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

The Best Things to Do in Valencia on a Short Trip

Start your day with a Spanish Breakfast 

enjoying a Spanish breakfast is one of the best things to do in Valencia

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

City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia

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.

BOOK YOUR OCEANOGRAFIC ENTRY TICKET HERE

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  

the interior of San Nicholas Church, Valencia

One of the best things to do in Valencia is to tour the Valencian Sistine Chapel. The Church of San Nicolas de Barithe oldest church in the city, was built as a Roman temple between 200 and 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.

If you are lucky, you might witness a unique ritual passed down through generations called 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)

step inside the Silk Exchange building

Between the 14th and 18th centuries, the need for a silk market was huge, so Valencia became a powerful silk producer. Being an influential city on the Mediterranean Sea, Valencia simply flourished. As a result, the building of the Silk Exchange (La Lonja de la Seda) was built so that merchants from all over the world could prosper in the silk trade.

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. 

BOOK YOUR TICKETS TO SAN NICOLAS CHURCH, LA LONJA DE LA SEDA AND SANTOS JUANES CHURCH

Hunt for street art in El Carmen Neighborhood

street art in El Carmen Bario, Valencia

El Carmen is a charming labyrinth of cobblestone streets between Calle Quart and Calle de Serranos. Street art and graffiti hunts in the El Carmen neighborhood are the perfect daytime activities for first-timers in Valencia since the city is one of the Spanish meccas for street art lovers.

If you’re artsy like me 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.

street art in El Carmen bario, Valencia

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 

the views over El Carmen bario are simply beautiful

While wandering the streets of El Carmen, you’ll bump into the Quart Towers, 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 deserves some attention while visiting Valencia. Climb the few stairs and admire the views over this charming neighborhood. 

Find the Holy Grail of Valencia 

the Saint Mary's Cathedral, 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 and 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.  

Valencia seen from the Belfry Tower

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 

the beautiful Plaza de la Virgen, Valencia

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 stalls of Mercado Colon

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 

traditional Spanish food

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. Chufa(the tiger nuts) grow in the northern part of Valencia only. 

Another must is the freshly baked fartons, a delicious local specialty dusted with powdered 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 are on 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 

admiring the beautiful Bullring on a rainy day

Even though I am not a bullfighting 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.

inside the small museum of the Bullring, Valencia

If bullfighting 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

the stunning main station of the city

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 City hall. 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 

avocado toast at ArtySana Cafe, Valencia

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, which is 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 by far the best place to buy 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 

a quick 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-kilometer 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

the exterior of the Mercado Colon

dine inside Mercado de Colon

Mercado de Colon was a food market for almost 100 years, but now it’s a lively food market for gourmets worldwide. You’ll find everything here, from coffee shops to restaurants to 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

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!

BOOK A FLAMENCO SHOW AT POLOSANTO THEATER 

Buy local Embroidery at Plaza Redonda 

one of the many terraces around 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 

taking a long walk at the beach in Valencia

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. 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 

trying some 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 

taking a boat ride at Albufera Nature Reserve on a day trip from Valencia

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, 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, which is 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. RENTACAR and enjoy Albufera on your own terms. 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. 

You can rent a bike for the day, but the road is not very bike-friendly.

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 for enjoying the day. 

If renting a car or taking a bus is not an option, you might consider joining a tour. You will be picked up directly from your hotel, so you don’t have to stress about getting to Albufera. BOOK YOUR ALBUFERA TOUR HERE

For a more authentic experience, hop into an open-topped Jeep and enjoy the day. Choose to drive the Jeep yourself or to sit back and relax while being driven. Sounds great, right? BOOK YOUR ALBUFERA JEEP AND BOAT TOUR

How Much Time do I Need in Valencia?

Discovering Valencia on a beautiful shiny day

Valencia is a compact city, so you don’t need much time to see its main attractions. Instead, I would recommend spending three days in this beautiful city. Are you feeling somehow overwhelmed and 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 graffiti. 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 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 Valencia’s central station. 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 in Mercado de Colon or in one of the fancy restaurants along Gran Via del Marqués del Túria Street.

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!

Valencia Travel Tips

Get an eSIM before the trip

Because phones have become our most important devices, it’s necessary to have a data connection as soon as you step foot in a different country. Your home data plan might only work if you paid for a much more expensive package, finding wifi connections in airports or train stations might be tricky, and seeking a local store to buy a SIM card might be exhausting. Forget all of that!

You just purchase an e-SIM, install it on your phone, and activate the plan when you’re ready to use it. Getting out of the plane and instantly connecting to data was a game changer for me. I didn’t have to waste time standing in line to get a local SIM card or finding a wifi connection to book a taxi to reach my hotel.
If you ask me, getting an e-SIM is a quintessential part of traveling. There is no physical installation and no long-term commitments. And the best part is that you can always top up or purchase a new plan through the app. Pretty convenient, right? Find the best data plan for SPAIN HERE.

Getting around Valencia

Although the city’s size allows you to reach many places on foot, I recommend using public transportation. Valencia has an excellent public transport network connecting all neighborhoods and major tourist areas, so getting around shouldn’t be an issue.

Going on a guided walking tour is a great option if you are short on time. Visit the historical center of Valencia, learn the history of the city as you discover its buildings and monuments, and ask any questions you might have. Sounds good? BOOK YOUR VALENCIA WALKING TOUR HERE

Another way to discover the city is by hopping on a hop-on hop-off bus. The buses have a good timescale and good stop locations. You get amongst the city and along the coast so that you can see pretty much everything. BOOK YOUR HOP-ON HOP-OFF TICKETS HERE

Renting a car is another great option to discover Valencia. I would suggest doing that if you plan to explore on your own and not opt for organized tours, walking, or public transportation. Getting to Albufera Nature Reserve in a rented car makes for a perfect day trip from Valencia.

Secure your travel Insurance 

We never leave home without travel insurance designed to cover our expenses if something goes wrong.  If you’re still on the lookout for travel insurance for your trip to Valencia, I highly recommend HEYMONDO, a trusted insurance provider for leisure and business trips, backpackers, long-term travelers, and digital nomads. Their travel insurance protects against theft, flight delays, injury, illness, cancellations, and much more.

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 weather couldn’t be more pleasant during the spring and autumn. 

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 on the wide sandy beach. And don’t forget to try a paella – it’s always delicious when accompanied by a sea view! 

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