Spain has always fascinated me, especially after reading about other people’s journeys there and hearing my friends describing their adventures. After a lovely escape some years ago in Barcelona, I finally returned to the alluring warmth of Spain, this time in Valencia. It was a short vacation, only 3 days, but just the right amount of time to figure out better the Spanish charm.
The first day was mostly dedicated to science. Starting with the hotel (MD Design Hotel) on Carrer de Boix, located very close to the city centre and at walking distance from the metro station; the whole area had a certain appeal, small streets with tall colourful buildings. The hotel itself has a minimalist touch but at the same time it exudes an air of coziness, interestingly designed furniture and a very friendly staff make the best combination. It’s also a very good deal regarding the price.
We went straight to breakfast at the acclaimed Dulce de Leche, in the Ruzafa district (considered the hip barrio of Valencia). Dulce de Leche is a combination between a sandwich shop/brunch place, a coffee shop and a bakery, owned by Argentinians. What should you try here? I recommend their veggie sandwich (unsure what the name is, but you will find an excellent goat cheese inside together with some zucchini and other vegetables), the Oreo cheesecake and a latte macchiato. The only downside of this place is that it’s quite crowded and it might prove an adventure to actually find an empty table. If you’re lucky enough to get one and the weather is also friendly you should try staying outside and admiring the surrounding buildings with their fancy balconies.
After a well-deserved rest and the delight of our taste buds, we continued our journey to the City of Arts and Sciences, an architectural complex which left me wondering whether I was day-dreaming or ended up in 2101. The buildings making part of it are El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (not your typical opera house), L’Umbracle (an interesting structures which houses an exposition of different plants and sculptures inside), L’Hemisferic (has an IMAX cinema inside and several movies are available for viewing), El Museu de les Ciences Prince Felipe, a very fancy bridge (which in my opinion resembles a harp and made me think constantly of Valhalla), a covered plaza and L’Oceanografic. We started by visiting the oceanographic park (for which I would advise you to buy your tickets online and avoid the queues). The building itself is quite impressive (as are all in the complex) and you can also buy an audio-guide for your tour, but we haven’t found it really useful. The park is bigger than I imagined so be prepared to walk (not as far as Mordor, just a little stroll to Bree) and spend somewhere around 3 hours here. Personally I’ve never been to an oceanographic before so on one side I was curious and I really enjoyed the diversity of marine life and finally meeting it, but on the other hand I felt that some of the bigger animals had quite small spaces which just made me question the motivation for which human beings keep animals in captivity. The one place we did not see was the dolphinarium, it just didn’t sound as my cup of tea.
After resting our legs for a while and taking a sip of something we went to our next destination: El Museu de les Ciences Prince Felipe; less crowded than the oceanographic, so you could probably just buy your tickets there. As its name already suggests, here you can find more about biology, chemistry and physics through all sorts of experiments (for example there was one where you could see how your brain waves modify according to the genre of music that you’re listening to). It’s a very informative museum, particularly good for children and for those of you who are science enthusiasts. It’s less time-consuming than the oceanographic, we spent around 1-2 hours here.
It was getting late when we finished with the museum and given that we were starving our priority was finding a place to eat; easier said than done. Finding an open restaurant after 4 in the afternoon turned out to be quite a challenge, as most close somewhere around 3 and open again only in the evening. Fortunately we were lucky enough to find Taberna La Mora (close to the Valencia North train station) and book a table there. I had the tuna with wasabi, it was unexpectedly good; this place turned out to be a life-saver for our empty bellies.
We spent the rest of the day wandering through the streets and plazas, then taking some time to rest before going out for dinner. A thing I noticed is that dinner begins quite late in Spain, the restaurants open somewhere around 8:30 in the evening and the people appear somewhere around 9. Our destination was La Casa di Sophia, a delightful place with inspiring interior design – I loved the colors and the furniture. The waiter was also extremely polite and friendly and that’s not saying enough; he was literally the perfect waiter, he was paying attention to all the customers, he was prompt, funny, always smiling. I don’t know how he did it but I’m suspecting he was some Greek god disguised as a mortal and trying to blend in (and apparently doing a better job than the rest of us at being human).
As a starter I tried the huevos rotos (eggs with ham and potatoes), a very simple dish yet delicious. As a main course I chose the fish of the day and it didn’t disappoint. This is a must try if you’re a food-lover and visiting Valencia. The atmosphere is quite unique and the food really brings everything together.
