valencia old town buildings (Barrio del Carmen)

The Barrio del Carmen

The Barrio del Carmen old town area of Valencia is the focal point for tourists visiting this vibrant city. Entering the neighbourhood the architecture transports visitors back in time with its impressive buildings. The cathedral for example dates back to Roman times and was consecrated as St Mary's Cathedral in 1238.

The area has a Bohemian feel, and is lined tourist shops, outdoor bars, restaurants and cafes. It is also one of the most active nightlife destinations in the city, you will really see the area come alive in these streets. Bars, dance clubs, pubs, restaurants, and live music to keep you up until the early hours.

El Corte Ingles

Valencia is renowned for its designer shops selling clothes, bags, perfumes, ceramics and other exclusive goods. However, although there are a number of shopping complexes, the shops are spread over a fairly large area, so it is essential to know where you are going to shop before you go, and plan accordingly.

The large El Corte Ingles at Calle Colon is probably the pick of the designer department stores. However prices in Valencia are high in comparison to the UK, especially for non-Spanish branded items, so don't expect to find too many bargains. Stick to Spanish high street brands such as Zara Mango Bimba y Lola or Massimmo Dutti to get most value for your money.

The City of Science and Arts

Valencia Science and Arts Museum

The most notable work of modern architecture in Valencia is the City of Arts and Sciences located near the port of Valencia. The design of the main structure is reminiscent of the exterior of the Sydney Opera House. The building's scenic position on the Turia River makes it a local landmark that you cannot miss.

Inside the complex there is a Planetarium, a Science Museum, an IMAX cinema, and an open-air aquarium with dolphins, penguins, turtles and local Mediterranean species of aquatic life.

The Fallas Museums or attend the Fallas Festival

The largest event in Valencia and one of the largest festivals in Spain is the Fallas Festival which takes place every March. If you can plan your trip to Valencia to coincide with the festival the local towns and villages come alive. Local communities build large papier mache floats and effigies. These intricate statues can take all year to construct, and the culmination of the festival results in their burning. These huge falla dolls are beautiful and it's worthwhile visiting during the daytime to get to see the details up close.

During the festivities you can expect to see fireworks at all times of the day and plenty of street stalls as the entire week is simply one big fiesta. If you are not able to plan your trip around the holiday, make sure you visit the Museo de Artistas Falleros (Av. de Sant Josep Artesa, 17) or the Museo Fallero (Calle Monteolivete 4) for a glimpse into what the festival is like on a smaller scale.

Mestalla Stadium

Mestalla Stadium home of Valencia CF

Football fans should plan a visit to coincide with a La Liga game at Valencia's Mestalla Stadium. The ground is easy to walk to from the city centre, and is excellent value for money when compared to watching football in the UK. Many league matches are played on Sunday evenings.

The Mestalla Stadium has very steep sides compared to UK stadiums, so those who are uncomfortable with heights should avoid booking tickets in the upper tier.

L'Eliana

The small traditional Spanish town of L'Eliana to the west of Valencia is where many of the wealthy Valencians commuters live. The town has plenty of small cafes, bars and restaurants centred on the main plaza, which also has an attractive church. Just outside the town is a retail park El Osito (C/Tuejar, L'Eliana) with fast food outlets, 100 shops and a fewl large superstores. Take the main IV-35 towards Ademuz from Valencia if you are driving, or the (yellow) Lliria line on the metro to get to L'Eliana.

Manises

If you have time to kill before a flight at Valencia airport, the ceramic museum in the town of Manises located 1km from the airport is recommended. The museum has a collection of pottery dating back to the 14th century.

Manises is the home to a large number of ceramic outlets, specialising in hand-painted Spanish ceramic products made from local Valencian clay. Sant Vicent Park and Gardens near the town of Lliria

Valencian Countryside

Travel 10-15 km inland from Valencia and you will find a landscape dominated by orange groves, but offering plenty of possibilities for walkers and cyclists. The landscape around Lliria has many protected areas where it is possible to find some spectacular views.

Although the countryside around Valencia is famous for its orange groves, the area also produces large quantities of almonds, figs, grapefruits, lemons and olives.

The best time for walking in the Valencian countryside is during the "cooler" months from October to April. Valencian temperatures regularly reach 16-20 degrees in winter, and there is little rain.

There is an attractively landscaped country park at Sant Vicente just outside Lliria which is worth visiting with children. The park has a small lake with ducks and fish, and is a cool place to visit on a hot summer's day. There is also a very reasonably priced restaurant at the park where you can sit inside or outside.

Casinos

The small town of Casinos located around 30km west of Valencia is a picturesque Spanish town which specialises in cakes and pastries. There are plenty of outside eating areas where the occasional tourist mingles with the local Spaniards. Churros

Valencian Food and Drink

Valencia offers a wide range of local and international foods. The streets in the centre of Valencia are lined with places to eat "al fresco", and the prices are very reasonable. There are plenty of restaurants specialising in Spanish tapas and paella, but you don' have to search too hard to find pizzas or more familiar outlets such as Starbucks, Mcdonalds and Burger King. A large pizza will cost around 8-10 Euros in the city centre.

Churros is a traditional food of the Valencia region. Similar to donuts, churros are often dipped in chocolate. There are specialist churros shops in Valencia where you can sit with a strong Valencian coffee. The region is also famous for sweets and cakes, many based on almonds. "Pan de Higo Almendro" (fig bread with almonds) is another speciality of the area.

If you are searching for a traditional Valencian alcoholic drink, Moscatel is a local sweet wine which is often used as an aperitif. Also look out for Agua de Valencia, Cava and of course the local orange juice.

Where to eat and drink in Valencia

For Craft beer lovers try The Market which has lots of local craft beers from the region and even a microbrewery

Check out these recommendations for coffee shops in Valencia.

Eat at the beach at Can Luca (Playa de la Patacona, 3. Alboraya) and enjoy sea views or a cocktail as the sun sets over the coast.

Don't miss the famous rice dishes but only eat them at lunchtime as the locals do. No rice in the evenings. TIP: In Valencia most of the Mcdonalds and Burger King have free Wi-Fi (pronounced "Wee-Fee" in Spanish), so if you have a mobile phone with internet you can research places to visit while you eat, or stand outside and use the free Wi-Fi facilities.