Spain’s third-largest city, Valencia, is packed with history, culture, and culinary experiences. The city attracts more and more tourists with its well-preserved historical center, the new complex of the City of Arts, the trendy coffee shops, and fantastic food. Check out all the best things to do in Valencia on a short trip!
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The Best Things to Do in Valencia on a Short Trip
Start your day with a Spanish Breakfast
You’ll be surprised to find out that the Spanish breakfast consists of coffee and bread with tomato (pan con tomate). Even if it’s not your thing, you should try it at least once during your visit.
Pretty much every coffee house offers this kind of breakfast. Just find one with a lovely setting and enjoy your meal!
Prepare to be amazed by the City of Arts and Sciences
One of the must-see places in Valencia is the City of Arts and Sciences, an architectural masterpiece and a symbol of the city, situated at the southeast end of the former Turia riverbed. This ultra-modern complex is the largest in Europe and is quite unique. All six buildings are different, with unexpected fluid lines. They all defy gravity and any other rule of construction.
Designed by the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2005, the Palau de las Artes Reina Sofia is the latest and the most spectacular building. Due to its vast surface, the Palau de las Arts Reina Sofia is a unique location for theater, dance, opera, or other musical performances.
L’Hemisferic, or the Eye of the City, is an audio-visual space highlighting an IMAX cinema and planetarium. Prince Felipe Museum is a long and rectangular building with interactive exhibits.
Agora is the most recent building. Formerly it hosted the Tennis Open but is now used as an event location.
The Umbracle is an open-air area, perfect for taking great photos.
A little bit further, you’ll find the Oceanografic. It is Europe’s largest aquarium, with almost 500 different species of marine life, including dolphins, belugas, sea lions, penguins, and sharks. The aquarium is the best option if you’re traveling with children and don’t have time to see everything.
You will walk through the longest underwater tunnel in Europe, and you can join a shark sleepover – a popular activity among visitors.
Stroll around the City of Arts and Science blue pools, and find the building that looks like a giant eye or the one that looks like a whale skeleton. Savor an ice cream by the water, and indulge in the atmosphere.
Find the Valencian Sistine Chapel
One of the best things to do in Valencia is to tour the Valencian Sistine Chapel. The Church of San Nicolas de Bari, the oldest church in the city, was built as a Roman temple between 200-700. It was then converted into a mosque, and in the 13th century, it was claimed by the Roman Catholic Church.
The church was restored multiple times and now fuses Gothic architecture with Baroque decoration. Get an audio guide and learn more about the life of San Nicolas de Bari, the patron of the church, from the fresco paintings.
A unique ritual passed down through generations is the “Walk of San Nicolas”. Pilgrims walk in total silence from their homes to the church, asking for intercession from the saint.
Step inside the gorgeous Silk Exchange (La Lonja de la Seda)
Valencia was a flourishing city during the 14th and 18th centuries. Being an influential city on the Mediterranean Sea, Valencia became a mighty silk producer, and the need for a silk market was huge. So the Silk Exchange building(La Lonja de la Seda) was built, and traders worldwide could thrive on silk.
Now, this fantastic building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit here is one of the best things to do while in Valencia as you’ll be amazed by the palm-tree-shaped columns of the main room, and you’ll love the orange trees in the small inner- garden.
Hunt for street art in El Carmen Neighborhood
El Carmen is a charming labyrinth of cobblestone streets between Calle Quart and Calle de Serranos. Street art and graffiti hunt in the El Carmen neighborhood is the perfect daytime activity for first-timers in Valencia since the city is one of the Spanish meccas for street art lovers.
If you’re artsy like I am and want to discover some beautiful street art examples, get lost in the El Carmen neighborhood. It is a lively and picturesque quarter, a must-see place on your visit to Valencia. Get lost, wander its streets, and discover graffiti and urban art.
You’ll find street art in Placa del Tossal, Carrer de Biax, Carrer de Monet, or Calle San Dionisio. Carrer de Moret, also known as the Street of Colours, is one of the most famous places for graffiti lovers. Here you’ll find the “Kiss” or the “Girl on the Bridge,” popular spots for selfies. So, happy hunting!
Climb the Quart Towers
While wandering the streets of El Carmen, you’ll bump into the Quart Towers. This is a beautiful example of gothic architecture. Valencia used to have twelve gates surrounding the city, but only two are still standing, and one is Quart Towers.
Built as a defensive gate, Quart Towers deserve some attention while visiting Valencia. Climb the few stairs and admire the views over this charming neighborhood.
