Climbing the ranks as the go-to Spanish city to visit, Spain’s third largest metropolis is vibrant and forward-thinking, combining traditional style, age-old history and classic culture with urban beaches, futuristic design and mouthwatering cuisine. Soak up everything this sprawling city has to offer with our ultimate guide, from its elegant architecture and historic landmarks to its thriving restaurant scene and captivating culture.
What to do
Witness a harmonious marriage of history and innovation here, with something for culture buffs and design-lovers alike. Plaza de la Virgen is a good place to start, where the 13th-century Catedral de Valencia sits in all its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque glory. The heart of the city and a place not to be missed is Plaza de la Reina – a gateway to the Old Town of Barrio del Carmen, which is brimming with boutiques, tapas bars and charming narrow streets.
For an impressive injection of contemporary design, transport yourself to the future with a visit to the City of Arts and Sciences, while nature lovers should venture to Albufera lagoon and glide along the calm waters with a scenic boat ride. Other not-to-be-missed highlights include Santa Catalina church, Parroquia de San Nicolas and the beautifully Gothic Lonja de la Seda silk exchange.
Where to eat
As the birthplace of paella, Valencia is a sea of authentic cuisine, with myriad must-try eateries at every turn; top spots for the popular Spanish dish are legendary La Pepica and charming Casa Carmela. When it comes to savouring fresh Clóchina mussels, head to Bar Pilar, and for classic tapas dishes loved by the locals, characterful Casa Montaña is the place to settle. For something a little more casual, eat your way through the nouveau Central Market, making it to Central Bar (headed up by leading Valencian chef, Ricard Camarena) for a good bocadillo and traditional tapas.
Where to drink
For a typical taste of Valencia, kick back at Café de las Horas with an Agua de Valencia cocktail – a concoction of orange juice, cava, sugar and different liquors – in a grand townhouse setting. Head to La Bella de Cadiz for kitsch charm and an intimate atmosphere, or if you’re keen for a more sociable vibe, legendary Café Negrito is on hand with a ceramic interior and interesting crowd. For a dose of sophistication and stunning sea vistas, Panorama is the place to be, while Ateneo Sky Bar is another stylish option with views across the city’s rooftops.
Where to shop
From high-end boutiques to local markets and haberdasheries, there are some real treasures to source. Las Ollas de Hierro is one of the oldest shops in Valencia, where religious items, trinkets, haberdashery and jewellery abound. Silk is something of a time-old tradition of the city, and Nela is the perfect place to feast your eyes and lay your hands on embroidered silk shawls, while handmade and hand-painted artisan fans can be found at 200-year-old Abanicos Carbonell. Those with a sweet tooth will want to pay a visit to Trufas Martínez too and indulge in decadent Valencian chocolate.