For me, living in Valencia has been an unexpected surprise.
I immediately assumed it would be another touristic Mediterranean city, but believe me when I say it’s actually far from. However, visit Benidorm and you could easily be confused for being in any Northern English city.
I’ve found that tourists come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities and ages. But common denominators are likely to be a flashy camera, a cap from another destination they’ve visited and the ability to stand out wherever they go. They’ll probably have a dodgy bum bag too (but part this I am not so opposed to). But when you move to a foreign country, you try to blend in as much as possible to truly experience the culture at face value.
Back to the point, Valencia. It really does have everything for everyone. Whether you want to spend the day getting lost in the historical and charming city centre, sunning yourself on the beach, running in the park that stretches over 9km or shopping until your feet ache and you’re forced to stop tapas and sangria.
I’ve been lucky enough to live here because I am studying for a semester at the Universitat de Valencia. I’ve been here for 3 months now and I am still every day finding new places I love. So I’ll condense it down; the top places you should go, see or visit.
Cuitat Vella (Old City)
One of my favourite things to do is just ‘spent the day in the city’. You could spend hours exploring the maze of alleyways and plazas, have no clue where you are, yet you won’t even notice because you’ll be entranced by the magic of Valencia. It’s buzzing with life no matter what time of day, especially Plaza de la Virgen.
You can also visit El Carmen, a neighbouring quarter where the younger generation live. Here you’ll find the remains of the city wall and gateway that was years ago used by traders to enter the city.
Lonja de la Senda (The Silk Exchange)
Having been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it really is worth a visit. I visited with my sister after a jug of Sangria shared over lunch, which made the €2 entry even more amazing (only €1 for students or pensioners!). It’s one of the most famous gothic monuments in Europe and is truly beautiful, especially if you love architecture as much as my sister and I do (even though we know nothing about it).
Whilst you’re there, be sure to visit Bar Cordellats, which is still my favourite place here in Valencia. You’ll soon wish the Dutch owner Arthur was your uncle/ father/ granddad, he’s an amazing host and will tell you some great stories. You’ll also fall in love with his adorable chocolate Labrador Nina. Did I mention the tapas was great too?
FOOD HEAVEN. Literally. For both your eyes and your taste buds. Being one of the largest food markets in Europe, just the building is a great example of a modernist design with colourful glass framework and stone covered partition. With hundreds of different food and souvenir stalls, be sure to try fresh orange juice and paella, there’s a reason they are so famous here in Valencia! I didn’t even know where to look because it all looked so tasty. You will find yourself wanting to try absolutely everything!
Jardin de Turia and Cuidad de Artes y Ciencias
Turia Gardens is one of the largest urban parks in Spain, a rarity for a major city to boast such green space. For me, it’s amazing because different landscapers designed different sections of the park. It was previously a river that constantly flooded the city so it was then rerouted to the south of the city. Crossed by 18 very differently designed bridges, I guarantee you, you won’t get bored whether you are walking, cycling or just relaxing in this beautiful green space.
Now, the City of Arts and Sciences is not something you’ll find anywhere else, it really is one of a kind. It’s a must. Whether you want to visit the Oceanografic (Europe’s largest aquarium), Principe Felip’s Science Museum or Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia Opera House. These buildings have themselves grown to become icons of the city. My favourite being L’Umbracle, an open access garden which spans more than 17,000m2; beautiful Mediterranean plants and contemporary sculptures that also make for an exquisite setting for a sophisticated open-air nightclub in the summer months.
Playa de la Malvarrosa
The beach is great too. For me, it’s the only touristic part of the city, so be prepared to put up with women offering ‘Hola! Masaje? Massage?’ and constant ‘coco, agua, cerveza’. Despite this, it’s a fun beach with lots of activities and sports going on. You’ll always be able to catch a great sunset too!
Valencia has so much more to offer; these are just a few of my favourites. I could tell you about it all day, but it simply is a city you have to visit and experience for yourself.