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If you plan to vacation in Valencia, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. This charming, modern and lively city may not be as well-known as Spain’s larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, but it certainly stands out when you visit this Mediterranean town. It has always been known for its exceptional quality of life, thanks to its sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and reasonable prices, all of which make it an attractive option for a city getaway.
This place offers a unique mix of old and new, with its charming historic district and futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. The city also has a bustling urban center and a lush “river” that flows through it. Along with trendy bars and restaurants, visitors can also enjoy museums, galleries, and plenty of open spaces. It’s the perfect destination for a short or extended stay.
Some of the top activities to enjoy while in Valencia are listed below.
Discover a city-within-a-city
This is a must-see destination in every sense. La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, also known as the City of Arts and Sciences, is a modern and surreal architectural complex created by Valencia’s own Santiago Calatrava. The exterior boasts striking white and blue hues, with fluid shapes and tranquil pools of light blue water.
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Walking around the “city-within-a-city” is already quite remarkable, especially when ending at the L’Umbracle sculpture garden (which is free to enter). However, visitors can also enhance their experience by attending performances at Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, participating in workshops at the interactive science museum, or watching immersive screenings at the planetarium, “laserium,” and IMAX cinema.
“Submerge beneath the ocean’s surface without getting soaked.”
One of the largest aquariums in Europe is also a highlight of the City of Arts and Sciences, and a perennially popular place to visit. In pure numbers, Oceanografic is impressive: 26,000 cubic metres of water to house its marine creatures, connected by more than 25 kilometres of pipes and behind almost 7,000 square metres of methacrylate panels (up to 33 centimetres thick).
However, what is truly remarkable is the vast array of marine creatures on display, ranging from colorful tropical fish to ethereal jellyfish. Visitors can also enjoy daily dolphin shows and behind-the-scenes tours, and as expected from the City of Arts and Sciences, there is no shortage of innovative and eye-catching architecture to admire.
to see different areas of the city
“Discover various parts of the city by walking or cycling.”
Valencia is a delightfully pedestrian-friendly city. Starting at the Art Modern Institute Museum in the center, you can wander through the maze of cobblestone streets and reach Porta de la Mar in just 30 minutes. This reconstructed gate is a reminder of Valencia’s grand past. Exploring the Old City on foot allows you to appreciate the mix of architectural styles – from Romanesque to Baroque, Gothic to Neoclassical. Along the way, you can visit popular sites such as Plaza de la Reina, the old post office (where you can see a massive glass dome), and the 15th-century Silk Exchange, which was built during Valencia’s golden age.
Alternatively, switch from walking to cycling and increase your speed with a bicycle. The city is relatively flat and easy to navigate, with many designated bike lanes and wide streets. Riding on two wheels is an excellent way to explore the 12km stretch of Turia Garden, which follows the previous route of the Turia river (which was diverted to prevent flooding). This area is now a peaceful green space filled with woodland, palm trees, and orange trees, providing a tranquil escape from the bustling city. Valenbisi bikes are available for individual exploration, with convenient pick-up and drop-off locations throughout Valencia. Additionally, there are various guided bike tours that can be arranged for group excursions.
Lower your head near the ocean.
Valencia’s essence is a perfect blend of urban and coastal vibes. It embodies the true essence of the Mediterranean, making it no surprise that its beaches are irresistible. While most beaches have darker sand, El Saler stands out with its white sands. This pristine stretch of coastline is only a short 20-minute drive from the city center and boasts a Blue Flag designation for its untouched and wild beauty.
For a more vibrant experience, check out Malvarrosa. It boasts rows of colorful umbrellas and is surrounded by paella restaurants. La Pepica, which has been welcoming customers for over 100 years, is a top pick. Malvarrosa also features an artificial reef, making it a great spot to continue learning about aquatic life after visiting the Oceanografic. Consider going snorkeling to further your underwater knowledge.
Experience the natural beauty of Albufera.
When traveling 10 miles south from Urban Valencia, you will find yourself surrounded by sand dunes, pine forests, and a lagoon. The Albufera Natural Park is home to over 300 diverse types of birds, such as waterfowl and flamingos. The area is also known for its expansive rice fields, where the famous dish paella originated. Visitors can explore the park’s six walking paths to take in the scenic views.
You can easily get to the park by taking local buses, which only take about an hour and cost €1.50 for a round trip (or they’re free with a Valencia Tourist Card). The lagoon is lined with docks and spending time on the water is a highlight, especially if you’re on an albuferenc – a traditional handmade boat. Sitting on the water, gently swaying back and forth on the wooden boat, is the best way to enjoy the sunset in Valencia.
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