Nestled along Spain’s stunning eastern coast, Valencia is a historic city that offers a mix of traditional charm and futuristic allure that’s hard to resist. In this Valencia travel guide, I’ll share my insider tips and personal experiences exploring the city I’ve come to know well during multiple visits since moving to Spain in 2017.
Valencia – officially known as València Ciudad – is one of Spain’s oldest cities, boasting an enviable location along the Mediterranean Sea and the Turia River. Yet, it’s not just another pretty seaside city. It’s the third-largest city in Spain, after Madrid and Barcelona.
It is renowned for its ‘City of Arts and Sciences’ – an eye-catching ensemble of an interactive museum, an oceanarium, a planetarium, and futuristic structures that will leave you in awe. However, there is much more to be discovered. Stay with me as we delve deeper into this gem of a city and discover why Valencia should be your next Spanish destination.
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Before you visit – check out my top helpful travel resources
Here are a few of my recommendations for travel assistance and sites I use when traveling myself. For more on these and why I choose to recommend them, check out my full disclosure page.
- Book your travel insurance with Insured Nomads if you are from the US or Worldwide Insure for European visitors.
- Find the best flights with Skyscanner.
- Get great prices on Rental Cars from Discover Cars.
- Travel throughout Spain and Europe via train. Book your tickets with the Trainline.
- Find affordable accommodations on Booking.com
- Search tours from GetYourGuide or Civitis
- Check your visa requirement on iVisa
A Quick History of Valencia
Valencia’s history began over 2,100 years ago. In 138 BC, approximately two thousand Roman Colonists settled in “Valentia Edetanorum” under consul Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus. The current neighborhood of Plaza de la Virgen was the city center at that time.
In 75 BC, Valentina was leveled to the ground and was not rebuilt for about 50 years. Periods of growth and decline happened over the next several centuries. It included the Visigothic Period and the Muslim Balansiya – which included changing the name of the city to Medina al-Turab (City of Sand) and then Taifa of Valencia. During the Muslim Balansiya time, the area was ruled by Muslims, briefly by Christians, then back to two different Muslim Dynasties.
After the 1238 Christian Reconquest, fifty thousand Moors were forced to leave the city. The city entered into a new era, and a new language and society were developed. Under King James, the territory and city were now known as the Kingdom of Valencia. All the people of the city, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, would live as citizens of the kingdom. It is said that when King Zayyan surrendered to King James, he said:
“In the city of Valencia live Muslims, the nobles of my people, along with Christians and Jews. I hope you continue to govern in the same harmony, all working and living together in this noble land. Here, during my reign, Easter processions went out, and Christians professed their religion freely, as our Quran recognizes Christ and the Virgin. I hope you bestow the same treatment to the Muslims of Valencia.”
Things were then good in the city for a long time. However, it was not the end of the tough times in Valencia. In 1348, the city was plagued with the Black Death and subsequent years of epidemics. Then once again, it saw years of riots and wars that followed.
Valencia’s Golden Age came during the 15th century. The city boomed with population growth. Culture and art flourished. Industry soared, and financial institutions were created. The most emblematic buildings were designed, including 1392 the Serranos Towers and in 1482 the Lonja. Literature flourished, and the University of Valencia was founded. Thus, making Valencia one of the most influential cities in the 15th and 16th centuries.
However once again, Valencia suffered from a severe economic crisis after the discovery of the Americas. The Aragonese, Catalans, Majorcans, and Valencians were not allowed to participate in cross-Atlantic trade commerce. It led to revolts and riots and eventually led to the expulsion of Jews and Moriscos in 1609. The expulsion, consisting of one-fifth of the population, lead to further economic hardships in the area. Things continued to decline until the end of the War Of Spanish Succession.
Valencia’s economy started to recover in the 18th century. However, the 19th century began with wars with England, Portugal, and France. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Valencia saw times of growth and prosperity. However, it still had hard times and times of war, revolution, and dictatorship.
The 21st century has been a lot calmer for Valencia. The third most populated city in Spain is also a trendy tourist destination.
