If you're looking to escape the touristy centre of Valencia (and the prices that come with it) or want to experience the 'pueblo' feel without having to leave the city, a day trip to Benimaclet would be worth your time. Benimaclet was originally its own village, separated by the river, but became merged into Valencia with the city's expansion. Despite this it has managed to maintain much of the original 'pueblo' feel, something you'd normally have to get out of the city for. The Plaza de Benimaclet is a five minute walk from the tram stop and on the way you'll probably notice many bars displaying 'tercio y tapas 1.50', prices that aren't found in the centre. Many of these bars have live music at night. Once you enter the pueblo part of Benimaclet, it's easy to forget you're in a city owing to many car-less streets lined by idyllic little houses, especially if you stumble across the Plaza de Benimaclet complete with its own church. Once you've worked up an appetite by meandering around the streets, why not pick up a paella or other traditional Valencian cuisine from an asador - the cheapest way (around three euros for a portion big enough for two) to enjoy a home cooked paella. You could enjoy your paella sitting in the Jardines del Real, the main park in Valencia only a couple of hundred metres away.
From here there are three options (not including returning to the city centre). Firstly you could follow the Turia (the old river now converted into a park) down to the City of Arts and Sciences, one of Valencia's landmark features. On the way you'll pass the Palau de la Música and walk under many bridges each with its own feature.
Secondly you could carry on out of the city to Alboraya - the Spanish hometown of horachata, a sweet, milkly, nutty drink. I'd recommend the Horchateria Toni for the best tasting and value horchata in Alboraya.
My final option is take the tram down to the Malvarrosa beach (10 minutes away) and walk along the sea front or relax on the sand in the sun.
After doing all this you'll probably be ready to return to your hostel late in the evening, although Benimaclet is worth the visit, I'd recommend staying in a hostel in the centre for travel convenience.
A tip when travelling around Valencia - beware the road sign names. In the city the road sign names are in Valencian but on many maps they are written in Castillan, they are pretty similar but don't go looking for an exact name if you have the Castillan version.
To reach Benimaclet - from the centre of Valencia take the metro (line 3, 9 minutes) or about 30 minutes on foot from Plaza del Ayuntamiento, crossing the river at Puente del Real and following Carrer de Cavanilles.
The Pueblo part is off to the right of Calle Emilio Baro (facing the direction of Alboraya)
To reach Alboraya - take the metro (Line 3, Rafelbunyol - Aeroport) to Alboraya or walk from Benimaclet (about 1km from the metro stop vía 'Calle Emilio Baro' which becomes 'Avenida de la Horchata')
This website has details of events in Benimaclet:
Google map: bit.ly/1145Enn
Valencia is perfect for budget travellers - most of the best sights and most impressive buildings are free to poke around, so you can conduct your own architectural tour, with plenty left over for some paella!
Start at Valencia Cathedral, a mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles (with the 'Holy Grail' tucked inside!), and then head to the Palau de la Generalitat, a Gothic palace used by the local government, with elaborately tiled floors and frescoed walls.
Other must-see sights include La Lonja, a grand Late Gothic hall filled with grisly gargoyles and other grotesqueries, and the Colegio del Patriarca, a 16th century seminary adorned with religious frescoes.
Valencia Cathedral, Plaza de la Reina,
Palau de la Generalitat, www.gencat.cat/generalitat/eng/guia/palau/index.htm
La Lonja, Plaza de la Virgen, Valencia
Colegio del Patriarca, Nave 1, Valencia 46002
Forget forking out for the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, this cathedral is free to visit and is just as much of an architectural jumble.
Work started on the cathedral in 1262, resulting in a building that ranges from Romanesque to Gothic, so it's a fascinating place to wander around. Take a trip up the Miguelete Bell Tower, a city landmark, or check out the a cup believed to be the Holy Grail.
