Back in college I had the privilege of spending a summer studying abroad in Spain. While I was able to see many parts of the country, we were based in Valencia, on the east coast.
Valencia is one of the larger cities in Spain, with a population of about 2 million, and shares a lot of the same history, individuality, and grandeur seen in the likes of Madrid and Barcelona. With history going back to Roman times, today Valencia is known as one of the most livable cities in all of Europe.
Barrio del Carmen
If you want to get a great idea of Valencia, walk around Barrio del Carmen.
Situated in the crook of the linear park that courses through the city, Barrio del Carmen is gorgeous and centrally located.
City of Arts and Sciences
One of the most striking symbols of Valencia is the City of Arts and Sciences, or as it’s called in the local Valencian dialect, Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciencies.
The City of Arts and Sciences is a series of massive museums and landscaped spaces housed in buildings that are themselves works of art. For example, the Prince Phillip Museum of Art is housed in a structure built to resemble a massive whale’s skeleton.
Among the many segments of the City is L’Oceanografic, the largest aquarium in Europe. But that’s just one other aspect of the City. You also have botanical gardens, sculpture gardens, an IMAX theater, and much more. You can easily spend an entire day in the City of Arts and Sciences, and it’s more than worth it.
Valencia is situated on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, and as such enjoys wonderful beaches. Together with the rest of my study abroad group, we spent many wonderful afternoons chilling at Playa Malva-Rosa and eating elote fried up right there on the boardwalk.
They’re easily accessible by Valencia’s bike share program, Valenbisi, and by the bus system.
You can’t talk about many European cities without talking about their historic districts. After all, if there’s one thing Europe does well, it’s history.
Valencia’s birth dates back to 138 BC, when it was founded by Roman generals. Throughout its long life, it’s also seen heavy influence from Moorish invaders and Catholic royalty. The Ciutat Vella (Old City), bears witness to all of these influences. It’s probably the most photogenic district in the city, and holds many museums as well as the impressive Cathedral of Valencia.
The Eixample is Valencia’s premier shopping district. Directly adjacent to the Ciutat Vella historic district, it shares a lot of similar architecture and grandeur. This is where you’ll find much of the city’s best shopping, as well as the main train station for traveling to other cities around the country.
As a European city, the inhabitants know how to have a good time. There are any number of good bars, restaurants, and clubs to enjoy in all areas of the city.
Other than Barrio del Carmen, another great neighborhood for going out is Barrio de Ruzafa. Both of these areas offer myriad choices for bars and restaurants with plaza and sidewalk seating. Both of these places are in Cuitat Vella and you can find most any type of place you could possibly want.
If you’re in Valencia in March, you’ve got attend Falles.
Then again, it would be very difficult not to.
Running from March 15th to 19th, Falles (also called Fallas in Spanish) is a world-reknown celebration commemorating Saint Joseph. And it gets intense. Think of it as a combination of Mardi Gras and Fourth of July. The community builds these huge floats and statues, ornately rendered, only to burn them at the end of the festival in massive bonfires. This is all done against the backdrop of the Mascleta, a spectacular fireworks and pyrotechnics show that runs every day of March up until the finale on the 19th.