Recently the weather gods have blessed this usually foggy Italian town with some sunshine and warmish weather, which is why I didn’t instantly post this. Excuses aside, I was really excited to write this post because I discovered another city to add to my list of favorites: Valencia! (The title is in homage to all those Spaniards who can’t differentiate between the ‘b’ and ‘v’ sound).
I went to Valencia for the long weekend (here they got Monday and Tuesday off for Carneval) with a group of Italian friends. We arrived late Friday night, threw our bags in our respective hostels and met up for some tapas in a bar that would soon become our go-to place. Saturday we spent the day walking around in a group, enjoying the scenery and warm weather (t-shirt and jeans in February, anyone?). We walked all throughout the historic center, Ciutat Vella, and then exited through one of the original entry points when the city was walled, Torres de los Serranos.
From there we descended into one of the city’s many green spaces, Jardí del Túria, which runs along the course of an old river that had been drained in the 80s to prevent another dangerous flood like the one in the 1950s.
Anyway, let me just say that the urban planning in Valencia is on point. First of all, there are so many public, free, well-maintained green spaces. Just across the Turia is a botanical garden, where I parked myself for a few hours to read in the sunlight. Then, there are the bike lanes. Be still my heart. I was wary of renting a bike, because in reality the city center is much more accessible on foot. However, when I decided to go to the seaside one day, I realized a bike was the way to go. And as soon as you exit the historic center, the bike lanes appear and they are extremely well planned. There are separate traffic lights for bikes, and separate lanes for pedestrians and bikes. Plus you can ride down the entire Turia straight to the port and the coastline.
Which is exactly what I did. The weather was beautiful, and I couldn’t resist dipping my feet in the water (it was really cold, btw).
That night, we had some paella down in one of the restaurants facing the ocean. Then I rode my bike home in the 70 degree weather, not a care in the world. In addition to the urban planning, Valencia is also a really safe city. At least, I didn’t feel the least bit threatened riding around on my own around midnight, nor walking home after a late dinner.
Finally, a shout out to the two great new friends I met in my hostel. Jas and Luce arrived right when I thought my brain was going to explode from not speaking any English for 24 hours (on top of having to reactivate my Spanish and subsequently translate from Spanish to Italian). They were really fantastic and the kind of roommates you hope to find in your hostel room.
Some things I recommend:
- Jardí Botànic, the University’s botanical garden
- Gulliver, which is a giant kid’s playground in the Turia where you can climb on a giant replica of a Gulliver who is lying down, slide down his jacket or legs.
- The pintxos, which are typical Valencian tapas served on a slice of baguette. I went to Pintxo i Trago and really liked the self-serve aspect (plus the sangria).
- In Plaza de la Reina, there is a place that makes these fried-dough balls but they are made with pumpkin in the batter. When they pluck them from the hot oil, the lady generously sprinkled sugar on them…heavenly.
- Climb the bell tower of the Cathedral in Plaza de la Reina.(View from the climb up the bell tower )
- Eat at El Kiosko! So delicious and inexpensive (like everything in Valencia). But really worth it – Calle de los Derechos, 38
- Eat seafood paella!
- Explore the central market, Mercat Central which has some beautiful tile work outside and amazing vaulted ceiling architecture inside.
- The bullfighting ring in Plaza de Toros, which has tours for only 2 euros! Unfortunately it was closed when I showed up but it looked really cool from the outside.
- DON’T try the oranges on the trees everywhere. Speaking from personal experience, they are really sour and a lot more like lemons than oranges. Plus, I’m pretty sure they’re not great for your digestive track as we all discovered later that day.
- Check out the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències but unless it’s a gross day or you have a day to spare, I don’t recommend paying the money to go in the actual exhibits. It’s stunning enough on it’s own from the outside and there are lots of things to discover just by walking around. It’s also beautiful at night!
- Just walk around! The city is full of little shops and characters, as well as tons of street art that is worth a look.