By K.P. our resident food critic Paella is one of Spain’s national joys (as you probably know) and is hands down the one dish you HAVE to wrap your mouth…
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A BACKPACKER’S GUIDE TO VALENCIA
Valencia is Spain’s third largest city and the second on the Mediterranean, so can sometimes fall under the tourist radar, but it shouldn’t! It’s a city of good times, world-famous oranges, history, architecture and art, a city that is home to some of Spain’s greatest parties (Las Fallas, La Tomatina), the home of paella, playground of the hot people, fringed by some of the nicest beaches in Spain, divided by one of the most impressive riverbed-parks we know of, and so much more that you’ll just have to come and see for yourself.
Facts About Valencia
Population of Valencia: 790,000, with 1.5 million in the greater area
Tourists to Valencia in a year: 1.6 million overnight visitors
Languages spoken in Valencia: Spanish and Valencian, which is much like Catalan, which is almost like Spanish, but it isn’t either, it’s Valencian
Price of things in Valencia: bus trip €1.50, lunch menu €10, paella €20 per person
Times things happen in Valencia: Las Fallas in March 15th to 19th, La Tomatina the last Wednesday in August, day-to-day the same as Spain
Average summer temperatures in Valencia: high 31°C, low 22°C
Average winter temperatures in Valencia: high 17°C, low 8°C
Getting Around Valencia
Walking around Valencia: Valencia’s a flat city, but pretty spread out. And confusing, with lots of circular streets and no visible landmarks to orient yourself. The old part of Valencia is to be explored on foot, and there are large gates, remnants of the ancient city wall, that you can scale to get your bearings in the city. Also, the city is bounded on the north side by a park that runs the length of the diverted old river. This is a good way to move from east to west in an almost straight line without getting too lost.
Biking around Valencia: there are a lot of bike paths in Valencia that can easily whisk you to any part of the city with minimal stress. There is a lot of traffic in downtown Valencia, but on the bike paths you can scoot by it, without climbing any real inclines. Make sure you always lock your bike up in a safe spot, thieves will have their shifty eyes on you. For a list of bike rental stores, dive over here.
Public transport in Valencia: it’s pretty good! The bus system runs regularly, even during festival time, and will get you from outside the city into the centre, as will the local rail and metro system. You won’t need public transport when you’re exploring the city, you can do that on bike or foot, it is handy when getting from the beaches, campsites and surrounding suburbs into the city. Here’s a resource for public transport details.
Taxis in Valencia: plenty of taxis in Valencia that can get you to where you’re going quickly, or late at night. You can find taxis from the side of the road, or at the cab rank by the main train station.
Driving around Valencia: oh my gosh, Valencia’s roads are crazy confusing and chaotic and probably not the best place to drive. If you’re coming in by car, park outside the city centre, on the north side of the river-park and walk in.
Valencia Accommodation Options
Where to stay in Valencia: you’ve got two real options, downtown near the old town, or outside the city by the beaches. What’s your poison? Bars and big city lights, or beautiful beaches with boundless sunshine? Well you totally can have both! In the summertime the city can get oppressively hot, and many Valencian locals relocate to coastal campsites in the summer to escape the heat. Bear that in mind.
Where to sleep in your car in Valencia: if you want to stay in your car you’ll have to park outside the city, and by the beaches, which you can do quite easily. The best beaches for camping in your car are Puçol to the north and El Saler to the south, which just happen to be where the campsites are.
Camping in Valencia: the two Valencian camping areas, Camping Puçol (sometimes spelt Puzol) and the camping in El Saler are by the beach, full of friendly Valencian families (they’ll invite you in for paella!), have lively bars, small restaurants and are connected to the city centre by public transport.
Best Hostels in Valencia: there are a bunch of hostels in downtown Valencia (remember, it is hot in summer), that run the range from being hip traveller accommodations to repurposed student barracks. Some of the best are Centre Valencia Youth Hostel, Home Youth Hostel, Quart Youth Hostel and Innsa Hostel. Like always, check the ratings and reviews to get the hostel that suits not just your budget, but also you travelling style.
Best Hotels in Valencia: this is not a bad place to jump in a hotel, particularly during the quieter times of the year. There are a bunch of nice hotels downtown in Valencia, but we like the Hotel Balandret, the Meliá and the Vincci Palace.
Valencian Food And Drink
What to eat in Valencia: paella. Real paella, cooked with Valencian water and featuring chicken and rabbit (brains!), beans and rice. In Valencia seafood paella isn’t real paella, so even if you’ve got a hankering for some arroz mariscos, you’ve just got to try the real deal while you’re here.
Best places to eat in Valencia: there are a bunch of great restaurants in the old town, Ciutat Vella, particularly hidden off the main tourist streets (explore the area between Torres de Quart and Porta de Serrans), or in the up-and-coming barrio of Russafa.
What to drink in Valencia: we love drinking ice-cold beer in Valencia, big jugs of sangria, and mostly tinto de verano. BUT the Valencians have their own drink, using their world famous oranges. Agua de Valencia is a mix of cava (Spanish champagne), orange juice and various spirits (secret).
Where to drink in Valencia: there are a bunch of bars all over the city, particularly in the old town. We like Radio City, Café Negrito and Bar La Paca.
Scams and crime in Valencia: there are no more scams in Valencia than in the rest of Spain, and a bit less than in Barcelona. There will be thieves who target tourists operating in the old town, and in the crowds during busy periods like Las Fallas. Follow our guide to avoiding pickpockets and you’ll be fine.
Terrorism and public danger in Valencia: there have been no terror incidents in Valencia and few public disturbances, apart from some football hooliganism when the local team plays, and flare ups around Valencian national day on October 9th.
Best Places To Visit In Valencia
Best Valencian beaches: the best beach in Valencia is El Saler, it’s set on a wilderness area, with bars and restaurants spread across the sand (not too many!), dedicated nudist areas towards the north and in winter some pretty good waves for surfing. Other beaches include Puzol in the north, and the city beach of La Malva-Rosa.
Valencian sights: the old town is full of sights, the immense gates of Torres de Quart and Porta de Serrans, the Mercat Central, the Plaça de la Reina, and the Plaça de la Verge are just some of them. Down along the riverbed park, towards the sea, you will find Valencia’s most impressive sights, the extravagant, expensive and unnecessary arts and science district with its futuristic seashell-shaped Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Hemisfèric, Aquarium Oceanografic, and the Museu de les Ciencies de Valencia. Check them out!
Valencian districts: the city happens in the Ciutat Vella for street art, small bars, restaurants and alleys to get lost in. Russafa for hip bars and restaurants in a neighbourhood for the locals, and the area around Estacion de Nord for shopping chain stores and fast food restaurants.
Valencian Festivals And Parties
Valencia is a city of parties, none more important than Las Fallas, the annual building and burning of elaborate statues, meant to celebrate the city’s carpenters and celebrate the end of winter. Las Fallas sees the city filled with huge statues, some as high as buildings, that are carefully and beautifully constructed, just to be burnt down to the ground. This is the festival that the Valencians live for.
Just outside of Valencia we also enjoy La Tomatina, the yearly food fight that sees people from all over the world converge on the small village of Buñol just to throw salad fruit at each other, followed by the famously fantastic and fun La Tomatina after party. Come along and see how much seed and pulp you can pull from every orifice for weeks to come.
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