Is Valencia Worth Visiting?

Is Valencia worth visiting? Based on my personal trips to this Spanish city, I share my firsthand experiences and thoughts. Learn about its culture, food, and history.

Hi, we’re Timon & Filipa!

We travel across Spain in our motorhome, Speedy, and update TravelSpain24 with fresh content, practical tips, and personal stories from the road. Our goal is to help you experience Spain beyond the typical tourist trails.

Valencia is Spain’s third largest city, yet far less is known about this destination than ultra-famous Barcelona and Madrid. When I consider ‘Is Valencia worth visiting?’, I think about how it balances its cultural attractions, buzzing atmosphere, and varied restaurant and bar scene with a more comfortable pace of life than its frenetic big brothers. This is one of the city’s big advantages.

Valencia is located mid-way down Spain’s eastern coastline, south of Barcelona and east of Madrid. Your first glimpse of the city will probably be bathed in the sun, as Valencia boasts almost 300 days of sunshine yearly. This makes it ideal to enjoy the city’s numerous beaches, all within easy reach of the city center.

What struck me the most when I was in Valencia was the blend of traditional and modern, from the gorgeous gothic structures of the Old Town to the state-of-the-art Ciudad de las Bellas Artes y Ciencias, a science complex with an iconic curved structure at its heart.  

My Personal Connection to Valencia

Is Valencia Worth Visiting

The first time I visited Valencia was to take part in an immersive Spanish language school. The second was purely for fun. What I loved about Valencia both times was that there was so much to see and do, but I could still feel relaxed at the end of a long day exploring. 

I got to experience loads of Valencia’s attractions, thanks to Linguaschool organizing student activities and events during my weeks in the city. I found going on a walking tour super informative and would recommend that as a great starting point when you arrive. Picking up some Spanish cookery skills was also fun, and I’ve impressed many friends back home with my new-found culinary capabilities!

Another amazing place is Turia Park, which ended up being my favorite part of the city. It’s Spain’s largest urban park and snakes its way through the heart of Valencia for 7 kilometers, from the City of Arts and Sciences all the way to the Bioparc Zoo. 

Valencia’s Unique Blend of Traditions and Modernity

The striking contrast between the historical and contemporary in Valencia’s architecture is part of what makes the city so visually interesting. It also helped it win the title of World Design Capital in 2022. You can spot Catalan Art Nouveau, Baroque, and Gothic buildings on the same block. At the same time, the City of Arts and Sciences has innovative structures resembling – randomly – an eyelid and a whale skeleton. 

This contrast between old and new is mirrored in the city’s culture, which is pleasingly progressive but also embraces tradition – not least in its world-celebrated Las Fallas festival. 

Understanding Valencia: Is It For You?

Whether or not Valencia is worth visiting depends on your travel preferences. It suits me for many reasons, some of which I’ll delve into below. 

Are you a food lover? Valencia’s Incredible Gastronomy

Close-up photograph of a person preparing the churro dough for cooking in the hot oil.

Valencia is a gastronomic paradise and is responsible for one of Spain’s most popular and famous dishes – paella. It was first created in the mid-19th century in Albufera, a tiny place on the Valencian coastline where rice was grown using water from its huge freshwater lagoon. 

Unlike the paella we all think we know, Valencia paella contains no seafood but instead is packed full of chicken, rabbit, green beans, and butter beans. This combination is unfamiliar to most paella lovers, but I can vouch that it’s delicious. 

Other dishes closely associated with Valencia include:

  • Horchata
    This popular milky drink is enjoyed all over Spain, but the Valencian version is made using tiger nuts, which can only be grown in this region.
  • Fartons
    Enjoyed alongside Valencian horchata are fartons, long sponge fingers coated in sugar and used for dipping. They’re irresistible!
  • Agua de Valencia (Valencia Water)
    Valencia Water sounds safe enough, but this cocktail should be enjoyed carefully! It contains fresh Valencia orange juice mixed with vodka, gin, and cava. It doesn’t taste as potent as it is – and was responsible for a nasty headache the day after I first tasted it!

A great way to sample Valencia’s best local food and drink is with someone who knows their city. The tour below was a highlight for me, where I got to meet a native Valenciano who, as well as showing me the city’s best food market, also shared the top spots to enjoy regional delicacies – some of which I still dream about now.

The Truth About Valencia’s Beaches

Palmtrees at Las Arenas beach in Valencia

Although Valencia’s beaches get busy, they’re rarely as crowded as other Spanish coastal resorts. This is because of their size – they run for almost 20 kilometers along the Valencian coast, so there’s room for everyone. 

