"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Travel Report: Valencia, Spain.

Visit Valencia Spain.

Valencia, Spain.

August 2016. I had lots of visitors during my twelve month stay in the city of Malaga. For the first time in years I was just a short flight away from friends and family, many of whom were keen to come and get some Spanish sunshine.

For the most part people were happy to stay in my adopted city and explore. But when my friend Henry came to town, he was in the mood for a trip.

Train route from Malaga to Valencia.

Valencia Spain.

“Where haven’t you been?” he asked, well aware that my travels had already taken me all over Andalusia. Inspired by the thought of going further afield, I found my eyes wandering across a map of Spain. Murcia? Maybe. Alicante? Could work. Valencia? Now we’re talking! “The best paella in Spain apparently!” said Henry and that was that.

Hotel Hospes Palau de La Mar Zaragoza.

Hotel Hospes Palau de La Mar.

I’ll certainly never forget our Valencia lodgings, easily the best place I’ve stayed at in Spain. “Let me take care of the hotel” said Henry. “I’m a funny bastard when it comes to accommodation and… well, let’s just call it my treat”. Renovated from a 19th century stately home, Hotel Hospes Palau de La Mar really was a treat.

Twin room Hotel Hospes Palau de La Mar Valencia

Valencia, Spain.

In fact, our twin room was more like a small penthouse, while the breakfast was just outstanding. There was cereal, fruit, porridge and a Full English on our first morning. Salmon, scrambled egg, jamón and cubed gouda the next. And all the while the coffee and freshly pressed orange juice just kept on coming.

Valencia, Spain.

Breakfast at Hotel Hospes Palau de la Mar Zaragoza

Hotel Hospes Palau de La Mar.

The hotel also has a killer location in Eixample Noble district, right in the heart of the city. Moreover, we had a lovely section of the amazing Turia Gardens right on our doorstep.

At over nine kilometres long, Valencia’s ribbon-shaped green belt is Spain’s longest and most unique urban park. Landscaping began in the 1970s in a bid to spruce up an extensive section of the dried up Turia River, which had been diverted south in order to avoid city centre floods.

Turia Gardens Valencia.

Turia Gardens.

Crossed by no less than eighteen bridges, the gardens are positively bursting with gorgeous architecture, striking art, walking trails, cycling paths, ponds and fountains. It’s safe to say I have never seen a park quite like it. Stepping out of the hotel on that first day, we decided to take a right to see where the gardens took us.

Turia Gardens Valencia Spain.

Valencia, Spain.

Slowly but surely, we made our way towards Valencia’s so-called City of Arts and Sciences. Unveiled in 1998, this spectacular complex stands as a science museum, cultural centre and modern art park.

City of Arts and Sciences.

City of Arts and Sciences Turia Gardens Valencia

City of Arts and Sciences.

The Valencia Opera House (Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía) is arguably the most eye-catching building. With a program that includes ballet, opera, zarzuela and live music concerts, it has four auditoriums across its fourteen stories and stands as the world’s tallest opera house.

City of Arts and Sciences Valencia.

Valencia Opera House.

Designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, it opened in 2006 with a performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio. Today you can pre-book a guided tour of the interior.

Opera house Valencia.

It’s got its eye on you.

Another Calatrava masterpiece is L’ Hemisfèrica stunning eye-shaped creation containing a planetarium and a colossal IMAX CinemaIt has a number of daily education screenings, including Born to be Wild, which takes viewers around the Kenyan savannah and the jungles of Borneo.

City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia

Valencia, Spain.

Moreover, the complex is home to Oceanogràfic, one of Europe’s biggest aquariums, in addition to the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum. Special events are common and indeed on the day of our visit Henry and I saw people getting a taste of astronaut training in the various pools set between the buildings.

Valencia City of Arts and Sciences.

City of Arts and Sciences.

For our next walking project, we turned left out of the hotel towards Valencia’s historical quarter. Along the way, I just had to stop and marvel at this stupendous tree, one of several in Parque de la Glorieta.

Valencia, Spain.

Amazing tree Avinguda de Navarro Reverter Valencia

Valencia, Spain.

My overriding impression of Valencia that summer was of one giant, open air restaurant. Wherever we went, there were tables and chairs spilling out onto the various squares and roads. Knives and forks clinked, waiters glided to and fro and the air was punctuated with the smells of sizzling meat and fruity wine.

Plaza Del Doctor Callado Zaragoza.

Plaza Del Doctor Callado.

Sometimes, these huddled clusters of clientele were so tightly packed together it was tricky to know where one restaurant ended and the next began.

This was certainly the case on Carrer dels Manyans, where it got so hectic we found ourselves ducking into Devil Records just to get away from the milling masses and pesky restaurant touts.

Carrer dels Manyans Valencia.

Valencia. Spain.

