When you daydream of a holiday in Spain, which images come to mind? Perhaps cosmopolitan beaches. Or colourful food made from fresh, local ingredients? Maybe you think about winding city streets that come alive as the afternoon fades into evening and then night. Or is it those legendary fiestas?
One place in Spain mixes all of the above with panache: Valencia. Located on the Costa del Azahar, roughly parallel with the Balearic Islands, the home of paella is an alluring destination that offers the big city buzz of Madrid, Barcelona or Seville but with great beaches too!
Fernando Batalla from our Taronja partner school in Valencia says “there are tons of things you can do in Valencia for less than €20, believe me, you can feel like a king with treasure in your hands with €20!” We caught up with Fernando to get some insider tips on how to enjoy the city on a budget.
Climb to the cathedral roof and the Torre del Miguelete
Photo: Juan Carlos
Fernando says: “You can start by taking an overall view of the city by climbing to the Cathedral’s Tower Bell, El Miguelete, then walk along the roof of the Cathedral and feel like a Valencian Quasimodo!”
Go to the Albufera lake and el Palmar
Fernando says: “At only 8 km from the city centre, you can take a public bus and go to El Palmar, a tiny little town on the shore of the Albufera lake Natural Park. This place is the origin of Paella! Once you are there, you must take a little tour around the lake on a boat and visit a typical Barraca house.”
Have a paella by the Malvarrosa beach
Fernando says: “Take the metro to Neptú station and walk to the beach. Once you reach the Paseo de Neptuno, a beautiful promenade full of paella restaurants, choose the one you like most and sit down by the sea. There are dozens of different Paella dishes (Seafood, Chicken and Rabbit, Black Rice, Duck Rice, Vegetable Rice, Oven Pork rice… it’s a whole world! And believe me, the only place in Spain where you can eat real, good Paella is in the Valencian County (Castellón, Valencia or Alicante). Whatever they cook in the rest of Spain should not be called Paella!!!”
“After that you can walk along the promenade of the Malvarrosa Beach (3 Km) and lie on the Beach and go for a swim. Perfect day!”
Rent a bike and enjoy the Turia River Park
Fernando says: “Valencia is as flat as a pancake, so it’s a perfect city to bike around. We a have a bike public system called Valenbisi, with more than 350 bike stops (with around 10-20 bikes per stop). It’s great and super cheap! You can also rent a private bike in one of the dozens of bike rental shops for less than 10€ a day. Once you have your bike head to the impressive Turia River Park! This used to be the river that crossed along the city, but since the 50’s became the biggest city park in Spain. It’s full of trees, people and life. You can practise any sport in this 10km long park. Relax and enjoy a full nature day in the middle of the city! If you feel strong enough you can keep cycling on the bike trail once the river is finished. One side will lead you to the Playa del Saler Natural Park (5 more km) and the other side will lead you to Ribarroja town (10 more km).”
Do something cultural
Fernando says: “Valencia, Spain’s third city, has plenty of cultural things to do. You can visit any of the nearly 20 museums, amongst which we recommend the Museo de Bellas Artes, IVAM (Modern Art Museum), Museo Nacional de Cerámica, Museo de las Fallas, Museo de Historia… if you feel like listening to music you have live concerts every night, international bands, flamenco, jazz and blues concerts, etc … or you may feel like learning salsa (Valencia and Barcelona are the salsa Meccas in Europe) for around €5 per lesson, including drink, any evening of the week.”
Treat yourself at Valencia Central Market
Fernando says: “One of the finest, biggest and most beautiful markets in Europe is Valencia’s Central Market. An astounding modernist building in which you will find the best products ever! You can go any morning from Monday until Saturday (6:00-14:00), but we particularly recommend Saturdays. Go there and stroll around, talk to the super-friendly people there, ask about the prices, the products, take pictures and buy some Ibérico Ham, Manchego cheese, fresh bread, olives, and a fresh orange juice. Sit outside, on the entrance stairway, or by the Lonja Building, face the warm sunlight, and treat yourself well!”
Go to el Saler natural park beach
Fernando says: “At only 5 km from Valencia city centre, you can find the beautiful beaches of El Saler. It’s a perfect option if you are looking for a quieter beach than the Malvarrosa beach. You can get there either by public transport bus, or by bike. The best thing about this natural wild beach is not only the white sand and clean water but the huge and wonderful forest that surrounds them. A Mediterranean pine forest with sandy beach by it. This forest is 500m from the shore, and is something really peculiar, unique and great! Imagine lying down under the shadow of a pine tree on a fine sand beach!”
Go to the Oceanogràfic or the Bioparc
Fernando says: “If you are willing to go one or two euros over your €20 budget, we really recommend you to visit the biggest sea water aquarium in Europe, the Oceanogràfic. If you like animals, then you should not miss either the best city zoo in Spain, the Bioparc, where animals are not kept in cages, but in semi-freedom habitats.”
Go to a typical bodega or tapas bar
Photo: Ben Sutherland
Fernando says: “With €20 in Valencia you can go to hundreds of places and eat like a king! We recommend you to go to a bodega (wine bar where you eat cold food, like ham, cheese, etc.) Our favourite bodega in Valencia is called Bodega Fila and we often go with the school. You can also go to any of the hundreds of tapas bars you will find in every corner. Here is a little clue to find a good Tapas Bar: if it looks dirty and ugly but it’s full of people, means that the food is good and cheap! We can recommend you loads of places, for example Casa Pilar, Tasca Ángel, Casa Montaña, Villaplana, El Kiosco…”
We offer Spanish courses in Valencia (that would be our tip!). What would you recommend seeing, doing and tasting in the city?