Are you looking for a sunny destination for a city break in Europe? Can good food, impressive buildings and a cozy atmosphere not be missing from your itinerary? Would you also like to enjoy waving palm trees and extensive beaches? Then Valencia in Spain is the place to be. Here I’ll share all my tips about this beautiful city so that you can plan the perfect weekend in Valencia.
Last year we went on vacation to the Costa Blanca. We stayed in the pleasant coastal town of Calpe. During our trip we also planned a weekend to discover Valencia. This beautiful city surprised us with its versatile character. Here you can admire impressive and ultramodern buildings that are located in the science and art park and experience the real traditional Spain in the heart of the historic center as well.
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Honestly, I have to admit that Valencia was never really on my bucket list. When I thought of Valencia, I immediately saw the futuristic buildings of Ciudad de las Artes y las Cièncias in front of me. From which I wrongly deduced that this city had no charm at all. But nothing is less true. This place surprised me so much and that is why I now would advise everyone to choose Valencia as their destination for a sunny, fun and varied city trip.
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. With its strategic location on the Rio Turia and the Mediterranean Sea, it is also one of the most important port cities in Europe. Valencia therefore plays an important role in the Spanish economy. Besides that, the location on the Mediterranean Sea is also one of the greatest assets for tourists. Who wouldn’t want to combine a wonderful city trip with a day of sun, sand and sea?
Valencia is also one of the few Spanish cities where traces of antiquity and various other historical periods coexist with the avant-garde buildings of Ciudad de las Artes y las Cièncias. So you’ll definitely have your daily dose of culture.
And another thing that is not unimportant to know is that Valencia is the birthplace of Paella. Here you can still taste the traditional Paella Valenciana, but I will come back to that later.
How to travel to Valencia?
The easiest way to travel to Valencia is of course by plane. From Belgium you can fly to Valencia from various airports with an airline company of your choice.
Valencia Airport is located about 8 kilometers from the city center. From the airport you can easily travel to the city center by Aerobus, local bus or metro. You can quickly map out your route via google maps. You can of course also use a taxi or a private transfer.
If you would like to discover more of the region around Valencia, such as the Costa Blanca or the inland of the Costa Blanca, you can rent a car. This is possible at Sunny Cars a company who works together with local car rental companies. The big advantage of Sunny Cars is that all insurance policies are already included in the price. So you will not be faced with surprises in the form of extra costs when you pick up your car.
If you want to combine Valencia with other destinations in Spain, it is also useful to know that this city has 2 train stations from where you can easily travel by train within Spain.
From the port you also have a good connection with the Balearic Islands and Italy. It is also the place where many cruise ships dock. So you can definitely visit Valencia as part of a cruise holiday.
Of course you can also travel by car from Belgium to Valencia in Spain. With about 1700 kilometers ahead you can make it a great road trip. It is best to drive via the Route du Soleil. Along the way you will pass beautiful places such as Paris, the Loire Valley, Barcelona and many other places that are worth a visit. Keep in mind that during the summer holidays this is a very busy route where you occasionally have a chance of traffic jams and can therefore be delayed.
When is the best time to travel Valencia?
Valencia has a Mediterranean climate. This allows you to plan a weekend in Valencia practically all year round. Even during the winter months, the temperature hardly ever drops below 13 degrees Celsius.
If you want to avoid rain at all times, it is best to plan a weekend in Valencia between the months of May and October. During this period you have the least chance of precipitation.
In the summer months it can get very hot, but then you can enjoy a day of water fun on one of the nearby beaches along the Mediterranean Sea.
In the spring you can enjoy the flowering of the many orange trees in Valencia. The orange blossoms ensure that a wonderful scent is spread throughout the city. It is not for nothing that Valencia was nicknamed Orange City. In March you can also attend the famous Spanish festival Las Fallas. This event takes place between 15 and 19 March and lasts 5 days. Every neighborhood in Valencia builds a large doll (a falla) of wood and paper mache in honor of the celebration. This falla contains fireworks. At the end of the festival, the fireworks in the fallas are set off and the entire city is on fire!
