Valencia, a beautiful, sunny city with a rich history. In this article, I will tell you more about this lovely Spanish city on the Mediterranean Sea. Valencia is, after Madrid and Barcelona, the third city of Spain and the center of paella, orange cultivation and fireworks. This, together with a pleasant Mediterranean climate, is Valencia in a nutshell.
Table of contents
- Where exactly is Valencia?
- As old as the road to Rome
- Spain’s third largest city
- Valencia’s characteristics
- The weather in Valencia
- Traveling to Valencia
- Transportation in Valencia
- What to do in Valencia?
- Things to do in the surroundings of Valencia
Where exactly is Valencia?
The city of Valencia is about 220 miles south of Barcelona and 220 miles east of Madrid on the east coast of Spain.
Capital of the region
Valencia is the capital of the autonomous region of Comunidad Valenciana. This region is located south of Catalonia and starts at Vinaròs, just south of the delta of the Ebro river. The area extends to San Pedro de Pinatar in the south.
The autonomous region consists of the provinces of Castellon (in the north), Valencia (in the middle) and Alicante (in the south).
Almost five million people live in the region, of whom the vast majority live on the coast.
The inland is in most places quite mountainous and therefore a lot more challenging to reach.
With a coastline of 250 miles, the Comunidad Valenciana region is beautiful for tourists.
The coastline includes two very popular Costas, the Costa del Azahar in the north and the well known Costa Blanca in the south.
As old as the road to Rome
Valencia is located in the middle of the autonomous region of Comunidad Valenciana.
The city was founded in 138 BC by the Romans, called Valentia Edetanorum, which means: the Reinforced city of the Eutans, an Iberian tribe.
Because Valencia has existed for so long and has been occupied by several cultures over the years, the city has a vibrant history. This is reflected in various buildings in the town.
At the end of the nineties, the city council invested heavily in the ultramodern Ciudad de las Artes y las Cièncias.
The construction of this “city of arts and sciences” has given Valencia a characteristic and distinctive appearance.
Spain’s third largest city
Nowadays Valencia has a population of approximately 800,000, making it the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona.
With the neighboring municipalities included, the population is 1.8 million.
Despite the increased popularity of Valencia in recent years, many people who want to visit the city wonder if Valencia is a beautiful city, if it’s enjoyable, how safe it is and why to visit Valencia.
Therefore, you will find a summary of our opinion on these questions below:
Is Valencia a beautiful city?
Valencia is a city with a few particular areas and therefore has something to offer for everyone.
Culture lovers can enjoy themselves in the historic center and the Eixample district with its noble houses.
Valencia also offers the ultra-modern Ciudad de las Artes y las Cièncias. The city of arts and sciences.
Sun, sea, and beach
Do you prefer sun, sea, and beach? Then you will be completely satisfied in Valencia as well.
With Playa de Cabanyal, Playa de Malva-Rosa and Playa de Pinedo on the south side of the city, Valencia has some beautiful sandy beaches on the Mediterranean Sea.
The beaches have excellent facilities and have a well-developed promenade where you can enjoy strolling as much as you like.
A visit to one of the beaches is an ideal way to escape the busy city life and enjoy the extensive views over the Mediterranean Sea.
Are you passionate about Spanish cuisine? Even then Valencia is worth a visit.
Throughout the city, you will find many restaurants and eateries, often equipped with a terrace, with typical Spanish dishes.
As Valencia is the birthplace of paella, there are many restaurants where you can enjoy delicious authentic paella.
A huge urban park
Another typical feature of Valencia is the drained river bed of the Turia. In the dry bed, a mile-long city park has been established.
This park crosses the entire city and separates its historic center from the newer areas on the north side of the town.
The park is overgrown with many palm and orange trees and is a beautiful place to cycle, walk, or lie down in the grass to enjoy the sun.
The park makes navigating through the city super easy because you always have a point of reference nearby.
Why should I visit Valencia?
The proximity of the Mediterranean Sea, the pleasantly warm climate and the rich history are undoubtedly the most important reasons to visit Valencia.
