In a dreamy seaside setting, this sultry Mediterranean port city brings to life the local saying “a piece of heaven that has fallen to earth”. Under the warm rays of the southern sun, the city’s palm-lined squares are full of life and churches sparkle with brightly colored azulejo domes. As the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Valencia, the city is rich in cultural heritage. Beautiful historical monuments, such as the 15th-century silk exchange, the 18th-century Margraviate and the Museum of Fine Arts, tell the story of a wealthy merchant and an aristocratic past. Yet Valencia has entered the 21st century with great enthusiasm. The sleek Modern Art Institute, along with the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences,
1 City of Arts and Sciences
Tourists can experience a cutting-edge world of art and science in this futuristic complex on the outskirts of Valencia. The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias is one of Europe’s most impressive centers dedicated to cultural and scientific exhibitions. In a space of two kilometers along the Turia River, the complex contains several stunning examples of avant-garde architecture designed by architects Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela. The Ciudad complex has six main areas: the Hemisfèric IMAX Cinema that screens digital films; the Umbracle landscaped area with excellent views; the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum , an interactive science museum; the Oceanographic aquarium; the Reina Sofía Opera House , and the Agora concert hall . The City of Arts and Sciences also organizes conferences, exhibitions and workshops related to science and art topics.
Address: 5 Avenida Autopista del Saler, Valencia
Official site: https://www.cac.es/en/home.html
Read also: top tourist attractions in Leon
2 Las Fallas Festival
Every March, Valencia becomes a scene of joyful celebration during the Fiesta de San José (Feast Day of Saint Joseph). This lively religious festival is known for its creative installations called fallas , large floats with figures made of papier-mâché. These creations are set up in the streets and then burned at midnight on the last day of the celebration. The custom originated in the Middle Ages, when carpenters and other craftsmen would burn scraps of wood and other materials on the feast of St. Joseph.
The Museo Fallero (Fallas Museum) is a good way to experience some of the energy of this event if you visit in a different season. Here are examples of the ninots (numbers) stored by the popular vote. It is also interesting to see how the ninots have evolved with technology, from early wax figures dressed in real clothes to modern ones made from papier-mâché and most recently polystyrene.
Addresses: Plaza Monteolivete 4, Valencia
3 Oceanographic Valencia
The striking building designed by architect Félix Candela as part of the City of Arts and Sciences houses the largest aquarium in Europe. It is actually a complex of several buildings, each dedicated to one of the Earth’s most important marine ecosystems and environments: Wetlands, Temperate and Tropical, Oceans, Mediterranean, Antarctica, Arctic Islands and the Red Sea.
More than 500 different marine species are represented by 45,000 sea creatures, visible in nine towers that allow visitors to watch as if they were underwater. The most dramatic of these is the tunnel, where visitors are surrounded on both sides and overhead by swimming sharks. Elsewhere there are beluga whales, sea lions, walruses, penguins, seals, sea turtles and dolphins. In addition to watching marine life, you can experience mangrove swamps, swamplands, kelp forests and other wetland environments with their native plant species. You can also dine in an underwater restaurant surrounded by a gigantic aquarium.
Address: Saler Highway 5, Valencia
Official site: https://www.oceanografic.org/en/
4 The Silk Exchange
The Silk Exchange
This beautiful Gothic structure was built in the 15th century to house the city’s Silk Exchange, the marketplace where the famous Valencian silk was traded with merchants (to be sold throughout Europe). One of the finest examples of Gothic civil architecture in Europe, the building resembles a medieval castle with its crenellated exterior and formidable tower. The facade features richly decorated doorways, decorative windows and gargoyles (the grotesque sculpted creatures that act as waterspouts). The central hall has a rich star vault on supported columns. Visitors can climb the 144 stone steps of the tower’s spiral staircase. From the top of the tower, the view of the city is breathtaking. This attraction is open to the public daily. On Sundays, La Lonja is used as a location for exhibitions about coins and stamps.
Address: Market Square, Valencia
5 Central Market
Opposite the Lonja, the Mercado Central is a spacious marketplace dating from 1928. The Art Nouveau building is richly decorated with azulejos, decorative ceramics typical of the region. The venue contains 1,300 market stalls where vendors sell fresh fruit, vegetables and food products from the Valencia region and other parts of Spain. The Iglesia de los Santos Juanes , a beautiful 14th century church is located right next to the market hall. This church has a beautiful Baroque facade and a beautiful ceiling painting made by Palomino in 1700.
