Tourist Information Guide

Valencia Tourism: Culture, Sport, Architecture and History in Valencia City, Spain

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Valencia Old Town - El Carmen
Valencia Old Town - El Carmen
When you think of Valencia, what does it mean to you? Valencia is Spain's third-largest city - offering many and varied tourist experiences to its millions of visitors each year. Some visitors to Valencia will come for the history and tradition that can be found in Valencia's old town. Others will come for the modern and forward-thinking new developments that have come to characterise much of the city. If you love the outdoors, you will find endless tranquillity in the parks and beaches of the city. If you are a lover of food, you can explore the restaurants, tapas bars and food markets of Valencia. If you are looking for art and culture, Valencia offers an abundance of museums and galleries.

Valencia is an intrinsic part of Spain, whilst still retaining its own unique and distinctive character. It is the place where paella was invented. It was once considered to be one of the poorest cities in Spain but has grown in confidence and stature in recent years. It is a forward-thinking city with old and new juxtaposed in perfect harmony.

This page will provide you with an overall sense of what Valencia has to offer to tourists. You will be guided through some of the major themes to be found in the city, with links to more detailed pages about what the city has to offer. You will also find information on different styles of holiday that you can have in the city: mini-breaks, language learning trips and extended stays.

History in Valencia

Valencia Cathedral in the Old Town
Valencia Cathedral in the Old Town

Valencia has enjoyed a long and textured history. It boasts buildings and architecture from eras including the Roman, Arabic and Christian periods. These sit alongside the more modern buildings from the Modernist period (the style that was pioneered by Gaudi). For a full understanding of the background of the city, see our Guide to the History of Valencia.

If you would like to be steeped in the history of Valencia, it is best to head to the old town - an area known as El Carmen. Here you will find the city's cathedral - for a full guide see our Valencia Cathedral page. You will also find university buildings, old churches, a modernist style food market and many other significant historical buildings. To get an idea of what it is like in Valencia's old town, see our Photo Route of El Carmen.

Tip If you are interested in modernist architecture, it is worth heading to an area that sits just behind Valencia city's main beach called El Cabanyal. This is a largely residential area where a large percentage of Valencia's locals live. However, it contains lots of examples of modernist architecture on the facades of the houses that line the streets. See our Photo route of El Cabanyal to get an idea of what it is like.

Modern Valencia

Valencia City of Art and Sciences
Valencia City of Art and Sciences

Alongside its history, Valencia also prides itself in being a cutting edge city. Towards the end of the last millennium and the beginning of this millennium there has been a considerable amount of development in Valencia. Buildings like the Palau de la Musica and the IVAM (Valencia Institute of Modern Art) have appeared. The city's riverbed has also been dried out and turned into the Turia Riverbed (see below for more details).

Perhaps most significant of the most recent and modern developments is the City of Art and Sciences. This cultural park spans 2 km and five main buildings. It was designed by the legendary architect Santiago Calatrava and the bright white buildings in weird and wonderful shapes look like an imaginative young boy's vision of the future. To get an idea of what the City of Art and Sciences looks like, check out our Photo Route of the City of Art and Sciences. For practical details on some of the main features see our Guide to Valencia Science Museum.

Epicurean Valencia

Valencia's food market - El Mercado Central
Valencia's food market - El Mercado Central

If you are a foodie traveller who loves nothing more than a holiday centred around where the next meal will be enjoyed, Valencia is a satisfying place to head. It is the birth place of paella and is also well positioned geographically to ensure that if offers quality ingredients from both the sea and the land. For a full guide to some of the traditional specialities of Valencia, see our Guide to Valencia Food.

If you would like to take a tapas tour of Valencia, check out our Guide to Tapas in Valencia for more details. For listings of restaurants in Valencia, see our Guide to Valencia's Restaurants.

Tip If you are a lover of food, you wont want to miss the famous old food market in the old town - El Mercado Central. For more details see our Photo Route of Valencia Old Town.

Valencian Culture

Valencia boasts a grand total of 34 museums of art and history, making it a place to head if you are a culture vulture. Museums here include the IVAM (modern art museum), the History of Valencia museum and the National Museum of Ceramics. For listings of the galleries, see our Guide to Valencia Art Galleries.

You will also find that Valencia offers a wide selection of theatres. For listings of the theatres, see our Guide to Theatres in Valencia.

Nature and the Outdoors in Valencia

Valencia is a city that offers over two million square metres of green areas. Throughout the city you will be given the opportunity to take a break from the hustle bustle and immerse yourself in the peace and tranquility of nature. There is the Turia Riverbed - a 9 km stretch of parks and gardens that runs right through the centre of the city.

There is also the Parque de Cabacera - Europe's largest park and home to the Bioparc (see above for more details). There are ornamental gardens and natural reserves. For a guide to the green spaces to be found in Valencia, see our Guide to the parks of Valencia.

It is also important to remember that there is a beach in Valencia - an attraction that is likely to appeal to many visitors. During a stay in Valencia you can take a twenty minute journey from the shops, cafes and galleries of the city centre and treat yourself to an afternoon of sunbathing on the beach. For a better idea of what the beaches of Valencia are like, see our Photo Route of Valencia Beach. For an explanation of how to get to the beach from the city centre and descriptions of the facilities on offer, see our Guide to Valencia Beach.

Short stays in Valencia

There are also different options when it comes to how long you would like to stay in Valencia. If you plan on heading here for a mini-break from other parts of Spain or Europe, you will find that you can tackle the major points of interest of the city in two or three days. However, it is important to remember that Valencia is a large city, so you will need to plan your time well and prioritise the things that you would most like to see.

Tip To get an overview of the city and to see a lot of it in a short space of time, it is worth considering spending half a day or a whole day on the Hop on Hop Off Tourist Bus. This will allow you to travel between the major tourist attractions of the city, hopping off the bus at the ones that you would like to look at in more detail.

Extended stays in Valencia

If you have time to be in Valencia for longer than just a weekend, you will have no trouble finding things to do. As you will have seen in the page above, there is a whole wealth of ways in which to entertain yourself in the city. And if you decide that you would like to spend some time away from the city centre, the entire region of Valencia boasts a wealth of small villages, beaches, vineyards and other attractions that are options for day trips and excursions. For full details of places to head outside of Valencia city centre, see our Guide to Excursions from Valencia.

Tip If you want to spend an extended period in Valencia, it might also be worth doing an intensive language course during your visit. Many of the language schools will offer complete packages including accommodation and social activities. For full details, see our Guide to Spanish Courses in Valencia.

Valencia is a city that offers something for everybody. Whether you love art, music, food, nature, history, or a little bit of all of these, you will find something to keep you entertained on a trip to Valencia.

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