València, Spain’s third-largest city feels a world away from the likes of tourist-packed Madrid and Barcelona. She’s a bohemian city, proudly flaunting her local side and brims with history, culture, nature and beauty. She boasts an abundance of green space, with 9km of Turia River Gardens framing her northern side and a long stretch of sandy coastline divvied into a wonderful selection of beaches. Her old-quarter is a beautiful fusion of Gothic buildings, modern street art lining its winding alleyways and quaint little squares to grab some tapas while watching the world go by. And as if that’s not enough, a quite literal ‘cherry on the top’ addition to her historical and natural boons is the ooze of sumptuous food and drink produced from the locally grown crops of the region.
València bursts with character – we fell in love at first sight.
Here’s our ultimate guide to València.
- How to get there
- What to do
- What to eat and drink
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
- Where to drink
How to get there
In short, it’s super easy and pretty cheap!!
There are a few options of flying out of the UK to València;
- BA flies from Gatwick
- Ryan Air from Stansted, Manchester, East Midlands and Glasgow
- EasyJet from Dublin and Edinburgh.
Transfers to the city centre from the airport are ridiculously easy. Taking just 17 minutes and costing only €6 return, hop on the metro line 3 or 5.
To reach our apartment in Barrio del Carmen we took the metro from the airport to Àngel Guimerà and then walked 15 minutes through the old town.
If you’d rather take the bus once you’re in the city centre, it’ll only cost €1.50 for a single trip.
Taxis from the airport should cost around €20.
What to do
Join a free walking tour
If a city offers a free walking tour, we’re guaranteed to be booked onto one as soon as we arrive. We debut our exploration of cities all over the world this way and find it’s a great way for us to get a little context, our bearings and learn a lot of information all in one hit. AND you can pay what you think the tour is worth or what you can afford.
We joined Free Tours València and would really recommend their València Essentials tour. Jumping on their 10:30am tour in our first morning in the city set us up perfectly – the guide was really informative and interesting. For two and a half hours we walked around Barrio del Carmen and visited the following sights. A little more detail on the historical landmarks can be found here.
- Plaça de la Virgen (we met here)
- La Seu de València (València Cathedral)
- Basílica de la Mare de Déu dels Desemparats
- Palau dels Borja
- Torres de Serranos (Serranos Tower)
- Mercado Central (Central Market)
- La Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange)
- Narrowest building in Europe
- Plaça de la Reina
- Capilla del Santo Cáliz de la Cena del Señor (part of València Cathedral housing the Holy Chalice)
- Torre del Micalet/Miguelete (bell tower of València Cathedral)
- Cripta Arqueológical de la Preso de Sant Vincente (Almoina Archaeological museum)
Choosing to pedal is a fantastic way to get around and explore the city, particularly in the summertime. València only experiences 10-12 days of rain per year and so the sun is (often) shining and the bicycle routes are extensive and easy to navigate. On our own steam we pedalled all the way down to Es Saler beach in the south, across to the northern city beaches and made a DIY bicycle tour of the city all on €7 a day over two pretty chilled days.
We hired bikes in decent nick with locks and optional helmets for €7 for one day or €13 for two days at Bed and Bike, who also offer free bike hire if you rent an apartment with them.
We made a handy map of the free museums and monuments in València – check it out here.
Relax at one of the (many!) beaches
As if all the culture, history and Gothic buildings in the city centre weren’t enough, this Spanish gem is also within spitting distance of some pretty awesome beaches. To the north are Las Arenas, Malvarrosa and El Cabañal, all awarded Blue Flag status. Or if you want to visit somewhere a little wilder, head just 10km south of the city to the beach of El Saler or to the heart of Albufera Natural Park. Lining the beaches are little beach bars and restaurants selling local paella.
Sound good? We think so.
Check out the street art
All around the old city you can find street art. From graffiti painted on garage doors, to little murals to huge pieces of art drawn on whole sides of buildings.
Free Tours València also offer a Street Art tour should that take your fancy.
There are so many to discover, here are a few of our favourite.
