In the heart of the upmarket shopping area around Calle Colón, this newly-opened, five-star boutique hotel is the place to stay for the America’s Cup jet set. Double rooms cost €210 a night.
Calle Navarro Reverter, 14; www.hospes.es
Friendly, laid-back hostel chain Home now has three excellent branches in Valencia. The vast Backpackers, at Calle Santa Cristina s/n, has dorm rooms from around €13 per person per night or doubles for around €16 per person. The original and more cosy hostel at Calle La Lonja, 4, is similarly priced. The newly refurbished Home Deluxe at Calle Cadires, 11, offers themed double rooms for around €40 a night.
A luxurious, well-known seafood restaurant with plush interiors and a vast tank of lobsters and crabs so you can choose your own victim for dinner. Dinner costs around €50 per head.
There are two branches, one at Calle Lérida, 11 y 13 and the other right in the town centre at Calle Mossen Fernandez, 10; www.marisqueriascivera.com
Vintara, on bustling Plaza de la Reina, belies the rule that restaurants on major tourist thoroughfares are stiffly priced and low on quality. Vintara is neither – it offers earthy but delicious traditional Spanish cooking, using all the best local ingredients. Meat eaters will love the Morcilla con Mousselina de Ibérico. For a full meal with wine, expect to pay around €25-30 per head.
Vintara, Plaza de la Reina, 19
A truly Spanish, family-run tapas bar just by the famous towers. No frills and no tourists; just cheap, well-cooked tapas classics. Around €10 per head for a hearty meal, wine or beer and coffee.
Cervecería Serranos, Calle Blanquerías, 5
Just a short bus ride or walk further up the coast from the town’s main beach, Malvarrosa - but is usually a lot less crowded. And it’s further away from the unsightly cranes and gantries of the city’s busy port.
Malvarrosa beach: buses 1, 2 or 19, or take the tram (metro line 4) from Pont de Fusta station. Alboraia beach: get off the tram at La Cadena and take the 31 bus from the corner
A short walk beyond the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, the Oceanogràfic, opened in 2003, claims to be Europe’s biggest oceanarium. It is organised into eight educational zones and includes an eye-popping shark tunnel, sinister crustaceans and cute penguins. Make sure you catch the fantastic dolphin show. Although pricey, it certainly is impressively stocked.
Avenida Autopista del Saler, 1, 3, 5 y 7; Buses: take the 95 from the Torres de Serranos or the 35 from the Plaza del Ayuntamiento; Admission: a combined ticket for the science museum, the Hemisfèric Imax cinema and the Oceanogràfic costs €28.80 for adults and €21.60 for children, students and OAPs; www.cac.es/oceanografic
Hire bikes for a morning (try Orange Bikes at Calle Santa Teresa, 8, in the Carmen) and take a leisurely ride though the Turia river gardens – it’s too far to walk the full 10km length. The river Turia, which used to flow here, was diverted around the city after a flood in 1957 that killed dozens of people. For a while, the city authorities debated whether to turn the dry riverbed, still with its grand bridges and embankments, into a giant car park. Thankfully, they opted for a more environmentally friendly option. Today, “el río” is full of beautiful and varied sights, from landscaped gardens to leaping fountains, childrens’ adventure playgrounds, grassy picnic areas and civic spaces such as sports fields and exhibition areas. Kids will also love the little white train that carries visitors to and from the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, at the river gardens’ end. (Resist the urge, if you have one, to take a pony and trap from the Plaza de la Virgen around the old town. Exposed for hours in the suffocating summer heat as they wait for punters, the horses are often visibly distressed, and you probably will be too after trundling around the dark and narrow streets of the old town inhaling petrol fumes.)
Buses: 95, 80
Valencia can be a sweltering, sun-baked city, so thankfully it is well served with parks and gardens. Of these, the Turia river gardens are the most extensive and prominent, but the Botanical Gardens, next door to a monastery, are a real oasis of tranquility in this noisiest of Spanish cities. Here you will find rare plants, medicinal herbs, shady palms and a cactus garden with some incredibly far-out specimens. Admission is a token €0.30.
Calle Quart, 80; Buses: 7, 81; www.jardibotanic.org/cindex.html
It may be a Spanish cliché, but you really can’t visit Valencia without eating paella – and, to the region that invented the dish, if you haven’t eaten it here, you haven’t eaten it at all. The authentic version – Paella Valenciana – is with rabbit, chicken, snails, butter beans and broad beans, although veggie-friendly Paella de Verduras is usually available. To Valencians, “paella” anywhere else in Spain is merely rice with meat and vegetables. They border on the fanatical when talking about the hardness of the water required to perfectly cook the rice – which must be grown locally, of course.
But despite this, paella is not a fussy food. It is hearty family lunchtime fare (never make the mistake of eating it at night, except during Fallas) and best enjoyed on a Sunday afternoon, at one of the many paella restaurants that line Las Arenas beach front to the left of the port. Pepica – one of the oldest and best of these – is rumoured to be where Hemingway first sampled the dish. It is usual to order paella between at least two people. You may want to book in advance to make sure of a table.
La Pepica, Paseo Neptuno, 6; Tel: 96 371 0366
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
Cafe de las Horas just off Plaza de la Virgen boasts a giddy Baroque décor of velvet wall hangings, ornate candelabras and trompe d'oiels. Garlands of flowers and yet more candles lurk in musky corners. Camp waiters float to your side and present you with a menu offering an impressive range of spiced teas, silky alcoholic coffees and potent but delicious cocktails.
Calle de Almodóvar, 1
Any T-shirt, tea towel, apron, flag or mug emblazoned with the silhouetted image of the bull from the Osborne sherry adverts, superimposed on the Spanish flag. Tourists think it looks cool and “Spanish” – but the jingoistic image is satirised in areas of the country where there is strong regional feeling.
Photographs of the gorgeous old, Colonial-style tiled villas that line the streets of the beachside Cabanyal district – before they are bulldozed to make way for a big dual carriageway designed to shave five minutes off people’s car journeys to the beach.
Valencia’s modern art museum, the Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (IVAM), will surprise many visitors expecting something rather more parochial from Spain’s hitherto-modest third city. However, Valencia is unknown no longer and IVAM is one of the city’s many recipients of America’s Cup-driven investment. It is eagerly awaiting a multi-million euro expansion and makeover, by Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, which will swing round its entrance to face the Carmen and put in on the map of world-class modern art galleries. Even now IVAM is impressive. Permanent collections are by Julio González and Ignacio Pinazo, and recent exhibitions have included Robert Rauschenburg, Anthony Caro and Salvador Dalí.
Calle Guillem de Castro, 118; Admission: 2 euros, free on Sundays; Buses: 95, 5; www.ivam.es
Dominating Plaza Negrito, Bar Negrito is a Carmen classic - colourful, ever-changing decor and a great summer terraza that always seems to be open. Soak up the lively atmosphere and drink until late. Pity the poor neighbours …
Bar Negrito, Plaza Negrito
Cafe Lisboa in sunny Plaza Doctor Collado, just across the street from the spectacular Mercado Central and in the heart of the historic Carmen, is a great place to catch your breath after a morning’s shopping in the bustling market. Sit on the ample terraza and browse your book or newspaper over a coffee, beer or tapa, revelling in the fact that no one is going to hurry you to leave.
Cafe Lisboa, Plaza Doctor Collado
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