Address: Market Square, Valencia
Official site: https://www.mercadocentralvalencia.es/
6 Parish of San Nicolás de Bari in San Pedro Mártir
Perhaps the most ornate of all Valencia’s churches, this church dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Bari and St. Peter the Martyr was founded in the 13th century on the site of a Roman shrine. It was renovated in the Gothic style in the 15th century and the interior was finished in the Baroque style in the 1690s. The ornate decorations include gilded carvings and frescoes designed by Antonio Palomino and depict the life of Saint Nicholas, one of the miracles of which is depicted in a stained glass window. This is the best example in Valencia of the original Gothic structure mixing with later Baroque decoration. The neo-Gothic gate overlooking the Plaza de San Nicolás is an addition from the 19th century.
Address: Carrer dels Cavallers 35, Valencia
Official site: www.sannicolasvalencia.com
7 Valencia Cathedral in Plaza de la Virgen
Valencia Cathedral is a glorious Gothic church with its characteristic Miguelete tower towering over the city. Built on the site of an ancient Moorish mosque, the cathedral was built in the 13th century and renovated in the 17th century. The exterior combines original Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architectural elements. Vibrant azure tiles adorn the domes, which are a distinctive feature of Valencia’s skyline.
Before entering, spend time admiring the facade. The beautiful Puerta del Palau doorway dates from the Romanesque era, while the Puerta de los Apóstoles (Apostles’ Doorway) dates from the 15th century. The interior has an inspiring ambiance with its majestic vaulted ceiling and a rose window that illuminates the space. The various chapels are decorated with masterpieces of art, including paintings by Goya and a crucifix by Alonso Cano. A highlight of the sanctuary is the Chapel of the Holy Grail, with delicate arches and star motifs. This chapel illustrates a scene of the 12 apostles in heaven and the coronation of the Virgin Mary. The most sacred object is a relic of the Holy Grail, an artifact from the first century AD that is said to be the chalice that Jesus used to perform the Holy Eucharist.
The Plaza de la Virgen is one of the oldest (it dates back to Roman times) and it is the most beautiful of Valencia’s many squares and is bordered by several monumental buildings. On one side is the facade of the Cathedral of Santa Maria, next to it the Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, and on the other side of the square is the Palace of the Generalitat. The graceful fountain of Neptune in the center is the work of sculptor Silvestre Edeta from Valencia. Illuminated at night, it is a favorite spot for an evening stroll and for watching local life.
Address: Plaza de la Reina, Valencia
Official site: https://www.catedraldevalencia.es/en/
8 Church of Saint Thomas and Saint Philip Neri
With its stunning blue tiled dome, this beautiful church is an example of Valencia’s characteristic Mediterranean style. Built in 1725, the Church of Saint Thomas and Saint Philip was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1982. The church has a whimsically decorated Baroque facade and its architectural layout is modeled after the much-imitated Church of Il Gesú in Rome . The breathtaking interior has a spacious central nave with numerous side chapels. The Catholic mass is held daily in the church. The monument is not open to visitors, but tourists can attend a mass to see the beautiful shrine.
Address: Plaza de San Vicente Ferrer, Valencia
9 Valencia Biopark
The Valencia Zoo covers 25 hectares north of the park, created by the alternation of the Turia River. The landscape is designed to accommodate animals in an environment as close as possible to their natural habitat, and the zoo is best known for its large collection of African animals.
The environment is designed so that visitors immediately feel as if they have been transported to Africa, as they view animals almost without obstacles in landscapes typical of the savannah, Madagascar and Equatorial Africa. Instead of separating different species, they coexist as they would in their own environment. For example, on the savannah, lions, giraffes, antelopes and rhinos all live together as they do in the wild. Gorillas inhabit a dense equatorial forest, while hippos and crocodiles cool off in the water. Bioparc is actively committed to resource sustainability and nature conservation, using solar panels to heat water and recycling more than 95 percent of it.
