València is a city that invites you to calm down. Despite being the third most populous city in Spain, everything flows slowly here, the traffic is not hectic and people enjoy walking and cycling. And the best way to visit it is to let yourself be conquered by this serenity and explore it calmly. And so we visited it, fully enjoying everything it offers, which we summarize here in 12 points.
Our tips for enjoying the city
1) Starting with good food: how can you give up the paella that was born in València and then became one of the symbolic dishes of all of Spain? And then, it is impossible to go around the city and not stop to sip a horchata with fartons or an Agua de València. We tell you more in València at the table.
2) If like us you land in the city on Wednesday morning we suggest a delicious lunch break at El Colmado de la Lola based on tapas and a pint of Lola beer produced by the house. Then take advantage of one of the Shopping Made in València itineraries, one of the guided tours offered by VisitValència every Wednesday afternoon to discover some of the most representative shops in the city. And don’t miss to look inside the North Station, Estación del Norte, a magnificent example of Modernism in which the main vestibule is a wooden jewel and mosaics called “Trencandís”, made with small pieces of colored ceramic.
3) On Thursday morning, at 12 o’clock, do not miss a ritual fervently preserved for a millennium and declared cultural heritage of humanity by Unesco: the “Tribunal de las Aguas”, the only structure, meets at the Apostles Door of the Cathedral which remains among those established by James I. The task of the structure is to defend the rights of the peasants and its eight judges, representatives of the 8 canals that bring water to the València territory, sitting in a circle on wooden and leather armchairs dating back to the seventeenth century, they meet to resolve problems relating to the distribution of the Turia water and their sentences are swift and final.
4) Then give yourself to the discovery of Ciutat Vella, the historic center, collected and ideal for walking around. Unmissable visit to get to know València is that of the Cathedral, an imposing church where Romanesque, Gothic and Spanish Baroque styles coexist. Inside there are many treasures that capture the attention, from the two paintings by Goya placed one in front of the other in the chapel of Saint Francis Borgia to the Holy Chalice which is considered the Holy Grail used by Jesus on the occasion of the Last Supper. Behind the altar, the relics of St. Vincent, patron saint of the city, are kept.
Another of the Cathedral’s jewels are the Renaissance frescoes of the High Altar which were discovered in 2004 when the Baroque vault that covered them was removed, revealing one of the most important pictorial works of the early Spanish Renaissance. The paintings, which represent twelve angels playing musical instruments of the time, were commissioned in 1476 by Cardinal Rodrigo de Borja, future Pope Alexander V, to the Italian artists Paolo da San Leocadio and Francesco Pagano and hidden 200 years later following the Baroque makeover of the cathedral presbytery.
5) Do you want to admire the city from above? Do it from Miguelete. To reach the top of the cathedral’s bell tower you need to climb 207 steps, but the feat is worth the effort. Equally striking aerial views are those from the top of the Torri de Serranos and the Torri de Quart, the majestic access gates to the city, the only two remaining standing of the twelve once present in the defense walls.
6) The tour in the heart of the city cannot be separated from two final visits. The one at the Lonja de la Seda, declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1996: an admirable witness to the Valencian Siglo de Oro consisting of several structures that overlook a citrus garden of Arabian style called Patio de los Naranjos. And that of the Church of San Nicolàs which surprises with its more than 2,000 square meters of frescoes that have earned it the name of Valencian Sistine Chapel.
7) In the afternoon you can reach the City of Arts and Sciences by bike, pedaling along the Turia Gardens that green in the former riverbed. Now the undisputed symbol of the city for its very particular architecture designed largely by the architect Santiago Calatrava, the complex includes the Oceanografic, the Queen Sofia Palace of Arts, the Science Museum, the Hemisferic, the Umbracle and the Agora. Among all, the one we managed to visit is the Oceanografic, a gigantic and very scenic aquarium in which the main marine ecosystems of the planet have been reproduced.
8) You cannot say that you have been to València without having wandered around its markets. On Friday morning, dedicate it to the Mercado Central (open from 7.30 to 15). Housed in a beautiful Art Nouveau building decorated with stained glass windows and tiles and surmounted by a splendid dome, it is one of the most important markets in Europe where you can get lost among the stalls offering local products: the huge Valencian tomatoes, the red and delicious strawberries, the chufa, the tuber with which horchata is prepared, local oysters, fish, meats, salami and cheeses.
9) In the late morning, head towards Meliana, a village not far from València including the Huerta or Horta, one of the six orchards in Europe that rise on the edge of urban centers, which testifies to the great Valencian agricultural tradition. Here the obligatory stop is at the Barraca de Toni Montoliu, which in the typical local building offers typical cuisine such as paella, prepared with the products collected in its garden, after a walk on the typical horse-drawn cart among the orange groves.
10) We busy Saturday morning with a visit to the Bioparc, the zoo of València which extends over 10 hectares in a large area created by the deviation of the course of the Turia river. Here a piece of Africa has been reproduced, four areas where animals roam almost without barriers, which are there but invisible, wandering around their natural landscapes.
11) For lunch, move to the sea to enjoy a paella based on mariscos in one of the many places that overlook the very long and very wide beaches along which it is pleasant to walk enjoying the sun and the panorama that, with the tall palm trees rising towards the sky, remembers the Californian boulevards.
12) Finally, in the afternoon visit a museum! In València there are about thirty but having to choose, we recommend the Museum of Fine Arts, the largest art gallery in Spain after the Prado Museum where you can enter for free to admire, in addition to the Valencian artist Joaquin Sorolla’s paintings, the masterpieces of Velàsquez and Goya and the splendid altarpiece of “our” Pinturicchio.
One last extra tip: take the time to stroll through the streets and squares of València in the evening, when the darkness envelops the monuments as in an embrace to make them stand out even more in their beauty.