Valencia, Spain, is your ideal destination if you enjoy mild winter and hot summer weather. Resting only 79 ft (24 meters) above sea level, the Valencia climate is the Mediterranean. The area has mild winters with little rain and sunny hot summers. The coastline of Valencia includes Alboraya, Cullera, Sagunto, Garandia, Piles, Miramar, Oliva, and Valencia city.
Summer Weather For Valencia Spain
The average daily temperature during the summer in Valencia ranges from 18°C – 31°C (64°F – 88°F). However, the hottest day on record in Valencia was 43°C (109°F) on August 27th, 2010, and again the same temperature was recorded on May 14th, 2015. The average rainfall during the summer is between 13 – 18 mm (0.5 – 0.7 in) and will be spread across 1 – 3 days.
Winter Weather in Valencia Spain
The average daily temperature during winter in Valencia is 17°C (63°F) during the day and a nightly low of 8°C (46°F). However, the coldest temperature ever recorded in Valencia was -7.2°C (19.0°F) on February 11th, 1956. The average rainfall in the winter months can vary from 35 – 50 mm (1.4 – 2 in) and can be spread across four days throughout the month.
The wettest months are in the fall, with approximately 55 – 70 mm (2.2 – 2.8 in) and spread across 4-6 days throughout the month.
Activities In Valencia
There are numerous things to do in Valencia. There is no need to rent a car to experience most things in and around the city. The public transport system is excellent.
A lot of people love the city because of the weather and the eight Valencia Spain beaches they can visit. Some people spend time relaxing while others get active in land and water sports. Nature lovers can go to Albufera Park and enjoy the walking trails, lake, and wetlands. Additionally, here are some other favorite activities for you to enjoy while you are on your Valencia vacation.
Stretch Your Legs With A Free Valencia Walking Tour
Kick off your exploration of Valencia with a 2 and a half hour city walking tour that starts at Plaza de la Virgen. Here, you’ll learn about the Virgen de Los Desamparados Basilica and the Turia fountain, central to Valencia’s traditions like the ‘Fallas’ festivities and the Tribunal of Waters, a UNESCO-recognized irrigation dispute resolution tradition. Other highlights include:
- The renaissance architecture of the Town Hall and the headquarters of the Valencian autonomous government.
- The Miguelete, Valencia Cathedral’s bell tower
- The Llotja de la Seda
- The Valencia Central Market
- Serranos Towers, remnants of Valencia’s medieval walls.
For more details and to book your spot, click here.
Visit the Futuristic Hemisferic, Science Museum & Oceanografic
The futuristic City of Arts and Sciences complex can not be missed when you visit Valencia city. The Hemisferic is the first building that was built in the complex. It is home to the Planetarium, Laserium, and IMAX cinema. The science museum hosts several permanent and temporary exhibits spread over four floors. The Oceanogràfic de Valencia, known as the Valencia Aquarium, is the largest aquarium in Europe and has several aquatic environments for you to enjoy, including the Dolphinarium. You can also dine in the underwater restaurant.
Enjoy a Valencian Paella Cooking Class
As the birthplace of Paella, the dish is deeply rooted in Valencia’s heritage. Paella originated as a meal for farmers and laborers, who cooked it over a wood fire in the fields. They used readily available ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, snails, beans, and occasionally rabbit or duck. Chicken and saffron were luxurious additions for special occasions. Back then, the dish was enjoyed communal style, straight from the pan, with each person digging in with their own wooden spoon.
A fun idea during your visit is a cooking course where you can learn how to make one of the most famous dishes in Spain. You will explore the busy market to buy the freshest products available before returning to learn about Valencia’s culinary history and develop the skills to duplicate famous Valencian gastronomy in your home.
Discover the Holy Grail … Maybe!
In the heart of Valencia, the Cathedral holds a revered artifact: the Holy Grail, believed by many to be the cup used by Jesus during the Last Supper. This chalice, resting on a golden pedestal, is surrounded by the grandeur of the cathedral and the echoes of Gregorian chants, creating an awe-inspiring atmosphere.