We visited Valencia in October. Even though we had one day with cloudy and rainly weather, we still thought this was a pleasant time to visit Valencia.
Where to stay Valencia?
Are you looking for a suitable accommodation in Valencia? Then you probably want to know which neighborhoods are the most pleasant to stay in. Although every neighborhood here has its own charm, I have 3 personal favorites which are Ciutat Vella, Russafa and El Cabanyal. I will go into more detail about this later in this blog post.
Here you can find a handy map widget from booking.com where you can easily search for the suitable accommodation based on location and budget.
The best things to do during a weekend in Valencia
Are you planning to visit several sights? Then the Valencia Tourist Card is definitely something for you. With this card you get discounts, free transport and entrance to museums. Eat in different restaurants, visit the most beautiful shops, take unforgettable tours – and above all save a lot of money when you do this! The card is also easy and quick to use.
In Valencia you will find many covered markets, but the most impressive is surely Mercado Central in the heart of the old city centre. This building is not only a fine example of modernist architecture, but it is a wonderful place to hang out. In the many stalls you can buy fresh and local products. By the way, did you know that this is also the largest fresh products market in Europe?
But here you will also find many eateries where you can taste real traditional Valencian specialties. When you visit Mercado Central you should absolutely taste some tapas at Central Bar.
La Lonja de la Seda
Just opposite the Mercado Central another impressive building is located, La Lonja de la Seda. This fair has its origins in the golden age of Valencia (15th century). It is a monumental late-Gothic building with many elements of the early Renaissance that demonstrates the power and opulence of the merchants during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It will therefore not surprise you that La Lonja de la Seda was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996.
You can visit this beautiful building for barely 2 euros per person. Be amazed by the imposing colonnaded Sala de Contratación, where traders came to do their business. Continue to the sala del consulado del where a special court was seated responsible for commercial law. Don’t forget to take a look in the large tower El Torreón, where a chapel was located on the ground floor. The two upper floors would have served as a prison. In the courtyard of Patio de los Naranjos you can relax on a bench under the lush orange trees before you visit the other sights in Valencia.
Cathedral La Seu
Cathedral La Seu can be found on the most beautiful square in Valencia, Plaça de la Reina. Its construction started in the 13th century. Before that it was a Roman temple and later a mosque. In the architectural style you can therefore find elements from different time periods, ranging from the Romanesque style to the Baroque.
You can visit the cathedral for 9 euros per person. There you will not only find the Holy Grail but also some important works of the first Spanish Renaissance, such as the frescoes of the high altar.
Inside the cathedral there is also a museum where you can admire various works of art, including some paintings by Maelle and Goya.
You can also climb the octagonal bell tower named Miguelete or El Micalet. After 207 steps you can enjoy a panoramic view of Valencia.
Torres de Serranos
Be sure to admire the Torres de Serranos. These towers were part of the medieval city wall and are a perfect example of Gothic architecture. They served as a defense at the most used entrance of Valencia. Later they were used as a prison for a while. Today you can visit these impressive towers for 2 euros per person.
Don’t forget to visit Jardi Botànic. This botanical garden was founded in the 16th century and has been located at its current location since 1803. This makes Jardi Botànic the oldest botanical garden in Spain. About 3000 trees and plants grow here.
Jardí del Túria
Jardí del Túria is a beautifully landscaped city park in the riverbed of the Túria. This river used to run through the city, but due to a heavy flood in 1957 resulting in fatalities, the government decided to drain the Túria.
Jardí del Túria is a 9 kilometer long green oasis that winds its way through the center of Valencia. It is a wonderful place to hang out or to go for a walk in good weather. It is also the ideal location for a fun family outing. You can have a pleasant picnic there and children can play to their heart’s content on the various playgrounds.