This is a proper old school record shop, where you can hardly take a step without bumping into another customer. With a focus on vinyl, t-shirts, rock memorabilia and local concert tickets, Devil Records has become a city institution, while just about every other record store has closed down.

Devil Records.

Devil Records Valencia Spain.

Devil Records.

While I can’t remember the titles I purchased that day, I know that this is where I bought my last batch of CDs. Just under a year later, I took the difficult decision to sell my twenty year record collection as part of my transition into life as a digital nomad.

Devil Records in Valencia.

Valencia, Spain.

Whenever we found a peaceful spot, Henry and I invariably stopped for a drink and a bite. One such opportunity came at the handsome and orderly Plaza Lope de Vega, home to a handful of small tapas bars.

Plaza Lope de Vega Valencia.

Plaza Lope de Vega Valencia.

Curiously, the square plays host to Europe’s narrowest building. Apparently the facade spans a ridiculous 107 centimetres from side to side. It houses a handful of tiny apartments and, in years past, a well known jewellery store on the ground floor.

Narrowest building in Europe.

Valencia, Spain.

Photo courtesy of Secret Valencia.

It was only a matter of time before we came upon Valencia Cathedral, the city’s most impressive example of gothic architecture. Construction began in the thirteenth century and went on for hundreds of years, resulting in a mix of architectural styles, including renaissance, baroque and romanesque.

Valencia Cathedral.

Valencia Cathedral.

Valencia Cathedral.

As fate would have it, I didn’t manage my usual routine of exploring every nook and cranny. This was my one billionth Spanish church and it was obnoxiously crowded on the day of our visit. Thus, after a brief look, we decided to head up El Miguelete, the octagonal shaped bell tower.

Bell Tower Valencia Cathedral.

The bell tower at Valencia Cathedral.

Unusually, the bell (Little Michael in English) never received an enclosed cover. And so it just sits exposed, providing a curious look to the city skyline. Furthermore, its nickname is something of a misnomer, as the bell is actually one of Spain’s largest, weighing over seven and a half tons.

View from Valencia Cathedral bell tower.

Valencia, Spain.

Naturally, the views are wonderful, the best in the city some say. Well worth paying the negligent two Euro fee and doing the considerably more taxing 207-step climb. To get my shots, I had to squeeze my camera through the ugly wire fencing that runs around the viewing platform.

Mercado Central Valencia Spain.

Mercado Central.

For a deeper look into Valencia’s amazing food culture, we made sure to include an hour exploring Mercado Central. Opened in 1928 after a fourteen year construction process, this art nouveau complex hosts over 860.000 square feet of stall space across two floors.

Valencia, Spain.

Mercado Central Valencia.

Inside Mercado Central.

This place was much grander than the indoor market I’d seen in Zaragoza. Especially with its giant iron columns, ceramic tiles and grand, Italian style dome. With over 1200 fruit and veg stalls, it stands as Europe’s largest fruit and veg market.

Jamon store Mercado Central Valencia.

Mercado Central.

Most tempting of all were the jamón stalls with their hanging slabs of salty goodness. It was here that Henry and I had to exercise some serious discipline as the clock ticked towards the restaurant reservation we’d made some weeks prior to our arrival in Valencia.

Chicken and rabbit Paella Bodega de la Sarieta Restaurant Valencia

Chicken and rabbit paella.

Keen to sample some of “the best paella in Spain”, we headed to one of Valencia’s most acclaimed restaurants, Bodego de la Sarieta. We arrived with big expectations and, happily, the resulting chicken and rabbit paella with chopped runner beans more than lived up to the hype.

Turia Fountain Valencia.

Turia Fountain.

Fuelled by world class paella, we returned to the historical centre with a visit to Turia Fountain on Plaza de la Virgen. Installed by the legendary Valencia born sculptor Manuel Silvestre de Edeta in 1976, the fountain depicts the Roman god Neptune presiding over eight naked women. Water pours from all the females, which is said to represent the Turia River.

Valencia, Spain.

Calle de la Paz Valencia.

Calle de la Paz.

I also remember marvelling at how a city of 790000 could just empty during siesta. Indeed it was quite remarkable as we walked through the desolate streets. On Calle de la Paz we managed to find an open cafe from which to sit and breathe in the silence.

Valencia North Train Station.

Valencia North Train Station.

On day two Henry had some Skype interviews to do for work, so I decided on an afternoon at Malvarossa Beach. This gave me an opportunity to jump on the metro at Valencia North Train Station. It’s an undeniably beautiful building and a key work of Valencian Art Nouveau.

Valencia Bullring Spain.

Valencia, Spain.

Adding to the grandeur, the station sits right next to Valencia Bullring (Plaza de Toros). Completed in 1860, this is one of Spain’s oldest and most revered bullfighting venues. Interior tours are possible, while there’s even an onsite museum with entry at just two Euros.