Check out this tumbling car on the corner of Plaça Tossal by Valèncian artist, Escif. Next to it is Blu‘s Moses with a huge beard of snakes (not pictured).
At the foot of a blue wall in Carrer del Museu lies La Casa de los Gatos, created by Alfonso Yuste Navarro in 2003 offering a refuge for local cats.
Three-dimensional piece of a sweetie kiosk in Plaza del Árbol, incidentally right next to, our favourite, Taberna el Olivo tapas bar!
Two pieces of art by Cabiscol.
And a cutesy row of hearts next to a Refugio restaurant sign. Awwwww!
Have long lazy alfresco lunches
The pace of València is relaxed whilst still holding a little buzz and so opting for a rather more sedate, long lunch rather than a smash and grab situation is recommended. Spanish food culture is such that lunch is the most important meal of the day and generally is larger, often multi-coursed. Choosing the menú del día (menu of the day) is a great way to experience the culture, amazing food and relaxed ambience all in one sitting. Some lazy long lunch places we found and liked can be found here.
What to eat and drink
Mistela – sweet wine often served chilled in little shot glasses after lunch.
Agua de València – a cocktail first made in Café Madrid in 1959 with champagne or cava, fresh orange juice, vodka and/or gin.
Horchata – a non-alcoholic drink made from locally grown tiger nuts.
Fartons – soft, sweet sugar-glazed cakes dipped in horchata and is a typical desert or breakfast food of the area.
Valèncian paella – paella originated in Spain from the area around the Albufera lagoon and despite many takes on the paella, the original recipe consists of white rice, green beans, chicken, duck and rabbit, white beans and snails.
Where to eat
Food in València is produced from the locally grown crops of the region.
We luckily stumbled upon Taberna El Olivo whilst ambling through Barrio del Carmen on our first day. Enjoy amazingly tasty and local tapas whilst sat under an olive tree. We couldn’t get enough of the place and came here for tapas three times during our four night stay, returning not only for the great food but the electric atmosphere and friendly staff.
A little restaurant set in a low-lit square right in the heart of the old town is iO serving a fusion of Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. Sat outside in the summertime is divine – the wine is sensational, the atmosphere buzzy and service fantastic. Do not even take time to consider it – just do it.
What a little local gem! Cafe Museu is set next to the Centre del Carme and is very much a local bar that offers occasional food, mainly at lunchtimes. They cook a huge pan of amazing paella on Sundays and offer it for €5.80 a portion. The Castilla y León vino tinto (red wine) they offer for €2.50 a glass is light, smooth and moorish. It’s great to sit there of an afternoon or for pre-dinner drinks.
Sat outside under some shady trees was a delight for our first lunch in the city. Remember the wonder of lazy long alfresco lunches? We had this here at Cafe Infanta – €14.95 for the menú del día, three courses including a drink and bread.
Maria Mendiles is another alfresco lunch spot but a little more budgety and a little less long and lazy compared to others we’d eaten at. €9.95 for the menú del día including three courses, a drink, bread and coffee.
Restaurants on the way to Es Saler beach…
Restaurante Genuina seemingly a little local restaurant a few roads back from Playa can Pinedo.
Alquería de la Mar with a gorgeous shaded terrace – book in advance!
Arroceria L’Estibador set on Playa de la Dunas de Pinedo, beautiful views into the ocean…and the nudist beach.
Where to drink
Jimmy Glass Jazz Bar – cute little jazz bar in the heart of the old town.
El Altaseis – great for atmosphere and Agua de València.
Cafe Museu – amazing local spot great for un vino tinto y un cerveza.
Taberna El Olivo – drinks under the olive tree, amazing Rioja.
Where to stay
We’d recommend staying in the Barrio del Carmen area of Ciutat Vella/El Carmen part of the city. Barrio Del Carmen is a cute place to wander around during the day and comes alive in the evening with tapas bars, restaurants and music. We loved staying there. Walking around the streets of an evening just minutes from our apartment was a real highlight.
Here’s where we stayed – Duplex Loft in Barrio del Carmen
We hope you love València as much as we did – let us know how you get on!