The Holy Grail, a legendary treasure, has been a part of numerous stories and adventures, from King Arthur’s quests to Indiana Jones’ expeditions. However, the Santo Cáliz in Valencia stands out, attracting pilgrims worldwide and even being used ceremonially by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
In the Chapel of the Chalice, the serenity invites contemplation. The chalice, adorned with gold, pearls, emeralds, and rubies, initially seems too grand. Yet, learning that the true relic is the simple agate cup at the top, dating back to the Last Supper’s time and place, adds authenticity.
The journey of the Holy Grail from Jerusalem to Valencia is shrouded in mystery, but the archaeological assessments and rich history make the Valencia chalice a compelling candidate. Despite this, the true magic of the Holy Grail lies in the searching, the stories, and the quest for understanding, ensuring the mystery endures.
Tap Your Feet at a Flamenco Show with Dinner
While Seville is considered to be the birthplace of Flamenco, the iconic Spanish dance, the tradition and passion permeates throughout the entire country, and wherever you are in Spain, this is a great idea!
Enjoy an evening in an intimate and lovely restaurant in Valencia. The reminiscent atmosphere, accompanied by delicious Mediterranean cuisine, will set the stage to prepare you for an authentic flamenco experience. Click here for all the details.
Relax on the Beaches in Valencia
As the old saying goes, “Life’s a beach,” and in Valencia, that couldn’t be more true. This city is a paradise for beach enthusiasts, drawing both locals and tourists with its stunning coastline. Here’s a quick rundown of the must-see beaches in the area:
- Playa de la Malvarrosa: It’s arguably Valencia’s most popular beach, famous for its wide stretch of golden sand and lively promenade. You’ll find numerous restaurants and bars here, creating an energetic atmosphere. Plus, its calm waters make it a safe spot for a dip.
- Playa de las Arenas: Right next to Malvarrosa, this beach shares many characteristics but is often less busy. It’s renowned for its marina, home to luxury yachts and sailing clubs.
- Playa El Saler: My personal favourite, but a little further away from the city centre. Nestled in the Albufera Natural Park, El Saler provides a tranquil, natural setting unlike the city beaches. Its fine sand, clear waters, dunes, and pine trees make it a unique spot for a relaxing swim.
- Playa de Pinedo: Closer to the port, this beach has a local vibe. It’s popular for swimming, but it’s also a hotspot for windsurfing and kite surfing, thanks to the favourable wind conditions.
- Playa de Cabanyal (or Playa del Cabañal): While smaller than Malvarrosa and Las Arenas, this beach offers a similar lively atmosphere with its buzzing promenade and eateries.
These beaches are all easily reached by public transport. In the summer, you’ll see lifeguards on duty, ensuring your safety as you enjoy the Mediterranean Sea. Valencia’s beaches are known for their cleanliness, making them a popular choice for both swimming and chill-out sessions.
More recommended tours in Valencia
Museums In Valencia
With 35 museums in Valencia, it is easy to immerse yourself in a world of art, culture, heritage, and traditions. Keep in mind museums are usually closed on Mondays in Spain. Some Valencia museums are free, and some have entry fees. Most are free on the first Sunday of the month. However, lines can be very long on these Sundays.
The Museum of Natural Sciences
Valencia’s Museum of Natural Sciences is located in the old Viveros restaurant. It is a center for the study, conservation, and dissemination of Valencia’s natural and scientific heritage. The educational museum contains four sections, including a reproduction of a prehistoric cave. Permanent and temporary exhibitions can be observed showcasing some of the most important Valencian scientists. For more information, hours, and fees, check out their website here.
The Fallero Museum
The Fallero Museum is located in an old convent. In 1971 the St. Vincent de Paul’s Mission House became the home to the complete collection of pardoned ninots. Fallas festival is a celebration of Saint Joseph and has taken place since the mid-18th century. The festival is to welcome spring and at the end of the festival, these impressive pieces of art are set on fire. In November 2016, Fallas was inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. For more information, hours, and fees, check out their website here.
National Museum of Ceramics and Sumptuary Arts “González Martí”
Visit one of the most interesting museums in Valencia, the National Museum of Ceramics and Sumptuary Arts González Martí. An agreement was made in 1947 between Manuel González Martí and the state to create a museum when he gave them his ceramic collection. The museum gradually included ceramic tiles, paintings, clothing, and furniture. For more information, hours, and fees, check out their website here.
