Top 10 Things to do in Valencia, Spain

Valencia town square

While not as famous as its big sisters, Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia is a spectacular city that should make it on to any traveler's to-visit list. Valencia is the birthplace of paella, home to great beaches and weather, and boasts a beautiful historic quarter and a progressive art scene. It was difficult to narrow our list, but we picked out our 10 favorite things to do in Valencia. This list is limited to day-time activities and attractions (think arts and culture rather than drinks and dancing). We will save our best nightlife picks for another post. If you are left with a travel bug after reading this post, register for a program at our Spanish school in Valencia

A little background on Valencia:

Valencia is Spain's third largest city and is located on the country's central eastern coast. It is also one of Spain's oldest cities, with first the known settlers setting up shop before 100 BC during the Roman Empire. Since that time, the city has been conquered, reconquered, razed and rebuilt numerous times. Valencia was invaded and subsequently controlled by the Moors for over 500 years and much of the architectural influence of that era remains, mixed with the later 'traditional' Spanish styles of the Christian reconquest era. The 'Golden Age' of Valencia occurred during the 15th century during the height of the Renaissance. This was a time of prosperity both economically and culturally for the city. Wikipedia

So without further ado, here's the list:

1. Take in the sights of la Plaza de la Virgin:

Located in the historic district, the plaza is a major gathering point for the festival of Fallas which occurs from March 15-19 annually. This brief festival of parody is a time in which the citizenry make fun of the faults of society and Spanish politics. Major monuments around the plaza include el catedral, the Roman Museum, and the Church of Saint Joseph.

2. See, smell and taste El Mercado Central:

This 8000 square meter space market is one of the oldest running in Europe. The building surrounding the market was designed in 1914 by architects Francisco Guardia and Alejandro Soler. Vendors sell meat, vegetables, fruit fish and more in over 1,000 stands. Come for the sights, smells and tastes in the early morning and then grab breakfast or lunch at one of the many restaurants and tapas bars surrounding the market.

3. Tour the city's remarkable street art:

The old town of Valencia (Parte Viejo) is full of both comissioned and unsanctioned grafitti and street art, all of it visually unique and impressive. If you are studying at Taronja School or IH Valencia, ask the activities director for a grafitti map to guide you.

Beaches of Valencia Spain

4. Hit the Beach

Kind of a no-brainer. White sand, blue water, volleyball, barbecues and beautiful sunsets await you. If you're in the city, you can easily take the tram right to the boardwalk.

Spanish school in Valencia

5. Spend a day exploring El Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno:

The Valencia Museum of Modern Art is made up of a modern building and a 13th century building that was formerly a convent. The museum features painting, sculptures, photography, drawings, concerts and more from modern artists in Spain and around the world. It is open Monday and Thursday from 10am to 7pm and Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 10pm. Entry is only 2 Euros per person.

6. Picnic at El Parque Natural de la Albufera:

Centered around a gorgeous lagoon, this nature reserve south of Valencia is a great spot for the tired traveler to retire for some peace and quiet outside of the hustle of the city proper. Over 250 species of migratory birds frequent the area during the summer months. Visitors can also gaze at myriad flora and fauna within the park. Three separate canals connect the wetlands and lagoon to the Balearic Sea (part of the Mediterranean)

7. People watch on el Calle Caballero:

This chic street full of shopping, cafes and bars is the best spot in the city to enjoy a coffee, read a book, or gaze at passers-by. Calle Caballero is part of Barrio del Carmen in the old town of Valencia and is frequented by Valencia's young and beautiful citizens.

8. Visit El Catedral:

This gorgeous cathedral is set in the center of the ancient Roman quarter of Valencia. Like many ancient buildings in coastal Spain, elements of Moorish, Baroque and renaissance style are present from conquerors of different religious backgrounds that have controlled the city throughout its history. Many additions to and subtractions from the cathedral were made during the 1600s, 1700s and early 1800s and the present day building is a beautiful collision of stylistic influences. The famous chalice known as the Santo Caliz sits in the cathedral, said by some to be the fabled Holy Grail.

9. Find a rooftop:

Almost every public building in Valencia has a rooftop patio. Many buildings in the historic part of town have bars on the top floor. Grab some Jugo de Valencia, an orange juice based cocktail, take a seat and enjoy some "Chill-Out" music. Or, if you don't want to spend any money, find a hotel, pretend you're a guest, and take the elevator to the rooftop pool.

10. Watch Valencia FC Play:

You can’t visit Spain (or Europe for that matter) without attending a futbol (soccer) match. Founded in 1919, Valencia FC is one of the top clubs in Spain. The club plays in La Liga against powerhouses like Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, the current Liga and European champs. A brand new 75,000 seat stadium opened in Valencia in 2011.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Stretch your mind at La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias:

Images of the iconic center for Arts and Sciences can be seen on almost every website and pamphlet about Valencia. It's great, but in our opinion, a bit overrated (think Sydney Opera House or Seattle Space Needle). The center houses a museum, an IMAX theater, an aquarium, a planetarium, a laser dome and an opera house. Visitors young and old are encouraged to exercise their brains while touching and interacting with exhibits.

Shop at La Lonja silk market:

Purchase beautiful fabrics while surrounded by equally stunning architecture.

Attend the Formula One European Grand Prix at the Valencia Street Circuit:

The three day Valencia Grand Prix is one of two semi-permanent Grand Prix circuits in Spain, the other taking place in Barcelona. The European Grand Prix will be held there each summer until 2015. The course through the city was designed by the German engineer and automobile racer Hermann Tilke who has also designed circuits in Bejing, Zagreb, Jakarta and Instanbul.

Anything we missed? As always, leave it in the comments!