Valencia is the third largest city in Spain and one of the most varied. Set on the Mediterranean coast, it has seen Romans, Moors and others roll in, take over and leave -- but not without leaving significant influences behind. While Valencia may not have achieved the cultural stature of Barcelona or the metropolitan dominance of Madrid, it is slowly emerging among travelers in the know as a progressive place with the perfect mix of provincial charm and trendy urban atmosphere.
Dining and Shopping
Valencia, like any Spanish city, puts its own spin on paella. The difference: the dish originated here. You can sample an array of authentic versions, which often feature rabbit or chicken, along Avenida Neptuno. Try La Pepica (Hemingway's favorite) and La Rosa.
When you're strolling around the city, keep your eyes open for a place to stop for a snack of horchata and fartons. Horchata is a creamy drink made from tiger nuts and fartons are a finger-shaped pastry perfect for dipping in your horchata.
If you're in the mood for some postprandial nightlife, make your way to Barrio del Carmen, an old neighborhood characterized by mazelike brick lanes and baroque buildings. The area is full of bars, clubs and cafes and is popular with the city's modern bohemian crowd. A lot of the venues have music and you're also likely to chance upon flamenco dancers in the street and old men performing traditional tunes on their faithful guitars.
The Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias, once a historic center, has been transformed into a futuristic cultural complex and shopping hub, where bars, boutiques, restaurants, galleries and museums share space in the space-age buildings. The architecture here is jawdropping.
If you're looking for affordable local products and thousands of food stalls, the place to go is the Mercado Central in Rio Turia, a vibrant open market that's at its most lively on Sundays and holidays.
Valencia is home to a lot of cathedrals and historical sites established over the city's diverse lifespan. Today many are museums and galleries. Some of the most noteworthy are the 15th-century Gothic Lonja, the Palau de la Generalitat and the tower of the Santa Catalina Church. If you want to take in the city from above, hike up the 207 steps to the top of Miguelete Tower in the Valencia Cathedral.
Arts and crafts lovers should add the Gonzalez Marti National Ceramics Museum to their itinerary. Located in the Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas, it has marvelous displays of ceramics. Appreciators of modern art should spend a few hours at the remarkable IVAM, the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno.
If you're looking for a pleasant way to relax, one of Valencia's loveliest things to do is a walk through the Turia River Bed Gardens, a former riverbed that's been converted into a wonderful 9-kilometer-long park flowing through the city center. If you're lucky, you might catch one of the regular concerts featured here.
Calle San Vincente N 28
Plaza Alquería De La Culla, 9-10, 46910 Alfafar, Spain