El Carmen in Valencia: Things to Do & See

El Carmen, Valencia, is one of the best-known neighborhoods in the city. It is part of the old town, and this historic center is more than a place for visiting some shops. This area is steeped in history and is renowned for its cuisine that appeals to locals and tourists alike.

In this article, we’ll delve into how El Carmen combines leisure and history, making it a must-visit place during your Valencia trip.

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The History in El Carmen

The El Carmen neighborhood is located between two walls, which adds an interesting part to its history. After the Arab wall was built in the 11th century, Muslims ruled the area within the wall. The land outside the wall was used for farming. Over time, people started building houses next to the farms.

When James I took over the city, he gave some of these houses to his soldiers, turning the area into a Christian community. In the 14th century, a new wall was built to protect this growing neighborhood. El Carmen then became a home for many medieval guilds, which even today influence the names of various places in the area. For example, the tanners’ guild, Els Blanquers, named an area Blanqueries.

Buildings and Culture Highlights

Valencia Old Town

Since El Carmen is steeped in history, there are some fantastic buildings and cultural spots that you should include in your visit. 

The Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart are two tower gates that were part of the medieval city walls. These impressive structures are the last two complete gates remaining from the original 12. These gates are considered main entrances to the city,  but both functioned as a prison for several centuries. 

Looking closely at the tower facades, you can see traces of attacks against the city over the years. While the gates are a comfortable walk apart, they have different architecture since they were built approximately a century apart, and both offer superb views over the city. 

The Parroquia de la Santisima Cruz is a beautiful parish church located near a charming square. It’s a perfect spot to take a break and enjoy some shade during your explorations. The church features a detailed Baroque facade and an impressive bell tower. Inside, you can appreciate the Baroque-style design without an entrance fee. However, since it is a church, keep in mind there might be dress code requirements for entry.

El Carmen also hosts a few museums worth visiting. One of them is the CCCC (Centre del Carme Cultura Contemporània), housed in a building from the 19th century that used to be a convent. It features beautiful courtyards and impressive architecture, offering a peaceful break. The museum displays art from Valencia.

Another interesting place is the Museu Valencia d’Etnologia, which was once the Casa de Beneficencia. The building is notable for its blue and white tiles in a Byzantine style. Inside, the museum explores traditional Valencian society and life through various displays and interactive exhibits.

Walking the Streets and Squares

El Carmen is a great neighborhood to wander around exploring the streets and squares. Many streets feature murals and other artwork, creating a bohemian atmosphere. However, there are also some traditional plazas.

Near a medieval building in the Gothic style, known as the Palau de la Generalitat, which houses the regional government of Valencia, you will find the Plaza de la Virgen. This square is home to the Cathedral and beautiful gardens.

The Plaza Patriarca is known as one of the most beautiful squares in the city. It is filled with orange trees and is only for pedestrians, allowing you to enjoy the outdoor seating and appreciate the architecture of nearby buildings like the Colegio del Patriarca and La Nau. Along the eastern side of the square, you’ll find five statues.

The Plaza del Negrito gets its name from a fountain in the middle of the square, which has a statue of a black boy holding a conch shell. This square is peaceful during the day. However, it comes alive at night when several bars set up tables around the fountain, creating a perfect spot to enjoy a warm summer evening.

Plaza del Tossal is a lively square that becomes especially vibrant at night. It’s perfect for anyone wanting to enjoy the evening. Whether you feel like taking a stroll or just want to sit back on a sunny terrace with a drink or some tapas, this square offers a wonderful experience. With its mix of taverns and various people, you’re sure to have an unforgettable night out that truly reflects the local lifestyle.

Experience El Carmen with Guided Tours

The Cat House in Valencia

El Carmen offers so much to explore, and taking a guided tour is a great way to see it. Many different tours are available, whether you love tasting local foods on tapas tours or prefer exploring the old town’s unique culture.

If you’re short on time, a full city tour that includes El Carmen might be perfect for you. And if you’ve done a lot of walking and prefer a more relaxed way to see the sights, consider a tuk-tuk tour. This way, you can see all the historic spots, including the El Carmen neighborhood, without getting tired.

The best part about these tours is the chance to learn from locals. A guide can show you the city’s best parts, which is really useful if you’re only in Valencia for a short visit.

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