48 Hours in Valencia: history, culture, science and paella

Historic Valencia, the birthplace of paella, is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the appetite.

Published 17 July 2012 in Travel Articles

Great architecture, urban gardens made in former riverbeds, sandy beaches, natural parks and a thriving arts scene – this is one destination where the city, the countryside and the seaside meet.


Where to stay:
10am: Wake up at the moder 5* Caro Hotel whose modern design meets seamlessly with the original stone work of several eras: the old palace of the Marquis of Caro, ruins from the thirteenth-century Arabic defensive wall, gothic arches and nineteenth-century additions. It's a microcosm of Valencia's architectural scene.

From old to new
Stroll through the old town streets to Plaza de la Virgen and you'll be met with a historical view that could draw you in for hours: the Cathedral, Basilica of the Virgin, the Almoina Museum, the Crypt of Saint Vincent and a series of splendid palaces. Take a walk around and then stroll through the gardens – grown in the former riverbed - or visit the brilliantly contrasting cutting-edge City of Arts and Sciences.

Another idea may be to take a historical and scenic bike tour of Valencia, lasting 3.5 hours. Or get the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Sightseeing Tour if you prefer to view the city at a more leisurely pace.

Few can help posing for a photo in front of the giant eye - L'Hemispheric – home to an Imax cinema, laserium and planetarium and a captivating building you might feel is watching you. The interactive science museum (El Museu de les Ciencias), landscaped walk (L'Umbracle), the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe (Oceanografic), will tear you away. You can prebook a combined ticket for both L'Hemispheric and Oceanografic.

Paella lunch
: Take a bus to Albufera Nature Park. Paella was born in Valencia and if that surprises you, you probably didn't expect to find rice fields here either. The ticket includes a boat ride across the lake and you can rest for dinner at El Palmar, the village inside the park (not included in the ticket). This is the optimum place to try Paella Valenciana.

Curtain Up or Bottoms Up?
Back in the city centre, call in at the avant garde Palau de la Musica, which offers concerts from prestigious international directors and performers. If you'd prefer to head off to bed, make sure you try an Agua de Valencia - a cocktail made from a base of cava or champagne, mixed with orange juice, vodka and gin. Sip from a tall glass while watching the sun set over the sea, or looking across this city's unique skyline or at the plush terrace bar at the Caro Hotel.

DAY 2 Refuel for Ruzafa
Get a good breakfast in – you'll need it for the shopping experience offered by the Ruzafa district. Start with Sendra boots a company that celebrates its centenary next year. Diseno al Cubo is a launchpad and showcase for artists and designers and curiosity shop Caroline will turn up some quirky buys you'll be happy to find room in your suitcase for.

Garden Lunch
El Huerto is a magnificent family home at the heart of Ruzafa. Enjoy the unique serenity of the garden and the dedication of the fifth generation of the family who bring it to you. The nickname El Casinet (tiny casino) has stuck since it was first known as the best place for people from Valencia to meet and talk and now it is perfect for tapas or more formal menus.

Sand between your toes
Grab a taxi (or a free tourist bus or metro if you have a Valencia Tourist Card) to Playa Malvarrosa, a huge expanse of sandy beach perfect for sunbathing, swimming and sports.

Horchata pit stop
Horchata is a drink made from tiger nuts, or chufa. A slow drying process gives them their sweetness. Traditional Horchatorias then soak the nuts in water and sugar before grinding them and passing them through a fine net. Horchata is served cold and should be enjoyed with a handmade pastry called a farton – great for dipping!

Take to the sea
A catamaran tour from the Marina Real Juan Carlos I will take you past some magnificent yachts at the luxury leisure port and out on to the warm waves of the Mediterranean Sea. Soak up the last of the day's sun.

Tapas by the beach
Playas de las Arenas and Playa de las Malvarrosa are lined with bars and restaurants. If you would rather be out and about, make the most of the food stalls that set up on the promenade - from corn on the cob to Arabic cuisine. Of course, it must be topped off with an ice cream!


Useful resources

Get more information about Valencia from Tourism Valencia

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Photos: paella by Bridge Pacific Hotels; L'Umbracle by Diliff; Palau de las Arts Reina Sofia by Vammpi; L'Oceanografic by Diliff; L'Hemispheric by Diliff


The Travel Magazine, UK

Derek. Feel free to add your favourite activities, places to visit or bars.


30 July, 2012

Derek , Valencia

It's good to see more publicity about Valencia, but I'm sad that it's just a repeat of the same old same old that has appeared in magazines from Time Out, to the Telegraph and The Times and virtually every print and on-line article that has ever been written about the city.

I've lived here for twelve years and it's a great place to live as well as to visit, but there is so much more to Valencia than ever gets written about, or at least published. Perhaps it might be worth an article looking from an insider's view of the city.

Sadly, the other thing that gets mentioned ad nauseum is Fallas, when more people leave the city because the appalling noise and traffic it creates than actually visit to supposedly enjoy 'Spain's biggest party'. Many Valenciano's hate Fallas, so this isn't just me being a foreigner kill-joy.

Derek from Spain Uncovered (http://derekworkman.wordpress.com/)

30 July, 2012

Patrick Waller, Xativa, Valencia

Great article! Valencia also has a really fascinating interior region which besides beautiful mountainous countryside, has truly historic towns such as Xativa, hometown of the Borgia popes. It is a town with history, great monuments (castle, churches etc) and some lovely restaurants. Well worth a visit. As is the wine producing area, Fontanares, near Xativa, which produces some excellent and interesting new wines.

Patrick from The Spanish Thyme Traveller

25 July, 2012

Flavia di Bello, London

Thanks for the brilliant tips - great article!

19 July, 2012

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