Being the third biggest city in Spain, there’s plenty to see and do in Valencia. But, if 24 hours is all your schedule will allow, don’t despair! Here’s how we got to grips with the amazing city in just one day.
Arriving in Valencia we were super excited about the day ahead. But, with time of the essence we wanted to cram as much of the city in as possible. So, we got stuck in on the religious side. Because, when I Googled Valencia before arriving in the city, I found so many beautiful and ornate churches. So, I was eager to hunt these out. I love visiting churches and will probably visit one on every trip I do.
However, in Valencia we took in a total of five (yes, five!). But, if places of religious significance aren’t really your bag, I’d recommend visiting just two. First of all, Valencia Cathedral which is home to the Holy Grail and therefore of great religious and historical significance. Secondly, go see the breathtakingly beautiful church of San Nicolas. Tucked away off one of the city’s main drags, it’s known as Valencia’s Sistine Chapel. And, it definitely lives up to its reputation.
Aside from places of worship, there’s plenty of historical architectural to ogle at during your time in Valencia. One of the most famous is the Llotja de la seda, an opulent medieval building which was once a cloth hall. In this Gothic palace, traders would converge to buy and sell fine silks. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it features narrow spiralled columns and colossal windows that helped traders judge the quality of goods. It’s €2 to enter throughout the week. But, entry is free on Sundays, so we took full advantage.
Nearby is El Mercado Central. Completed in 1928, the picturesque building combines Art Nouveau features with nods to the Gothic. However, its architectural beauty is surpassed by the delectable goods contained within. As a gastronomic vocal point of Valencia, the market focuses on top quality, fresh produce. And, it’s safe to say, I’ve never seen fruit and veg look so good before.
Another impressive building to tick off your list is the González Martí National Museum of Ceramics and Decorative Arts. While the museum itself is home to range of exquisite pottery of all kinds, the outside has its own tourist draws. For one, it’s impressive alabaster doorway is an Instagrammer’s dream. It features the Virgin Mary and Jesus flanked by a team of cherubs and two sleeping men. I’m not sure what it’s all about, but its certainly a feast for the eyes.
Since we only had one night in Valencia we wanted to make it count. So, to start in style, we headed to El Carmen – Valencia’s old town. Here, we sat outside and sampled the city’s synonymous drink, Agua de Valencia. Not for the faint hearted, the tipple contains juice from Valencia’s famous oranges, gin, vodka and champagne. And, while it might sound like rocket fuel, it was somehow incredibly palatable!
Following our dangerously alcoholic pre-drinks, we headed to Valencia’s other big nightspot – Ruzafa. We were lucky enough to meet some friends-of-friends there who showed us the area and took us to all the good places. The neigbourhood is currently the place to be seen in Valencia. Basically, it’s home to a great cafe culture and a range of hip bars, like Ubik Cafe and Cafe Berlin, and some microbreweries.
The following day, having sampled as much of Ruzafa as our livers could manage, we decided to take things at a slower pace. So, at €8 for four hours, we hired a bike from PassionBike – a shop specialising in rentals and bike tours. From there, we cycled down the Turia. Once the river the Romans founded Valencia on, it is now a luscious park. When the old river flooded in 1957, authorities rerouted the water and transformed the dried out river bed into a green space. It spans nine kilometres, winding right across the city, and is perfect for walkers and cyclists alike.
So, on our bikes, we meandered eastwards down the park and wound up at the City of Arts and Sciences. This impressive collection of ambitious modern architecture houses some of Valencia’s prime cultural institutions such as the opera house and a science museum.
Designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, at a total cost of almost €900 million, the project has proved controversial among Valencians. However, it has since become one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. And, we certainly enjoyed our visit to the futuristic quarter. But, it was soon sadly time to head home.
We were devoed not to have been able to make it to the beach. It wasn’t particularly the sandy shores and lapping waters were keen to see. For us it was all about a bar. Some friends had recommended that we checked out La Fábrica de Hielo. Situated in a former ice factory, this trendy hangout is the perfect Sunday spot. Here, punters can unwind to the sound of live music as they sip on whatever beverage takes their fancy desire. As a result, it’s definitely at the top of the list for when we return.
If you’re a fan of European cities then Valencia is up there with the best. It has it all; Fascinating history, beautiful buildings, a bustling nightlife and plenty of gastronomic treats. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I get there again. And, when I do, I’ll definitely be spending longer than 24 hours in town.