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Valencia is one city that you need to visit at least once in your life, even if you have only 24 hours to spend here. It’s worth making the effort to do as much as possible, and to learn a little about the city before you arrive. You’ll be surprised by its incredibly rich culture, with influences from every civilisation from the Romans to the Moors thanks to its enviable position on the Mediterranean coast.
Take a walk through the historic center
The best way to start your morning in Valencia is with breakfast in the center of the Ciudad Vella, or Old City district. Try one of the typical outdoor cafés around the Central Market – the largest fresh produce market in Europe and one of Valencia’s must-try food experiences – or inside at the market’s small, fashionable café-bar (be warned, you’ll need to queue for a seat on Saturdays). Wherever you go, try a Spanish breakfast of fresh orange juice, coffee and toasted baguette with grated tomato and jamon serrano.
After breakfast, visit the historic Lonja de la Seda which stands across the road. In contrast with the modernist market building, this is a masterpiece of Valencian civil gothic architecture, built as a symbol of the power of the medieval Kingdom of Valencia.
Then it’s a short walk to another of the city’s main sights, the Cathedral of Valencia, which reflects the city’s cultural and religious variety. You can see several architectural styles, though the Gothic style is predominant. You might be surprised to find that inside the cathedral there’s a chapel holding what’s claimed to be the Holy Grail.
The cathedral is linked to the Miguelete, or Micalet in Valencian, the curiously-shaped tower with a belfry at the top. Climb the steps to reach the highest point in the (admittedly very low-rise) city.
Alternatively, other vantage points for a great view over the city are the Serranos and Quart towers, two gatehouses that remain from the original 12 along the now-demolished ancient city walls.
Another important stop in the Old City is the Plaza Redonda, or Valencia’s “round square,” a historic center of the city’s textile and ceramics trades. Today there are craft stalls and cafés around the fountain inscribed with the many different names held by this square throughout its long history.
Relax in the Turia Gardens
After all that sightseeing you might feel the need for some relaxation. The city’s main park, the Turia gardens, is a long green ribbon forming a semicircle around the city center. Here you can enjoy a picnic and just relax, go for a bike ride, or visit the famous City of Arts and Sciences complex, designed mainly by Santiago Calatrava. You would need a whole day or more to visit the entire complex, which includes a large aquarium, science museum and music hall, but a quick stop is the perfect way to conclude your visit to Valencia.
Tapas and cocktails
Choose from the city’s two main nightlife spots, El Carmen and Ruzafa, where you’ll find no end of atmospheric bars and restaurants. In the evenings locals relax over a glass of wine and a few plates of tapas, but if you haven’t tried paella yet you’ll find plenty of places serving it in the evenings – it’s traditionally a lunchtime dish, but you can’t leave the city without trying the most famous dish in Spain, which just so happens to be native to Valencia.
Whatever you do during your short visit to Valencia, you’re sure to leave wanting to come back for more.