Historical monuments, futuristic buildings and paradisical beaches form the landscape of Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city. Overlooking the Mediterranean sea, this coastal city is renowned for its paella, but there’s much more to sample here.
You can wander through its charming old town, admire the churchs’ dazzling interiors or spend days visiting monuments and museums that recall its rich aristocratic past.
Join us as we explore the best things to do in Valencia in this three-day itinerary. We’ve covered all the main attractions, but also left recommendations of where to eat and where to stay, so you can make the most of your visit.
Even if you’re not catching a train in Valencia, you should stop by the Nord Railway station. Valencian architect Demetrio Ribes designed this stunning Art Nouveau building in the early 1900s. It follows the Vienna Secession movement, famous for combining straight lines with curved shapes. Outside, the façade stands out with its yellow walls and Valencian elements, including oranges, flowers and other agricultural motifs. The interior is equally impressive, with tile-covered rooms and the iron nave above the rails.
From the station, you can walk straight to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. It’s the largest square in the city, surrounded by a series of historical buildings. These include the city hall and the central post office. You’ll also find a few flower stalls and a fountain that lits up at night. The square is always lively, but especially during the Fallas festival when the crowds gather here to see the burning of the last mascot.
Our tour continues at Mercado Central, a traditional food market occupying a striking Modernist building. With 8,000 square metres, it has stalls spread across two floors. The interior combines a variety of materials, including iron, tiles, and stained glass windows. Visitors can enjoy more than 1,000 stalls, from fresh fruit and vegetables to spices and seafood. Make sure to also check the Central Bar, where you can sample tapas and sandwiches made with local ingredients.
Just next to the market is the Església de Sant Joan del Mercat. This church occupied the site of a former mosque in the 13th century. However, it had to be reconstructed after two fires damaged it in the 14th and 16th centuries. The façade you see today is mostly Baroque and dates from the 1700s. The statue of the Virgen del Rosario stands out alongside the clock tower and the weathervane, nicknamed the bird of San Juan.
La Lonja de la Seda, or simply La Lonja, is one of the most remarkable sites in Valencia. This civil gothic monument has been a Unesco site since 1996. The building was once used for silk trading, hence the name Silk Exchange, but now it’s open to all visitors. Valencian architect Pere Compte led the construction of La Lonja between 1482 and 1492, and after his death, one of his pupils took over. The building is mainly Gothic, but it does have a few Renaissance elements. Its fortress-style walls make it resemble a medieval castle, but it’s worth stepping inside to see the grand twisted columns of the Sala de Contratación or wander through the orange-tree patio.
The next stop is the city’s cathedral. This Gothic building and its bell tower have become an iconic symbol of Valencia. Construction began in the 13th century, but the church was only completed in the 17th century. As a result, it features a variety of architectural styles alongside its original Gothic elements. Outside, you can capture the Puerta del Palau with its Romanesque and Mudéjar features.
In the interior, don’t miss the Capilla del Santo Cáliz, a small ornate chapel featuring the 12 apostles. Also inside is the infamous Holy Grail, a cup dating back to the 1st century A.D. said to have been used during the Last Supper. Before you leave, make sure to climb up the bell tower, known as El Micalet, for a panoramic view of the city.
Facing the back of the cathedral is the Plaza de la Virgen. This picturesque square was once the site of a Roman forum. Today it’s home to lively cafés and striking buildings such as the Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados and the Generalitat Palace, the headquarters of the Valencia government. In the middle of the square is a water fountain that represents the Turia river. Every Thursday around noon, you can witness the Water Tribunal in front of the cathedral’s Puerta de los Apóstoles. Dating back to the medieval era, it’s Europe’s oldest judicial institution and a Unesco Cultural Heritage.
Spend the afternoon exploring the Barrio del Carmen, a neighbourhood that was once enclosed by medieval walls. Only a few things remain from that era, like the Serranos and Quart Towers. Beyond these two gates, visitors will encounter a maze of cobbled streets, churches and charming squares. Among these are Plaza del Carmen, Plaza del Árbol and Plaza del Tossal which comes alive at night.
Don't miss the Portal de la Valldigna, a 15th-century arch that once served as the entrance to the Arab quarter. Alongside these historical sites, the neighbourhood is also full of street art and contemporary museums, like the MUVIM or the IVAM.
