Dating back to 138 B.C., Valencia, Spain, has aged well; the nightlife is still booming and culture is seeping out of the historical gem’s pores. Blend that with a coastal setting, navigable public transportation, a juxtaposition of old and new architecture, an sharp native language (Catalan) and the world’s best paella and you will soon see that Valencia has it all.
Often skipped over for Barcelona or Madrid, we are here to make sure you stop missing out on this Iberian paradise. For a quick hit of the classics, use our Valencia checklist.
1. Mercat Central de València
Located in one of the city’s oldest districts, El Carmen, the Mercat Central is a hectic 8,000-sqaure-foot covered market. This mish-mash of activity is divided into hundreds of stalls where you can purchase fresh pastries, meats, veggies and fruit Monday though Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Before falling into a shopping stupor, stop at one of the stalls just outside the market, L’Orxateria, where you can sample horchata, known locally as orxata, a sweet and milky drink concocted with tigernuts, water and sugar. This tasty little treat, originating in this city during Muslim presence from the 8th to 13th centuries, is a sip back in time.
2. Jardines de Turia
If the market was a little overwhelming, get a breath of fresh air in the Jardines de Turia, or Jardí del Túria in Catalan. Once a flood-prone river, the city diverted the river south and then drained the riverbed in 1957 turning it into an ecopark with gardens. The park runs 5.5 miles long and has been transformed into a fusion of gardens, cycling and walking paths with other little nuggets along the way, like the oversized Gulliver’s Travels interactive children’s park, which turns visitors into Lilliputians climbing and scrambling over a giant Gulliver.
3. Ciudad de las Artes y Las Ciencias
The east end of the Jardines de Turia funnels into Ciudad de Las Artes y Las Ciencas, or The City of Arts and Sciences, a entertainment complex designed by neo-futuristic architect Santiago Calatrava, whose work you will find throughout the city (you can’t miss it, trust us). This complex is made up of an opera hall, an IMAX theatre, Europe’s largest aquarium and a science museum. The crazy, curvy and pool-surrounded exterior is worth the trip on its own.