There is also a nice recreational area for sports enthusiasts. You can jog, cycle and skate along the landscaped paths. But that is not everything. There are also several sport areas so that other sports such as football, tennis, … can also be practiced here.
Culture lovers will also find something to their liking here. Along the park you will find many cultural institutions such as the Museum of fine arts, the royal gardens, the Parc Gulliver, Palau de la Música de València and the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències
Meanwhile, you can also enjoy a mix of historical and modern architectural styles and monuments. When you walk through the entire park you will come across 18 bridges. Both monumental, historic bridges from the 15th to 17th century as well ad modern bridges.
In short, this beautiful park that offers something for everyone and should not be missed on your weekend in Valencia.
Ciutat de les Art i de le Ciències
Valencia’s Ciutat de les Art i de le Ciències or literally City of Arts and Sciences is a neighborhood with imposing avant-garde buildings. Although this kind of architecture is less appealing to me, it was very impressive to see.
These gigantic buildings house some of the most famous museums and cultural buildings such as the science museum, an opera house, and planetarium with IMAX cinema and the largest marine aquariums in Europe, L’Oceanogràfic.
If you are planning on sightseeing within Ciutat de les Art i de le Ciències, these deals from Getyourguide that I have listed below might be useful.
Best museums in Valencia
Are you a museum lover or are you just looking for a fun, educational activity during a rainy day? Then I can reassure you Valencia has pletty of great museums. The the fine arts museum, the national ceramics museum, the fallas museum, the science museum and L’Oceanogràfic are definitely worth a visit.
A fun way to discover the city and the best sights is with a hop-on-hop-off bus, bicycle or though another original organized tour. Discover the offer of Getyourguide here.
The most charming neighborhoods to explore in Valencia
Ciutat Vella is characterized by a maze of cozy streets and alleys where you can get wonderfully lost. Behind every corner a new surprise pops up in the form of a local restaurant, charming bar or authentic boutique. You can stroll there for hours without getting bored for a second.
In this neighborhood you will find many traces of the past. These traces date from different periods under different rulerships ranging from the Roman followed by the Moors and finally the Spaniards. You can find especially many elements in the buildings in Ciutat Vella.
Characteristic of Ciutat Vella are the many buildings from the 15th century ,the golden age of Valencia. La Lonja de la Seda is a great example of that.
In Ciutat Vella you will also find the district Barrio del Carmen which is the most popular place for nightlife in Valencia. Here traditional cafes go hand in hand with trendy and modern establishments. It is the place-to-be for a drink and good food. From noon onwards, all the taverns and tapas bars fill up. So be on time if you want to get a table.
The Neighborhood Russafa is located in a river bed between the station and the park. In the 19th century, a residential area was created here for urban expansion. What was once a run-down station area, is now the trendiest neighborhood in Valencia full of trendy hotspots and boutiques. This is the place to be to buy authentic pieces in one of the many vintage shops or to purchase a unique souvenir of your city trip in Valencia. Besides that it is also just a super nice neighborhood where you can relax.
Especially at night, Russafa comes alive. Then you can enjoy drinks and delicious food in the area. Definitely visit Mercado de Colón. This beautiful building, designed in the 20th century by the architect Franciso Mora Berenguer, initially served as a covered market. Now you can find many trendy bars and food stalls where you can dine gastronomically. You can also find many terraces, bars and delicious restaurants in the Carrer de Sueca and Carrer de Cadis and the surrounding area. You are also regularly treated to live music, street theater or other cultural activities.
If you have some time left during your weekend in Valencia, be sure to visit the up-and-coming neighborhood of El Cabanyal. This neighborhood is close to Valencia’s most popular beach, La Malvarrosa. Here you will find many authentic fishermen’s houses decorated with mosaics.
The charming houses almost had to make way for modern beach resorts. Fortunately, the Valencians revolted and this plan was rejected. In the meantime, these beautiful houses have been designated as cultural heritage.
