After spending a few days sight seeing in Barcelona, we took a train South to the wonderful coastal city of Valencia. One of the larger cities in Spain, and definitely one of the liveliest, Valencia is known for its amazing beaches. Situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and with average highs in the upper 60’s in the winter and above 90 degrees in the summer, Valencia is a very popular European vacation destination.
We ended up visiting in early Spring, so the beaches weren’t as packed as they become in the summer months. We were also only planning on visiting for a few days, so we didn’t visit any of Valencia’s infamous beaches. We did however take in many of the cultural and historical aspects of the city that also make it so wonderful.
Recommended Time to Visit
It’s tough to give a really good recommendation as to when you should or should not visit some place without knowing exactly what you are going to do or see. So instead of telling you when I think you should visit Valencia, I will show you how I investigate when to visit places I plan to travel to.
I plan on doing a separate article in the near future that outlines exactly how I plan my trips, and I will touch on this a little bit more then, but here is my process for determining when to make my visits in a nutshell.
The first thing I like to do is make a chart that outlines (color coding these charts makes it easier to visualize) the mean daylight hours, the average precipitation days, the average rainfall, the average temperature high, the average temperature low, and the mean temperature for each month of the year. As an example, please refer to the chart below I created for Valencia.
I also take a look at tourism literature to see which months are the busiest months for tourism in the region, and which are the least busy tourism months. If you want to avoid overly crowded beaches and long lines for popular tourist attractions, this is important info. I found the following chart in the tourist statistics from the city of Valencia.
This should be most, if not all, of the information you need to determine when to make your visit.
Best Month to Visit for Beach Vacation: June
If you plan on visiting Valencia to spend time at it’s beaches, you will probably want to plan your visit for when the weather is hot and the average rainfall is low. June thru August have the best beach weather as the temperatures are high and the average rainfall is low. If you want to avoid overly crowded beaches, you will probably want to avoid going in July and August, which happen to be the busiest tourism months of the year for Valencia. This makes June the best month to visit if you want to enjoy the beach.
Best Month to Visit for Cultural and Historical Vacation: March
If you are planning to visit the many cultural and historical attractions in and around Valencia, the weather may not be as big of a concern for you. However, you will still likely want to pick a month to visit that has the most daylight to take advantage of and the least amount of rainfall to ruin your plans. If it were me, I would avoid the months of November thru February as they offer the least amount of daylight to take advantage of.
The months of September and October have some of the highest rainfall averages for the year, which make those months less than optimal for visiting. If you want to avoid the big summer crowds, but still have a lot of daylight and avoid rainy days, the Spring (March thru June) is the best time to consider. Considering that one of the most well known festivals in Spain, Las Fallas, is held in Valencia in March, this may be the best month to plan your visit if you want to enjoy Valencia’s history and culture.
Recommended Length to Visit
Again, it’s really hard to tell someone how long they should visit a place unless you know exactly what they are going there to see. However, I did put my recommendations for roughly how much time you might want to spend at the various tourist spots I outlined below.
If you take the time to see all of the sights on my list for the amount of time I recommend, then you will need roughly 5 days to see it all adequately. We only had two days in Valencia as we were on a mission to see 12 cities on our trip to Spain, so we didn’t get to explore everything to the extent that we would have wanted to.
Recommendation 2-5 days
Top Things to See
Valencia is a large city that is rich in history and culture. So, as you can imagine, there is a wealth of things to see in the city. It would take me days to run thru all of the wonderful things there are to do and see in Valencia, so I stuck to my top ten things to see when you visit, listed in order below.
10. Valencia Street Art
The city of Valencia is a treasure trove for those interested in art and culture. From the City of Arts and Sciences, to the many ceramics, to the intricate traditional clothing, to the local cuisine, Valencia is a city that loves to celebrate its culture.
One of the more unique and wonderful ways in which this culture is expressed is thru the many pieces of street art you will find thru ought the city. I took the picture above while walking past one of the many street cafes in the city.
I found a great collection of Valencia street art photos if you are interested in seeing more of this fabulous art work.
Recommended Time to See: See as you explore
9. Wine Tours
Valencia is part of the Comunidad Valenciana region, which has a history of wine making that dates back thousands of years. For this reason, it is no surprise that Valencia is considered the wine export capital of Spain.
The Comunidad Valenciana wine region is broken down into four sub-zones, and the kind of wines you will find vary by region because of the climate and soil type. Those regions are as follows:
- Alto Turia (to the Northeast) – Mountainous area with vines planted at very high altitudes. This is primarily a white wine-making area that grows Merseguera and Macabeo grapes.
- Valentino (to the Northwest) – Gentle slopes and a Mediterranean climate are suitable for the growth of Semillon, Chardonnay and Tempranillo.
- Moscatel (in the center near Valencia) – This low-altitude, hot climate is best suited for growing the grapes for which the area is named. And for producing the luscious sweet wine that eventually made the region famous.
- Clariano (to the South) – Suited for growing a number of different grapes. Many white grapes are cultivated, including Macabeo and Moscatel. Reds grown are Tempranillo, Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The two wineries that we visited are listed below. I’ve included some recommendations for wine tours in my list of recommended excursions at the end of this article as well. If you have the time, I would suggest taking a tour. It was a great experience.
Recommended Time to See: 8 hours
8. Torres de Quart
The Quart towers are part of an old Christian city wall system that was built in the 14th century. The towers were added later on in the 15th century. The walls of the Torres de Quart still show signs of bombardment from France’s siege of the city in 1808.
If you have the time, go inside the tower and make your way to the top. Not only is the structure itself pretty cool to see from the inside, but the views of Valencia from the top are amazing.