Valencia is still truly Spanish
Unlike the metropolises of Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia is still a genuinely Spanish city. Because of the improved accessibility in recent years, the city receives more tourists than ever before.
However, there are still plenty of places where you can immerse yourself in the daily life of the Spaniards, especially if you look beyond the historical city center.
Compact and orderly
Because the city is relatively compact and the entire city center can be walked on in one day, you can see a lot during a two to three-day visit.
You will probably even have some time left to spend an afternoon on the beach or to chill out in the large city park in the drained Turia riverbed.
Nature at a stone’s throw away
Are you afraid of getting bored? If so, know that the beautiful nature and rice area of Albufera is located just outside the city and can be easily reached by bicycle.
A great place to take a look at the rice fields and enjoy a delicious Paella Valenciana in an authentic Valencian restaurant.
Fallas de Valencia
Another reason to visit Valencia at least once is the Fallas festival from 15 to 19 March.
You will read more about this later in this article.
Is Valencia fun?
Are you looking to visit a genuine Spanish city with a rich history? Do you prefer to pay fair prices for the local foods and drinks? And aren’t you afraid to meet a Spaniard who doesn’t speak English? If so, you will certainly enjoy yourself in Valencia!
Valencia is relatively compact, and with its many bus lines and the metro system, it has plenty of transport and navigation possibilities.
So it’s possible to have your breakfast in the historical city center in the morning. Then visit the tranquil Turia park and the spectacular Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. And then, during lunch, enjoy a freshly prepared paella on the beautiful beach at the Mediterranean Sea.
Another aspect why I personally like Valencia so much is the fact that you can eat and drink for fair and local prices.
Take the time to walk out of the historic city, and you’ll soon find a restaurant or bar where you can eat a menu for about $15 or buy a beer for $1.50.
This honesty gives you peace of mind and ensures you don’t have to be always on the lookout for tourist traps.
Is Valencia a safe city?
As in any other large city, it is advisable to keep a close eye on your belongings.
It is also not advisable to walk through dark alleys or deserted parks late at night.
In Valencia, however, you will not easily experience a feeling of insecurity.
As the Spaniards are active until late (often they don’t have dinner until 10 pm), especially in summer, there is always a lot of people on the streets until late.
This creates more of a feeling of sociability than insecurity.
Is Valencia Catalan?
No, Valencia is not Catalan and has nothing to do with the Catalan discussion.
Valencia is the capital of the Autonomous Region of Comunidad Valenciana. Like any other autonomous region in Spain, the Valencians have a lot to criticize about the policy of the government in Madrid.
However, this is disproportionate to the situation in Barcelona.
What the Valencians do have is their dialect that is somewhat derived from Catalan.
If you speak a little Spanish yourself, but you do not understand what the Valencians say? Then it probably has to do with that.
Of course, they also speak Spanish, besides the Valencian dialect.
What are the things that characterize Valencia?
As the title of this article says, these are mainly paella, oranges, and fireworks.
These three subjects can be found everywhere in daily life and are deeply embedded in the genes of the Valencians.
Bat as a symbol
Before talking about the typical characteristics of Valencia, I would like to mention a special symbol: the bat.
The image of the bat is the symbol of the city of Valencia.
The image is very prominent in the logo of the local football club Valencia C.F. and can also be found on many facades of old buildings.
The reason why this, not beautiful creature, has come to play such a prominent role has everything to do with the geographical location of the city.
Although Valencia is situated directly on the Mediterranean Sea, it is also located on a vast plain.
The vast freshwater lake and rice area of Albufera is located on this lowland.
Due to the large quantities of paella rice produced annually in Albufera, this area plays a significant role in the local economy.
A less pleasant side effect of vast shallow rice fields with fresh and stagnant water is the large quantities of mosquitoes that live there.
Since mosquitoes are an essential source of food for the bats, you can understand why these bats were welcome guests in Valencia and its surroundings. They controlled the mosquito population!
As a result, this protective role has given the bat a prominent position in the Valencian culture.
Apples of orange
Another feature of the Valencia region is oranges.
Everywhere in and around the city, you see orange trees and orchards. Depending on the time of year, full of juicy orange fruits or with fragrant blossom (Azahar).
