Valencia has a great vibe. It is not a big city but big enough to choose from a good gastronomic and cultural selection and enjoy the internationality of the place. And also, it has a beach!
I have recently moved to Valencia and would like to share a bit about this lovely place.
I am intending to spend more time here and step by step discover the different barrios (neighborhoods) and places. For now I’ll begin with a little overview which was ‘born’ when friends from London were visiting recently and I was lying in bed with a bad cold, writing down where they could go…
Since I live in the heart of the city, next to La Lonja and opposite the Mercado Central those two were the first two places on the list to be visited.
The Mercado Central (Central Market) is a beautiful and vibrant market hall and considered to be one of the oldest European markets still running as well as one of the biggest markets in Central Europe. This ‘jewel of pre-modernista architecture’ was built in 1914 and brings together nearly 400 small merchants. Most of the vendors sell food. It is a popular location for tourists and locals alike. The smells, noises and colors will make you feel inspired to cook your next meal. For me especially it was a grandiose experience when I visited the market with my friend – a local food academy owner who introduced me to her daily food suppliers as ‘the friend who just moved to Valencia, lives around the corner and will shop here daily’. Such pleasant chats we had between the measuring of veggies and chopping the fish.
Lonja de la Seda is a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture (build between 1482 and 1533) and a former Silk exchange.
La Lonja – declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO – was originally used for trading the precious fabric and has always been a center for commerce. Above all, the Trading Hall (Sala de Contratación) reflects the power and wealth of a major Mediterranean mercantile city in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Another 5 minutes walk from my place you can admire the beautiful Cathedral of Valencia which was consecrated in 1238 by the first bishop of Valencia after the Reconquista. The Valencian Gothic is the predominant style of this cathedral, although it also contains elements of other epochs. The cathedral contains numerous 15th-century paintings, some by local artists, others by artists from Rome engaged by the Valencian Pope Alexander VI. Also worth visiting is El Micalet – the bell tower of the Cathedral.
Right behind the Cathedral there is the Plaza de la Virgen and the Basilica de la Virgen. During Fallas the Valencianos build a 3 storey high statue of the Holy Mary just in front of the Basilica, made purely out of flowers; A feast for the eyes (and the nose).
For those who are interested in excavations, it is definitely worth visiting the Almoina – Archeological Center, right behind the Basilica.
Every Thursday at noon you can see the assembly of the Tribunal de las Aguas (Water Court) held on the Plaza de la Virgen right along with the bell ring of the Micalet. The Tribunal was recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Twenty-one centuries of history right at the heart of the city, and at a the doorstep of my new home…
You can stroll over the narrow streets of the Casco Antiguo (Historic Center) and see the most narrow building in Europe – La Estrecha, which is only 107cm wide. They say that the girl who lived in the house, when going to her first Holy Communion, had to get dressed on the street because she couldn’t pass through the door in her dress.
You can buy some souvenirs, chat with the friendly vendors in the cute little shops such as ‘Ham del Mercat’ in calle Mantas and try some local products such as Orujo, Vermouth, Cazalla and more.
Enjoy local tapas and little dishes freshly cooked in front of your eyes in places like Tasca Sorolla (former Bodega Sorolla) – a lovely little corner bar the size of a home kitchen. You basically sit on the street at a little counter looking into the bar/‘kitchen’, close enough to chat with the two friendly owners Joaquin and José. The two men met in a bar in Valencia after Joaquin came back from China and José from Chile. Both daydreaming of having a little bar they learned that there was a little corner bar just next door for sale. The decision was quick. The two men admit that they are new in the gastro-business but they are enjoying what they are doing and they seem to be doing it well! The blackboard lists only a couple of dishes but they are always fresh. Simple but so yummy! Believe me, I’ve tried them all. From pulpo, atún rojo, sashimi, sepia… to a simple tomato salad or a rice dish ‘à la chef’ (the cook’s own creation, called modestly ‘arroz’). When you are lucky you will get to be the guinea pig and be offered to try chef’s new creation before he decides if it makes it on to the blackboard the next day! Its always lovely to share a little chat with the duo while having lunch or dinner or just a drink ‘in between’.
I personally really like that bar and its owners; sometimes we stay late until they close, sharing stories from our travels and enjoying a last ‘chupito’ (shot) on the house.
But back to Tapas: Should you prefer to sit outside, there are numerous little squares where you can enjoy the sun and have some nice nibbles. I recommend for example ‚El Clot’ and ‚Tasca Hogan‚ La Coveta’ for simple, authentic tapas. Both in Plaza Redonda – a very cute little round ‚plaza’ with craft and souvenir shops.
