Born and raised in Valencia, I was (as many locals are to their hometown) unaware of the uniqueness of the city where I came from. After moving from Valencia to Amsterdam about two years ago, I got to experience the city from an almost tourists point of view whenever I went back, and enjoyed things that I once took for granted. Call me nostalgic, call me bias, but there is something about Valencia that just lingers on.
Culturally speaking, Valencia distinguishes itself from the rest of Spain in many aspects. Whilst the city has modernized throughout the years, it’s traditions have remained almost intact, and free from any try-hard tourist pleaser spectacles.
Enough said about how much I love Valencia. Let me start showing you the real reasons why I do:
First of all, I must proudly inform you all that the popular Spanish dish, Paella, originates in Valencia, making it the best place in Spain to try out what the hype is all about. The original recipe contains chicken and rabbit, but you will also be able to find a varied selection of choices, going from seafood paella to even vegetarian options. The dish was born thanks to a mix of two previous cultures in Spain: the Romans, who brought the special pan which we call…well, Paella pan (0 points for originality, yes), and the Arabs, who brought rice to the region.
Disclaimer: Never include peas! Simply atrocious.
A popular cocktail you will be able to find around the city is “Agua de Valencia” which translates into Valencian water. The drink is famous for how dangerously quickly it can get you drunk, as you won’t even taste the alcohol due to the sweetness of the oranges. Interested? Feel free to try to make the drink, all you will need is Cava or Champagne, orange juice (preferably with Valencian oranges, duh), gin, and vodka. Bye sangría, welcome agua de Valencia!
If you have been to Valencia, or anywhere in Spain, you are well aware that this food section could go on forever. To make it short, I’ll introduce you to the last dish of the article, which also happens to be one of my favourites, “Horchata and Fartons”. Horchata is a local soft drink made out of “chufa” which is a root originally from Egypt, and fartons is a soft, sweet, sugar coated bread. The combination of the two will be unlike anything you have tried before. If you decide to give it a try someday, I recommend you lose your Horchata-virginity in “Santa Catalina”, a famous horchateria in “Plaza de La Reina”.
The Historic City Centre
With more than 2000 years of history and founded in 138BC (you know, no biggie), the city centre has been a home for the Romans, Visigoths and Muslims throughout the centuries. All this makes Valencia have one of the biggest historical city centres in Europe, where you can see the different architectural styles blend together. One of my favorite spots is “La Plaza de la Virgen”, which translates into “The Virgin Square”, which lies on top of what once was a roman temple, and then a mosque. Around the corner, you will also find the beautiful “Plaza de la Reina”. The most beautiful sights around here are “El miguelete” a tower you can go up (watch out, 207 steps) and see the whole city from a bird’s point of view, the “San Nicolas Church”, also known as the valencian sixteenth chapel, and the central market of valencia, where you can buy local products and be blown away by it’s scenery.
Besides the multiple historic squares, you will also find neighbourhoods around the area too stroll around and enjoy the terraces from bars, local shops and street art. My favourite two areas in the centre are “El Carmen” and “Ruzafa”. You can find cheap drinks in ambiented bars, street musicians, and a lot of food options for whatever your appetite calls for. If you want to try to be more of a local, there is the beer “Turia” to try, and make sure to keep an eye out for famous street artists such as “David de limon” whose graffiti can be found all around the city.
Even though the port of Valencia has some fun facts such as being the 5th biggest one in Europe, or the host of the America’s cup, what you must know from the port is a different factor: The night scene. Around the port, you can find multiple premises to go out, have a drink or smoke shisha, and enjoy a night with your friends. Some places can be a bit more expensive than the rest of the city, so you should keep an eye out for this. You can also find night clubs such as Akuarela, next to the beach, or Marina Beach, where you can also just have a drink or even lunch and dinner.
There is an endless list of things I would like to highlight about Valencia, but unfortunately (well, fortunately for you) I can’t write on forever. To wrap up this tribute to my beloved Valencia, I would also like to point out other strengths that the city has and you should take into account if you’ll choose this destination as the first thing in your bucket list once quarantine is over *wink wink*.
Firstly, “Fallas”. Come on, did you really think I would skip our most loved local party? For those who don’t know, Fallas takes place in March of every year (Besides this year – way to go, COVID-19!) and to sum it up, it revolves around building huge artwork models for a whole year, and then burning it down. Yep. Just like that. It is a very extensive party, so if you are interested in learning more about it, I recommend you give this article a read to further understand.
Another very much adored place in Valencia; our beaches. Personally, my favourite activity on the beach is not sunbathing, swimming or playing volleyball, but rather watching the tourists get redder and redder – something we call “to get gamba (shrimp)” in spanish. I highly recommend it!
The city of Arts and Sciences designed by architect Calatrava is a cultural complex at the end of the Turia gardens. The complex contains 7 different buildings, including an opera house, a planetarium and a science museum. It is now a landmark of the city and a cultural epicentre. I would recommend visiting it after a nice walk around the Turia gardens!
Finally, I’d like to point out the beautiful ceramics Valencia has distributed throughout the city and into the Ceramics museum, which if you are an art enthuthiast you will also very much enjoy. As well, the music that surrounds the city. There are multiple instrumental groups spread throughout the city, as well as the musicians in the streets, the Berklee students and bars which have live music such as Radio City. All of them make Valencia the musical city that it is, also known as the Spanish Vienna.