This wonderful article about Valencia city: Valencia Spain Travel Guide: a city full of surprises - is written by travel blogger, Perri Johnson. Discover more about her at the end and get to know Perri on her social media channels.
When I first visited Valencia, I had very little expectations. I had recently moved to Madrid and wanted to venture out and explore another part of Spain. I hoped to enjoy a little beach time and eat some paella but that was all I had planned.
For me, this trip was a mini break to relax and enjoy the sea breeze with a cold beer. I made no arrangements other than buying a train ticket, booking an apartment and taking a quick flick through the Valencia section of my Lonely Planet Guide.
Maybe it was the lack of preparation and research that lead to my surprise at what the city of Valencia has to offer. But I think Valencia is an unexpected gem for most people who travel to Spain.
This guide will share with you some of the secrets hidden here and tell you why Valencia is a city full of surprises.
1. Valencia has beautiful architecture
At every turn you will be captivated by the beautiful architecture in Valencia. The Old Town has narrow streets that lead on to open plazas full of wonderful old buildings. Buildings like La Lonja de la Seda, (the Old Silk Exchange) and Museo de Ceramica, (the Ceramic Museum) have ornate and intricate details, all so well preserved.
Very few cities can link the old traditional architecture with new and modern designs, as well as Valencia does. In Valencia you can spend hours walking alongside the ornate iron street lights and decorative fountains, then wander seamlessly through the fragrant orange trees, along the Turia Park riverbed and into the City of Arts and Science.
In the City of Arts and Science, the modern and futuristic architecture is breathtaking with its crisp white colours and smooth, clean lines. Within the spaceship-like buildings you can find some state of the art event spaces and exciting places to explore like the Oceanogrpahic Aquarium and the Science Museum. This area is the polar opposite of the Old Town, yet equally as mesmerising.
2. Valencia has amazing street art
The streets of Valencia are awash with colourful graffiti and street art. Some is of the teenage rebellion quality but the majority are amazing artistic murals. Lovingly hand painted and so lifelike, that you may well wonder if you are looking at a photo rather than a painting.
3. Valencia has delicious local food
Paella originates in Valencia and the best quality paella in all of Spain can be found here. What's surprising is the dedication with which locals will stick to the original recipe. Paella Valenciana has been cooked for centuries and is fiercely protected and considered an important part of the identity of this region of Spain.
Another delicious local snack from Valencia is horchata and fartons. A sweet milky drink made from tiger nuts and sugar that’s served with a long, soft bread cake.
Wandering the city market, Mercat Central, (mercat = market in Valenciano) you get a real sense of how important fresh produce is to Valencian people. Markets in Spain are some of the most amazing I have ever seen, the sights, smells and bustling activity are a reminder of how people used to shop before large supermarkets took over.
This mercado (market in Spanish), in particular, is a palace of culinary wonders, encased in a lovely building. I could have spent hours admiring the stain glass windows, intricate metal arches and colourful tiles.
4. Valencia has wonderful nature
The entire coast of the Valencia region has some great beaches and beach holiday resorts. Within easy reach of Valencia city, you can enjoy some wonderful sandy beach areas, the closest beach is Malvarrosa. It's great to be able to combine city exploring with a little time relaxing on the beach. Swimming, water-sports, basking in the sun or sipping a cocktail in a beach-side bar are all possible in Valencia.
Just south of the city is another wonderful spot, the Albufera Park: a huge area with natural wildlife and thriving eco systems. Spain's largest lake is surrounded by lagoons, dunes and marshland that you can visit and explore by foot or boat.
5. Valencia has interesting traditions
There are some very famous fiestas and interesting local traditions in Valencia. Las Fallas is one the biggest and most exciting celebrations in Spain and attracts people from all around the world. Every year huge dolls and works of art are constructed and presented as part of a parade and competition, which are then burned, with the exception of the winners, setting the streets alight in their flames.
Just outside of Valencia in a small town called Buñol the Tomatina Festival takes place. A crazy day of over ripe tomato throwing, which again attracts a big crowd of eager participants and spectators. This fun food-fight is the biggest in the world and everyone involved gets in a real mess. There are many parades, shows and parties leading up to the main event during the week before.
I hope that this guide to Valencia has inspired you to visit this wonderful city that’s full of surprises. Part of Valencia's charm is its unobtrusive place amongst the top cities to visit in Spain.
Valencia is one of my absolute favourite cities in Spain and I would recommend anyone to visit. If you have two days or two weeks to spare, spend it in Valencia and you won't be disappointed.
Valencia is not only a city but also a province, and a Spanish autonomous Community (Comunidad Valenciana). While there try not to miss out on exploring some of the towns of Valencia - discover now!
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Travel blogger based in Spain
Perri is the writer of Seeking the Spanish Sun travel blog.
She moved from London to Madrid in early 2017 and has been travelling and exploring Spain.
During her travels she shares what she sees and learns on her travel blog and gives a little insight into life in Spain.
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