From sightseeing in the historic city centre, to seeking out the best views, visiting the beach and tracking down the best food, these are the best things to do in Valencia, Spain.
What’s the best way to plan the ultimate trip to Valencia? RESEARCH! Before I jetted off on my recent trip, I spent a lot of time looking up the key sights, asking you guys on Instagram and Twitter for recommendations, and adding little stars to my Google Map of the city, with all the places I wanted to visit.
BUT, I was also keen to leave time to wander the streets and explore with my eyes. Something I did each day, and loved.
The masterplan was the return home and be able to put together an incredible guide packed full of awesome things to do in Valencia. Everything from historic landmarks and key sights, to off-the-beaten-track hidden gems. You can’t visit the city without seeing the ancient cathedral, but it could be easy to miss some of the eclectic street art that is tucked away in neighbourhoods a short walk away.
So time to put pen to paper, or at least tap away on my keyboard, and share all the places I loved, the spots you shouldn’t miss, and a few thoughts on how to make the most of your city break in Valencia. I’ve divided this list into general sightseeing and foodie experiences, as I feel the food needs a special mention!
Top Things To Do In Valencia, Spain
General Sightseeing In Valencia
Visit Valencia Cathedral and El Miguelete
Valencia’s impressive cathedral is the most prominent landmark in the old town. Its origins go back to the 13th Century, but you’ll find an interesting mix of architecture added at various times in history, mostly between 13th – 15th Centuries.
The Cathedral’s interior is interesting too, and features a famous painting by Goya and a chalice known as the Santo Caliz, which is said to be the famous Holy Grail. Tickets to enter inside Valencia Cathedral cost 7€ but you do get a discount with the Valencia Tourist Card.
The highlight for me was the climb up the 167 ft baroque bell tower known as El Miguelete. It costs 2€ for a ticket, and isn’t for the faint hearted as you’ll need to climb 207 steps to reach the top. The views are well worth it though, and along with Torres De Serranos, I’d rate this as the place with best view in Valencia.
Explore Jardín del Turia
A lot of people recommended I visit the Turia Gardens during my trip to Valencia, and when I saw how vast they were, I could see that wouldn’t be a problem! They stretch a whopping 9 km through the city, and include lots of areas of green space, sports pitches, footpaths and landscaped gardens.
I visited different areas of the gardens throughout my trip. When I walked under a huge bridge, which looked rather out of place crossing a park, I had to find out more. It turns out that the history of these gardens is a fascinating one! In the 1950s, after serious flooding, the river that once flowed through the city was diverted, leaving this huge area behind. Gradually the gardens were developed by architects, landscape gardeners and urban planners, who created several areas each with their own different characteristics.
If you’re happy on two wheels, I’d recommend going on a bike tour, or hiring a bike to explore the gardens. From palm trees and ponds to fountains, playgrounds and exquisite bridges, there’s plenty to see!
Take your kids to Parque Gulliver
Telling you about the Jardín del Turia leads me nicely onto this bizarre spot – a large playground created around a 70m long figure of Gulliver from Gulliver’s Travels. In the book, Gulliver is taken captive by miniature people, a little like the way the kids run all over the figure in this innovative playground!
This is one of the best things to do in Valencia with kids.… there are slides, climbing frames, ropes, stairs, nets and more. It’s perfect for your little ones!
Check out Valencia’s street art
I’d heard there was some pretty impressive street art in Valencia, but was amazed by how colourful and creative it was. There are huge murals dotted around the city, with the highest concentration being in the El Carmen district, just north of the historical centre. It’s the area I chose to stay in on my trip, and I loved exploring the streets close by.
Some of the most famous works are by Hyuro, an Argentinian who moved to Valencia 15 years ago. Plus, there are some interesting political pieces by Escif (sometimes referred to as the ‘Spanish Banksy’). For me though, I loved just wandering, taking in the colours and designs and trying to figure out what the hell some of them were about!
