What to See and Where to Eat in Valencia
It is no secret that I love Northen Europe, but a trip to Spain is also good, so to vary a little bit my travelling resumé. I spent four days in Valencia, a known (but not so well-known) Spanish city, famous for its new district and for the huge park spread across it. Here are the things you should not miss!
WHAT TO SEE
* DISCOVER CIUTAT VELLA. The historical center of Valencia is small and you can easily discover it within one day. Among buildings that are not to be missed, the Lonja de la Seda (Unesco Heritage since 1996), the Mercado Central with its food stalls, the cathedral that guards the Holy Grail and its bell tower, El Miguelete, from where you can enjoy a nice view on the city.
* THE MARQUÈS DE DOSAIGÜES PALACE. In the very center of the city you can visit this palace, whose characteristic traits are the wall decorations and the 15th century furniture.
* A VISIT TO ONE OF THE MANY INDOOR MARKETS. Valencia residents have a thing fo indoor markets. You must visit the Mercado Central, but also the Colòn one in the Exaimple district and the Mosén Sorell that are worth a visit at snack time.
* THE BEAUTY OF SAN NICOLAS. It was almost impossible to find, but this church has been my favourite. The frescos are something the should not be missed and it is called the ‘Sistine Chapel’ of Valencia. Do not miss it!
* CLIMB TO THE TOP OF TORRES DE QUART OR TORRES DE SERRANO. Pick one of these two Middle Age gates and climb to the top for an amazing view on the city.
* A WALK AT THE BOTANICAL GARDEN. If you are looking for something different a walk to the Jardìn Botànico is the right thing to do: relax and enjoy a stroll among tropical greenhouses and enchanting gardens.
* AN AFTERNOON AT THE JARDINES DEL TURIA. Nowadays cyclists, runners and people strolling around are where there once was the river Turia. Walk through the park in the Ciudad de las Artes direction (from the center it is a nice 40 minutes walk) and breathe in some frsh air!
* THE OCEANOGRAFIC AND THE SCIENCE CITY BY CALATRAVA. I must admit that La Ciudad de las Artes y la Ciencias was the real reason I booked a trip to Valencia, and it also is something I would gladly go back. This area of 350k square meters will make your jaw drop with its avanguarde artworks such as the Oceanografic, the Hemisfèric and the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofìa. Calatrava outdid himself and you can actually see it: the place is incredible and it is absolutely worth getting to from the city. I decided to spend an entire morning at the Oceanografic, the biggest aquarium in Europe and, although I am not passionate about the topic, I had loads of fun! The city is also home to the Bioparc, an uncommon zoo where animals live in their natural habitat.
* A TRIP TO THE SEA. The Poblats Marìtims are very close to the city, and they can be considered as the Valencian promenade and beach. Don’t expect anything too fancy, but enjoy drinking a beer at the beach.
* A GETAWAY AT ALBUFERA. I was so tired of not finding place at the city restaurants for eating a good paella, so I went to Albufera, a natural park at an hour bus ride from the city center, where this dish was born. To be totally honest, I was very disappointed: the place is nothing special and the paella (that I ate at Bon Aire, one of the best review restaurants in town) was not extraordinary. I would suggest this only if you have plenty of time left on your trip.
WHERE TO EAT
Let’s put it this way: Valencia is in a worse condition than Milan and, from what I experienced, you must book days in advance, especially at the best restaurants. Then pay attention because several restaurants – especially those at the seafront where you can eat the best paellas – are only open at lunch. I didn’t manage to go to Casa Carmela nor Navarro. I suggest reserving a table before leaving (I know it sounds absurd, but unless you want to finish at McDonald’s you’d want to keep this into consideration). Here is where I managed to go!
* A SNACK AT THE CENTRAL BAR OF MERCADO CENTRAL. Start from here. This little bar is located inside the indoor market and you can taste some of the typical Valencian dishes, made with creativity and good ingredients. A tip: don’t miss the fried asparagi and the patatas bravas….simply delicious! The wait could take a while and the stools are not very comfy, but it will be worth it, I promise! (Price around 25€ drinks excluded).
* A GOURMET BREAK AT CANALLA BISTROT. My best lunch in Valencia was at Canalla, the bistrot in Ruzafa by the starred chef Ricard Camarena. Pretty atmosphere, super interesting dishes, normal prices and the feeling of trying something very special. Here the Valencian cuisine is thoughtfully mixed with foreign ingredients and recipes, mostly Asian. Creative and delicious. (Price around 40€ drinks excluded)
* PINTXOS AT SAGARDI. Beside it being a chain, Sagardi is well know for the pintxos, Basque snacks (similar to the Venetian cicheti) that are basically anything on a piece of bread. Have a seat in this pretty place, don’t mind the not so perfect cleanliness, and enjoy your aperitivo with a glass of wine. At the end the bill will coincide with the number of toothpicks you have on your plate (they are used to keep the bread together). (Price around 15€ drinks excluded).
* ORXATA AT THE ORCHATERIA DE SANTA CATALINA. If you want a refreshing break try this Valencian institution famous for its orxata, a potato milk based drink that reminds of almond milk and fartones, the local sweets. Beware that you might not like the drink (the flavour is not for everybody) but the experience is a must!
* A BREAK OR AN APERITIVO AT UBIK CAFÈ. If you are walking around the Ruzafa district, a nice stop you can make is at Ubik, a café full of books, magazines and discs and full of youngsters at any time of the day and night.
* A QUICK MEAL AT ALMALIBRE ACAI BAR. This place recalls the Nordic atmosphere, with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes. Although I am not part of any of these categories, I had dinner here on my last evening in Valencia and I loved it, not just for the açai, but most of all for the main dishes such as the vegan burgers, the soups and the bulgur. Delicious!
* A PARTICULAR DINNER AT DELICAT. The meal I enjoyed the most in Valencia was at Delicat, a restaurant that didn’t seem anything special from outside but that made me very happy. The dishes are shared here and they are delicious: we had an octopus salad and fantastic shrimps and other amazinf tapas. The staff are very kind and you will want to go back again. (price around 35€ drinks excluded).
* A DRINK AT CAFÈ SANT JAUME OR CAFÈ DE LAS HORAS. I particularly loved these two tiny but beautiful places. I tried the famous Agua de Valencia, a terrible Cava based cocktail (the local spumante), orange juice, vodka and gin and other better drinks. The peculiarity of both places is the nice atmosphere and the typical ambience.
Other restaurants that I unfortunately didn’t have the chance to try:
In the center:
– Navarro (for paella, at lunch)
– Lotelito rooms&bar (for a snack)
– Taberna del Balconcillo
– La Riuà
– La Bodeguilla del Gato
– El Celler del Tossal
– Nozomi Sushi Bar (one of the best sushi restaurants in Ruzafa and Valencia)
– Ricard Camarena (starred restaurant)
At the seafront:
– Casa Carmela (for paella, at lunch)
– La Pepica (for paella, at lunch)
– Casa Montaña (for paella, at lunch)
– La Otra Parte
Read the original article on Conosco un Posto. This article was translated by Tamara Ilic.