Many of Valencia’s most interesting historic attractions, prettiest streets and coolest bars and cafés are concentrated in and around the Old City (Ciutat Vella), on the west side of the Turia riverbed gardens snaking through the heart of the city. You don’t need to walk far to see and do all kinds of interesting things, so a lot can be accomplished in just a day or two. Here’s our guide to get you started.
See Valencia Cathedral
First on the list is the city’s most famous landmark, the impressive and unusual Catedral de Santa Maria de Valencia, completed in the 15th century. Admire the ornate entrance and pronounced Gothic architectural features on the exterior, but make sure to go inside to see the impressive vaults and and the famous chapel of the Holy Chalice.
Catedral de Santa Maria de Valencia, Plaça de l’Almoina, Valencia, Spain, +34 963 91 81 27
Climb El Miguelete
When visiting the cathedral, make sure to brave the 206 steps to the top of its octagonal bell tower, El Miguelete, to get a bird’s eye view over the city. Originally built separately from the cathedral, the tower looks like it’s missing part of the top – because it is. Construction was halted and never finished, but the tower’s distinctive shape is now a famous symbol of the city.
El Miguelete, Plaça de l’Almoina, Valencia, Spain, +34 963 91 81 27
Visit Plaza de la Reina
This lively square is filled with busy pavement cafés and bars, fast-food joints and souvenir shops. This is one of the main squares in the city, and it’s the centre of a lot of tourism activity, so can expect crowds often throughout the year. As well as being an interesting stop itself, all the main sights in the Old City are easily reachable from here.
Plaza de la Reina, Valencia, Spain, +34 963 52 54 78
See street art in El Carmen
One of Valencia’s most striking and unique features is not a piece of architecture or a natural wonder, but the incredible art murals lining the walls of the bohemian El Carmen district. Colourful and vibrant, this is no quick aerosol can job but takes hours of painstaking work by local artists using mixed media. Some murals change fairly frequently, while others become a longer-term part of the area’s charm. See huge murals around Plaça del Tossal as well as in the open space around Carrer d’En Gordo with its abandoned, crumbling buildings adorned with the work of local street artists.
Shop at the Central Market
A trip to Valencia’s huge Central Market is a must for any foodie and one of the top food experiences in the city. Said to be one of Europe’s oldest continuously running food markets, it boasts around 1,000 stalls piled high with fresh local produce, charcuterie, Spanish wines and incredible seafood. The tradition of shopping here is still strong in Valencia, where shoppers know they’ll find the best quality and flavour. Join the locals doing their weekly shop, and grab ingredients for a picnic or a great bottle of wine to take home.
Central Market, Plaça de la Ciutat de Bruges, Valencia, Spain, +34 963 82 91 00
Have coffee at Colón Market
Colón used to be one of plenty of fresh produce markets Valencia has to offer. Today, the renovated space inside this modernist national monument, just south of the Old Town, contains several chic cafés and an upscale restaurant. There are also craft and flower stalls and a space for alternating photo exhibitions and events. Check out the carefully restored exterior decorated with colourful tiles.
Colón Market, Carrer de Jorge Juan 19, Valencia, Spain, +34 963 37 11 01
Have cocktails at Café de Las Horas
For evening cocktails after a walk around the Old City, there’s no better place to go. With its lush baroque-style interior, Valencian mosaic tiles and candlelight, Café de Las Horas is really unlike anywhere else. Service can be a bit brusque, but the drinks and décor more than make up for it. Try one of the many gin and tonic varieties or the local specialty, Agua de Valencia. During the day, there’s fresh coffee and a selection of homemade cakes.
Café de Las Horas, Carrer del Comte d’Almodóvar 1, Valencia, Spain, +34 963 91 73 36
Eat paella at Yuso
There are countless paella restaurants to choose from in the city’s historic centre, but Yuso gets our vote (and that of many locals.) Enjoy well-matched Spanish wines and fresh seafood tapas while waiting for the perfect paella to cook. The experience is made even better by the friendly service and quiet outdoor seating area, complete with a splash of some of the area’s famous street art. Indoors is just as nice with exposed wooden beams and traditional Valencian ceramic tiles. Make sure to book ahead.
Yuso, Carrer de la Creu 4, Valencia, Spain, +34 670 08 55 49
Valencia Institute of Modern Art (IVAM)
IVAM, Calle de Guillem de Castro 118, Valencia, Spain, +34 963 17 66 00
Walk in the Botanical Gardens
Valencia has its very own Garden of Eden, a vast botanical garden hidden behind a few inconspicuous walls just outside the historic district. All kinds of flora flourish in Valencia’s mild climate, making this garden incredibly varied and interesting. It features 4,500 tree and plant species from all corners of the globe, including more species of palm trees than you ever thought possible and a pretty, aromatic herb garden. Entry is just a couple of euros, and it’s perfect for a romantic walk or family afternoon out as well as for botany enthusiasts, who could easily spend the whole day here.
Botanical Garden of València, Carrer de Quart 80, Valencia, Spain, +34 963 15 68 00