Valencia is one of our favourite Spanish cities: a true Mediterranean paradise, offering an idyllic climate, incredible cuisine, an abundance of heavenly parks and gardens, and a beach! It’s also home to one Spain’s greatest fiestas – Las Fallas, which take place every March. We asked ten local experts (and long-time Valencia residents) to share a favourite corner of their beloved home city.
1. MonfORTE GARDENS
Suggested by Isabel López, tour guide at Turiart.
Time seems to stand still when you enter the romantic Gardens of Monforte. It’s a place that encourages slow footsteps and soft voices, so as not to disturb the tranquillity enjoyed by artists, lovers strolling hand in hand, or anyone wishing to read a book in silence, while surrounded by flowers, greenery, ponds and statues, without leaving the city.
These 19th century jardines were the old recreational gardens of the Marqués de Don Juan (Don Juan Bautista Romero), who sought to create place of peace and relaxation outside the walls of the city: something they still offer to visitors today, despite their urban surroundings. A shady arbour covered with vegetation, an intimate formal garden of geometric design, a rosegarden, a small hill with intertwining pathways, bridges, lillies, sculptures of nymphs, goddesses and cherubim. Serenity, nature and art combine to provide the perfect setting for moments of meditation beneath the enormous oaks and elms.
Where: Jardines de Monforte: Plaza de la Legión Española, 46010
Price of entry: Free.
Opening hours: March 21st to September 20th: 10.30 – 20:00. September 21st to March 20th: 10:30 – 18:00.
2. Portal de la Valldigna
Suggested by Matt from the Love of Spain team.
Many visitors first encounter this enigmatic corner of Valencia by chance, having lost their way among the old town’s maze of sidestreets and alleys. All of a sudden you come across a tiny archway of ashlar stone – a relic from the 15th century, when it formed a gateway between the Christian sections of the city and the then Moorish quarter. Above the arch hangs a handsome reproduction of a gothic tableau, which shows Jaime I of Aragon founding the Valldigna Monastery, from which the Portal takes its name. It’s one of those mysterious, out-of-the-way nooks that, no matter what time of day or night, always seem incredibly hushed and charged with history. A place of quiet footfalls and lowered voices. No good walking tour of Valencia should miss it!
Where: Calle del Portal de la Valldigna, 46003
3. Mercado de Colón
Suggested by Amparo Morató, tour guide at DescubreValencia.
The Mercado de Colón (Colon Market) first opened in 1916, in the new, expanding middle class neighbourhood of the city known as the Eixample. Built in the Valencian modernista style, it is one of the city’s finest architectural treasures, full of cafes and restaurants, horchaterias, florists, chic bars and delicatessens.
At the weekends, you’ll often find a craft fair or classical music concert happening beneath its impressive roof. And if you’re looking for an unforgettable, authentically Valencian gastronomic experience, head to the top floor where you’ll find the Michelin starred restaurant of local chef Ricard Camarena.
Where: Calle Jorge Juan, 19, 46004.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday: 08:30 – 21:00.
4. Casa Insa
Suggested by Esteban Longares from Caminart
Casa Insa is a palace in the popular Carmen neighbourhood of Valencia, which has been converted into an inn. Built in the 16th century and renovated in the 18th, the building is notable for its patio with beautiful arches, columns and balconies. Passing through the huge entrance gate, you can appreciate the typical architecture of the Valencian palaces of the period. It is structured with a ground floor, mezzanine, and two stories, the first with balconies. The main floor is accessed by an angled staircase. Tradition says that the Renaissance painter Juan de Juanes had his studio here.
For 150 years, the building was home to a family business well known in the city for the manufacture of regional dress and costumes for fiestas and celebrations.
We chose this corner of Valencia because it’s right in the middle of the Carmen barrio, in a historic setting surrounded by old streets and houses, much frequented by locals and tourists. It’s one of the few small palaces where you can spend the night or enjoy a drink or something to eat on its patio: a special, unique and charming place.
Where: Calle Baja, 48, 46003.
5. Plaza SAN Luis Bertrán
Suggested by the writer and historian Salvador Raga.
A short walk from Valencia Cathedral is a quiet little square, where, in 1526, one of Valencia’s most revered sons, the great Dominican saint Luis Bertrán, was born. Known as the “Apostle to the Americas”, he spent seven years preaching in the new world, where he fought for the cause of the native population. Today, the saint’s statue stands atop a stone fountain in the centre of the plaza, opposite his childhood home, which in 1608 was converted into a chapel.
