Valencia is a fantastic Mediterranean city located just a few hours away from Madrid or Barcelona, perfect for a weekend getaway.
It feels certainly less touristy and somewhat cozier than over-crowded touristified Barcelona. And it also has a better beachside and lower prices than the City of Gaudi. Do you have a couple of days extra? Spend that weekend in Valencia!
Valencia is Spain’s third largest city after Madrid and Barcelona, and home to some of the most modern and trendy architecture in Southern Europe. Now take this and combine it with great weather, an awesome beachside, and fantastic food – at much better prices than Madrid or Barcelona. It’s a no-brainer.
Twenty years ago, Valencia was not able to really attract tourists compared to other popular Spanish cities such as Barcelona, Sevilla, Granada, or Madrid. However, the city was popular for its decent beach, quiet city center, and fantastic gastronomy.
Hence, the Spanish government saw an opportunity to create yet another tourist magnet and pumped in some serious money during the 2000s construction boom.
Huge investments lead to the construction of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias and the F1 racetrack as well as the cruise-ship terminal. This in turn propelled Valencia towards the tourist frontline. Nowadays Valencia has become yet another tourist-infested Spanish city.
A Weekend In Valencia
Whether you fly in and out, or just train it from Madrid or Barcelona, Valencia is perfect for a short weekend trip. Or longer, many decide to stay a few extra days. Two days are enough to check out the basics.
Easy two day itinerary in Valencia
Visit the city center in the morning, after lunch, later in the afternoon when the sun is less punishing, head to the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias. Finish the day with a dinner in the beachside or back in the center.
After some nice breakfast in the center, visit a museum or two and after lunch head to the beachside.
What to do in Valencia? The Best Sights
Ciutat Vella (Old Town)
The old town is a very walkable area and possibly the nicest place to discover. Just get lost in its narrow streets, and have a beer here and there. Maybe a tapa or two. And repeat. Beware of some tourist traps, but still pretty authentic. The best part of it is actually getting lost in its labyrinthic streets.
If you just have a weekend in Valencia, spend the most of your time around here and the sights below.
Paseo de La Alameda / Jardins Del Turia
On the northern side of the Old Town, this massive green area is the perfect place to chill when it is too hot or just to have a picnic or a few beers.
Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias
Since 1998, in addition to the Old Town, Valencia hosts a noteworthy, if also quite kitsch architectonic park. It is the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias, which translates to the City of Arts and Sciences, and was conceived and designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela.
The City consists of the Palace of the Arts, The Hemisphere, The Museum of Sciences, and the Oceanographic (largest in Europe), the Agora, and the 125m high Assut de L’Or Bridge.
The complex – located about an hour walk from the center – makes a good afternoon visit, en route to the beach, for example.
For a city of 800K inhabitants, compared to similar European cities, Valencia has probably one of the best beaches in class. Jokes aside, even compared to Barcelona’s, Valencia’s beach is top notch.
Just south-east from the Old Town, nearby the old North Train Station, the Ruzafa area is a nice area with great cafes such as Ubik Cafe or Berlin Cafe, and some other great places to grab a bite such as Taqueria La Llorona or Hikari Yakitori Bar. Miss at your peril!
Musems in Valencia
IVAM – Valencian Institute of Modern Art
The Institut Valencia d’Art Modern is Valencia’s best modern art exhibition.
Valencia is well-know for the Fallas celebration, when the city is full to the tops. The festival consists in an exhibition of cartoon-like figures made from carton and paper, which are eventually burned. A bit kitsch, yet a classic.
Study in Valencia
Valencia has two decent public universities, the University of Valencia and the Valencia Polytechnic University. Both offer bachelor, master, and PhD level education, as well as some courses/degrees in English. They also accept foreign students proficient in Spanish in their Spanish degrees.
Many tourists interested in learning Spanish find Valencia a great choice. Lower costs compared to Madrid, Barcelona, as well as warmer weather and better beach side. During summertime, the city is full of Americans, French, Brits, and Germans trying to learn some new Spanish words while they down tasty sangria.
What to Eat in Valencia?
Paella in Valencia
Valencia is the capital of Spanish “Paella” (pa-e-ya). So, make sure you try some decent paella during your visit. Also a decent destination for tapas, the classic Spanish tiny delicious dishes.
Daily Lunch Meals
Like elsewhere in Spain, Valencia boasts a myriad of low-profile restaurants that offer daily lunch menu deals.
The deal usually consists of a starter, main course, and desert, drink, and coffee for a fixed price. It’s unbeatable, sometimes cheaper than McDonald’s.
Also, many restaurants offer Paella as one of the main dishes of the daily lunch menu, so you might sometimes get a paella for super great prices!
If you’re on a budget it’s fair to say that a breakfast starts at 3EUR, daily menu lunch 8-12EUR (weekdays) and maybe up to 20 (weekend), and dinner more likely 12-20EUR in normal local places. Beer/Wine at 1.5-3EUR almost everywhere. 1-star Michelin starting at around 45EUR.
Recommended Restaurants in Valencia
Good quality traditional Spanish food, focused on daily lunch menus (14EUR, and 20EUR). Good service, and accepts card payment. Listed as one of the best-value places to eat in Valencia by Michelin. Certainly recommended. Monday closed.
Located at the ground floor of an elegant building, this modern-cuisine restaurant with a Mediterranean feel offers great value for your money. The daily lunch menu deal (20EUR, Tu-Fr) is a bargain. Monday closed.
Gourmet Restaurants in Valencia
For the real foodies, the city has a number of 1-Michelin restaurants: Riff, El Poblet, and Ricard Camarena. You won’t be disappointed!
Where to sleep in Valencia?
Now that you decided that you want to spend a weekend in Valencia, the next step is booking a place to stay.
Valencia has decent accommodation options, but can be pricey during local festivities and summer season.
Airbnb (35EUR signup voucher here) is also quite popular. Whatever platform you chose, book early to avoid pricey rooms!
The 4 Best Hostels in Valencia
The River Hostel is a decent large hostel near the Puente Real, just between the Old Town and the Alameda.
Book The River Hostel Here
The Quart Hostel is located in the Old Town, and features a modern setup, with nice dorms and privates, as well as helpful staff. Book Quart Hostel Here
This is one of the only hostels in town that offers single beds on the dorms. Centrally located, renovated recently, cannot go wrong with that! Book Home Youth Hostel Here.
Located near the beach, this renovated hostel features nice dorms and common areas, even if the decoration is somewhat eclectic. Book Urban Youth Hostel Here.
How to get there?
Valencia hosts an international airport, with flights to most European capitals and main cities. It is also well connected to Spain with low-cost carriers such as Vueling or Ryanair.
By train, head to Sants Estacio. Many trains running every day. Starting at 21.5EUR for the slowest 5h train.
By Bus, very easy aprox 4h. Book with Alsa, departing from Estacio del Nord in Barcelona, at least 6x per day, starting at 25EUR.
It’s a great idea to spend a weekend in Valencia. Even a one-day trip if you are short on time. Start with the cozy old town, enjoy a nice paella, and do not miss Calatrava’s fancy architecture in the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias. Swim and tan on the beach and have some fun at night! You’ll want to stay longer to discover the less-obvious sights!