Find the Holy Grail of Valencia
Built as a church and changed to a mosque during Moorish occultation, the Saint Mary’s Cathedral is impressive to see. Discovering its story is one of the best things to do in Valencia. Step inside this masterpiece, take an audio guide and learn about its history.
Admire the paintings, the religious relics, and find the mummified arm of the patron saint of Valencia. It might seem intriguing since several cities worldwide claim to have the Holy Grail, but it looks like Valencia has the cup Jesus drank from at the Last Supper.
You’ll spot the Holy Grail right within the chapel itself; even if you’re not a devotee, it’s something you must notice.
After your visit, climb the 207 narrow steps of the Miguelete tower. Climbing the spiral staircase is so much fun! Just make sure not to reach the summit at an appointed time, as we did. We almost got a heart attack as the bell struck above our head!
Stroll around Plaza de la Virgen
First thing after visiting the Cathedral and climbing the Belfry Tower, head to Plaza de la Virgen. This used to be the main square of the city in Roman times. The beautiful Plaza in the heart of the old town is an excellent place for enjoying a cold drink while admiring the architecture and soaking up the atmosphere.
In the middle of the square, you’ll spot the Turia Fountain(la Fuente del Turia), representing the Turia River and portraying Neptune surrounded by eight naked women.
Basilica de Virgen is another beautiful religious building you’ll spot in this square. Cherish its beautiful baroque style and step inside to admire the blue-tiled dome as well.
Near the Basilica, you’ll notice the Palace of the Generalitat, an imposing castle-like building serving as the seat of the Valencian Autonomous Region government.
Get lost in Mercado Central
Strolling the stunning Art Nouveau building of Mercado Central is one of the best things to do in Valencia. The largest covered food market in Europe, Mercado Central, hosts more than 1200 food and drink stalls. Be prepared to be amazed by the scents and the colors of everything on display. Hanging hams, cheeses, olives, fresh seafood, fruits, and vegetables will steal your eyes.
Don’t come with an empty stomach, as you’ll feel overwhelmed. Instead, have some tapas at one of the bars surrounding the market and only after step inside this marvel. Stunning inside, you’ll want to get lost, indulge in the bustling atmosphere, and watch people buying and selling stuff.
Try Local Delicacies
Besides wandering the historical landmarks, visiting the museums, and everything else the city offers, eating is one of the best things about travel! Food and tourism are closely integrated, so eating is essential as well! Don’t you agree?
While Paella is the most known dish in Valencia, Horchata is the traditional drink. Horchata is a refreshing, sweet, healthy milk drink made of tiger nuts. As they are called in Spanish, Chufa grow in the northern part of Valencia only.
Another must is the freshly baked fartons, a delicious local specialty dusted with powder sugar.
A drink you should try in Valencia is Aqua de Valencia, a cocktail made with orange juice(from local oranges), cava, gin, and vodka. You get it, this drink has nothing to do with water, but the name is appealing, right?
Esgarret is a delicious salad made of roasted red pepper, garlic, olive oil, black olives, and cod.
Patatas bravas and Valenciana salad is something you’ll find in many menus around the city.
Seafood is also a must in Valencia, so try some Clóchinas al vapor (mussels) or Tellinas (clams).
Stop for a moment at the Bullring of Valencia
Even though I am not a bullring fighting fan, I must mention this place. Valencia’s love of bullfighting goes way back to the 11 century when bullfights were improvised on Plaça del Mercat and other squares in the city, during Fallas Festival or July Festival, and even Christmas.
The Bullring was built in 1850 and is part of Valencia’s culture, hosting bullfights up in a while. Remember that tickets tend to sell out fast if you’re interested in a bullfight.
If bullring fighting is not your thing, but you’re still curious about this place, you can find out more by visiting the small museum next to the arena. You’ll discover items used on the ring, sparkling traditional costumes, old bullring fighting announcements, and a miniature of the hall.
Step inside the Train Station in Valencia
Next to the Bullring, you’ll find the beautiful Valencian Art Noveau train station. The building was declared Good of Cultural heritage back in 1987. You can’t miss it, since it’s right in the heart of the city, not far from the Cityhall. Look closer, and you will discover Valencian elements like barracas (traditional houses from Albufera National Park), paellas, oranges, and folk costumes.
Step inside to admire its interior: the tiling and the old wooden ticket counters are stunning. If you’re there on a rainy day, grab a coffee at one of the coffee shops and relax while observing the trains coming and leaving the station.