Take yourself on your own Valencia street art tour by visiting Plaça del Tossal, Carrer d’En Gordo and walking own Calle de Caballeros, Carrer de Llíria and Carrer del Marqués de Caro.
Explore Valencia’s City of the Arts and Sciences
I’d seen a lot of images of the Ciudad de les Artes y Les Ciences before visiting Valencia, and thought the whole complex of modern architecture looked incredible. The buildings are reminiscent of something from a Star Wars movie, or perhaps a part of Sydney Opera House.
There are several cultural and tourist attractions here, including the Palau de les Artes (a huge concert venue), the city’s science museum, Hemisferic (IMAX cinema – more on that below!), Umbracle (gardens) and Oceanografic (largest aquarium in Europe).
What to do in Valencia with kids? I’d recommend taking them to the Science Museum. I went one afternoon and thought it was great. There were exhibitions dedicated to space, brains, oceans and more, including plenty of interactive elements for children to enjoy. The building is spectacular to wander around too.
I chose not to visit the Oceanografic, despite it being one of the most popular tourist attractions in Valencia. I tend to steer clear of animal attractions, particularly ones involving animal displays and shows.
I know many zoos and aquariums do positive work in terms of research and conservation, but this aquarium has dolphins and beluga whales in captivity. There are dolphin ‘shows’ and I read some heart breaking reviews on TripAdvisor about the beluga whales in small tanks. For me, it was an easy decision not to go, but I know many people will want to visit, so I felt I should mention it!
Wander through L’Umbracle
Part of the Ciudad de les Artes y Les Ciences, this is a covered walkway filled with gardens. Unlike most of the places in this modern complex, L’Umbracle is free. The structure is interesting, and feels a bit like a greenhouse as you walk through. Inside are plants and vegetation from Valencia and beyond, which change according to the season. It felt like a lovely place of calm within a busy city.
If you’re looking for things to do in Valencia at night, this is also one of the city’s coolest night spots too. L’Umbracle Terrazza is a nightclub that’s open in the summer months set inside the gardens. Looks like a lovely place for a drink!
Watch a movie on one of the biggest screens in the world at Hemisferic
Also a part of the Ciudad de les Artes y Les Ciences, Hemisferic is home to a unique 900m spherical cinema. On a rainy day in Valencia, I booked tickets to watch a film all about volcanoes, brought to life like never before, on that gigantic screen.
Rather than sitting down to face the front, the seats are tilted so you lie back at an angle to take in the vast screen. It’s a cool experience, and was a great option when a rare day of rain descended on the city.
Go on a walking tour of Valencia
As I really wanted to learn more about the city during my visit, I booked onto a three hour walking tour of Valencia. My tour guide was a local, and showed me lots of things I would have totally missed otherwise. While it was great to learn more about the city’s history, with stops at landmarks including Valencia Cathedral, La Lonja de la Seda and Mercado Central, there were plenty of other spots too, which had fascinating stories.
Spend a day at the beach
Valencia is one of those cities which offers the best of both worlds – buzzy city and relaxing beach. Malvarrosa Beach is Valencia’s main beach, and it’s easily reachable by public transport. I hopped on a tram to get there, and then caught a bus back. The journey took around 20 minutes, so it really is a great spot to escape to if you want to experience a different side to Valencia.
I went for a long walk along the promenade, looking at the little cafes and seafood restaurants lining the sand. I walked north to the next beach too, and enjoyed watching lots of surfers and paddle boarders riding the waves.
There’s a port area at one end, where you’ll find a few ugly bits of machinery along with cruise ships. That part is also home to several upmarket restaurants and trendy hangout, Marina Beach Club. If you get hungry, this area is THE place in Valencia for paella, with restaurants like La Pepica, particularly famous for their enormous rice dishes.
