It’s no secret that Valencia is home to miles and miles of pristine golden sands. Forget the crowded beaches at nearby Benidorm and Alicante, there’s plenty of space to soak up the sun at one of the two (connected) Blue Flag beaches, Playa de la Malvarrosa and Playa de las Arenas. In summer, many beach bars open up alongside, creating a fun atmosphere.
It’s completely free to explore the stunning Old Town of Valencia, and after checking out the architecture, head to the bohemian northern barrio of El Carmen to see the incredible art murals lining its walls. Local and international artists have turned the area’s crumbling buildings into their own outdoor canvas, often making statements about politics or local life. See huge murals around main square Plaça del Tossal and around Carrer d’En Gordo, with its abandoned, crumbling buildings.
If you’re used to forking out huge sums to see the best museums and galleries on your travels, you’ll be happy to hear that several of the Valencia’s museums are completely free to enter, including the Fine Arts Museum (Museo de Bellas Artes) – which contains works by El Greco, Velazquez, Goya and Murillo – the Bullfighting Museum (Museo Taurino) and the Museum of Prehistory (Museo de Prehistoria). Many others, like the Fallas Museum (Museo Fallero) and Museo de Historia de Valencia, are free on Sundays.
The heart of Valencia is bisected by a meandering nine kilometre stretch of garden. Occupying a dried-out riverbed, the Turia Gardens were created after the river was diverted following floods. Today they feature playing fields, bike paths, flowerbeds, fountains, palm trees and playgrounds. The perfect place for a romantic stroll, a picnic, or a workout. The city also has plenty of other parks and green spaces to explore.
At the southern end of the Turia Gardens, towards Valencia’s port, you’ll find the famous City of Arts and Sciences – a mind-blowing collection of futuristic buildings in an ethereal setting, surrounded by mirror-like pools and green gardens. Inside are world-class cultural venues and entertainment complexes, including an aquarium, a planetarium and an IMAX Cinema, some of which are very pricey to enter. But strolling around and enjoying the architecture is free, as is a visit to the palm-filled botanical garden framed by the white arches of the L’Umbracle building.
Whether you’re a foodie or not, this art nouveau building in the city’s Old Town never fails to impress. Wander through hundreds of fresh food stalls beneath the market’s ceramic tiles and its stunning high-dome centrepiece to get a real taste of local life. Every day from Monday to Saturday the market is packed with local shoppers navigating the colourful displays of Mediterranean fruit and veg and choosing from the countless legs of jamon and bottles of locally-produced wine.
Yes, Valencia’s Gothic cathedral is stunning, but there’s another good reason to look inside – the cathedral claims to be the home of the actual Holy Grail. There are of course countless contenders for the title all around the world, so you’ll just have to decide for yourself. Visit the golden ‘Chapel of the Holy Grail’ inside the cathedral to see it.