Taken from the Far East
The first oranges were taken to the Valencia region by North African Moors in the distant past. The same Moors also introduced rice cultivation in those days.
The humid, but sunny, plains around Valencia proved to be very suitable for cultivating oranges.
When Portuguese explorers in the fifteenth century brought more orange varieties from the Far East, the cultivation of oranges took off.
Nowadays, the orange can be found everywhere in Valencia. Many of the trees on the side of the road are orange trees, and in every city park, orange trees have a prominent position.
When in Valencia, you should have a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast. It tastes fantastic!
Six days of rice and paella on Sunday…
…This Valencian saying indicates how prominent the role of rice in Valencian cuisine is.
With one of the largest rice areas in Spain on its doorstep, Valencia is the capital of Spanish rice dishes.
Within these rice dishes, there is a unique position for paella. According to the Valencians, the Paella Valenciana is the only authentic paella, and everyone should stay away from it!
The seriousness of the paella dish is demonstrated by the fact that the Paella Valenciana has been declared cultural heritage of the Valencian region since 2014.
This means that the recipe has a protected status and can only be called Paella Valenciana if it contains ten authentic essential ingredients.
The louder, the better!
Another remarkable thing that Valencians feel very attached to is fireworks.
And not those silly fireworks that are lit late at night and get all kinds of colors.
No, they mostly enjoy pounding hard in broad daylight in the middle of the city — the so-called Mascletá.
Fireworks on any occasion
No celebration or special occasion in Valencia go by without setting off fireworks.
At a wedding Traca’s and at more significant events a complete show set up by one of the many local professionals.
The fireworks professionals are worshipped as heroes.
The love for fireworks is deeply rooted.
Where does the Valencian love for fireworks come from?
Just like the origin of rice and orange cultivation, the introduction of fireworks can be traced back to the period of Moorish domination during the Middle Ages.
It was the North African Moors that brought the first forms of gunpowder from China.
Valencia Fallas as the ultimate highlight of the fireworks tradition
In the days before the start of spring, Valencia celebrates Las Fallas.
This festival celebrates the beginning of spring and drives away evil spirits. A lot of fire and fireworks accompanies this tradition.
Large wooden structures are set on fire, and the evil spirits are chased away for three weeks in a row at 2 p.m. in the central town square with a dazzling mascletá.
The city is turned upside down
The highlight of the festival is from 15 to 19 March. During these days, the city of Valencia is completely turned upside down.
Especially when you visit the Fallas on 18 or 19 March, you will have no idea what you are going through.
On these days you feel the passion for fireworks that the Valencians have, and sometimes the city seems to be on fire.
A fantastic experience, even if you are not a fireworks enthusiast!
The weather in Valencia
Even though Valencia is located in the middle of Spain and on the Mediterranean Sea, the weather is not always ideal for a city trip.
In autumn, winter and spring, there is a chance of rain. And in July and August, it is often very hot, and there are lots of people leaving the city. Is this a reason not to visit Valencia? Not!
With an average temperature of well over 70 degrees in the afternoon and a minimum of 60 degrees in December and January, the climate in Valencia is very mild.
So mild that you can reach around 85 degrees in October.
Spring and autumn are less stable than hot summers
The more you deviate from the actual summer months, the more the chance of unpredictable weather increases.
But also in these months, there are plenty of days with a temperature of more than 70 degrees. However, in the same month, it is also possible to have a rainy week.
If you are going to visit Valencia, take this into account and check before leaving what the weather is going to be.
To avoid disappointments on the spot, it is also recommended to look for indoor activities in case the weather is not so good.
Traveling to Valencia
Over the past ten years, the number of options to travel to Valencia has increased significantly.
As a result, international tourists are finding the city more often, and tourism in and around Valencia has increased.
The city of Valencia has had its airport for a long time. In the past, however, this airport was hardly used for international flights, and charter airlines only flew to Alicante or Barcelona.
After the arrival of the Spanish low-cost airline Vueling, the number of Spanish destinations to which other airlines fly has increased.
As a result, you can now fly directly to Valencia from a large number of European countries.
Transportation in Valencia
Once you arrive in Valencia, you will have a variety of transport options.
