Part of the Old Town, the quirky neighbourhood of El Carmen is a must-visit on any trip to Valencia because of its exciting mix of old and new. Wander down its cobbled streets, and you’ll discover cool independent boutiques and jazz bars next to crumbling old buildings adorned with street art murals. It’s a short walk from some major landmarks, like the Cathedral, the Torres de Quart, the Silk Exchange and the Central Market. The neighbourhood is packed with cafés and, whether you’re staying in El Carmen or not, it’s a great place to enjoy breakfast or brunch before exploring the city. Here’s our pick of the best.
This bohemian, artsy café is easy to spot thanks to its big round window and alternative crowd. If the weather’s good, grab a coffee and pastry or slice of tortilla at an outdoor table, otherwise the space indoors is cosy and welcoming with its eclectic décor and family-friendly feel. It’s named after the El Carmen Convent Museum across the street, where it’s free to visit the temporary exhibition spaces set in a stunning 13th-century monastery.
Valencia’s famous Art Deco Central Market is home to over a thousand stalls packed with fresh fruit and veg, pastries, meat, seafood and much more. It’s more of a place to shop than eat, but it does have a stylish yet casual café bar known for its almuerzo, with perfectly cooked Spanish omelette, fresh coffee and orange juice. It’s one of several spots owned by local celebrity chef Ricard Camarena, appearing in the Michelin Guide thanks to its high quality. Get there early on a Saturday, as there’s usually a long queue for seats by 11am.
Probably better known as the place to go for cocktails at night, this unique café is loved for its lush, baroque-style interior complete with star-spangled ceiling and incredible mosaic floor. But it’s also the place for a leisurely and indulgent brunch, with its friendly service, excellent coffee and homemade cakes. On sunny days their terrace is very pleasant, just a few steps from the famous Placa del Virgen and the Cathedral.
For a down-to-earth local vibe, try this traditional café-bar just across from the Central Market. Watch all the hustle and bustle in the square from their outdoor tables as you enjoy the local mid-morning favourite, tostada con tomate, and strong coffee, or join the locals who stop in for a huge baguette filled with fried fish and a mid-morning beer. Staff are friendly and helpful but, as is the Spanish way, they’re never in a hurry.
This tiny café-bookshop is tucked away in a corner of El Carmen just off one of the main streets. But once you find it you’re in for a treat. It’s a quirky spot with a small but interesting menu of breakfast and brunch dishes as well as other snacks using local produce, like goat cheese and fig jam on toasted walnut bread, not to mention incredible homemade cakes. It’s not a big place and can get busy, but service is always fast and friendly.
This modern, airy space is famous for great coffee, but it serves a varied, international menu all day and is a popular place to meet friends for brunch. The Australian owners want to transport you back to their sleepy hometown, Federal, where they say there’s little more to do than dream the day away. And this is certainly the kind of place where you can daydream and watch the world go by after a hearty breakfast.
Within the multifunctional shopping, art and event space El Mercado de Tapineria you can find the bar serving coffee, breakfast, tapas and more. The outdoor terrace is a great place to linger a while before checking out the ever-changing spaces, where one area could house a clothing boutique one week and a photography exhibition the next. It gets busy with local families on weekends, but during the week it’s often quite peaceful.
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