Addresses: Avda. Pío Baroja, 3, Valencia
Official site: www.bioparcvalencia.es
10 Almoina Archaeological Center (archeologisch centrum Almoina)
Under a sleek modern building opposite the cathedral you step into a world that goes back two millennia. Discovered during excavations between 1985 and 2005 are well-preserved remains of the first settlement here by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. There are remains of baths and other buildings including a shrine, part of the forum portico, and a granary from this and later eras, including the Visigoth and Muslim periods. A baptistery and apse of a church are from early Christian times and a water wheel, courtyard, swimming pool and fortifications remain from the Alcázar that stood here during the Islamic period.
Address: Plaza de la Almoina, Valencia
Official site: www.museosymonumentosvalencia.com
11 Palace of the Marquis of Dos Aguas (keramiekmuseum)
Nearby San Martín Church is the Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas, a spectacular 18th-century mansion. The Marquise Palace is known for its lavishly decorated facade with a beautifully carved alabaster doorway. This aristocratic palace now houses the National Ceramics Museum, opened in 1947. The museum presents more than 5,000 examples of traditional pottery from Valencia and the surrounding area, azulejos (blue-glazed ceramics) from Teruel and faience (glazed pottery) from Toledo and Seville. Other interesting items on display include ancient Greek, Roman and Arabic pottery; fine porcelain from China and Japan; and modern pieces by Mariano Benlliure and Picasso. A highlight of the collection is the fully equipped 19th century Valencian kitchen with traditional tiles.
Address: 2 Calle Poeta Querol, Valencia
Official site: https://www.mecd.gob.es/mnceramica
12 Museum of Fine Arts
This Museum of Fine Arts is a wonderful place to discover the artistic heritage of the Valencia region. The museum displays archaeological finds, paintings and sculptures. Most of the art collection focuses on works by Valencian artists, from the medieval era to modern times. The range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Valencian art is particularly interesting. Among the museum’s most valuable works are the 14th-century altarpiece by Fray Bonifacio Ferrer (a Valencian monk) and a triptych of the Passion by Hieronymus Bosch. Highlights of the Valencian painting collection include the Last Supper and Saint Bruno by Francisco Ribalta and Saint Jeromeby Jusepe de Ribera. Other Spanish masters represented include Diego Rodríguez de Silva and Velázquez, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, El Greco, Francisco de Goya and Luis de Morales. Adjacent to the Museum of Art is the Jardines del Real , a peaceful green space full of statues, fountains and walkways.
Address: 9 San Pio V, Valencia
Official site: https://www.museobellasartesvalencia.gva.es/
13 Valencia Institute of Modern Art
The Valencia Institute of Modern Art is housed in a surprising Space Age building and is dedicated to the avant-garde art of the 20th century. The permanent collection covers all movements of modern art, including abstract and pop art, informalism and new figurative. The museum also organizes temporary exhibitions, lectures and workshops. In a striking contrast to the modern building, an underground chamber of the museum reveals the ruins of Valencia’s medieval city wall. The archaeological remains were discovered during the construction of the museum.
Address: Calle Guillem de Castro 118, Valencia
Official site: https://www.ivam.es/en/
14 Torres de Serranos (old city gate)
This impressive landmark is a symbol of Valencia. The Torres de Serranos represents an ancient gate of the old city and recalls an era when the city was surrounded by defensive walls. The city walls were built in the 14th century on top of Roman foundations. In 1930, the Serranos Towers were restored to their former glory. From these enormous towers, visitors can enjoy beautiful views of the city. The entrance gate has decorative Gothic details and two shields of the city.
Address: Plaza dels Furs, Valencia
Where to Stay in Valencia for Sightseeing
The main tourist attractions in Valencia are in two areas, with most of the historic sites around the Cathedral and the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. In a wide park that was once a river, the stunning new city of arts and sciences is a complex of museums and art venues, most designed by Santiago Calatrava. Fortunately for tourists, these and other attractions (including the beach) are connected by an excellent transit system. These highly-rated hotels in Valencia are convenient for sightseeing:
- Luxury hotels : On a quiet street, five minutes from the cathedral and a new archaeological museum, Caro Hotel is housed in a beautifully restored old building with period features. The Westin Valencia is a stately classic and is located in a quiet area opposite the new park, a pleasant walk to the old center over the Flower Bridge and good public transport connections. Hotel Las Arenas Balneario Resort is located on a metro line to the center, with a large swimming pool and balconies overlooking the beach and the Mediterranean Sea, a good compromise between beach and sightseeing.