When you stroll through El Cabanyal you can see that this is not the richest neighborhood of Valencia. Some of the houses are not well maintained and you cannot find modern shops there. But honestly, this only adds to the charm of this neighborhood. Authenticity is key here.
In El Cabanyal you can find the oldest tapas bar in Valencia, Casa Montaña. Here too you have a covered market Mercado Cabanyal, where you can buy delicious fresh local specialties. Ideal for just stocking up on snacks before heading to the beach.
The most pleasant beaches near Valencia
The city beaches are Las Arenas, Malvarrosa followed by La Patacona. There is no clear separation between the first two beaches, so this is actually one large city beach that stretches for several kilometers along the Mediterranean Sea.
Playa Arenas is seen as the most beautiful beach in the city by the localsa. Together with Malvarossa it forms a wide beach strip along which a coastal promenade runs where you can find numerous shops, bars and eateries.
At Malarrossa you will find Casa carmela, a paella restaurant that started as a changing room at the beach. Here you can taste delicious traditional Paella Valenciana.
The last beach La Patacona, is rather small. This beach has become increasingly popular in recent years and is described as a hip place where many surfers come.
Since these beaches are the closest to the city, they are also quite busy. Would you rather find peace? Then there are a number of beautiful beaches outside the center such as L’Arbre del Gos and El Saler. Here you can enjoy the sun, sea and sand between the dunes, pine trees and blades of grass. These beaches are very popular among the Valencian population. But you cannot rent beach beds or umbrellas here, so you’ll have to bring everything yourself. You can easily reach these beaches by public transport or bicycle.
Since Valencia is located on the Costa Azahar and the Costa Blanca, there are of course plenty of beautiful beaches and coves in the area. The best way to discover these is by renting a car and getting out and about.
In short, Valencia is the ideal destination to combine a city trip with a beach holiday. And that includes fun water activities! Below you will find some of my favourites!
Not to miss specialties in Valencia
I already mentioned it, but Valencia is the birthplace of Paella. You know that rice dish with seafood that’s cooked in big pots? So there’s no better place to taste this traditional Spanish dish than in Valencia.
Do you want to do it like the real locals? Then it’s best to order Paella during lunch. Only tourists eat this rice dish during dinner.
Another Valencian specialty is Horchata. It is a milky substance made from tiger nuts, water and sugar.
In Valencia you can order Horchata in almost all cafeterias or ice cream parlors, but one of the best places to taste this specialty is Horchatería Santa Catalina.
Don’t forget to order fartons as well. These are a kind of elongated handmade pastries covered with a layer of sugar. Taste your Horchata like a real local by dipping your farton in your Horchata.
Agua de Valencia
When you spend a weekend in Valencia, you should definitely taste Agua de Valencia. This is the city’s signature cocktail. The basic product for this cocktail is? Yes, you guessed it right: the orange.
I said that Valencia is also called the orange city. That definitely wasn’t a lie. In the Agua de Valencia, the orange juice of local orange is supplemented with a touch of vodka, gin and cava. Doesn’t that sound delicious?
If you would like to discover and taste more Valencian specialties, book a super fun food tour at Getyourguide. You can find my favorite tours below.
Valencia is a top destination for a versatile city trip, where you can combine a visit to the lively city with sun, sea and sand. Although Valencia was not really on my bucket list at first, I was very pleasantly surprised by this wonderful city. If a weekend in Valencia is not on your bucket list yet, then I would definitely advise you to change that now.
What wouldn’t you want to miss on your weekend in Valencia? Let me know below in the comments. Would you like to visit more in the Valencia area?
Then be sure to read:
- The best things to do in Costa Blanca
- A mini road trip through the inland of Costa Blanca
- The best things to do in Calpe
- Staying in La Muralla Roja: worth it or not?
Thank you for reading.