8 Things to Do in Valencia for First-Timers
Valencia is one of the Spain’s largest cities, with approximately half the population of Barcelona. Over the years it has earned an impressive reputation from an ever-increasing influx of travelers. It’s a beautiful city that mixes the old with the new. If architecture, beaches, museums, and long walks in the park are on your list, then hop aboard the dramatic scenic coastal train ride down south from Barcelona. Here are the best things to do in Valencia.
Things to do in Valencia
1. Shop in the Mercado Central
Valencia’s Central Market is a beautiful covered market that dates back to 1928. Inside you’ll find a wide range of fresh produce including meats, seafood, fruit, vegetables and various Spanish delicacies. There are also ready-prepared snacks and meals and some of the best coffee you’ll find in the city, so visit the market while you’re hungry.
Insider tip: If you’re after an alcoholic beverage, seek out the tapas bar. You can have a glass of wine and a few light snacks here while watching the passing crowds.
2. Stretch your legs in the Jardines del Turia
The Turia Gardens is one of the largest urban parks in all of Spain. You won’t see a park like it anywhere else in the country. It lies in the bed of a diverted river. While at times it can feel slightly eerie – especially when walking beneath one of the 18 different bridges – it’s a beautiful green space that’s perfect for a long walk, jog, or cycle.
Insider tip: The park is long and narrow, so walking its length can get tiring. Enter the park at the halfway point and combine it with a visit to the City of Arts & Sciences at the end, then return via bus.
3. Educate yourself at the City of Arts & Sciences
At the very end of the Turia Gardens you’ll find the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, or City of Arts & Sciences. This massive collection of modern buildings is inspiring and nice to explore from the outside. But head indoors and you’ll find an IMAX, planetarium, laserium, science museum, and even an opera house, among many other attractions.
Insider tip: If you’re interested in visiting more than one attraction, get a combination ticket from the City of Arts & Sciences website. It’ll save you money and give you access for up to three consecutive days.
4. Get the best views from Valencia Cathedral
Valencia’s famous cathedral was built over a mosque after the 1238 conquest. This mostly gothic church is rich in history. There are beautiful frescoes above the altar, and they also claim to have the cup from which Jesus Christ sipped during the last supper. While the latter claim is still widely disputed, it’s impossible to argue with the views that wait for you from the top of the bell tower.
Insider tip: Come prepared for a bit of a trek. There’s no elevator to the top, so you’ll have to climb 207 steps to reach it.
5. See some of Spain’s greatest artwork
The Museo de Bellas Artes, or Museum of Fine Arts, is widely regarded as one of Spain’s best art galleries. You’ll find impressive works from a range of Spanish artists, including Valencian painter Joaquín Sorolla. There’s also a collection of late medieval altarpieces.
Insider tip: Put the wallet away, because entry to the museum is free. It’s closed on Mondays, but open from 10am to 6pm every other day.
6. Tour La Lonja
Valencia is home to some of Spain’s most dramatic architecture, and La Lonja is one of the best examples of a civil Gothic building remaining in the world. This massive structure is beautiful from the outside, but truly comes to life within its walls. You’ll find courtyards, stunning pillars, and even a cathedral within the precinct.
Insider tip: Entrance to the building is just €2, but free on Sundays. Consider paying for the audio guide if you’d like information on the building and its surroundings.
7. Explore Plaza Ayuntamiento
Much of Valencia’s charm lies in the city’s decadent buildings. You’ll find several of these in and around Plaza Ayuntamiento. Look for the beautiful fountain in the middle, and walk the side roads if you want to do some shopping. One of the best things to do in Valencia is to simply take in the incredible atmosphere on foot.
Insider tip: The City Hall, one of Valencia’s most impressive buildings, is also on the square. It’s open for tours during the week. Be sure to visit the City Hall Balcony, museum, and the Crystal Room.
8. Catch some sun at the beach
Although Valencia’s city center is not actually on the coast, there are spectacular Blue Flag beaches just 15 minutes away from the city center. Head to Las Arenas, Malvarrosa, and El Cabañal if you’re looking for the most popular places to spend a summer’s day. There’s also the beautiful and wild El Saler beach just 6 miles away from the city center – perfect for long quiet walks.
Insider tip: El Cabanyal is one of the most accessible beaches in Valencia. You can reach it by taking the number 19 bus from Plaza del Ayuntamiento.
Valencia is a fascinating city like none other to visit on your Spanish rail journey. While many people come for the beaches and the architecture, a few days in the city will let you get beneath the surface of this unique destination. So make sure you put these things to do in Valencia on your list!