- Mid-Range Hotels: The balconies of the luxurious Belle Epoch Melia Plaza overlook Plaza del Ayuntamiento, a prime location for Las Fallas, shopping, historic sites and restaurants. Petit Palace Bristol is located near Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas and is easily accessible from the train station. SH Ingles is located in the historic La Xerea district, near Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas.
- Budget Hotels: Located just off Plaza del Ayuntamiento, near restaurants and historic sites, Catalonia Excelsior offers free breakfast. With plenty of luxury for the price, Barcelo Valencia is located opposite the City of Arts and Sciences, with stunning views of the iconic buildings. Also with rooms overlooking the City of Arts and Sciences, a 20-minute walk to the beach and 15 minutes walk to the centre, NH Valencia Las Ciencias has a spa.
Day trips from Valencia
Playa del Saler: A Pristine Beach
One of the most popular beaches in the Valencia region, this unspoilt stretch of sand is located just 16 kilometers from Valencia in the La Albufera Natural Park . Two other beautiful beaches on El Saler beach: Playa L’Arbre del Gos; and to the south, the beach of La Garrofera. This idyllic stretch of fine sandy beaches stretches for 2.6 kilometers and is protected from the wind by dunes and pine trees.
The medieval town of Requena
The medieval town of Requena
The charming medieval town of Requena is located 68 kilometers from Valencia. The historic center of Requena has a typical Spanish-Arab atmosphere with its old Moorish castle , many narrow pedestrian streets, peaceful squares and houses decorated with decorative tiles and wrought iron balconies. The city has two important churches from the 14th century, the Iglesia de Santa María and the Iglesia del Salvador ; Both feature ornate Isabelline Gothic facades. Other notable medieval monuments include the El Cid Palace and the Iglesia de San Nicolás . For those looking for relaxation, the Fuente Podrida Spais a worthwhile 30 kilometers from Requena in an unspoilt natural environment.
Tips and tours: how to get the most out of your visit to Valencia
- Sightseeing by bus: When time is tight, efficient ways to get from one tourist destination to another are ideal. The Valencia Hop-On Hop-Off Tour with Optional Oceanographic Aquarium Ticket not only offers reliable transportation, but also beautiful views and fascinating commentary on double-decker buses, so you can see more sights and make the most of your trip. Tickets are good for both routes, historical and maritime, and stop at 17 attractions, including the Bioparc, the Cathedral, the Museo Fallero and the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias.
- Sightseeing by Segway: Another fun way to get around is the Full Valencia Segway Tour, a 2.5-hour guided tour that explores some of Valencia’s most beautiful areas, such as the ancient Turai riverbed, and stops at key sights such as Almoina Square, the Serrano Towers and Exposition Bridge.
- Sightseeing by bike: Cyclists may find the Valencia Bike Tour quicker, with a bike and helmet for a relaxing three-hour tour of the city’s top tourist attractions, with plenty of stops for photo ops.
Exploring Spain’s Mediterranean coast and beyond
The beaches of Mediterranean Spain are some of the most beautiful in the world, one of the most famous being El Milagro in UNESCO-listed Tarragona, which lies north of Valencia. Iconic Barcelona is just beyond, famous for its medieval Barri Gòtic, modernist architecture and sandy beaches. South of Valencia, the Castillo de Santa Bárbara looks down on the extensive beaches and the historic city of Alicante. For those looking to venture inland, Madrid’s art museums and the cultural diversity of the medieval walled city of Toledo are top sightseeing attractions.
Tourists interested in ancient Roman history may want to travel north to Zaragoza, which has unearthed the ruins of a 2nd-century Roman city complete with theater, thermal baths and a forum. West of Alicante, Córdoba is best known for its UNESCO World Heritage-listed mosque, La Mezquita. In the south, the pride of Andalusia, Granada is a top destination for tourists thanks to its vibrant cultural life full of flamenco dancing and cuisine influenced by neighboring Arab countries. From here, the ancient paradise of Málaga’s coast is just a short jaunt to the southern shores.