The city has a metro network, an extensive network of bus lines, affordable taxis and (for Spanish standards) a good network of cycling paths.
Excellent public transport
The public transport in Valencia is straightforward to use. You buy a bus or metro ticket for several rides and scan the card for each trip.
As long as you stay within the city, all fares are the same.
A metro pass can be purchased at the metro station. A bus ticket is a bit more challenging to obtain, the bus driver does not sell these passes. If you want to buy a bus pass, you have to search for a tourist office or a shop where bus passes are sold.
El Corte Inglés usually has these, and if not, ask for “Bonobus.” The staff in the shops often know where to buy a bus ticket.
Taxi as an affordable alternative
Do you prefer traveling by taxi? Then always check if you are boarding an official taxi.
The prices of a taxi are quite affordable. For about $25 you can travel from the airport to a hotel in the city center.
Exploring Valencia by bicycle or on foot
Turia Park, which runs through the city like a ribbon, makes it very attractive for tourists to rent a bicycle and travel that way. Valencia is not a hilly city.
Renting a bike can often start at about $15 per day and becomes cheaper the longer you rent the bike.
If you like to walk, Valencia is also a great city to explore on foot. The city center is compact, and because you almost always end up at the Turia Park in the riverbed, navigating is easy. You’ll also have good paths to walk on.
What to do in Valencia?
As in most cities, Valencia has a variety of impressive buildings, museums, beautiful parks, and excellent restaurants. We have listed a few exciting and popular activities:
- A visit to the Mercado Central. This market hall is located in the historical center of Valencia and is, even without the market, very special. The building has beautiful stained glass windows and a unique glass dome. On the market itself, mainly fresh local products are traded. Meat, fish, vegetables, and herbs are plentiful.
- Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. The buildings of the ‘city of arts and sciences’ were designed by the same architect as the famous opera house in Sydney. They are located in a beautiful location in the middle of the Turia park in the dry river bed of the Turia. Viewing the buildings and parks alone is worthwhile. For those who want more, you can also visit the premises. It is possible to visit the science museum, the I-max cinema or the opera house.
- The historical city center. The historic center of Valencia is mostly car-free and a beautiful place to stroll around. There are many small streets, lovely quiet squares, and many terraces for a delicious cup of coffee or a small snack.
- To the beach. When the weather is beautiful, a visit to one of the beaches is worth it. By bus or subway, you can quickly get to the beach and, once you are there, you don’t feel like being in a big city at all. Next, to the beaches there are excellent paella restaurants, and there are beautiful promenades to enjoy a stroll.
- Jardin del Turia. In other words, the city park in the drained riverbed. This park winds over a length of almost 4 miles straight through Valencia. It is a perfect corridor to travel from one side of the city to the other or to relax on one of the many benches or lawns.
Things to do in the surroundings of Valencia
Would you like to leave the busy city behind you and explore the surroundings of Valencia?
This is also very worthwhile and, like the city itself, very diverse.
When you go west from the city, the lowlands soon make way for a hilly and sometimes even mountainous landscape.
If you drive this way, you will end up in the vineyards in about half an hour.
The orange trees and industry slowly disappear, and dry hills and vineyards loom up.
It is great to visit a local wine producer and purchase a nice bottle of wine.
When you choose to go north of the city, you will soon find yourself in ‘the vegetable garden of Valencia.’
A patchwork of small farmlands, filled with bean bushes, orange trees, potatoes, and much more.
If you go a little further out of the city, you can visit the Castillo de Sagunto. This is a huge Roman ruin from which you have a magnificent panoramic view over the coastline and the city of Valencia.
Coming from Valencia in a southerly direction, you’ll soon be immersed in everything to do with rice cultivation and paella.
Just south of Valencia lies the vast lake of Albufera. This lake is an important natural and bird sanctuary but is best known for the cultivation of paella rice.
Annually more than 250 million pounds of paella rice is produced here.
When you are in the surroundings of Albufera, you can go and eat an authentic paella in the small village of El Palmar.
This village is situated directly on Lake Albufera and has many excellent paella restaurants. Highly recommended!