Get lost in Russafa Neighborhood
One of the trendiest neighborhoods of Valencia is Russafa, south of the city center. The area became popular with hipsters and artists and is home to many coffee bars, restaurants, tapas bars, and art galleries.
While here, make sure to grab a coffee and some avocado tostadas at the cozy ArtySana Café, popular among locals.
Head to Ubik café and enjoy a wide selection of artisan beers or delicious tapas for a different vibe. The café is designed as a bookstore so you may buy a book and drink a specialty coffee while reading.
Other great places for tapas and coffee are Bluebell Cafe and Kea. For the most delicious Paella, head to Masus Bar.
Russafa Market is the best place for buying food. If you’ve already visited the other markets in town, remember that this one is cheaper. You can find everything from meat, fresh fish, vegetables and fruits and you’ll spend more time than expected since everyone is so friendly and welcoming.
Stroll through Turia Gardens
Stretching from the Bioparc, on the northern part of the city, to the City of Arts and Sciences and the sea, you’ll want to discover the Turia Gardens, a nine-kilometer natural oasis twisting through the city center of Valencia.
The gardens lie in the former Turia riverbed, diverted to the south after the tremendous floods in 1957. Initially, the riverbed was supposed to turn into a highway, but the place was converted into a beautiful city garden after civil protests.
The nine kilometers stretch is trendy among walkers, runners, dog walkers, and nature lovers. Best explored by bike, plan a couple of hours or even a day if you want to visit the museums along the way and admire all the 18 bridges crossing the gardens. If you need a break, grab some snacks and a blanket and have a rest under the beautiful trees.
While wandering the Turia Gardens, take some time to climb the beautiful 14th-century Serranos Towers, the former defensive structure of the old city. The second still-standing gate of the town offers stunning views from above! Also, take some time to admire its Gothic architecture.
Dine at Mercado de Colon
Mercado de Colon used to be a food market for almost 100 years, but now it’s a lively food market for gourmets worldwide. You’ll find here everything from coffee shops, restaurants, tapas bars, and a fresh food market at the lower level. Even if you don’t wish to have a meal, step inside this stunning building and admire its beauty. You won’t regret it!
Wander the Gran Via del Marques del Turia Street
One of the most beautiful streets of Valencia is Gran Via del Marques del Turia. Here you’ll find the lovely Casa Chapa and Casa Ortega buildings. Take some time to stroll around and stop at one of the many coffee shops, restaurants, or tapas bars when you’re tired.
Attend a Flamenco Performance
I witnessed the first flamenco act in Barcelona and wished to attend one in Valencia. Unfortunately, joining a flamenco performance during my time in Valencia wasn’t possible, but someday I will return to witness one.
Flamenco originates in southern Spain, and it’s a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. There’s something magical in the dance movements, the lyrics, and the performers’ passion. All of that, accompanied by a guitar, is an unbelievable experience. Find a bar that organizes a flamenco show, book in advance if possible, and enjoy!
Buy local Embroidery at Plaza Redonda
Not far from the Silk Exchange, you’ll find the Plaza Redonda, a unique tourist attraction. It’s hard to miss it due to its circular design. Built by Salvador Escrig Melchor in 1840, the square was a busy fish market.
Now, the court hosts restaurants, tapas bars, and embroidery stalls. In addition, the area’s three-story building houses stalls selling local ceramics, lace, embroidery, and other Spanish items. You’ll love the area’s vibe, so make sure to have some tapas at one of the many bars surrounding the area.
Relax at one of Valencia’s beautiful beaches
Nobody sees Valencia as a beach destination, and I find it hard to understand why. The city has vast stretches of sand, and it’s rarely crowded. Instead, you’ll find a palm tree-lined promenade, good restaurants, and a summer street market.
Valencia has two famous beaches: Playa de la Malvarrosa and Playa de las Arenas, both beautiful and perfect for soaking in the sun! If you’re looking for a laid-back atmosphere, head to El Saler, which is just nearby.
Try the real Paella Valenciana
Besides wandering the historical part of Valencia, I encourage you to spend some time on one of the wide sandy beaches. After soaking in some sun and swimming, it’s time to try a paella – always delicious when accompanied by a sea view!
Did you know that Paella was created in Valencia? The most famous dish in Spain gets its name from the large iron pan where it’s cooked and served. The Valencian Paella comes with rabbit and pork, sometimes even with snails. There is a seafood version with squid and prawns; you can always opt for a vegetarian option. There’s something for every taste; just try it!
Discover the Albufera Nature Reserve
If you want to escape the city for a day, Albufera is the best choice. The freshwater estuary lies 11km outside Valencia, and it’s one of the largest lakes in Spain and home to a large variety of birds and gorgeous rice fields.
