Valencia is the third-most populous city in Spain, which stands on the southeast coast of the Spanish Peninsula. The city is known for its relaxed pace of life, beautiful beaches, the Old Town, and the avant-garde architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences.
In 2022, the city was granted a World Capital of Design status, and it has much more attractions to offer than you can usually learn from tourist prospects.
Have a couple of days to make a trip to Valencia? I’ve got a plan for you, so you don’t miss the best things to do in Valencia.
10 am, Serranos Towers (Las Torres de Serranos)
To start the day, get on top of the Serranos Towers, and enjoy the city views. At the foot of the last vestiges of the medieval wall, the Old Town spreads out on one side, and the Turia Gardens park on the other. It will be necessary to climb many steps, but the entrance to historic Valencia’s front door is quite literal.
After the effort, you can quench your thirst at Café de Las Horas with a jug of “agua de Valencia,” a Valencian cocktail made of cava, fresh orange juice, and some spirits.
11 am, El Carmen neighborhood
The church and the convent of Carmen gave their name to the liveliest neighborhood in the city center.
It’s essential to stroll through the charming squares of Archbishop, San Jaime, or Manises, dive conscientiously between Caballeros, Bolseria, or Quart streets, and admire the “Sistine Chapel” of San Nicolas, the frescoes of the Cathedral, and the Holy Chalice.
Don’t stop there and move on to the Lonja de la Seda, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the Plaza de la Virgen with three of the city’s emblematic buildings (the Cathedral of Santa Maria, the Basilica of the Virgen, and the Generalitat Palace).
2 pm, Valencia Central Market
The Central Market of Valencia has almost a century of history and is always full of life. You can even snack inside, be it the tortillas at La Moderna or the gourmet tapas at the Central bar. Beers and clóchinas (tiny mussels) await you two steps away in La Pilareta, a grocery store that was remodeled into a lovely bar.
4 pm, Horchata with Fartóns
The Valencian Institue of Modern Art (IVAM) is only a ten-minute walk away from your previous stop. In addition to the museum collections, it always offers some exciting exhibitions. A little further on, the Bombas Gens Art Center and the Carmen Center of Modern Culture venue some of the best displays in the city of Valencia.
Finally, sit down to take the essential Valencian snack: a good horchata with fartóns for dipping in the Santa Catalina café.
6 pm, the Valencian Soho
In half an hour’s walk, you reach Ruzafa. The former working-class neighborhood has become a vibrant spot in the city. This Valencian Soho has shops, cultural spaces, cafes, bookstores, terraces, and a great gastronomic variety.
The Michelin star Begoña Rodrigo has just moved her restaurant La Salita to a mansion in Ruzafa, where the equally starred Ricard Camarena and Berdnt Knoller run, respectively, the Canalla Bistro and the Riff.
The nightlife proposal of Ruzafa is up to par.
9 pm, the Tapeo in gastrobars
Tapeo is a Spanish tradition of going for beer and bar snacks (tapas), so the idea is to go for tapas in the Benimaclet neighborhood, the El Cedro university area, or the gastro bars in Camins al Grau.
10 am, bike through the Turia Gardens park
Valencia is a flat city with about 140 miles of bike lanes. In other words, there are no excuses to start the morning with a pedal, heading to the City of Arts and Sciences through its immense green lung that extends the old Turia riverbed.
11 am, City of Arts and Sciences
It’s almost impossible to visit everything inside this Santiago Calatrava masterpiece in just a few hours. There is the 3D projection of the hemisphere, the 40,000 sq meters of interactive gadgets in the Science Museum, the Palace of Arts, and the Oceanographic marine ecosystem. The last one is the largest aquarium in Europe, with the walks between the ponds and futuristic buildings.
2 pm, Paella at Malvarrosa beach
It is forbidden to leave Valencia without trying an authentic paella like the one they serve in La Pepica restaurant. After finishing with paella and walking along the sea, you shouldn’t miss the fishers’ houses of Cabanyal.
5:30 pm, Coffee in the Port of Valencia
As a counterpoint to the authenticity of the maritime neighborhood, the Veles and Vents building stands out a stone’s throw away, designed by David Chipperfield, in the Marina, one of the favorite leisure spaces of Valencians.
There are some lovely places to enjoy the coffee and the views at this time of the day: Malabar Terrace and South Lighthouse.
7 pm, Sunset at Albufera
A 20-minute drive away, the Albufera sheet of water spills out, a coastal lagoon dotted with shacks, rice fields, and migratory birds.
There will be no more pleasant setting to end the getaway than a boat trip through this natural park at sunset.
Best 5 things to do in Valencia, Spain
- Stroll through the historic neighborhood of Carmen, with an obligatory stop at the Lonja de la Seda and the Central Market.
- Look for the best panoramic views of the futuristic buildings of the City of Arts and Sciences before watching the passage of sharks and the glass tunnel of the Oceanographic.
- Dedicate an afternoon to the most fabulous cafes and shops in the Ruzafa district, the Valencian Soho.
- Navigate by boat through the waters of Albufera lake.
- Learn first-hand what is and what is not an authentic Valencian Paella.
How to get to Valencia
By car, 3.5 hours from Madrid or Barcelona, and 6 hours from Malaga or Seville. With the AVE train from Madrid, you will be in Valencia in less than 2 hours, and the Euromed train from Barcelona will carry you for 2.5 hours.
How to travel in the city
The Old Town is perfect for exploring on foot, and I suppose you will also want to reach more remote neighborhoods. In that case, there is good public transport and Valenbisi urban bikes with bike stations in Ruzafa, the City of Arts and Sciences, and even in Marina or Malvarrosa beach.
You will need to know the meaning of some Valencia-specific words, such as:
- almuerzo (midday lunch),
- picaeta (snacks),
- clóchinas (little mussels),
- coques (cokes),
- figatell (hamburger),
- rosquilletas (breadsticks),
- fartón (a little bun to dip in horchata),
- pallera (the lady who cooks the paella).
The main thing to remember when saying Spanish words with double L-letter is that it pronounces as “yeh/yah.” For example, paella is pronounced as
Where to stay in Valencia
Check out my article on boutique hotels in Valencia.
In short, you can stay at Palacio Vallier, which occupies a nineteenth-century mansion in the Old Town, with excellent views from the top of its terrace.
Another option is Only You Valencia, a Mediterranean-style hotel with three gastronomic spaces.
More affordable, but also in the historic center (and only for adults) Casual Socarrat hotel, a tribute to Valencian history and culture.
You can also stay at the NH Las Artes or NH Las Ciencias to discover Calatrava’s most outstanding architectural complex in depth.
Where to eat in Valencia
If you like seafood as much as I do, check out my guide on Valencia seafood spots.
In addition to the restaurants I’ve mentioned in this article, try going to Pelayo Gastro Trinquet, next to Central station. Another option is La Sastreria bar which praises the anglers in the neighborhood of Cabanyal.
Last but not least, El Cremaet opened a year ago near the City of Arts and Sciences. They serve everything, from lunch snacks to rice dishes and grills. The perfect lunch (or dinner) ends with carajillo, a Valencian coffee drink with rum.
Valencia is a beautiful city with many authentic spots and an essential atmosphere. You can come to the city many times, and it will surprise you repeatedly. It’s definitely worth 2 days of your vacation.
If you’ve ever been to Valencia or just deciding, let me know what you think in the comments below!
Hello, my name is Nadia. I usually write about traveling (there are so many places to fit all the lifestyles), relocation (finding a job overseas or moving without losing an income), and living in a foreign country (adapting to a different culture and mentality).