Overlooked by the 15th century palace of the Escrivá family and the medieval grain store of the Almudín (now a paleontological museum) it is one of the most charming and historic of Valencia’s many medieval plazas. In the words of the writer Salvador Raga, author of the book 101 Legendary Deeds in the History of Valencia, who suggested the spot:
“Few places in the Mediterranean posses a half shadow as beautiful as that which falls on the great saint’s statue..you can imagine this spot being the scene of a kiss between two lovers, or hear sleepy steps of someone crossing the stones on their way home at first light.”
Where: Plaza San Luis Bertrán, 46003
6. Parque de LA CULTURA
Suggested by Teresa Iniesta Lara, tour guide at Guiarte Valencia.
I could list an endless number of things that I love about my city, this city which I know so well as a tour guide. The sight that always amazes me most is the Lonja de la Seda and its stunning Sala de Contratación, but when I need to find a place of simple peace and tranquility, I head to less well know spots, such as the lovely Parque de la Cultura, a small garden next to the Public Library (once the historic Hospital of Valencia). Although the space was renovated in 2012, it has kept a real sense of history, while also focusing on activities that little by little are helping to transform Valencia into a more European city: classic cinema and open air concerts, secret dances and sofas where you can relax and enjoy a drink on a sunny day, surrounded by culture and friends, and just a stone’s throw from countless other places of interest in the city.
Where: Calle del Hospital, 13, 46001.
7. Estación del norte (North Station)
In the lavish vestibule of Valencia’s historic train station – the Estación del Norte, wood, ceramic, and glass combine with the broken mosaic effect known trencadís in ornamental harmony.
In an adjoining room, the old station restaurant is now used as a small exhibition room, where, on the walls, ceramic scenes celebrate the riches of the Valencian countryside: a woman in traditional dress, the Albufera lagoon, garlands of blossom, baskets brimming with fruit – images that show the traveller exactly where they have arrived (and also what they might leaving behind!) – a city of flowers, sunshine and endless colour.
Where: Estación del Norte, Calle Játiva, 24, 46007
8. Mercado Central
Suggested by Marta Landete Mancebo, writer at ValenciaCulture.com
There is lots of charm to be found among Valencia’s streets, but if I had to choose just one spot for this list it would be the Mercado Central, built in the modernista style in 1914, and considered by the BBC one of the most beautiful markets in the world. It is the largest fresh food market in Europe and recently became the first to offer home delivery, and internet orders, but anyone tempted to buy online will be missing out on a spectacular sight, inside and out, as well as the unique of personality of the nearly 400 Valencian food sellers.
It’s easy to lose an entire morning wandering the aisles, sampling the delicious produce, and gazing up and marvelling at the stunning architecture, such as its magnificent domes.
Where: Plaza Ciudad de Brujas, 46001
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 07:00 till 15:00.
Suggested by Juan Carlos Felipo, tour guide at Turiart.
In the heart of Valencia’s historic centre, in the busy Plaza del Tossal, is one of the least well-known curiosities of the city – an underground space which is part art gallery and part archaeological crypt. A transparent construction in the middle of the square leads you down a set of mysterious steps. Below are the preserved remains, in places almost 2 meters high, of a section of Islamic wall which surrounded Valencia in the 11th century during the time of Al-Ándalus, when the city was known as Balansiya. The soft light and silence makes the place seem disconnected from Valencia’s daily life, and yet these same stones once protected the city from beseiging armies! Information panels explain the importance of this archaeological treasure, which is still unknown even to the majority of Valencians.
Where: Plaza del Tossal, 46001
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 09:30 till 14:00. Sundays 09:30 to 15:00.
10. Convento del Carmen
Suggested by Lucia, from the Love of Spain team.
Whenever I find myself wandering through the atmospheric medieval streets of Valencia’s El Carmen neighbourhood (and especially when I’m with a friend who is visiting), I always try to slip in through the doors of this lovely old convent, and sit for a moment in the quiet and stillness of its two magnificent cloisters – once Gothic and austere, the other Renaissance and leafy, with orange trees and a stone well at its centre. After 5 minutes I’m left recharged and ready to head back out into the noise and bustle of the outside world!
Where: Calle del Museo, 2, 46003
Entrance fee: 2€
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 – 20:00