I haven’t been to all countries. I haven’t seen all the big and small cities. But from what I have seen and from what I have experienced, my favorite one of them all is Valencia. Today we will dive deeper into something different, a city review.
It’s not the oldest city. It’s not the prettiest city. Not even the biggest or the smallest, not the most glamorous nor the most affordable. However, it hits all my personal spots exactly the right way in a perfect combination. Location, language, people, climate, character, beaches, cleanness, prosperity, history, transport, parks, outdoor activities, and many more.
Let’s start with the trivial history lesson. Valencia is not the oldest city in the world but it’s quite ancient. Valentia Edetanorum was the first name given by the Romans in 138 BC. Throughout the different time periods, numerous of different nations and religions were taking over and today this leads to a very dramatic architecture. The city has features from the Germanic peoples, then the Moors, then the Christian conquistadors. The most iconic and ancient cathedral of Saint Vincent has been turned into a mosque centuries ago and then turned back to a Christian palace of peace.
Today the city has something like virtual rings around it. As it began as a small town during the Roman Empire, every other civilization that came after made it bigger. So every new invader left his marks, building a bigger circle around the Roman Core. Valencia has now numerous circles from every age that represent thousands of years of history.
Climate, Location, and other boring facts
Population – close to 800 000 people. Area – close to 135 sq. km (that makes it the 3rd largest city in Spain).
Location – east Spain, on the coast. Distance from Madrid and Barcelona – almost identical (around 355 km).
Climate – an average annual temperature of 18.4 °C during the day and 13.8 °C at night – or using my own words – close to perfection. It doesn’t get too hot (34 °C maximum in August) nor too cold (rarely less than 8 °C in the winter).
Food and Fun
The paella – the king of Spanish foods (at least here). The simmered rice dish with seafood or meat has roots that can be clearly traced to Valencia. Other traditional plates include Spanish omelette, pincho, fartons, arros negre. And a beverage that got us confused – orxata. It’s a sweet drink made from jicaro seeds but if you want to eat something with it – order fartons as well.
What can be more fun than food? Usually nothing, but the natives have a tradition – every March they fill up huge trucks with tomatoes and they start throwing them at each other. It’s much more fun than it sounds.
There is also the Falles but throwing tomatoes is much more tempting.
Valencia and I
I have been to this marvelous city 3 times so far. The first time I was quite young so I wouldn’t count that. The second time was in 2016/2017 (around New Year) and then the third time in 2018. I fell in love with everything that is so traditional in Spain. The city is always clean, has big parks, cheapish food and restaurants (you have to plan ahead to get the great deals). People are lovely and helpful, the atmosphere is more relaxed than other big cities.
My absolute favorite place of them all was the huge park that goes through the bigger part of the city, where the Turia river used to flow. One of the simplest and most genius architectural inventions I have ever seen. Imagine a wide riverbed that has been drained out and filled with sporting activities. As the park starts from the Biopark (Parque de Cabecera), it goes east to the state-of-the-art modern museums – Museu de Les Ciencies Principe Felipe and Palau de Les Arts Reina Sofia. If you have only 4-5 hours to spend in Valencia between trips, just go through that park and you will be astonished. You will definitely want to go back and see the rest.
The park consists of sports grounds, playgrounds for children, surrounded with alleys for bikes and runners. I have never seen such a sporty city before. The garden in Turia River is incredible as well – another amazing part leaving you in a space of happiness.
The modern museums that finish this amazing walk are worth seeing as well. If you have the time, you can go in as well but even if you take several pictures from the outside – it’s spectacular, especially when you are near the water.
I am a sucker for huge beaches. The coastal part of the city rivals the wideness and the spaciousness of LA’s famous beaches. The upside is that the water is warmer and cleaner. Even if you are not a fan of the water you can take a great walk on the boardwalks next to the beaches. One of them is filled with cute restaurants ready to serve you a good gazpacho (or anything else).
Valencia is the only city outside my birth one that I have seriously considered living in. Hopefully, I will be able to do it soon or at least for a few months as a learning experience. It touches all the right spots for me and the Yordan’o’meter shows close to perfection. Let me explain:
– Weather – warm, soft – check!
– People – warm, nice – check!
– Beaches – warm, huge – check!
– Food – warm paella – check!
– Transport – well organized – check!
– Parks – plenty of them – check!
– Sports – definitely – check!
– Biking – accessible almost everywhere – check.
– Parking – difficult, close to impossible in peak hours – uncheck.
– Job opportunities – no real idea. Only checked websites so unclear.
Of course, before deciding to visit a city, you should do your own research. However, if you take this article as consideration, please note the following to be visited:
Cathedral of Valencia – looks good on the outside, same as almost every other Cathedral on the inside. Unless you are a total expert of cathedrals, you can admire it without paying the entrance fee.
Mercat de Colon – one of the biggest closed markets in Europe. A lot of free food inside to try out. If you want to buy – you can check smaller markets for better prices.
Palace of the Marqués de Dos Aguas – amazing building on the outside, never been to the inside.
Convento de Santo Domingo – Same as above.
Plaça de l’Ajuntament – go and see it!
L’Oceanogràfic – again. Take a walk or a bike ride.
Torres (towers) of Serranos/Quart – different towers but both amazing. Definitely go on the top and check out the views of the city. It’s incredible. Another great spot for pictures. Especially when you go to the top of the Serranos – you can see most of my beloved Turia River Park and the other side of the city. You will thank me later.
You can rarely go wrong when traveling, especially if you are visiting European classics like Spain, France, and Italy. The history and atmosphere are incredible almost everywhere. Valencia is no exception. It doesn’t have the historical magnitude of Barcelona or Rome, it doesn’t have the size of Madrid or the charm of Paris. But… it’s not as crowded, it’s not as expensive, it’s not as commercial as the cities above. As you have probably noticed, Valencia has a special place in my heart and it will always stay there. I cannot recommend it enough to most of my friends who like to check out the simplicity, the warmth, the creativity, the inner nature of this incredible city.
P.S. You can get a free walking tour with one of the guides from the historical center.
P.S 2 – you can save a lot of money if you use Airbnb and you can save some more if you use our link here.