Check out the chandeliers in Valencia City Hall
The home of Valencia City Council, I’d have had no idea you could wander into this building if it hadn’t been for the tour guide on my walking tour of Valencia. The interiors are stunning, with elaborate décor, a sweeping marble staircase and a room dotted with portraits of Valencia’s most important figures.
I thought the ‘crystal room’ was the most impressive, with its ornate chandeliers. I’d also recommend walking out onto the balcony that overlooks the main plaza. During Valencia’s biggest festival, Las Fallas, this is the prime viewing spot for all of the action.
Relax at a beach club in Valencia
If you’re visiting Valencia on holiday and fancy relaxing in plush surroundings for the day, head to Marina Beach Club. Located next to the port, at the far end of Malvarrosa Beach, the beach club has a restaurant, bar, sun loungers and swimming pool. There are DJ sets during high season, and it’s as much a place to be seen as to relax.
Check out the interiors of Valencia’s train station
You might be surprised to hear that a visit to Valencia’s train station is on a list of the best things to do in Valencia! Well the surprises continue as when you arrive you’ll see the station’s name is Estació Nord, despite the fact it’s located towards just south of the centre of the city! Mystery solved – it’s actually named after the company who won the tender to build the station in the early 1900s.
While the exterior is pretty, the interior is even more spectacular, with detailed stories on the walls created out of mosaic tiles, known as trencadis (from the word for broken). They show the ladies of Albufera, the rice paddies and other things of cultural significance to Valencia.
Channel your inner history buff at La Lonja de la Seda
One of the most popular Valencia attractions is the city’s famous silk exchange, which dates back to 1492. If you’re keen on history, this is a sight not to miss.
I visited as part of a walking tour of Valencia, and was amazed by the beautiful garden flanked by orange trees, and the impressive Sala de Contratación – the room where important deals once took place. The room features several columns, hanging candelabras and ornate decorations, so it’s easy to understand why this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Climb up Torres de Serranos for one of the best views of Valencia
One of the best-preserved monuments in Valencia, Torres de Serranos, was one of 12 gates built towards the end of the 14th century as part of the city’s defence structure. Once upon a time, these gates surrounded the city, fortified by an old city wall. These days, only two remain – this one to the north of the city, and Torres de Quart to the west.
I consider a visit to Torres de Serranos as is one of the top things to do in Valencia. While I enjoyed the views from the top of El Miguelete (Valencia Cathedral’s bell tower), I actually preferred the view from this gate. There was something special about being able to see the Turia Gardens in one direction and the historic city in the other. I also loved the many levels you could get to.
READ MORE: Where to go for the best view of Valencia
Visit some quirky spots in Valencia city centre
These next two are really close to each other so I’ve grouped them together. La Estrecha in Plaça de Lope de Vega is Valencia’s narrowest building. When you see it, it’s hard to believe it was ever one property as it’s so teeny. Rumour has it, one of the previous occupants had to get changed outside in the square as her large dresses didn’t fit through the door!
Moments away is Plaza Redonda a.k.a. a round square! It was designed in 1840. The circular design is bizarre to see, but unique too! These days it’s a popular tourist spot, so you’ll find some tapas bars close by and traditional craft stalls and a fountain within the square itself.
Celebrate Las Fallas festival in Valencia
If there’s one thing that Spain excels at, it’s festivals! Las Fallas is Valencia’s biggest, and it takes place between 15th – 19th March each year. It involves the creation of lots of ninots – huge papier-mache statues, which are displayed for several days before a mass burning. There are also huge fireworks displays, live music, parties and more. It’s a real Spanish fiesta, with all the craziness you’d expect!
Explore the Ruzafa (Russafa) neighbourhood
Like many cities Valencia has several neighbourhoods, each with their own unique vibes. Ruzafa is home to trendy coffee shops, a colourful market, independent shops, craft beer stores and restaurants. I guess if you were applying the ‘hipster’ tag to one part of the city, it’d fit Ruzafa the best!