Another must-try is walking the winding streets at night, just enjoying the silence and the dim lights. The city changes completely after dark.
The second day was more of a leisure day. We started with some churros and hot chocolate at Horchateria de Santa Catalina. The space is very interesting, wooden table on a typical French floor and tiles on the walls which remind me of some images that I’ve seen of Portuguese tiles. They also have an upper floor which was empty when I visited and resembled very much a ballroom.
We then walked on Carrer de Quart searching for Valencia’s street art; we found some interesting pieces on Carrer de Canete and I think they add up a lot of charm to the city, you should really try to go explore the streets and discover the amazing art hidden on buildings.
We climbed the stairs of Torre de Quart for a panoramic view of the city and a breath of fresh air. The entry here is free.
Our next stop was a room-escape game which we booked several weeks prior to ou visit. We tried the Murder in the train at Cluehunter Valencia; it was a room-escape with a twist, I really enjoyed it, actually I could say it’s probably the best room-escape I have tried so far: a very compelling story and great props. If you’re a fan of such game, have some time to kill or just want to try something new this might be the right activity for you.
For lunch we booked a table at Rincon 33, very close to the Cluehunter, which turned out to be another great place to eat in Valencia (all thanks to TripAdvisor). As a starter I chose the goat cheese salad (lately I’ve been kind of obsessed with goat cheese and every time I see a dish that has it I know I must order it) – it was delicious. As a main we finally tried the famous paella and unfortunately left the place disappointed, it just didn’t lived up to our expectations. I just thought it had a bland taste and that there was nothing special about this dish; maybe we were unlucky or maybe it’s just not our thing.
Next we were headed to the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern; on the way we explored a little bit more of Barrio del Carmen and stumbled upon great pieces of urban art.
At the museum we were surprised to find that the entry was free on that day (we visited on a Sunday). This museum is really gorgeous, I believe that you will enjoy it very much and would want to spend a couple of hours here if you’re an art enthusiast. It’s on 3 floors, at the time of our visit there were few other tourists there so it was quite easy to see and admire the paintings and the sculptures.
Darkness was already upon the town when we finished our tour so we headed to the hotel to rest for a bit before going out for dinner. This time we wanted to try a place which specializes in seafood and we eventually booked a table at Civera Marisquerias, located at a 20 minute walk from our hotel on a quiet street. It is quite the fancy restaurant and a big one also. As a starter I had the salmon tartar with avocado and tomatoes, a larger dish than I expected, very good and with a fresh taste. As a main I tried my all time favourite, the tuna steak; it was good, but the number one remains the one I had in Barcelona some years ago. All I can complain about here is that the dishes were too large for me personally; overall it was a nice experience and if you are a sea-food lover or you’re just looking for an elegant place to dine this might be the best spot. We ended up our second evening in Valencia by taking a stroll and enjoying the breeze.
The third (and last) day in Valencia began with a quick brunch at Brunch Corner Sant Bult, we charged our batteries with a big cup of coffee and some eatable goodies. After checking out a little bit of what Valencia has to offer in matters of shopping, we took a quick walk through Mercado Central and then headed back to the Ruzafa neighbourhood and Dulce de Leche. Another sandwich, another cake and of course another coffee. We stayed there for about an hour, just bathing in the sun and admiring the architecture. One thing you should be careful of, most museums of Valencia seem to be closed on Monday so plan your visit accordingly.
What we did end up doing after that was visiting the Valencia Cathedral which also houses the Holy Grail. It’s a spectacular building inside out with a most helpful audio-guide. Don’t forget to also climb the nearby tower for a panoramic view of Valencia; you will climb, then you will climb some more, and then you will most likely end up to my conclusion… Hell is climbing stairs forever. In a spiral. Fortunately those stairs do end, eventually, I can guarantee that; we only found ourselves at the top resting for like a minute when the bell started ringing and scared us to death. You’ve been warned.
Thus, toppling all the buildings of Valencia, our journey was drawing to an end.
For me it was a most enlightening experience, as all travelling experiences are in my opinion. At the end of the journey I knew a little bit more than I did at the beginning, about the places I saw, about the people, about little things and even about myself. Valencia is an excellent choice for a city-break with its fabulous urban art, the blend of different types of architectural styles, delectable food and engaging museums.