Malvarrosa Beach.

Malvarrosa Beach Valencia.

Valencia, Spain.

When I eventually got to Malvarrosa Beach I was taken aback by the sheer scale of it. Down by the shoreline there were scores of people sunbathing, paddling and swimming. But the beach is big enough that you don’t have to get caught up in all that.

Malvarrosa Beach in Valencia.

Valencia, Spain.

What’s more, Malvarrosa Beach isn’t simply Valencia’s premier sunbathing spot. It also enjoys a special place in Spanish history and culture. It is the setting of Tram to Malvarrosa Beach (Tranvia a la Malvarossa) a novel by the award-wining writer Manuel Vicent.

Antonio Vega La Chica de Ayer.

Antonio Vega performing La Chica de Ayer.

According to legend, it’s also the place where the Spanish singer-songwriter Antonio Vega composed his adored song La Chica de Ayer in 1977.

Vega was doing twelve months military service in Valencia at the time. When off duty, he would come to the beach with his guitar, a pack of Marlboro cigarettes and a rum and coke from a nearby bar.

Flower Bridge Valencia.

Flower Bridge.

On our final day I added another Spanish football stadium to my growing collection. While on our way to the metro, Henry and I crossed Flower Bridge (Puente de las flores), decorated all year round with over twenty seven thousand well kept flowers.

In Spain Valencia is known as The City of Flowers and this bridge often shakes it up with different colour schemes depending on the season and various national festivals.

Valencia, Spain.

Mestalla Stadium Valencia Football Club.

Mestalla Stadium.

Just as I did in Madrid (Santiago Bernabéu Stadium) and Malaga (La Rosaleda Stadium), I took the self guided tour of Valencia’s footballing arena. Opened in 1923, The Mestalla Stadium is Spain’s fifth largest football theatre with a capacity of fifty five thousand people.

Bat symbol Valencia Football Club.

Valencia, Spain.

I hadn’t been aware that the club’s badge features a large bat. Nor indeed that the bat holds a special place in Valencian history. As the story goes, a bat landed on a flag belonging to James I of Aragon just before he headed into battle with The Moors in the thirteenth century.

James subsequently won the battle and believed that the bat played a key role in his victory. As a result, the bat ended up on several versions of Valencia’s official coat of arms.

Valencia C.F. Club logo.

In 2014 Valencia FC found themselves sued by Marvel Comics, who said the club’s latest bat-themed logo looked too similar to that of the caped crusader’s. The case has been dragging on for years, with the intellectual property office scheduled to rule in 2021 if no agreement is reached.

Mestalla Stadium Valencia.

Mestalla Stadium.

The bat imagery continues inside the stadium, where we got to stroll around the pitch. As is standard with these kinds of tours, we also got to peek inside the dressing room, the press room and visit the small onsite museum. For two big football fans such as Henry and I, it was a fun end to a memorable Valencia visit.

Visiting Mestalla Stadium Valencia.

Valencia, Spain.

Like this? I’ve also written dozens of articles from all over Spain.

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  • PedroL

    you’ve seen a lot of the city 🙂 i had a lovely time there , one of my best memories is a street art tour, it was a great way to discover more of the alterative side of the city 🙂 have a great week Leighton! PedroL

    February 24, 2021 - 10:15 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers PedroL! An art tour sounds very cool and indeed I remember seeing loads of cool murals as we moved between the sites. Thanks for stopping by.

      February 24, 2021 - 10:16 am Reply
      • PedroL

        you’re welcome 🙂 best, PedroL

        February 24, 2021 - 10:32 am
  • Little Miss Traveller

    I spent a long weekend in Valencia about ten years ago which was memorable for the wrong reasons! Flooding! It was June and there was unprecedented rainfall which started about three hours after we arrived and we didn’t see sun until our final morning. So we need to return I’m sure. Thanks for your excellent tour!

    February 24, 2021 - 12:06 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Oh wow, I’m sure that was quite an experience. I had a similar thing in Vienna many years ago, but luckily managed to revisit in better conditions. Thanks for dropping by Marion.

      February 24, 2021 - 12:28 pm Reply
  • 100 Country Trek

    Have been to Spain a few years ago but never been to Valencia. The Opera House looks like a piece of art. I would love to visit there. 😍

    February 24, 2021 - 12:53 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad you liked it, Valencia is one of Spain’s great cities. I definitely preferred it to Barcelona and maybe even Madrid.

      February 24, 2021 - 12:56 pm Reply
      • 100 Country Trek

        Yes ..Barcelona was nice but I think Valencia would be on our list.

        February 24, 2021 - 1:00 pm
  • Sheree

    I found Valencia to be a bit of a curate’s egg – great in parts.

