Four years ago while planning our wedding, the one factor we did not take into consideration was that October is quite possibly the worst month to travel. Just about everywhere is in the midst of changing seasons, experiencing monsoons or hurricanes or is just plain cold. This unfortunate decision has made our lives quite difficult when considering where to visit for each of our anniversaries. The first year we celebrated our anniversary, we decided that we love nothing more than travelling (other than each other of course) and that we would always take some time to get away together to celebrate our nuptials.
So this year, we procrastinated like crazy (as we normally do when we have to plan a holiday) and waited till the ultimate last minute to choose somewhere to go. We wanted sand and sun. Then we wanted an extreme cultural experience (the kinds that are found in the eastern part of the world). Later we decided that we would forgo the culture and opt for luxury. As per usual, we were incredibly indecisive.
Finally, with time dwindling and with it, the options too, we decided on Valencia. Why not we said. It has luxury, it has culture, it has sand, it has sun, it also has amazing architecture. We booked it. I’m really glad we did. Valencia was precisely what we needed.
Normally, in the interest of trying to balance experiencing a place and being able to see as much as possible, we stay usually only 2-3 days in any given city. It’s almost always never enough (unless you are in Venice, then 1 day will do!) but since our time in Europe is short, we sacrifice. However, this trip, we spent 6 days in Valencia and were so happy we did.
It’s not one of those cities where there is loads of sites to see or hundreds of recommended restaurants that need to be tried. Rather it’s just one of those in between. It’s a beautiful city with a good amount of places to visit and good food to be eaten. But it’s also one of those places where you can quite happily say that all you accomplished was a huge pan of seafood Paella, a couple bottles of wine and a long siesta. Having this much time let us leisurely experience the culture of this little gem in Spain.
Quite possibly one of my favorite parts is the Turia Gardens. Once an old riverbed that was diverted around the city, this area has been transformed in a beautiful park full of sculptures, fountains, opportunities for exercise and hundreds of varieties of trees. All of it ending with the famous Santiago Calatrava buildings. The perfect place to run (that is if I were a runner) or just inhale the outdoors.
The Mercado Central is a must for anyone that loves food and for anyone that eats it! It is probably my favorite market in the world after the Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia. The varieties of fresh fruit and vegetables along with the array of beautiful fish made me seriously wish I was staying somewhere I could cook. Markets are my favorite and this one I could have spent days in!
If you’re looking for beach, you must head down to El Saler just south of the city. It is much quieter and much more picturesque than the city beach. Its also located in the Albufera National Park so there are hundreds of little trails that you can go biking or hiking on. The lake near by is a huge tourist attraction, but skip the boat ride and just take in the view from the sidelines at sunset. I would have loved to spend a little more time in this area seeing the local fisherman and rice farmers. Maybe next time.
Lastly, just wander around. There are countless little alleyways and cute streets just a skip away from the main tourist squares. This is where you will find the many locals and some of the best restaurants. If you’re looking for dinner, the Conda Altea area is really nice. There are many small restaurants and bars and lots of locals out and about. However, if you’re feeling hungry and its before 9:30, the only thing to do to is take a nap and don’t even try leaving the hotel till after 9. That is unless of course you want to eat with all the tourists. Make sure you learn a bit of Spanish as no one seems to speak English well in this city. However, people are friendly and sometimes the best form of communication is and will always be with your hands!
Where we stayed:
Caro Hotel – Lovely rustic minimal hotel in the historic old town. Great design, lovely bedrooms and bathrooms and perfect location. Similar to what I would love my house to look like – just a bit brighter!
Hospes Palau de la Mar – A former palace refurbished in a warm modern style. Really great service but tiny rooms.
Where we ate:
My Favorite: Arroceria Duna – A short hop away from Valencia on the beautiful El Saler beach. An absolute must for the view alone. Ask for a table by the sand and enjoy the views and feeling of the beach. The food did not disappoint either. Definitely try the Tellinas (little mollusks which are a specialty of the valencia area), croquetas de Bogavan (lobster croquettes) and of course a Paella (we loved the Arroz del Senyoret with Langostines, Prawns and Crayfish). The Cocktail de Maracuya is a perfect way to end the meal before you make your way to the beach to sleep it all off! Make sure you make a reservation on a Sunday as it is fully packed with locals!
Central Bar – Perfect location in the middle Mercado Central to get a bite to eat after perusing the gorgeous selection of fruits, veg, seafood and meats that you unfortunately can’t take home in your suitcase. Have a taste of some of the daily seasonal items instead at this little restaurant. Definitely try the Coca de Pisto -Bacalao Pinones (a flatbread with a very soft ratatouille topped with flaked cod and a pistachio pistou.
Restaurante Seu-Xerea – Lovely little restaurant tucked away just north of the Plaza de la Virgen. Minimal but warm design and great service. Definitely try the Green Curried Mussels (I’m dreaming about them right now). One of our favorites in the city.
Sa Fonda – In a much more local part of town, the tapas are to die for at this restaurant. They are a more modern take on some of the classics as well as some new tasty creations. Get a bottle of wine and share 4-5 of these tasty treats with someone you love. Try the Squid with Goats Cheese and the Risotto.
Onion Burger Studio – Perfect for a quick lunch on the weekend or if you’re just sick of eating Paella and Tapas. Simple burgers with many different meat and veggie options.
Horchateria El Siglo – We had to try the famed Horchata (all I think about is the Vampire Weekend song) and chose this popular spot to indulge. I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but I have only tried it a couple times.