You just have to read our first article on Valencia to realise the truth in the statement... "Don't be fooled by first impressions: there's a lot more to this city than first meets the eye." With it's warm climate, accessible old quarter and Europe's newest cultural and scientific exhibition area, it makes for a great choice for a family city break. Valencia certainly caters for lots of tastes, perhaps aptly too, bearing in mind the first paella sizzled here over an open wood fire over 1200 years ago. It's also the city that we've revisited the most in our European Roadtrip... So why would we rate Valencia so highly?
With it's stunning architecture surrounding you, it looks conventional enough.... A beautiful old city showing off it's historical landmarks. Wealth gained from it's position as a key trading port linking the east and west.... But delve a little deeper into the 'Centro Historic' wandering the back streets and you'll soon be admiring the street artists work or visiting the fresh fruit stalls for a tasty treat to fill your picnic rucksack with for later in the day.. Or if you have time grabbing a visit to one of the old fashioned taberna that serve stunning paella washed down with glasses of horchata.
But before you disappear down the side alleys of this vibrant heartbeat of Valencia (a city that at times reminds us of Naples in Italy), it's worth making sure you don't miss some of the undoubted highlights of Valencia. As most visitors will probably enter the city via the metro, you'll end up at the stop (Angel Guimera). So heading South to North through the old centre, towards the Gardens of Turia, don't miss these highlights:-
Valencia’s not without it’s quirks… like Bordeaux’s ‘St Michels Tower’ or Vienna’s Haus der Musik’…. so venture a little further into the old quarter and you’ll find 'La Estrecha' the narrowest building in Europe at just over 107cm wide. But if you’re looking for more traditional elegance, then look no further than the mightily impressive ‘Romanesque-Gothic-Baroque-Renaissance’ Cathedral at the Barrio del Carmen. Either ascend the Miguelete Tower (similar to Ghent’s Belfort Tower but a little less high at only 207 steps) or visit the Capillla del Santo Cáliz (a chapel reputedly to hold the Holy Grail)
It’s impossible to miss the Central Market (Plaza del Mercato) with over 900 stalls to amaze, inspire and feed yourself! It’s impossible to capture the atmosphere in words…. but rest assured the assault on all of your senses (taste, smell, touch, see or hear) is perfect if you arrive at lunchtime!
And you’ll be surprised at just how reasonably priced the market is which proved fantastic for both girls who enjoyed spending their budget on lunch…. more fruit, this time in salads and shakes!!
Exiting the city gates and the ‘Centro Historic', there’s no better city walk in Europe…. strolling through the vast Turia Gardens. A dried up river bed packed full of new architectural wonders, green parkland and amazing leisure facilities... it's the perfect way to spend an afternoon.....
It may not be as panoramic as the gardens you’ll find at the top of the Ulriken Cable Car in Bergen or as pristine as the impressive Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.... but none of these have the unique 'Gullivers Playground' that will quite simply blow your mind.... and entertain the kids for hours! An interesting fact is in the sizing, as Gulliver’s body morphs into slides, ramps, stairs and caves, scaled so that visitors are the size of the Lilliputians (from Jonathan Swift's novel)
Venture far enough down the Turia Gardens, past Gullivers Kingdom towards the sea and you'll come across one of Valencia's most impressive sights the futuristically designed 'The City of Arts and Sciences'. One of the largest cultural and leisure parks in the world, 'The City of Arts and Sciences' is packed with innovative activities for all the family including the Hemisfèric, the Science Museum and the Oceanogràfic (read more here)
This inspiring area educates as much as it entertains....!! Both girls were desperate to try the zorbing, water bikes and transparent canoes that offer great value entertainment on the large lakes that adjoin the 'space age' buildings. Whilst the actual attractions are relatively pricey so we can't add our own comments, but others have said they were fantastically educational... so we'll leave these to another visit next year.
So if you're looking for the all year round perfect city break? Perhaps not if you like Christmas markets and snow, but if you're after warmth, good food and glorious architecture... then Valencia offers all this and so much more throughout the warmer months too!
For those looking to visit Valencia in a motorhome or caravan, we'd suggest you head for 'Valencia Camper Park' where we've enjoyed all of our stays. Well priced, good facilities and excellent on-site restaurant... it's also within 5mins walk of the metro which makes visiting Valencia so easy with kids! (full review here)
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