One of my preferred tapas places is the Mercado de Tapineria – a creative space where gastronomy meets fashion, art and culture. A place of creative events, which I call ‘the art square’.
The tapas here are a bit fancier and presented in a more contemporary style. Their taste however can definitely compete with ‘grandma’s home made tapas’.
Also a few meters away from my place heading South and worth having a look at is the Plaza del Ayuntamiento with the old Post Office building and a bit further down the Plaza de Toros just next to the beautiful historic building of the Estación del Norte (North Station).
North from my place, on the way to my yoga & meditation place – the ‚Centro Budista Valencia’ I pass underneath the Torres de Serrano to traverse the ancient riverbed which is now converted into a park – the Rio Turia.
‚The Serrano Towers’ is one of the twelve gates that formed part of the ancient city wall, the Muralla Cristiana (Christian Wall). It was built in Gothic style at the end of the 14th century and it’s an important landmark and one of the best preserved monuments in Valencia. From the 16th to 19th century the Torres were used as a prison for nobles. Together with the Torres de Quart and some archeological remains and ruins like Puerta de los Judios they are the only remaining parts of the ancient wall (pulled down in 1865).
The Rio Turia is, as I mentioned before, a park constructed in a former stream bed and it (almost) encircles the old town of Valencia. It goes all the way from the Biopark (former Zoo of Valencia) to the Cuidad de las Ciencias.
I love this park. Its very picturesque and large enough for everyone who wants to be active – no matter if you want to do your daily jogging, play baseball, football, rugby, ride a bike, practice yoga or just take a stroll with your darling, your kids or your dog.. Everyone finds his place in this green oasis in the middle of the city.
I recommend a walk through the Rio from the city center to the Cuidad de las Artes y de las Ciencias.
The City of the Arts and Sciences is a complex of modern buildings consisting of a Sciences Museum, L’Hemispheric (IMEX cinema, planetarium and laserium), L’Oceanographic (an outdoor oceanographic park), L’Agora (a converted plaza where concerts and sport events are held), El Palau de les Arts Reina Sopia (an opera house and performing art center), L’Umbracle (a landscaped walk with plants indigenous to Valencia and an outdoor Sculpture Gallery) and finally El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or (a modern and elegant suspension bridge). The last project which has been put on hold is the construction of 3 Skyscrapers – the Torres de Valencia.
Even if you don’t intend to visit the individual venues, you should go and have a look at the ‚City’ itself and have a little walk thought the area. It is a visual landmark with a beautiful and interesting architecture.
You can extend your walk from the Cuidad de las Ciencias and go past the Harbour (el Puerto) all the way to the beach. Even outside of the summer season the Playa de la Malvarrosa offers you a variety of restaurants and bars all along the promenade. As a nice ‚price’ for your long walk you can enjoy your Gin & Tonic facing the sea.
If you prefer to go out in the city center ‚el barrio del Carmen’ offers you all you need in terms of food and nightclubs.
Another two addresses for a restaurant night followed by ‘copas’ (drinks/cocktails) would be the area of ‚Russafa’ (trendy) and ‘Canovas‘ (chic). I personally love Canovas. It reminds me of Paris, with the tree alleys, the terraces and street corner restaurants.
There will be a separate blog post dedicated to the gastronomic offerings in Valencia but just to give you a few personal tips:
– Chez Lyon (Plaza del Ayuntamiento): french, prepared with love to detail, not expensive and very tasty. my recommendation is the steak tartar
– i.O. (Carmen): trendy, girly, modern yummy food creations
– Valen&Cia (Colón): creative and tasty food, nice ambiance, a bit more expensive though
– San Tommaso (Historic Center): cosy atmosphere and tasty Italian dishes. Good choice of different pastas and pizzas
– MioBio (Russafa): Organic and vegan, restaurant, market and take away. Delicious healthy dished by kg. during lunch time. Dinner à la carte
– La Salita (Cuitat Jardi): innovative and delicious dishes. Outstanding presentation.
– La Canalla Bistrot (Canovas/Russafa): a Ricardo Camarena restaurant, fashionable place, fancy kind of tapas
Should you want to go shopping in Valencia ‚Colón’ is the area you are looking for.
And of course there is a great number of museums and art galleries to explore…
PS: don’t forget to drink the ‚trendy’ GinTonic (I recommend to try the local Gin VLC)