The Fine Arts Museum of Valencia
The most crucial landmark in the Valencian Community is The Fine Arts Museum of Valencia. The museum has seen a lot of relocations throughout Spain due to turbulent times in Valencia since it was founded in 1837. Within the museum, you will discover an extensive collection of art, drawings, and engravings. Additionally, archeological pieces, architectural fragments, decorative paintings, photographs, and sculptures can be viewed. Entrance to the museum is free. For more information and hours, check out their website here.
Institut Valencià d’Art Modern
Valencia’s Institute of Modern Art is also known as IVAM. It opened in 1989 and was the first center of modern art in Spain. The building has seven galleries, a library, a cafeteria, and a conference room. The conference room hosts educational workshops, seminars, concerts, films, and more. You can enjoy several hours viewing the 11,322 pieces, including drawings, paintings, sculptures, photography, and more. For more information and hours, check out their website here.
Monuments and Valencia Landmarks to See
Valencia has countless monuments to see. Some are on a grand scale and you can enter, others are smaller and sprinkled throughout the city. Here are just a few of the monuments that should visit.
Santos Juanes Church
It is estimated that the Venetian gothic style Santos Juanes Church was built on the site of a former mosque in the mid-thirteenth century. Located on the top of a hill in the La Boatella suburb of Valencia, it suffered a devastating fire in 1592. It was rebuilt through the 17th and 18th centuries. The interior is full of Baroque designs. For more information, check out their website here.
House of San Vicente Ferrer
San Vicente Ferrer was an XV century figure who became the patron saint of Valencia. He is still admired and receives countless prayers. The home of San Vicente Ferrer is commonly called the ‘Pouet de San Vicent.’ It was the Ferrer’s family home and the house where Vicente grew up. You can enter the house from two different sides. Both sides are equally crowned by rounded arches and variously sized windows. For more information, check out their website here.
The Plaza de Ayuntamiento, or the Council Square in English, is Valencia’s largest plaza in the city center. It is built on the gardens of an old monastery and surrounded by beautiful architecture and numerous places to eat, drink, and shop. Significant buildings surrounding the square are the city hall and the central post station.
The bullring in Valencia is officially called Plaza de Toros de Valencia. The neoclassical-style building was built between 1850 and 1859. The architect Sebastián Monleón Estellés, a Valencian, was obviously inspired by Arena of Nîmes and the Colosseum in Rome. Many concerts and events are held in the bullring. I am not a fan of bullfighting, and unfortunately, it still takes place twice a year in Valencia.
The Silk Market
The silk market, also known as the Silk Exchange Valencia, is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. The construction which resembles an old Medieval castle began in 1483. It has four areas, the central tower, the Contracts room, the Consulado del Mar room, and the Patio de los Naranjos. In 1996 the building was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “Visitors entering the forest of palm-tree-shaped columns that span its magnificent main hall, are spellbound by its enigmatic carvings, which hold the secrets and mysteries of a society that was just opening itself up to the Renaissance – secrets that still remain hidden to us today.” It is closed on Monday. The entry fee is 2 euros.
Festivals In Valencia, Spain
- Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos / Epifanía (Parade of the Three Kings / Epiphany)
- San Vicente Mártir (Feast Day of Saint Vicente the Martyr)
- Las Fallas de San José
- Semana Santa (Holy Week)
- Fiesta de San Vicente Ferrer (Feast Day of Saint Vicente Ferrer)
- Virgen de los Desamparados – (Our Lady of the Forsaken)
- Corpus Christi
- Noche de San Juan (Night of Saint Juan)
- Feria de Julio (July Fair)
- La Tomatina
- Festival Internacional de Pirotecnia (International Festival of Pyrotechnics)
- Día de la Comunidad Valenciana (Day of the Valencian Community)
- Nochebuena / Navidad (Christmas Eve / Christmas)
- Nochevieja (New Years Eve)
Day Trips From Valencia
Not only are there many things to see in Valencia, but there are also several things to do outside of the city. Depending on how much time you have in Valencia, you may want to participate in some of these day trips.
