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Madrid and Barcelona may grab the headlines, but Valencia is just fine with that. Flying a bit under the radar—yet boasting dazzling cultural and entertainment scenes—the city is where tradition meets innovation. It’s also where sea and farmland come together to produce some of the freshest food in Spain. Where there was once a river, the sprawling Turia Gardens winds its way through the city. Along its edge, find 15th-century structures sharing the sidewalk with weird-yet-wonderful architecture including the cutting-edge City of Arts and Sciences. Whether you want to wind through the streets of the Old City, go sightseeing on the aquamarine sea, or learn how to make paella like a pro, there’s no end to the things you can do in Spain’s third-largest city.
The city of Valencia is made up of dozens of districts and hundreds of tiny neighborhoods, but the best and most exciting attractions are concentrated in a few parts of the city. If you only have a short time to explore this centuries-old town, these are the spots you simply can’t miss.
Ciutat Vella — Ciutat Vella, or the Old City, is a fascinating blend of old and new—a place where history, nightlife, and food come together to create one of the most unique districts in Valencia. Here, on the cobblestone streets, find many of the Valencia’s medieval landmarks, including the Quart and Serranos towers, the Valencia Cathedral, and the old Gothic Silk Market. In the lively El Carme neighborhood, located on the north side of the district, find a vibrant mix of museums, cafes, boutiques, and street art. The area has some of the best nightlife in the city, with countless bars, clubs, and music venues centered around Calle Quart and Calle de Caballeros.
El Cabanyal — A less touristy section of the city, El Cabanyal is where many Valencians live and play. Located just steps away from Las Arenas beach, the historic fishing village is sprinkled with colorful houses in the modernist designs that were pioneered by Gaudi. Take a stroll through the picturesque district to get a taste for local life, and pop into a cozy eatery to find authentic Valencia-style paella.
L’Eixample — Situated south of Ciutat Vella, this 19th-century district was built as a commercial expansion to the Old City, with more modernist architecture and a grid-like layout. The district begins on the main shopping street of Calle Colón and is filled with chic coffee shops and upscale eateries. Once a rougher part of town, the southwest neighborhood of Russafa is now a trendy hangout, replete with vegetarian cafes, experimental art spaces, and slick cocktail bars.
Port — A short walk south of El Cabanyal, the port has recently experienced an aesthetic renovation thanks to the Veles e Vents building constructed for the 2007 America’s Cup. Inside the building, find elegant eateries, sleek art spaces, and urban music venues. The district is a popular spot for visitors who are boating in to step off their vessels for a plate of seafood and glass of cava at one of the stylish marina bars.
Quatre Carreres — Between the port and L’Eixample is Quatre Carreres, the largest district in Valencia. Here is where you’ll find many of the most significant modern attractions along Turia Gardens, including the state-of-the-art Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, the Oceanogràfic aquarium, and the Hemisfèric IMAX Theater, all of which belong to the massive City of Arts and Sciences.
Scope out Valencia’s iconic mix of classic and contemporary architecture on a hop-on hop-off bus tour. With 2 routes to choose from, sit back and relax as you cruise by landmarks such as the grand Quart Towers, the 19th-century bullring, the whimsical Gulliver Park, and the futuristic City of Arts and Science. Hop off at any of the stops along the way to further explore on your own, with sites such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the Bioparc Zoo, and the Valencia History Museum.
Travel back in time through Valencia’s vast history on a guided walking tour of the Old City. See structures that were built as early as the 13th century while gaining insight in the city’s most influential people and time periods. For an even deeper understanding of Valencia’s evolution from the medieval era through to the present, grab the Sightseeing Card for admission to 20 of the oldest and newest museums and monuments throughout the city.
Treat your taste buds to the authentic flavors of Spain on a tapas-tasting tour paired with mouthwatering wine. Get to know the city as your browse the colorful stalls at the sprawling Central Market, and then dig into a selection of small plates and Spanish-made wine. To immerse yourself even further in the city’s culinary culture, learn to make Valencia-style paella as if you’ve been doing it for years. Surrounded by the natural beauty of Albufera Park, follow a local chef as you learn to craft this centuries-old culinary creation, and then wash it down with a refreshing sangria cocktail made with wine, brandy, and fruit.
Combine spectacular sights, delicious food, and irresistible music on a party cruise aboard a luxury catamaran. Sail the sparkling waters just off the coast as you soak up the sun, sip bright and tangy cocktails, and dance the day away to the sounds of a live DJ. Once back on land, keep the party going with a night out at a flamenco club. After a tapas dinner, take in a passionate performance of the traditional dance that captures the spirit of Spain.