Recommended Time to See: 2 hours
7. Plaza del Reina
Considered by many to be the beating heart of Valencia, the Plaza de la Reina is one of the oldest and busiest plazas in the city. While at sight it may not be the picturesque Spanish plaza that Spain is famous for, it is home to many of Valencia’s most popular tourist attractions and is an excellent hub for which to explore the city.
The plaza is surrounded by the Cathedral de Valencia and its bell tower, the Miquelet to the north, and Plaza Santa Catalina with its beautiful Iglesia in the south west.It is also an oustanding place to sit at a cafe, enjoy some wonderful Spanish cuisine, and do some serious people watching.
Recommended Time to See: 3-4 hours
6. Mercado Central (Central Market)
Built in 1914 by Francesc Guàrdia i Vial and Alexandre Soler, it is considered one of the oldest markets in Europe. The market is comprised of over 400 small merchants and restaurants selling seafood, meats, produce, candy, nuts, and a variety of other foods.
If you have the time, explore the market and sample some of the amazing food that is available. It is amazing to see the variety of food that is available and to see the pride that the vendors take in their businesses.
Recommended Time to See: 2-4 hours
5. Llotja de la Seda (the Silk Exchange)
The Llotja de la Seda, a gothic syle civil building, was built between 1482 and 1548 and served as one of Europe’s main venues for the booming silk trade of that time. The silk exchange is one of the busiest tourist attractions in Valencia, and for good reason. If the building wasn’t beautiful enough, the fact that it is still authentically furnished adds to the historical interest of the building.
The silk exchange is comprised of three seperate parts. The main hall (shown above), which is lavishly decorated with amazing twisted columns and a gold plated ceiling, is where the merchants would meet to do business.
The side-wing, named the Pavilion of the Consulate, is where the seat of the Tribunal del Mar (the tribunal that ran the silk exchange) was seated.
Finally, there is the Tower of La Lonja, which is where the tribunal would imprison merchants would could not pay their debts.
Recommended Time to See: 4 hours
4. Valencia Cathedral and the Holy Grail
The Valencia Cathedral, otherwise known as Iglesia Catedral-Basílica Metropolitana de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora de Valencia, was constructed in 1238 by the first bishop of Valencia after the Spanish reconquest. It was dedicated by James 1 the Conqueror to the Saint Mary.
The cathedral is home to one of the alleged Holy Chalices in the world, and most Christian historians in the world maintain that this is the most likely candidate to be the actual cup used by Christ.
This is a must see for anyone visiting Valencia. Even if you aren’t of the Christian faith, the beauty of the church and the historical significance of the chalice (real or not) is worth seeing.
Recommended Time to See: 3 hours
3. Plaza de la Virgen
The Plaza de la Virgen sits on the site that was once the forum of Roman occupied Valencia. In the center of the square is the Turia Fountain, which represents the Turia river in human form surrounded by its tributaries. The sound of the fountain is often regarded as the sound of Valencia. You can check out the sound of the fountain below.
For two of the four days of the festival Las Fallas the city is taken over by parades of people in beautiful, traditional costume bringing flowers to the Plaza de la Virgen. The flowers are placed in a giant wooden silhouette of the Virgin Mary in a ceremony to honor Mary.
The Plaza de la Virgen is beautiful and culturally significant as it is, but it is it’s role in this festival that makes it the #3 must see attraction on my list.
Recommended Time to See: 8 hours during festival, 1 hour otherwise
2. Valencia’s Beaches
The people of Valencia love the beach. Which probably explains why there are a ton of them around the city. During the summer months they come alive with activity as these beaches are some of the more popular tourist draws for Europeans. If you are a beach bum, Valencia in the summer may be your idea of Nirvana.
We visited Valencia in early Spring, and didn’t have much time to explore its beaches while we were there, but I have included a few guides to the best beaches in the Valencia area for those who are interested.
Recommended Time to See: 1-2 Days (or more if they are what you came to see)
The largest aquarium in Europe (1.2 million square feet and 11 million gallons of water), L’Oceanogràfic showcases over 45,000 animals of over 500 different species of fish, mammals, birds, reptiles, and invertebrates. Among these are sharks, penguins, dolphins, sea lions, walruses, Beluga whales, and more.
We didn’t have a lot of time, so we didn’t go inside the aquarium, but the outside of the aquarium alone was worth checking out. It is definitely something that we would have checked out if we had more time and is certainly something I would put near the top of your list of things to see in Valencia.
Recommended Time to See: 10 hours
Top Restaurant Recommendation
We ate at a number of fabulous restaurants while in Valencia, which makes it difficult to pick just one restaurant. So instead of picking a restaurant, I am going to recommend a dish to try. Seeing as though Valencia is considered the birthplace of Spanish Paella, I would recommend that you sample this wonderful rice dish. It is typically made with a seafood base, but you can find a lot of variations (from seafood, to chicken, to pork, to vegetarian) at the restaurants you visit.
To assist you in finding some great restaurants to visit, here is Trip Advisor’s list of the Top 10 restaurants in Valencia.
Top Excursion Recommendations
We took a wine tour while in Valencia, and we are definitely glad we did. I learned more about wine on this tour than I have in any of the wine tours I have taken in the US or Italy prior. I have included a link to the wine tour below, as well as some other excursions I researched before we took our trip.
Word of caution, the samples of wine on the wine tour are large. Meaning, your group finishes the bottles. I would recommend eating something before the tour.
Please be on the lookout for my next article in which I will outline in detail the process I use to plan my trips. I hope to share some of the lessons I have learned in trip planning and help you take advantage of some of the tricks I have learned and avoid some of the mistakes I have made.