It may sound like a cliche, but Valencia really is a place where the sun always shines, the oranges grow plump, and history whispers from every corner. With this combination, Valencia is the perfect place to visit for a weekend!
And as someone who lives in this great city, I love being able to help people make the most of their time here. So if you’re craving a mix of modern architecture, ancient history, and scenic nature spots, let me show you why Valencia should be next on your list of places to go.
1. City of Arts and Sciences
Picture a futuristic cityscape nestled in the heart of Valencia, where sleek, modern structures gleam under the Spanish sun. Sounds pretty cool, right? That’s the City of Arts and Sciences for you!
It’s like stepping into a sci-fi movie – but instead of aliens, you’ll encounter a world of culture and knowledge. Designed by the world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, this architectural marvel is a testament to the city’s commitment to art, science, and culture.
In particular, you can’t miss the Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe, where you can walk under tunnels of sharks or marvel at the colors of exotic fish. Then there’s the Hemisfèric, a planetarium and IMAX cinema that will take you to the stars. Don’t forget the Prince Felipe Science Museum, where you can learn while having fun with their interactive exhibits.
It’s not just the buildings, either. The pools and gardens surrounding them create a dreamy atmosphere that’s perfect for a leisurely stroll.
And when the sun goes down, the buildings light up in a stunning display of colors. In fact, if you don’t plan to go inside any of the buildings, I’d actually recommend you come here around sunset to see the change in light bouncing off this incredible architecture.
2. Central Market
Valencia’s Central Market, or “Mercado Central” in Spanish (or, if you want to be really local, “Mercat Central” in Valencian) is the beating heart of the city. It’s where locals buy their groceries and visitors get a taste of the authentic Valencian lifestyle.
Imagine a bustling hive of stalls under a beautiful Art Nouveau roof, with vendors calling out their wares in a symphony of sounds. You’ll find heaps of fresh fruits and vegetables, baskets overflowing with local delicacies, and the freshest seafood you’ll ever see.
And the aroma! It’s a mouthwatering mix of ripe oranges, fresh bread, and spices that’ll have your stomach growling in no time.
Don’t forget to try the local specialties, like some jamón ibérico (a type of cured ham), every type of cheese you can think of, and about 1,000 different types of olives. Pair them with a glass of horchata, a refreshing drink made from tiger nuts, and you’re in for a culinary treat.
The Central Market isn’t just a place to fill your stomach, though. It’s a place to soak up the local culture, meet the friendly vendors, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. It’s a must-visit, not just for foodies, but for anyone who wants to experience the real Valencia.
3. Turia Gardens
The Turia Gardens is my personal favorite spot in Valencia, a verdant oasis stretching over 9 kilometers. It’s like the city’s green lung, providing a peaceful retreat for locals and visitors alike.
Valencia’s Turia Gardens were once the Turia River, but after a catastrophic flood in 1957, the river was diverted and the old riverbed was converted into this incredible park. You can still see the old bridges that once spanned the river – they’re like charming reminders of the city’s past.
In the Turia Gardens, you’ll find cycling paths, walking trails, sports facilities, and even playgrounds for the little ones. It’s the perfect place for a morning jog, an afternoon picnic, or a leisurely stroll under the shade of the trees.
But wait, there’s more! Nestled within the park are several gems like the Palau de la Musica concert hall, Gulliver Park (a giant playground shaped like Gulliver from Gulliver’s Travels), and the City of Arts and Sciences at the park’s eastern end.
Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast, a nature lover, or just someone looking for a quiet spot to read a book, the Turia Gardens is the place to be.
4. Silk Exchange (La Lonja de la Seda)
This UNESCO World Heritage site is a relic from Valencia’s golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries; when the city was a major hub for the silk trade.
From the moment you step into the courtyard, you’ll be swept away by the stunning Gothic architecture. The twisted columns in the Contract Hall mimic the twisted silk threads that were once traded here, and the stonework on the walls and ceilings is simply awe-inspiring.
But it’s not just about the architecture, as La Lonja tells the story of Valencia’s rich history and its important role in global trade.
Don’t miss the chance to climb the tower for a fantastic view of the city. As you look out over the red-tiled rooftops, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard.
And when you’re done exploring, you can relax in the Orange Tree Courtyard, a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city. Whether you’re a history buff or an architecture enthusiast, La Lonja de la Seda is a must-see.
5. Albufera Natural Park
It’s definitely worth taking the time to head out of the city to the Albufera Natural Park. While it’s just a short bus ride from Valencia, it feels like a different world.
Albufera is a vast freshwater lagoon surrounded by rice fields and wetlands. It’s a paradise for birdwatchers, with over 250 species calling it home. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot a few local inhabitants, like rabbits and foxes.
The best way to explore Albufera is by boat. As you glide along the calm waters, you’ll get a sense of the region’s natural beauty and tranquility. And if you time your visit right, you’ll be treated to a breathtaking sunset over the lagoon.
After your boat ride, be sure to try some authentic Valencian paella. Albufera is the birthplace of this famous dish, and many restaurants in the area still cook paella the traditional way: over an open fire, using locally grown rice and fresh seafood from the lagoon. It’s the perfect end to a day in this natural paradise.
6. Soak Up the Sun at Malvarrosa Beach
What’s a trip to Valencia without spending some time on the sun-kissed sands of the Mediterranean? Malvarrosa Beach is the perfect spot to unwind, soak up some rays, and immerse yourself in the laid-back Valencian beach life.
Just a short tram or bus ride from the city center, Malvarrosa is a wide, golden-sand beach that stretches for miles along the coast. It’s a favorite among locals and visitors alike, and for good reason. With its gentle waves and warm waters, it’s the perfect place for a refreshing dip or even a bit of paddleboarding and watersports.
But Malvarrosa isn’t just about swimming and sunbathing. There’s a lively promenade lined with palm trees, where you can take a leisurely stroll, rent a bike, or grab a bite to eat at one of the many seaside restaurants.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, there are plenty of water sports on offer, from windsurfing to jet skiing.
7. Explore the Valencia Cathedral
Your whirlwind tour of Valencia has to include the magnificent Valencia Cathedral. This stunning Gothic masterpiece isn’t just a place of worship; it’s a treasure trove of art, history, and mystery.
As you step inside, you’ll be captivated by the cathedral’s soaring vaults, intricate carvings, and dazzling stained glass windows. But the real highlight is the Chapel of the Holy Grail.
According to legend, the cathedral houses the most likely candidate for the genuine Holy Grail, the chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper. Whether you believe the legend or not, the chapel is a must-see for its rich history and beautiful artwork.
Another reason to visit the cathedral is to climb the Miguelete Tower. It’s quite the workout, with over 200 steps to the top, but the panoramic views of the city are worth every step. From up there, you can truly appreciate the beauty of Valencia, with its patchwork of red rooftops, blue sea, and green parks.
After exploring the cathedral, don’t forget to wander around the charming Plaza de la Virgen. It’s a lovely spot to relax, enjoy a coffee, and soak in the atmosphere of the historic part of this Spanish city.
And there you have it – a perfect weekend in Valencia! With its stunning architecture, vibrant culture, mouthwatering cuisine, and gorgeous beaches, there’s truly something for everyone in this sun-drenched Spanish gem.
Anna is the founder of Spain Inspired, where she shares insider tips and hidden gems to inspire visitors to take the road less traveled and explore Spain like a local. Now living in Valencia, Anna’s made it her mission to help fellow travelers experience the very best of this stunning country – with some great wine and tapas along the way, ideally!
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