The streets feel a little more relaxed than the hubbub of the city centre, and as I wandered, I felt like every 10 paces I came across a unique coffee shop, vegan food store or a colourful building. I liked the relaxed vibes and if you’re looking for some good coffee, head to Dulce de Leche – a cute corner cafe with a cake display to die for. I also loved Ubik Café – housed in a bookstore. It’s got the millennial laptop club vibe. Just rock up with your Macbook, order a latte and tap away for a few hours.
Stay in a 19th century mansion
Close to Valencia Cathedral is the beautiful Caro Hotel, a 19th-century mansion which has been converted into one of the best luxury hotels in Valencia. It’s in a great location for sightseeing, and ideal for history buffs, as the Roman and Moorish remains that were found on the site have been integrated into the design of the hotel. There’s also a spa, pool and Michelin-starred restaurant Sucede. It’s easy to see why so many people love staying here! Looking for other places to stay in Valencia, don’t forget to check out my informative guide to where to stay in Valencia.
See Valencia at night
While I loved my days getting lost in Valencia’s maze of narrow alleyways and emerging at spectacular plazas, I think it was even more beautiful at night. I’d recommend a pre or post-dinner wander, enjoying the amber glow from the streetlights, and the stunning area around the Cathedral. It’s magical and super romantic after dark!
Enjoy a spectacular sunset in Valencia
Wow did the sunsets in Valencia take me by surprise. After each busy day of exploring (which included one rainy one) I was amazed by the beautiful yellows, golds, peaches and pinks of the sky. One of my favourites was spotted from my apartment window while on the phone to my mum. I quickly said ‘I need to go!’, picked up my camera and legged it to the Turia Gardens nearby. Just look at those colours!
Sunsets in Valencia are special. I hope you love them as much as I do!
Food Experiences In Valencia
Eat with your eyes at Valencia Central Market
Some city centre markets have a touristy feel. I’ve often felt that La Boqueria in Barcelona is overpriced and not particularly authentic. However, Valencia’s beautiful Central Market has a wonderfully local vibe. With its wrought iron structure, pretty stained glass, impressive domes and pretty painted tile exterior, it’s also incredibly photogenic.
While it looks big from the outside, it feels even larger inside. There are over 1,000 stalls, so if you’re a foodie like me, you’ll probably lose several hours in there! Along with stalls heaped with colourful fruit and vegetables, huge hams, towers of cheese and unique regional produce, you’ll also find some truly local items including horchata, fartons and churros, along with all the fresh fish you could dream of.
It’s more of a shopping market than one where you sit down to eat (try Colon Market for that), although there are a few places by the front steps where you can order basic items and have a seat. If you want to find out more about the stalls inside, the Central Market website has lots of info, including the all-important opening times. For super foodies, I also found a few cooking classes during my research, which include a stop in the market to collect ingredients.
Go on a tapas tour of Valencia
I always think the best way to get to know a place is through the food. Valencia is a foodie city, with a great culinary heritage. There are Moorish influences, Mediterranean flavours and more. Along with paella Valenciana (which has chicken and rabbit in it) the city is famed for its tapas, with plenty of dishes unique to the region.
I booked onto a food tour of the city, and really enjoyed the experience – definitely one of the best things to do in Valencia. It was great to hear all about the city from a local, and taste some really authentic cuisine. You can read all about my tapas tour of Valencia here.
Eat at a trendy Valencia restaurant
One of my favourite food experiences in Valencia was at La Manera – a stylish restaurant close to city hall, with modern cuisine and excellent cocktails. With ‘sherry is sexy’ in neon behind the bar, and a cocktail list of sherry concoctions (apparently, it’s making a comeback!) I had to try one. I also loved La Manera’s twist on a pisco sour, which was pink, sour with a lovely layer of sweetness, served in an elegant long-stemmed glass.