    February 24, 2021 - 1:10 pm Reply
  • yourtravelrecipes

    You broght back to my mind several memories of my many stays in Valencia, which I attended frequently in the past for work. Still have a bunch of friends there, It is said that the best Paella is found at the restaurant facing the Malvarrosa Beach.. did you try any?

    February 24, 2021 - 1:46 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Glad you liked the article. There are plenty of “best paella” claims throughout Valencia it seems. We just tried one at the restaurant mentioned. No idea if it’s really the best in the city but it was definitely the best paella I’ve ever had. Cheers!

      February 24, 2021 - 2:00 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Ok, so we made a major mistake by not including Valencia in our trip to Spain. I could spend a week just in the City of Arts and Sciences. The narrowest building is reminiscent of one in Amsterdam. But I really need to find some place that makes rabbit paella. Sounds fabulous.

    February 24, 2021 - 2:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ah Memo, I thought you’d dig Valencia. I’m not generally crazy about paella but that dish was truly delicious.

      February 24, 2021 - 2:40 pm Reply
  • I’ve Bean Travelling

    Another cool looking city to add to my next Spain itinerary!

    February 24, 2021 - 2:59 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      February 24, 2021 - 2:59 pm Reply
  • Stella

    We went to Valencia initially because we were working a motor race there. We liked it so much we made sure we went back for a long weekend.

    February 24, 2021 - 4:14 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Great to hear. Did you sample the paella?

      February 24, 2021 - 4:15 pm Reply
      • Stella

        We did. I cant quite recall where though.

        February 24, 2021 - 7:37 pm
  • Stella

    It’ll be here:

    February 24, 2021 - 7:39 pm Reply
  • natty4t

    Looks like a perfect mix of history meets glamour. Great photography.

    February 24, 2021 - 8:59 pm Reply
  • Rebecca

    I was in Valencia for a day’s visit, so many of the sites you mentioned (including the City of Arts and Sciences) were those I merely saw in passing. However, I did go inside the cathedral, which was lovely but, like you, I’d exhausted my interest in cathedral visits in Spain, not to forget throughout Europe. I also recall having horchata and paella for lunch, but unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of Spanish horchata (more into the Mexican version) and the paella I’d gotten was cheap and sub-par, which was a shame for being in the city with its claim to fame being this rice dish. One day I’ll have to return to Valencia to take time to explore, as well as to have solid paella!

    February 25, 2021 - 5:18 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Ahh sub par paella sounds like a downer. Hope you get another shot of Valencia one day!

      February 25, 2021 - 7:04 am Reply
  • travelling_han

    I loved Valencia, especially the Paella – I was struck by all of it’s beautiful architecture 🙂

    February 25, 2021 - 6:39 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading Han!

      February 25, 2021 - 6:49 pm Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    The architecture in the entire City of Arts and Sciences looks beautiful, especially the Opera House. I would love to visit someday.

    February 26, 2021 - 11:01 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading guys. Reckon you’d need a full day just to do the City of Arts and Sciences full justice.

      February 26, 2021 - 11:27 am Reply
  • Priya Ghatol

    Beautifully described Valencia in the blog. Looking to visit Spain in near future will definitely visit Malaga province and Valencia in Spain.

    February 26, 2021 - 11:13 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you Priya, appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I have written a guide to Malaga. You can find it by going to Travel Reports – Spain – Andalusia. Cheers!

      February 26, 2021 - 12:25 pm Reply
  • Pooja Nair

    Awesome read 👍🏼👍🏼

    February 28, 2021 - 12:31 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks Pooja, appreciate your readership!

      February 28, 2021 - 12:58 pm Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    Such a great tour of Valencia – what a cool place! Also – find it interesting that Opera Houses always have such unique architecture.

    February 28, 2021 - 6:25 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You’re right about opera houses, they do seem to be showcases for some of the world’s most modern and daring architecture. Hope you’re doing well!

      February 28, 2021 - 7:02 pm Reply
  • jasonlikestotravel

    Wonderful read, I’ve always wanted to visit Valencia and this has only added to the desire to get there. It definitely looks like my kind of place.
    Glad you squeezed in a trip to the Mestalla too, that’s one for the bucketlist for me. I’d particularly love to see a game there but would settle for a tour if needs be 🙂

    March 3, 2021 - 3:00 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Cheers Jason. Who do you support?

      March 3, 2021 - 3:03 pm Reply
      • jasonlikestotravel

        I’m a Tottenham season ticket holder 🙂
        Done a few European away trips so maybe I’ll get lucky with Valencia one year 🙂

        March 3, 2021 - 3:06 pm
      • Leighton

        Cool. I have always liked Tottenham. Until that is your latest manager jumped onboard. I can’t help but wish failure to him wherever he goes 😉

        March 3, 2021 - 3:09 pm
      • jasonlikestotravel

        Haha not a problem. I can’t imagine he’ll be here particularly long anyway.

        March 3, 2021 - 3:11 pm

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