The Ceramics museum is housed in the Palacio de Marques de Dos Aguas. The exterior is covered with ornate marble decoration and the huge carved alabaster entrance was designed by Hipólito Rovira and alludes to the two rivers (Turia and Júcar) of the Marques' title. There's even a painted-gilt Cinderella coach to greet you in the entrance and the marble decoration continues inside as you walk up the stairs.
On the first floor of the Palacio you pass through room after room smothered with colourful plasterwork and marble decoration with enormous chandeliers sparkling in the gilded mirrors. The Palacio dates back to the 15th century but the exterior was remodelled in the 1740s and and the interiors redecorated in the rococco style in the 1850s. When you've progressed through the many delightful rooms and admired the beautiful paintings and decorations, you reach the ceramics collections themselves. The highlights for me were the colourful painted Spanish tiles and ceramics, including the replica of a tiled Spanish kitchen on the top floor, and there are also some plates decorated by Picasso.
The museum is free on Saturday morning and Sunday but otherwise it costs €2.40
You can see my review and photos on my blog;
Palacio de Marques de Dos Aguas, Poeta Querol, 2, 46002 - Valencia
What makes Valencia unique is its river, or rather the lack of it. After a disastrous flood in 1957, the Túria was diverted to the edge of the city, leaving an empty riverbed that now forms a green ribbon twisting 9km through the city, with a lagoon, trees, gardens, playing fields and cycle paths. At the park’s heart is the breathtakingly ambitious City of Arts and Sciences designed by local architect Santiago Calatrava. You'll need to hire a bike to see it all.
The stunning 15th-century silk exchange, with its elegant stone columns carved to resemble twisted bolts of silk, is a gothic classic and the most beautiful building in Valencia. Truly uplifting, in more ways than one.
Plaza del Mercado
Everyone raves about Barcelona’s famous La Boqueria market but Valencia’s is both bigger and better. The modernista building of stained glass and wrought iron is stunning, but it’s the array of produce, especially the wealth of fresh glistening seafood, that steals the show. If you’re staying in a hotel you’ll regret it if you visit Central - you'll want to take the lot home for dinner.
Open until 2.30pm, Plaza del Mercado.
In the heart of the old city, a truly beautiful cathedral. Pay 3 euros for the audio tour, and see a Goya, the putrified arm of some long-dead martyr... and would you believe it: the Holy Grail. Yes it's here, located at the end of the tour, in a dark, simple stone chapel, in the corner of the cathedral. Sit at the back and let the sun - passing through a high round stained glass window, decorated with the grail - land on your face. Incredible.
Plaza del la Reina
Russafa is the atmospheric, unspoilt old neighbourhood where Valencia conceals its Moorish roots. Slightly off the beaten track and hence a less-explored spot, the tiny barrio is tucked away behind the Gran Via Marqués del Turia, to the east of the station. Historically a Moorish district, today it still has a much more ethnic feel than the rest of the city.
Its sights include Moroccan teterías (tea shops) on Calle Buenos Aires, a mini-Mercado - less hectic but almost as well-stocked as the central market - some great tapas bars (try the seafood at Puerta del Sol, Calle Cádiz, 42) and several alternative bars with a laid-back approach. Try Pachamama on Calle Carlos Cervera. If you visit during Fallas, don’t, whatever you do, miss the award-winning lights display on Calle Sueca, where the whole street blazes with a tunnel of illuminations stretching into the distance.
Buses: 14, 15, 35
Finally getting wise to Valencia’s burgeoning tourist potential, the city council has recently imposed charges on all of the formerly free monuments in the town centre. However, there are still no charges on Sundays. Take advantage of this and take your pick from IVAM (the modern art museum), the Botanical Gardens, the cathedral and more. But my favourite is the Torres de Serranos (Serrano Towers). Formerly a prison for noblemen, these squat, crenellated towers form one of the gates in the old city walls (the only other surviving portal is the Torres de Quart) and are one of Valencia’s most emblematic symbols. A short climb to the top of the battlements gives refreshing views of the snaking green river park in one direction, and the rooftops, tiled domes and spires of the old town in the other.
Calle Serranos / Calle Conde de Trenor
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