Playa de las Arenas
The closest beach to the city, Playa de las Arenas, is usually the busiest. It has a fantastic atmosphere, thanks to the numerous restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs lining the beach. 

Playa Malvarrossa
Immediately north of Playa de las Arenas is Playa Malvarrossa, another glorious stretch of sand that’s usually quieter than its neighbor but still offers plenty of facilities. 

Why Valencia Could Be Your Perfect Spanish Getaway

Spain, Valencia. Panorama of Plaza de Ayuntamiento

Valencia is sunny, affordable, and balances traditional and contemporary living in a way not found in many other destinations. It’s for these reasons I love the place and why it’s quickly made its way onto the list of cities, that I think everyone should visit.  

Here’s more detailed information to help you answer the question, ‘Is Valencia worth visiting?’

A Cheaper, Yet Equally Rewarding Alternative to Barcelona

Yes, Barcelona is popular because it’s a quality Spanish city. But, in my opinion, Valencia offers just as much to visitors. And when it comes to cost, Valencia wins hands-down. Here’s a handy comparison of the costs you can expect in each city.

All prices in €ValenciaBarcelona
Dinner (budget restaurant)1215
Beer (in a bar)2.503
Cappuccino (in a cafe)1.702.20
Public transport (one-way)1.502.40
Hotel cost (per night)116192
Average daily cost (per person)123156

Both cities have countless tourist attractions, and although Barcelona’s landmarks are more famous, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better. 

In Valencia, you can visit the Silk Exchange (Lonja de la Seda), Valencia Cathedral, and the Plaza de la Virgen, all of which are gorgeous. There’s also the City of Arts and Sciences, the beautiful Art Nouveau Mercado Central, and the Oceanogràfic Aquarium. 

As you walk between attractions in Valencia, I believe the city experience is much more peaceful and charming than in Barcelona. And this is coming from someone who loves Barcelona too!

Exploring Valencia’s Old Town

Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia

Valencia’s Old Town, or Ciutat Vella, is a sight to behold. It’s relatively compact, but I lost hours wandering the endless narrow streets that link its many plazas. The Old Town is an atmospheric place to be, and despite its popularity, it’s not difficult to veer off the well-trodden tourist trail and find a peaceful spot where you’ll have all to yourself. 

I was surprised by how many of Valencia’s main attractions are found in the Old Town. This makes it perfect for exploring on foot, which is always my preferred way to see a new city. 

If you visit the Old Town, make sure to visit my favorite attractions, which include:

  • Valencia Cathedral
    The exterior of Valencia Cathedral is pretty spectacular, but inside there’s something special too – it’s home to the holy grail. You can also climb the stairs of the ‘Miguelete’  bell tower, where you’ll be rewarded with epic views over Valencia. 
  • Mercado Central (Central Market)
    Valencia’s Central Market is great fun to explore. I visited a few times during my stay and always found something new to see. It sells all those picnic essentials – meats, cheeses, and delicious baked goods – but the main attraction is the Catalan Art Nouveau building, packed with stained glass and hand-painted tiles. 
  • La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia (Silk Exchange)
    A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lonja de la Seda, or Silk Exchange, is located next to the Central Market and is one of Europe’s best-loved gothic buildings. To me, it looks more like a fortress than a commercial center, but it’s gorgeous and is well worth a couple of Euros to explore. 

If time is of the essence and you want to pack in as many sights as possible in a couple of hours, a walking tour of Valencia’s Old Town is an excellent idea. This tour combines an informative and fun route around the Old Town with wine and tapas tasting in a unique venue in the neighboring El Carmen district.

A Family-Friendly Destination: Valencia

Beautiful scenery of the Turia park in Valencia at sunny day

Valencia is certainly very welcoming to kids, so you do not need to worry if you’re wondering, ‘Is Valencia worth visiting as a family?’. Spaniards are notoriously friendly and highly tolerant of the chaos that can come with kids.

There are plenty of activities in Valencia that are equally appealing to kids and adults, including the ones below, which I highly recommend.

  • L’Oceanogràfic Aquarium
    Located in the City of Arts and Sciences, the Oceanogràfic Aquarium is home to over 500 species living in recreated versions of their natural habitats, from the Mediterranean to the Arctic and wetlands to the tropics. I loved the Oceanogràfic, and although I don’t have kids of my own, it was great seeing their excitement – especially as they walked through the longest underwater tunnel in Europe!
  • Valencia Bioparc
    Little animal lovers (or big ones like me) will enjoy the huge number of animals to be seen in the Valencia Bioparc. Although the intention is to educate by encouraging an understanding of the importance of preserving natural environments, the outcome is a fun day out for everyone.
  • Exploring the huge Turia Park
    If there’s one thing kids have, it’s energy. So, to tire everyone out, I’d recommend a family visit to Turia Park. It’s 7 kilometers long, providing endless opportunities to walk and cycle, and ideal for a family picnic. 

