It is mid-October, exams are stressing you out and your summer memories are so distant that you almost can’t visualize them anymore. Sun is still shining in Amsterdam, but in a few days you may be biking in the rain, struggling with 50kph winds. Yes, you need a break before Christmas. And yes, you definitely need to take it in a sunny place. Valencia, with its mild winters and almost guaranteed blue skies, may be the right destination for a weekend away. Located on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula, the third largest city of Spain (after Madrid and Barcelona) is a stunning mixture of European culture and Mediterranean vibes. Here are five reasons why you should immediately plan your escape from that onerous study/work routine and catch a flight to the South (direct connections from Amsterdam are available).
Eat tapas at Mercado Central
Ideally located in one of the most central and crowded squares of the city, Mercado Central (Central Market) is the perfect spot for a late breakfast or lunch (lunch is around 2 p.m. in Spain, so think of adapting your hunger needs). In this beautiful Art Nouveau building, locals buy their groceries and tourists are caught by a fascinating multitude of tastes and smells. Grab a Turia (the local beer) and try one of the typical Valencian tapas styles: esgarraet (narrow strips of baked red pepper and salt cod, seasoned with olive oil and garlic), patatas bravas (roasted potatoes under spicy red garlic sauce), or grilled sepias (cuttlefish).
Walk along Turia Park
This 7-km-long park, situated in the former riverbed of the river Turia, crosses the city and separates the old city center from the modern one. After a catastrophic flood in 1957, the river was drained and rerouted, the old riverbed turned into a sunken urban park. Today, Turia Park (in Spanish, Jardínes del Turia) is one of Spain’s largest urban parks, offering such a surprising variety of landscapes that each section will make you feel like you’re entering into a new park. Go there for a run, a yoga class or a skate session.
Visit the City of Arts and Sciences
This cultural and architectural complex, designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava and Madrid-born Félix Candela, is one of the most important destinations of the city. Inaugurated in 1996, it hosts a science museum, an opera house, a planetarium and an oceanographic park. Built in the shape of a human eye and known as ‘the eye of knowledge’, the complex’s planetarium (‘Hemisfèric’) also houses an IMAX theatre and a laser light show. Get lost among these futuristic buildings: a feast for the eyes.
Hang out at Barrio del Carmen
Visit this neighborhood (barrio in Spanish) in the daylight to admire its historical magnificence, colorful graffiti and peaceful convents. Among those, the Carmen convent (from where the neighborhood derives its name) is now a museum, hosting contemporary art and photography exhibitions. Come back at the sunset, when the barrio changes its face and becomes one of the most lively spots of the city, the place to go for a drink (or two). Try Café Sant Jaume and its endless selection of spirits.
Relax at la Malvarrosa beach
Finally, pay a visit to the beach, which is within handy walking distance from the city center. Lay your towel as close as possible to the Mediterranean. Lie back on it after a hard day’s sightseeing. What else?