After going to Paris and Barcelona for the holidays, my husband and I told ourselves that we were done with trips for a while. However, when we found out he had a 4-day weekend, we naturally had to take advantage of it.
We knew we wanted to experience something new in Spain, but also wanted something that was easily accessible and a bit more on the relaxing side. We quickly decided on Valencia since it’s a large, yet inviting city that appeared to be a bit more on the mellow side when compared to other major destinations in the country. We also loved the fact that it was accessible by a direct train route so we wouldn’t have to have any added airport anxiety or worry about switching trains.
We arrived in Valencia without much of a plan, but that was exactly how we wanted it. While we did want to experience some new sights and learn a little history, our main goal was to simply get out of our small town in southern Spain and enjoy the flavors of a new city. In fact, over the course of our 3-night stay, our only real plan was a guided walking tour and tasting from a company called Sea Saffron. Other than that, we just took the days as they came. Even though we didn’t see or eat everything Valencia has to offer, we were able to discover some amazing places due to our mindless meandering and learned a lot about beautiful Valencia. This city may not be talked about as much as cities like Madrid or Barcelona, but we found it equally as beautiful and true to Spanish-stye relaxation.
Ja is an ambassador for a rewards program with Marriott Bonvoy, so we were able to score a room at the beautiful Palacio Santa Clara using his points. Upon arrival at the hotel, we discovered that they even upgraded us to a Superior Room, which was absolutely stunning! The room was spacious, had two small balconies with views of the streets below, came with bathrobes, and had a chic interior that followed the 1920’s decor of the entire hotel. We ended up spending a lot of time at the hotel bar because we loved the ambiance and even checked out the rooftop terrace a couple of times to see the views. The staff was extremely warm and accommodating too, which was just the cherry on top for such a fantastic stay. Next time we go to Valencia, we will certainly be staying here again and plan to go when it’s warm to take greater advantage of the terrace’s small dipping pool and bar.
Oysters are not something that I can easily find where I live, so when I saw that there was an oyster bar walking distance from our hotel, I knew that Ja and I had to go. The restaurant was very small and cozy. They had many different types of oysters and we tried all of them. They were extremely fresh and delicious. Our favorite oysters were, naturally, the most expensive option that I believe came from the coast of France. The flavor skewed a bit on the sweeter side and they were perfectly plump.
Cappuccino Grand Café
On our first morning in Valencia, we wanted to grab brunch. After walking a decent amount, we discovered that the initial brunch place that we wanted to try was closed. However, we were able to quickly find this impeccable café not too far away. The fanciful décor and small fireplace made for a cozy interior that was perfect for having drinks and lunch. While the food was decent, I would definitely go back for the drinks. I absolutely loved my coffee and even the alcoholic beverages looked great.
Old Town Tour of Valencia by Sea Saffron
I don’t usually like guided tours because I tend to get antsy, but I absolutely loved this tour. The first part of the tour began with a guided walk to some of Valencia’s oldest and most historic sights (which are included in the next section). However, a Spanish tour wouldn’t be complete without a wine and tapas tasting. After our walking tour, we were led back to the headquarters of the touring company where we were greeted by a warm dining area much like a restaurant accented by ancient walls. A chef in the kitchen prepared many tapas for us to try and we tasted many other types of wine. This part of the tour lasted a few hours, but it flew by because we were having so much fun eating and drinking. The only other people on our tour were two young women from The Netherlands and the guide. They all spoke English so we were able to interact and talk with them about their experiences and learn about where they came from. This tour was both an awesome learning and tasting experience. We were having such a nice time, that I forgot to take any pictures of the pretty venue but I can assure you that it was fantastic! We’re planning on doing another tour that they offer of the City of Arts and Sciences on our next trip.
While walking around Valencia, you may randomly stumble upon hidden treasures from the past like ancient roman ruins, pieces of old fortress walls, small cathedrals, or the narrowest building in Europe. On our many strolls throughout the city and on our walking tour, we saw many of these things, but there are a few that stand out the most.
The Central Market of Valencia
Ja and I stumbled upon a huge market located inside a vast building with a mind-boggling number of vendors and high, intricate ceilings. The vendors were set up into grid-like rows with a fantastic variety of foods to choose from. There were thousands of cuts of meat and rainbows of vegetables to chose from. If I lived in Valencia, I would most certainly do my shopping here.
Sant Nicolás de Bari y San Pedro Mártir
On the Old Town tour mentioned above, we saw many interesting places but the most outlandish and captivating was certainly the Sant Nicolás de Bari Church. From the outside, it really doesn’t look like much, but when you enter the main hall you are taken to another, heavenly world. There was not a bare wall in this church because it was absolutely covered with amazing frescos of religious paintings in many beautiful, pastel colors and lined with ornate trimmings. Even though I have seen many church paintings since I have been in Spain, I think this one was the most impressive so far.
Valencia is a fantastic city to visit and I am so glad we had an opportunity to check it out. Not only does the city have aesthetically pleasing architecture, but it also has fantastic restaurants, plenty of shopping, and is extremely walkable. What I love about the major coastal cities in Spain that I’ve seen is that, despite their large size, they don’t feel overwhelming. People take life at a slower pace and there is no aggression to walk faster or be more efficient. I felt very safe and at peace in Valencia and I hope to go back over the summer.