This family tour of Valencia is perfect if you want to taste the city but don’t want your kids to be bored. Guides make sure the route is packed with activities to keep little ones occupied so you can focus on enjoying the sightseeing.

Learning to Appreciate Valencia’s Festivals and Events

Spain likes a celebration as a nation, and Valencia has more than its fair share of festivals. The main events are spread throughout the year, so your visit may likely coincide with some city-wide revelry. Here are some of the best Valencia festivals and events to look out for. 

Las Fallas: Valencia’s Grandest Festival

Fallas from Valencia

Without a doubt, Valencia’s most famous festival is Las Fallas, which translates as ‘The Fires’ in Valencia’s Spanish dialect. It’s a huge spectacle that takes place for almost 3 weeks every March.

Las Fallas originated as a celebration of St Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. It has grown from a small event where bonfires were built using old furniture to an elaborate festival where months are spent creating huge painted papier mache sculptures – called ‘ninots’ – displayed around the city before being set alight.

Up to 800 fallas are exhibited annually, and the artistry on display is amazing. Visit from 15 to 18 March to see the fallas once they’ve been positioned around the city. But, by the evening of 19 March, it’s time for the big finale, with a ceremonial burning of all the fallas – except one which is ‘pardoned’ following a public vote. This special sculpture is then displayed in the Fallas Museum, which joins every pardoned ninot since 1934. 

I can’t emphasize how special Las Fallas is. And although tourists attend in their thousands, the festival still feels entirely Spanish. If you plan to visit during Las Fallas, make sure you book transport and accommodation early because demand is incredibly high – and so are the prices! 

Other Celebrations Worth Scheduling Your Visit Around

Although Las Fallas is Valencia’s most famous festival, it’s not the city’s only major celebration. These events are also worth noting; each one offers an exciting glimpse into what it is to be ‘Valenciano.’ 

  • Great Valencia Fair
    Held every July since 1871, the Great Valencia Fair brings a month of celebrations to the city, with firework displays and processions, music concerts in the Viveros Gardens, and the Flower Battle. In this beloved parade, girls throw thousands of flowers over watching crowds. 
  • Valencia Day (and St Dyonisius Day)
    On 9 October, Valencia celebrates the day in 1238 when King James freed Valencia from the Moors, making it the autonomous region it is today. The day is shared with St Dyonisius, the Valencian equivalent of St. Valentine, when men gift their beloved a handkerchief filled with tiny marzipan sweets. 

The Pros and Cons of Valencia: A Balanced Perspective

Valencia Plaza Ayuntamiento city downtown at Spain

So, now you know a little about the (many) attractions, landmarks, foods, and festivals of Valencia, let’s take a look at the reasons why the city could be your ideal travel destination – or equally, why it may not work for you. 

There are also certain pros and cons to living in Valencia, which you might find useful if you’re considering being there in the longer term. 

The Reasons Why Valencia Could Be Your Next Travel Destination

Valencia is so popular and you might want to add it to your travel list for many reasons. These include:

  • Weather 
    Who can resist 300+ days of sunshine?
  • Architecture 
    Historic meets modern in Valencia’s smorgasbord of architectural styles.
  • Gastronomy 
    Valencia offers delicious local delicacies and an incredible food scene that grows by the year.
  • Beaches 
    Combining a city break with some beach time is an enticing prospect.
  • Cost 
    Valencia offers better value for money than Spain’s other major cities.

The Reasons Why Valencia Might Not Be Your Top Choice

Like anywhere, there are reasons why Valencia might not be the travel choice for you – although, to be honest, there aren’t many!

  • It doesn’t offer the big-name tourist destinations that you find in places like Barcelona.
  • Because Valencia is modern and cosmopolitan, you may feel you’re missing the ‘Spanishness’ you can find in other cities.
  • You’ll have to drive or take public transport between the Old Town and beaches, which is inconvenient. 

My Final Verdict: Is Valencia Worth Your Visit?

So, based on the experiences I’ve shared in this article, I hope you’re leaving with an understanding of why Valencia is such an appealing destination and why it’s one of my favorite Spanish cities. I love its history, its unique food, and its standout architecture. I’ve also been wowed by the friendly locals, gorgeous climate, and natural appeal, from the giant Turia Park to the kilometers of golden beaches.  

While many people immediately think of Barcelona and Madrid as Spain’s premier city break destinations, I hope you’ll now consider Valencia as an alternative. And when you ask yourself, ‘Is Valencia worth visiting?’, I hope your answer will be a resounding yes!

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