What to do in Albufera?
The natural reserve offers plenty of activities, from hiking or biking the area, admiring the rice fields and the rare birds, trying the famous Paella or other traditional dishes, or simply having a picnic. But what you cannot miss in Albufera is taking a boat ride to discover the beauty of the lake. The tour lasts about 40 minutes, and you can join it from several places at different times of the day.
But if your time allows you, go for the sunset tour. You will be impressed! One of the best things to try is any dish with Eel fish, traditional for this area.
How to get to Albufera from Valencia?
The easiest way to get from Valencia to Albufera is by car, and it takes about 30 minutes to get to the lake. You can rent a bike for the day, but the road is not very bike-friendly. Or join a tour from Valencia. Another easy option is to take the bus, the most inexpensive way to get from Valencia to Albufera.
Take the EMT25 bus near Turia Park or the City of Arts and Science and get off at different places around the lake, like El Palmar, and Perellonet. El Palmar village would be the best choice to enjoy the day. The lovely and picturesque small village of El Palmar is the best place to join a boat tour, wander the streets, and have a delicious meal.
How Much Time do I Need in Valencia?
Valencia is a compact city, so you don’t need a lot of time to see its main attractions. Instead, I would recommend spending three days in this beautiful city. You’re feeling somehow overwhelmed, and you don’t know how to plan your days? Let me give you a slight hint:
The best things to do in Valencia. Day One
Start your day with breakfast near the El Carmen district. Then, climb the stairs of Quart Towers and admire the views. Next, walk through El Carmen’s neighborhood and admire the graffitis. Find the hidden San Nicholas of Bari Church and prepare to be amazed by its ceiling. Next, step inside the former Silk Exchange building and make your way to the Central Market of Valencia.
Indulge in the bustling atmosphere, and watch people buying and selling stuff. Next, take some time to learn more about Valencia’s Cathedral and climb the stairs to the Miguelete tower. Finally, visit the nearby Plaza de la Virgen and chill at the Neptune’s fountain.
Now it’s time to rest, so find a proper place near the Plaza Redonda and enjoy a Paella Valenciana accompanied by Tinto Rosso (sangria as you might know it). In the evening, attend a flamenco performance. Just make sure to book in advance as the tickets sell out fast.
The best things to do in Valencia. Day Two
Today you’ll discover the beauty of the City of Arts and Sciences. This new part of Valencia will amaze you from the beginning. Visit an exhibition, see Europe’s largest aquarium, take some photos, and relax at the blue waterfront.
When you’ve finished here, get on a bus to reach one of Valencia’s beautiful beaches. Lay in the sun and swim for the rest of the day. And enjoy a Paella Valenciana with a sea view! What a perfect way to end a gorgeous day!
The best things to do in Valencia. Day Three
Start your day with horchata and some freshly baked fartons at one of the bars around the central station of Valencia. If you’re interested in bullfighting history, visit the small Bullring museum. If not, just take some photos of the Valencia train station and the Bullring and head to the Russafa neighborhood.
Savor a specialty coffee and some avocado tostadas and head to Turia Gardens. Stroll around the area for a while and relax at one of the many benches. For the rest of the day, you can choose to dine eighter in Mercado de Colon eighter in one of the fancy restaurants along Gran Via del Marqués del Túria street.
Conclusions to the Best Things to Do in Valencia
I think this Spanish city is significantly underestimated. I loved the vibe, food, language, architecture, and all its activities. It is not overwhelmed with tourists, and the wheater couldn’t be more pleasant during the spring and autumn months.
Head to the old district and discover every charming corner. Go for street art hunting in the El Carmen neighborhood and climb the Belfry Tower of Valencia’s Cathedral. In addition, you’ll want to find the Palau de Les Arts, the Ágora, the Hemisfèric (an Imax cinema), the Science Museum, and the Oceanogràfic (Europe’s largest aquarium) and take plenty of pictures.
Besides wandering the historical part of Valencia, I encourage you to spend some time at the wide sandy beach. And don’t forget to try a paella – always delicious when accompanied by a sea view!
Interactive Map of the Best Things to Do in Valencia
Underneath, you’ll find a customized map that includes all the locations you will visit on this three-day itinerary. I pitched the three days with three different colors so you can quickly detect which places you’re going to see each day. Just open up this article on your phone and click on the frame in the upper right corner of this map. Google Maps app will open up, and you can check all the details. I hope it helps!
Disclosure: *This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link.*