A long weekend in Valencia
Seeped in both old and new architecture, an innovative personality and a full flavoured menu, Spain’s 3rd city is unique and somewhat underrated. The city is fringed with sandy beaches and entwined with ribbons of landscaped greenery. A long weekend is perfect to get a taste for Valencia, and will leave you wanting more.
Arriving in the late afternoon allows for you to get your bearings and arrange a sought after dinner reservation. To get to know Valencia, head out of the tourist quarter and into the fisherman’s village of El Cabanyal, a characteristic neighbourhood just up from the beach. Here you will find one of Valencia’s oldest restaurants, Casa Montana. Featured in a lot of guidebooks and hitting the big 4.5 on Trip Advisor, be sure to reserve a table. Although well known, it promises an authentic experience, with delicious tapas plates perfectly complimented by their extensive wine list and friendly service.
To burn off the previous evening’s tapas calories and to see the highlights of the city, jump on a bike tour. But first coffee, in true Spanish fashion head to one of the many cafés for a caffeine and sugar fix ready for your day ahead. Get Your Guide offers a half-day bike tour taking you around the old town highlighting buildings of historic relevance. The tour then takes you along the unique Turia riverbed; this 9km urban park resulted from the river diversion after the 1957 flood, now landscaped parkland complete with palm trees, sports fields, and cycle, running and walking paths for all. Cycling through this green leisure belt you will go under both medieval and modern bridges, ending up at the modern city of arts and sciences. This cultural and architectural complex designed by Cala Trava is worth getting off your bike for. The futuristic architecture is both weird and wonderful, housing an IMAX, aquarium, opera house and science museum.
Off the bikes and time for a break. Grab a cold beer and snacks in the old town to refuel. After lunch, spend €2 and head up to the top of the cathedral tower, taking in the panoramas of the city. Back at street level, try a glass of horchata at the Horchateria Santa Catalina, Valencia’s famous drink made from a combination of tiger nuts and various seeds – paramount to Valencia’s culture although a somewhat desired taste!
Before dinner, head back over to the city of arts and sciences, by night this area turns into a photographer’s paradise with night lighting and without the crowds. For dinner options, explore the southeast side of the city within the Ruzafa district – one of Valencia’s most famous (and hip) neighbourhoods. For a new spin on conventional tapas try out the contemporary El Rodamon, taking your table on a tapas world tour.
After yesterday’s dose of, history, culture and architecture and today’s light breakfast it is time to hit the beach. With almost year round sun and only 15 minutes away from the centre, Valencia boasts a selection of city beaches lined with walking paths and palm trees. Go for a stroll, relax on a sunbed, enjoy a Mediterranean dip or grab a cocktail at one of the beachfront cafe. When hunger strikes there are plenty of opportunities here, a perfect chance to try out one of Valencia’s renowned dishes, paella. Embrace Spanish culture and round up with a lazy siesta on the beach ready for your last night.
Take an evening stroll around the old town, note the amount of street art adding to Valencia’s innovative edge. There are plenty of bars around here to enjoy a glass of cava before dinner. For a final taste of Valencia tapas grab a table at Taberna Jamon Jamon in the old town, a popular place with a relaxed vibe and great food.
To round of your weekend, get up and get down to the central market before the crowds. One of Europe’s biggest fresh produce market and still where many locals provision. Wander between the fruit, vegetable, meat, fish, pastries, and wine into the seafood. If markets aren’t usually your thing, you should visit for the typical Valencian architecture alone. Opposite the market is the UNESCO site of La Lonja, this emblematic building was originally the silk exchange, worth the walk to admire the gothic architecture and the orange tree filled courtyard.
On your exit out of the city, if time allows, take a trip up one of the set of towers, Torres de Quart to the west and Torres de Serranos to the north. The only two medieval gates still in tact, the views take you back to a medieval time looking over Valencia’s old town.
October, 2016 (Valencia)