Valencia doesn’t show up in headlines as much as Barcelona & Madrid, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. The city has a rich cultural history, which is clearly visible in its old town. However nowadays Valencia is known for its innovation, and a spectacular example of that is the City of Arts and Science. The modern architecture literary transports you in to the future.
I always travel with my time to momo travel guide which helps me plan my trips in advance, find the best places to eat, shop and visit, and also has a map I scribble on to plan our days! In this post I will be sharing with you the do’s and don’ts of our first day in Spain’s third largest city. Enjoy!
Stay at Hotel Valencia Alameda
We arrived at Valencia Airport quite early, so by 10 AM we were already at the hotel. Way too early for check-in off course, but it was nice to drop off the luggage and refresh before heading into town. Hotel Valencia Alameda is located across the street from the City of Arts & Science and the Turia Park, so while you wait for the room you can already visit two of the city’s highlights.
The hotel itself was recently renovated and has a very modern feel to it! The guest rooms are spacious and very comfortable. As we requested two single beds, the kind receptionist offered us an upgrade to a Family Room, with two doubles instead! Hooray! Besides from that we had a kitchenette (not that we made use of that, but handy if you are in town for longer periods), separate toilet and a nicely decorated bathroom with walk-in shower. Basically everything we needed to feel at home during our stay. Breakfast is served every day between 7 and 11 am, but I cannot really speak on that, as we always had breakfast outside of the hotel. What I can say is that we really enjoyed our stay at Hotel Valencia Alameda.
Visit Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias
If there is one landmark that you can’t miss while you’re in Valencia, it’s the City of Arts & Science! This collection of ultramodern buildings were built by the architects Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela over a period of twenty years. The complex consists out of six parts: the Hemisfèric IMAX Cinema that screens digital films; the Umbracle landscaped area with plants and flowers from the Valencia region; the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, an interactive science museum; the Reina Sofía Opera House, the Agora concert space and the Oceanogràfic aquarium; Europe’s biggest aquarium.
If you would like to visit these attractions you can purchase several combo tickets upon the website. We only visited L’Umbracle (flowergirls you know), which is free to enter. But even if you do not visit any of the attractions, do visit the area. I loved walking around there, taking pictures of the impressive buildings and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere near the waterside.
The city of Arts & Science is located on the far end of the Turia Park. These gardens are located in the former riverbed of the Turia River. After a catastrophic flood in 1957, the river was drained and rerouted. The 9km park stretches all around the city center of Valencia. We only saw a small part of it, but this is a very popular hangout spot for both tourists and locals.
Lunch at Saona Alameda
As the Saona Alameda restaurant was located next to our hotel and got good TripAdvisor reviews we made a reservation for lunch there. Unfortunately this was something I really regret. Our reservation was set for 13.30pm the moment the restaurant opened. We arrived on time and as it was really hot, we asked for a table inside. At that point there was only one occupied table, so we figured that wouldn’t be a problem. Not only did the waiter rudely refused, he practically pushed us outside to the terrace on a very busy road with a dirty table. I was shocked by the level of service this restaurant was providing. While sitting there we saw many people without reservations get tables inside. When his colleague came out to take our order, I asked him for a table inside, that it was to hot and I wasn’t feeling well (I was still recovering from a stomach bug and really didn’t feel like eating outside in 35 degrees!). The semi-friendlier waiter said he would check. At that point the rude one came out again to take our order and I told him the same thing, and that we would leave if we were not offered a table inside! Strange how of a sudden it became possible to have a table inside. Over to the food; Saona offers a lunch menu for € 10,00 this includes, starter, main, dessert and a refreshment, (you can’t eat a la carte). Mariska and I decided to share the starters so we ordered croquettes and taco’s, which were ok. For the main M. went for the Salmon Tartare, which was good and I had Calamares within a sandwich, very strange and not very appetizing. The yoghurt and chocolate ice-cream we had for dessert were fine. I really wouldn’t recommend to eat there; the service is horrible and the food average. I get that the lunch menu is very cheap, but in the future I would rather pay a little more in a decent restaurant and enjoy a good meal! I honestly don’t get how they got 4,5* stars on TripAdvisor.
After checking-in at the hotel and settling into our room, we left for Ruzafa, the trendy and hipster area of the city. This part of town is where you will find galleries and artist’s workshops, stylish boutiques, craft shops and lovely cafes and restaurants.
We got off the bus at Plaza de Torres, the bullfighting ring of Valencia. While I get that bullfighting is a large part of Spanish culture, I would never watch it, because I just don’t enjoy a bull getting killed. However from an architectural perspective the building itself, was kind of impressive.
Across the street you will see another remarkable building; El Estacion Del Norte. And believe me Valencia’s railway station is really worth a visiting. The exterior of the station is lovely decorated with flowers, oranges and orange blossoms. Inside the station the beautiful trencadís (mosaics) will draw your attention.
We made a pitstop at La Mas Bonita Ruzafa, for cake and ice coffee (and airco, that too!). This is the third venture of the popular La Mas Bonita chain, but more on that in the next post!
From there we went on to the Mercado Ruzafa, a food market that is very popular with the locals.
Opposite to the market lays the Iglesia Parroquial De San Valero y San Vicente Martir, which dates back to the 15th century. Unfortunately the original church got burned during the Spanish Civil War. After the war the cathedral got rebuilt to its current status.
Dinner at El Rodamon de Russafa
At night Ruzafa comes alive! The ‘Calle Sueca’ and surrounding streets are filled with good restaurants, cozy terraces and bars. Upon the recommendation of my sweet friends Sven & Thierry we had dinner at El Rodamon de Russafa, located in Calle Sueca, and according to them one of the best places in town for tapas. El Rodamon de Russafa is modern and vibrant, with excellent staff, and the quality of food is very high. For the menu they picked their favorite dishes from all around the world and gave a Valencian twist to it. This creating some very interesting, but yummy choices! There are also several wines available by the glass.