La Tomatina Festival
La Tomatina is the world-famous festival held annually in the town of Buñol, near Valencia in Spain. The event takes place on the last Wednesday of August and is essentially a massive tomato fight, where participants throw overripe tomatoes at each other for fun.
The festival starts in the morning with various activities, but the main event begins when a large truck brings in tons of tomatoes into the town’s main square. For about an hour, the air is filled with flying tomatoes, and the streets turn into rivers of tomato juice.
Participants are advised to wear old clothes and goggles for protection. After the event, fire trucks hose down the streets, and participants can use public showers to clean up. La Tomatina is not just about the tomato fight; it’s a week-long celebration that includes music, parades, dancing, and fireworks.
Despite its messy nature, the festival is generally good-natured and is attended by thousands of locals and tourists alike, looking to experience this unique and exhilarating tradition..
Valencia Wine Tour with Tasting and Lunch
There are several wines produced throughout Spain and now is your chance to visit the Utiel-Requena region. Explore the origins, sample Valencian wine, and enjoy a traditional Spanish lunch on this eight-hour tour.
Find out more details by clicking here.
Visit Albufera, the Home of Paella
Albufera, located just south of Valencia, offers a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, presenting a stark contrast to the lively atmosphere of events like La Tomatina. This freshwater lagoon and estuary is one of the largest lakes in Spain, and it is surrounded by rice fields, creating a picturesque landscape that has inspired artists and writers for centuries.
When you visit Albufera, you can immerse yourself in its natural beauty and rich biodiversity. The park is a haven for birdwatchers, as it provides a habitat for a variety of bird species, including some that are rare and endangered. A boat trip on the serene waters of the lagoon offers a unique opportunity to experience the area’s natural charm and observe the local wildlife in their natural habitat.
Check out my recommended tour here.
How To Get To Valencia Spain
Depending on where you are coming from, there are several ways to get to Valencia.
- If you’re coming from the North of Spain or other parts of Europe, you can easily drive or take a train to Valencia.
- For those who are planning to visit from across the ocean, there’s a well-connected international airport in Valencia that caters to flights from numerous global destinations.
- If you’re already in Spain, domestic flights, buses, and trains are also readily available, offering a seamless journey to this beautiful city.
Valencia Spain Airport
Valencia Airport (VLC), or Aeropuerto de Valencia, is also known as Manises Airport. It welcomes all flights to Valencia Spain as it serves as the international and domestic airport for the province of Valencia and Valencia city. It is a relatively small airport with two terminals that saw 6.7 million passengers in 2017. You can get a one-way bus ticket to the city for €1.45. However, there are no buses on Sundays and holidays. One-way underground tickets start at €1.50 and increase depending on the zone you are traveling to. Taxi service is always available to bring you from the airport to Valencia city center or wherever you are staying. Check flight availability and prices with Expedia UK or CheapOair.
Valencia Spain Train Station
Valencia’s central train station, The North Station (Spanish: Estación del Norte, Valencian: Estació del Nord), is in the city center. It is located in the heart of Valencia city center next to the Plaza de Toros de Valencia and 200 m from the town hall. Trains are available throughout Spain, and you can reach most destinations throughout Europe via the train system.
Valencia Bus Station
Valencia is a popular location in Spain. It has intercity connections to more than twenty cities within the country. Popular links include Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, and Seville. International connections can get you to various cities in France, Poland, Ukraine, and nine other European countries that are always available. Book your bus tickets with Flixbus or Omio.
Frequently Asked Questions About Valencia City, Spain
Where is Valencia located?
Valencia city is a port city on Spain’s southeastern coast, where the Turia River meets the Mediterranean Sea. It is in the Autonomous Community of Valencia, which includes three provinces, Alicante to the south, Valencia in the middle, and Castellón (Castelló) in the north.
What is Valencia population?
Valencia city’s population is approximately 834,000 people. It should not be confused with the Autonomous Region of Valencia or the province of Valencia.
What timezone is Valencia Spain in?
All of Spain has the same time zone. It is Central European Summer Time. The Time zone in Valencia and all of Spain is GMT+2.
Where is Valencia in Spain?