The food was great too, with a mix of sharing plates (perfect if you fancy a drink and a snack) and main courses. Staff were super friendly, helping me pick the best things for my tastes. The mushroom croquettes were rich, tasty and so so moreish. Meanwhile, the tuna tataki salad came with a flavoursome ginger and soy dressing, taking me straight back to my travels in Japan!
Have a glass of Agua de Valencia
Did you know Valencia has its own cocktail? According to a tour guide I met in the city, Agua de Valencia should have cava and orange juice as a base, but after that can contain whatever you fancy! Usually it has vodka and gin too, and is served in a jug then poured into wide-rimmed glasses.
One of the best places to try it is Café Sant Jaume, one of the city’s most iconic bars. Watch them mix it up in the old-style bar and then take a seat with the locals outside on the pavement and watch the world go by.
Try paella in Valencia
While I knew Valencia was famous for paella, I didn’t realise why until I visited. Most people consider it to have been invented in the Valencia region, with the rice being grown in the fertile land around the Albufera lagoon. All the ingredients were on the doorstep, with many families keeping chickens and rabbits for consumption, and growing garrofó beans (a white bean) too.
I fully intended to try it during my visit, but was lured by the scent of fresh seafood when I went to order! The seafood paella at Destino 56 was pretty good (and one of the only beach restaurants I could find that was happy to do a paella for one.) Next time I’ll try the paella Valenciana, I promise.
Enjoy a cocktail at Café de las Horas
Valencia’s most beautiful bar, when you step inside Café de las Horas you’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time. With its red velvet curtains, lavish chandeliers and star-painted ceiling, it’s romantic, chic and an absolute must-visit.
I tried aqua de Valencia here, but they have a big cocktail menu and will happily whip up whatever you fancy! Yes it’s a little touristy, but when you see the interior, you’ll understand why.
Try horchata and fartons
I mentioned you absolutely HAVE to try paella in Valencia, after all it’s where it was invented! But this is a region with a few other must-try delicacies. Horchata is a drink made from tiger nuts (known as chufas), water and sugar. It’s nice and sweet, and a cold glass of horchata is great when the temperatures are soaring.
It’s often served with fartons, which are long sugar-dusted pastries which you can dunk in your glass of horchata. I’d recommend trying them at Horchatería Santa Catalina, a 200+ year old café in the heart of the old town, which still has a beautiful old-world interior.
Sample Valencia’s vegan food
If you’re looking for vegan food in Valencia, don’t worry, you won’t be disappointed. Firstly, it’s worth noting that there are usually several vegetarian or vegan tapas dishes on the menus at tapas bars across the city. Padron peppers, patatas bravas etc are all safe options.
If you’re looking for somewhere with a specific vegan or vegetarian menu, check out The Vurger. Valencia’s vegan burger bar offers plenty of plant-based creations, some using super-convincing Beyond Meat patties. I went for a classic cheese burger with a Beyond Meat patty and couldn’t believe how delicious it was. The texture was so juicy, just like a hamburger, and the relishes and fries were great too.
Other places I’d recommend for vegetarian and vegan food in Valencia include Aloha Vegan Delights (acai bowls, vege kebabs and more), Khambú (vegan junk food), Nomït (no-meat geddit?!) and The Nature Restaurant (all you can eat vegetarian Chinese buffet).
For a food market with a difference, visit Mercado Colón
Are all Spanish markets beautiful? It seems so! This one over in the Colón district is housed in another spectacular building, and is a stunning example of Valencian modernism. It was restored in 2003, and rather than a fresh food market like Mercado Central, this market is home to smart restaurants, cute bars and cafes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my top things to do in Valencia. It’s one of my fave places I’ve visited recently, and I’d recommend it for a city break in the sunshine. Let me know your favourite places in the city or leave any questions below!
Looking for other things to do during your trip? Find out my top picks of where to stay in Valencia, where I think you should go for the best view of Valencia, whether it’s worth buying the Valencia Tourist Card and read about my tapas tour of Valencia.
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