One of the first Christian churches in Valencia, the Iglesia de San Nicolás dates back to 1242. Through the years, it has gone through several changes. This resulted in a mix of elements, from its Gothic vaulting to the Renaissance altarpieces. The highlight, however, is the Baroque fresco paintings adorning the ceilings. You can’t help but marvel at the ostentatious design depicting scenes from the life of San Nicolás de Bari and San Pedro Mártir.
From the church, take a walk down to Plaza de la Reina. Still within the old town, this picturesque square is lined with restaurants and cafés where you can sample horchata, like Horchatería Santa Catalina. From here, you can spot the cathedral and its iconic tower once again. Close by is the Plaza Santa Catalina, home to the Gothic-style church, Iglesia de Santa Catalina.
Housed inside an 18th-century palace, you’ll find the Museo Nacional de Cerámica. This national museum features one of Spain’s largest ceramic collections. It ranges from the 18th century to the modern era. Artist and historian Manuel González Marti donated most of the pieces on display, including works by Picasso. The building itself also stands out with its Baroque features.
Valencia is home to many squares, but Plaza Redonda is, without a doubt, the most unique. The name Redonda comes from its circular structure, designed by Salvador Escrig Melchor in 1840. In 2012 the square was restored, and now it's a popular tourist attraction. Four streets converge into this plaza surrounded by residential buildings. Here you’ll find a series of tapas bars and craft shops and a central fountain, from which you can spot the tower of Santa Catalina. Nearby is the Plaza Lope de Vega. It’s here you’ll find one of the world’s narrowest buildings, which is little more than one metre wide.
Begin your second day in Valencia exploring the Turia gardens. It’s one of the largest urban parks in Spain, stretching for nine kilometres. There are a series of footpaths, bridges, cafés and sports areas, perfect for cycling and running. The park was created in the 20th century on the riverbed of the Turia. Following a devastating flood in 1957, the river course got diverted, leaving this massive land empty. After that, landscapists and urban planners came together to recreate the new scenery you see today, featuring fountains, rose beds and orange trees. The park is also home to a series of other attractions, including the concert hall, Palau de la Música, and the City of Arts and Sciences, which we’ll get to soon.
Before heading to the City of Arts and Sciences, take a detour to visit some of the city’s markets. In the Eixample district, you’ll find the Mercado de Colón, established in 1916. Inside, you can sample a series of traditional treats like horchata, visit restaurants or attend culinary events. The original Art Nouveau structure was envisaged by architect Francisco Mora Berenguer, with some elements recalling Gaudí’s designs. In 2003 the space went through a renovation which added even more shops.
Close to Eixample is the neighbourhood of Ruzafa. In recent years, this area has become a magnet for the local artsy crowd. It's home to indie art galleries, vintage shops and many spots for tapas and drinks. While you’re here, don’t miss a visit to the Mercado de Ruzafa, a traditional food market selling fresh produce and charcuterie.
Contrasting against Valencia’s historical sites is the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. Designed by architects Félix Candela and Santiago Calatrava, this large complex features six attractions, each with distinct shapes and structures. There’s the Umbracle, a walkway lined with trees, the Hemisfèric which works as a planetarium and an IMAX cinema, and the Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe, an interactive science museum. The Reina Sofia Palace of the Arts welcomes many opera stagings, while the Ágora is a multipurpose space hosting several events. Finally, there’s the Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Spain. It’s easy to spot the building with its curvy white structure and mirror façades. There are nearly 500 marine species here, from dolphins to sea lions and sharks. If you don’t want to pay an entry fee, you can stroll through the gardens and admire the architecture as you go along.
In the afternoon, you can hop on a bus or cycle to one of Valencia’s beaches. The closest one to the centre is Playa del Cabanyal. From here, you can walk along the coast to discover even more beaches, like Malvarrosa and Patacona. Lining the promenade, you’ll find a series of restaurants and bars where you can stop for a drink or a taste of paella.
End the evening at the city’s marina, admiring the sea views and the sailing boats from one of its terrace bars. Many boat trips depart from here, including the ferry to Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca. Don’t miss the Edificio del Reloj with its stunning modernist façade.
