So you might have seen from my many gratuitous Instagrams that I spent a long weekend on the continent last week, in the sunny city of Valencia. We packed quite a lot into four days and I fell a bit in love with the place, so I thought I’d share my top tips and recommendations (which is basically just a way for me to ramble on about what we did – hopefully without annoying you…)
1. Eat the oranges
They are the size of mini bowling balls and the juiciest things you’ve ever eaten in your life. English oranges cannot compete. Plus, there are orange trees bloody everywhere so the fruity scent follows you around as you explore the city.
2. Drink the sangria
I mean, who goes to Spain and doesn’t drink sangria? Crazy people, that’s who. The local drink is like summer in a glass. I might even prefer it to Pimms (soz again England!) Each place we went to made it slightly differently, and the 1 euro Don Simon from the corner shop is the ideal pre-dinner tipple.
3. Try a tapas tasting menu
One thing I couldn’t get over was how amazingly cheap and good value all of the food we ate was. Most of the restaurants did tasting menus of 5 or 6 courses for under 20 euros which were always simple and DELICIOUS. Just thinking about them now makes me long for a platter of Iberica ham and some manchego.
4. Eat paella
Said to have been invented in Valencia, there isn’t a shortage of paella in this place. I booked us into what I heard was the best paella they had to offer, a restaurant called Navarro just outside the old town.
We were properly Spanish about it and ate at like 10.30pm but it was definitely worth the wait. I also got the best calamari starter of my life to combat my pre-paella hanger, but if you plan on doing the same I would advise against wearing skinny jeans. The struggle is real.
5. Bike through the Turia Gardens
Our AirBnB host explained to us on the way to his amazing apartment that the river in Valencia dried up some years ago, and it all got turned into a huge park that snakes around the whole city, which they call the Green River. It stretches for about 15km and is full of cool bridges, walkways, palm trees, fountains, playing fields, running paths and cycle routes. There are hundreds of bike rental places in the Old Town and it only costs about 8 euros for a half-day of cycling.
6. Walk the Old Town
I’m a sucker for any type of old building, be it a cathedral or a museum or even just houses. The old town in Valencia is quite small in comparison to the rest of the city but definitely the most beautiful part and full of quirky restaurants and cafes. Perfect for wandering around in an afternoon and imagining yourself living in a bright yellow building with a Juliet balcony.
7. Go to the beach
There’s a long stretch of sandy beach that’s about a 10 minute taxi / 30 minute bike ride / 2 hour walk (yep we did all 3) from the Old Town. It’s clean, the sand is soft, the sea is freezing. We were a bit unlucky when we went and got caught up in a mini sandstorm sooo it wasn’t the hottest beach look tbh. Hence the lack of adorable photos, boo hoo.
8. BOAT TRIP
We booked this in advance for £18 each but I’m fairly sure you can just rock up and book it on the day (unless it’s a really busy time of year). Our boat trip took 90 minutes and there were about 20 of us on there in total. The crew took us up and down the coast on a Catamaran which is perfect for some leisurely sunbathing. It was pretty windy so we couldn’t swim in the Med sadly, however this meant more time for drinks at the bar so ermmm yeah I wasn’t complaining.
9. Visit the City of Arts and Sciences
If you go to Valencia you MUST go here – it’s the most futuristic and modern-looking collection of architecture I’ve probably ever seen. It took about 10 years to build, and comprises of a modern art gallery, a science museum, a planetarium/IMAX cinema, a canopy walkway full of indigenous plants and loads more cool things.
It was so stunning it became a bit overwhelming as I realised there wouldn’t be enough time to explore all of it while we were there.
10. Go to the Aquarium
Call me basic but I love an aquarium. This one was pricey with a 28 euro entry fee but you get a lot for your money – including a dolphin show (which we didn’t see but sounded amazing judging from the 39592 children screaming excitedly from the Wembley-sized dolphinarium).
There were some incredible species there including a beluga whale (who looked sad and I felt quite sorry for) and some cute sea lions, turtles, walruses – hey, walruses can be cute – and the usual sharks, sting rays and tropical fish that I love staring at.
11. Visit the Central Market
We only whizzed through this market once but all the food and drink on offer there looked dreamy – homemade horchata, churros, plus all the fish, ham, cheese and olives you could possibly want. Let’s just say it put our Whole Foods market up the road to shame. Especially because Whole Foods is such an effing rip off.
12. Get some 1 Euro Cava from the supermarket
Because when else will you get the chance to buy a decent bottle of cava for ONE EURO. I was genuinely gutted about only having carry-on luggage or else I’d have stocked up for all the antipasti dinner parties I plan on having this summer.
13. Chill in the park and take photos of the palm trees
Preferably with some 1 euro cava. If you get bored of lnstagram filtering the palm trees, read a book or have a nice little siesta in the sun. The city is so chilled out that it’s the perfect place for switching off – there’s just so much to enjoy from being in a new environment, especially when the SUN is SHINING.
Despite only being away for four days, having a short break from real life is always so refreshing and the time stretches out for longer when it’s filled with new experiences. It made me desperate to book another cheap European getaway so hit me up with your suggestions on Twitter! And if you’ve been to Valencia let me know if I’ve missed anything off this list… which let’s be real is inevitable because four days was NOT ENOUGH!