The city of Valencia is located in the province of Valencia, which is in the Autonomous Community of Valencia. The city rests in the southeastern part of Spain, along the Mediterranean sea.
What are the best beaches in Valencia?
I will be writing an article about the best beaches in Valencia. However, for now, most people say Las Arenas Beach, Playa de la Malvarrosa, or Malvarrosa Beach, Patacona Beach, and La Garrofera Beach.
What are the best hotels in Valencia?
If you want to stay at one of the best hotels in Valencia you should check out Las Arenas Balneario Resort, the Palacio Vallier, the Caro Hotel, the Hospes Palau de La Mar, and the Melia Valencia. Alternatively, you can read about Where to Stay in Valencia here.
What are the best restaurants in Valencia, Spain?
The best restaurants are a matter of opinion and price range. I will be posting more about the best restaurants in Valencia and include some contributions from other travel writers to add their favorites. In the meantime, you should consider El Poblet, Riff, Ricard Camarena, and Mercatbar.
How long does it take to get (to Valencia) from:
Alicante to Valencia?
Alicante to Valencia is approximately 166 km (103 miles). It will take you about 1 hour 50 minutes to drive. You can take the train for as low as 13€ and a bus for as little as 16€.
Barcelona to Valencia?
Barcelona is approximately 352 km (219 miles) away from Valencia. Flights between the cities are available. The Barcelona to Valencia drive will take you around 3 hours and 40 minutes one excellently maintained motorways. Trains can take between 2 hours 55 minutes and 4 hours 53 minutes. Train tickets start as low as 14€. A bus ticket will cost 20€ and take just over 5 hours. If you visit Barcelona, you should check out our Where to Stay in Barcelona and Day Trips From Barcelona.
Seville to Valencia?
Sevilla is approximately 654 km (406 miles) away from Valencia. Flights take about 2 hours, 50 minutes. It will take you 6 hours 30 minutes to drive between the two cities. A bus takes 11 hours, 15 minutes with tickets starting at 30€. A train can get you there in 7 hours 30 minutes with tickets beginning at 40€.
Madrid to Valencia?
Madrid is 357 km (222 miles) away from Valencia. You can fly for 2 hours, 50 minutes, or drive 3 hours 38 minutes to get from one city to the other. The high-speed train can get you between the cities in as little as 1 hour 40 minutes with tickets starting at 25€. The bus will take 4 hours, 15 minutes and the tickets start at 18€.
Malaga to Valencia?
Malaga is 618 km (384 miles) away from Valencia. A flight will take you 3-hours 20 minutes, and driving will take you approximately 6 hours 15 minutes. The 9-hour 20-minute bus ticket starts at 40€. The 4-hour 30-minute train tickets start at 50€.
Valencia to Benidorm?
Benidorm is only 140 km from Valencia. It is a great place to stop on your way to Alicante. Of course, you can drive. You can also get there by bus, train, tram, or rideshare.
Valencia to Bunol?
Buñol is 39 km (24 miles) west of Valencia. This short 35-minute drive makes Buñol ideal for a day trip from Valencia.
Valencia to Ibiza?
Valencia is 185 km (115 miles) from Ibiza. Because Ibiza is on one of the Balearic Islands, you can only get between the two cities via ferry or flight.
Valencia to Javea?
It is 113 km between Valencia and Javea (also known as Xàbia). It is a beautiful coastal drive of about 1-hour 20-minutes. Alternatively, you can take the bus, train, or rideshare.
Valencia to Mallorca?
It is 321 km (200 miles) from Valencia to Palma de Mallorca (Majorca). The only available routes to the island are by ferry or by flight.
Valencia to Marbella?
Marbella is 673 km (418 miles) away from Valencia. There are five ways to get from Marbella to Valencia by plane (3-hours 40-minutes), bus (10-hours 25-minutes), train (6-hours 45-minutes), or car (6-hours 30-minutes).
Valencia to Peniscola?
Peniscola is 144 km away from Valencia. You can quickly drive 1-hour 30- minutes along the coast to get there. Alternatively, you can take a bus or a train.
I hope you find this Valencia travel guide helpful in planning when you visit Valencia.