After two days of busy sightseeing, take it easy this morning by exploring some of the city’s parks and gardens. The first stop is the Monforte Garden. Between the trees and decorative shrubs, you’ll find picturesque walkways, statues and water fountains. In 1849, the Marquis of San Juan purchased this property and hired architect Sebastián Monleón Estellés to design the gardens, which have remained pretty much the same since then. It is even more beautiful in spring when the bougainvillaeas are in bloom. Inside the park, there’s also a rococo-style mansion.
Once part of the Royal Palace grounds, these gardens are the perfect spot for a stroll in Valencia. Locals also know it as Los Viveros as the space used to house a tree nursery. Today, you’ll find a charming landscape made of palm trees, spiral topiaries, sculptures and fountains. The park also gives access to the Museum of Natural Sciences and the Museum of Fine Arts. In the summer, it comes alive with events, including concerts and the city’s book fair.
While you’re in Jardines del Real, it’s worth visiting the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the largest art galleries in Spain. Before it became a museum in 1946, this Baroque-style building had several purposes, from college to military academy and charity centre. Visitors today can marvel at the fine art collection inside, ranging from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Most of the works are by Valencian artists, such as Joaquín Sorolla, Vicente López and Juan de Joanes. There are also other artists on display, including famous figures like Goya, Velázquez and Van Dyck. Don’t miss the courtyard of the Vich ambassador, a charming courtyard dating back to the 16th century.
From the museum, you can either walk or get the bus to Cabecera Park. There are several attractions here, including an open-air auditorium and a lake with rental boats. It's also home to the Bioparc, the city’s zoo. Here you’ll find nearly 250 animal species, mostly from Africa, including elephants, rhinos, hippopotamuses and ostriches.
You can spend the afternoon relaxing by one of the city beaches again or, if you’re up to, catch a bus to the Albufera Natural Park. Between woodlands and paddy fields, this feels like a retreat from the city. If you want to try paella straight from the source, make sure to visit the town of El Palmar. After that, you can follow one of the many walking trails or rent a boat and sail through the large lake. There are also a few beaches along the nearby coast, like the Playa De La Devesa. It’s worth staying until sunset to enjoy some of the best views in Valencia.
Valencia is the ideal destination for families. There are many child-friendly activities in the city, with plenty of outdoor alternatives. In the summer, the beach is an obvious choice. From the nearby beaches of Patacona and Malvarrossa to the ones further out like El Saler.
You can spend days exploring the city’s parks, most of which feature at least one playground. Don’t miss Gulliver Park, with its slides and tunnels made around a giant statue of Gulliver.
Kids will also love Bioparc, a large savannah-like zoo within the Cabecera park.
You can rent pedalos around the park’s lake or canoes near the City of Arts and Sciences. It’s around here that you’ll find the Oceanogràfic. In this aquarium, kids can spot a variety of species, including dolphins, penguins and sharks. There’s also an interactive museum and an IMAX theatre nearby.
Lego fans might prefer a visit to the Lego Fun Factory inside the Aqua Shopping Center. The 250-metre space has separate areas for young and older kids.
Overall, the city is pretty flat, so you can walk pretty much anywhere or rent a bike and cycle through the parks and promenades.
Many dishes in Valencia revolve around rice. After all, this is the birthplace of paella. You can find this dish all over the city, but especially along the waterfront. Other famous rice meals include the arros al forn, an oven rice dish mixed with sausages, potatoes, tomatoes and chickpeas. For a sweet treat, try the fartons, a sponge cake made with milk, sugar and eggs.
There are also traditional drinks such as aqua de Valencia, a cocktail made with orange juice, vodka, gin and cava, and the horchata, a drink resembling milk made out of tiger nuts. Local markets, paella restaurants and fine dining spots, below are the best places to eat in Valencia:
Mercado Central: For a sample of Valencia’s cuisine, make sure to visit Mercado Central. This local food market houses a variety of stalls selling anything from cured ham to fresh seafood and baked goods. Beyond the fresh produce, there’s also a bar run by chef Ricard Camarena, serving delicious tapas, such as the buñuelos de bacalao (codfish cakes).
The best time to visit Valencia is during spring, between April and May. You can still enjoy much of the warm climate, but with fewer crowds than in the summer. Any time between spring and summer is great for a swim. These are also the seasons of many local festivals, so you can time your visit according to that too. The weather is pretty consistent all year round, so it’s hard to go wrong. In winter, some places might close earlier, but you’ll also find fewer tourists. February is the ideal time to catch the almond and orange trees in bloom.
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