An incredible mix of beautiful modern architecture along with a storied past makes the sunny coastal city of Valencia a great escape from the chilly Spanish winter. After having spent a few months exploring and getting used to Spain’s capital city, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Valencia for a long weekend.
My friend Moritz and I caught an early Thursday train – a quick three-hour ride that I spent sleeping. Much to my delight, it was significantly warmer in Valencia than it had been the past few weeks in Madrid. It was a whopping 56 degrees Fahrenheit so essentially one-jacket weather.
After calming down from my excitement about the weather and taking off a few unnecessary layers, we made our way to our Airbnb. It was located a little ways outside of the city but had really nice location a short walk from the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) and next to a metro station.
Once we realized we had found an amazing place, we celebrated by going to grab some lunch at a nearby restaurant. Since Valencia is known as the home of Paella, we decided to start our trip with an authentic meal! Much like pizza, the traditional Valencian dish has many variations and adaptations, but we decided to get the most authentic one on the menu. Our choice was Paella Valenciana which was a rich mixture of spices blended into rice, green and white beans, chicken, rabbit and snail. It was an experience to say the least but overall a very tasty lunch. And the portions produced are for at least two and come in a huge paella pan that they set on your table.
One of the main reasons for our visit to Valencia (at least on this specific weekend) was to watch my friend Moritz’s hometown team play a Europa League soccer game against the local Valencia CF. Being a huge soccer fan, I was more than delighted to tag along on his trip to watch some soccer and for an obscenely small price compared to normal sporting events of this magnitude. As we walked up to the stadium, the streets were closed and the crowds were buzzing with excitement and anticipation, which got us really excited.
The game itself was not much of a competition. Moritz’s team, which was the underdog, was immediately overmatched and ended up losing the game 6-0, much to his disappointment.
Even though he was not the happiest camper, we decided to walk to the center of the city and see how it looks at night. The streets were largely empty but we found some nice little cafes that were open late into the night with live music and plenty of interesting characters.
The next day we decided to take our time and properly discover Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias – these magnificent modern structures built in 1998.
Built on a dried up riverbed, these buildings all serve their own purposes such as conference centers, museums, cinemas, theaters and an aquarium. There was so much to see in just one day but we did our best and then headed towards the city center to see what it looked like with natural lighting.
The city reminded me a lot of San Diego with beautiful weather, a hint of salt in the air from the beach and friendly people. The big difference was the architecture, which boasted buildings that dated back centuries and tons of orange trees everywhere! There was so much rich history in the city, which originally started as a Roman outpost thousands of years ago. We decided to go on a free walking tour which took us to some of the highlights of the city and explained a lot of the history.
After a full day of sightseeing, we decided to call it an evening and retire to a café near our Airbnb to grab a light dinner and pass out afterward.
We decided to spend the rest of our stay in Valencia hanging out at the beach and wandering around La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. The beach was really nice and easy to just hang out and, like I mentioned before, the futuristic structures make for an amazing time whether you go inside for the entertainment or you simply enjoy the wonderful architecture.
All in all, Valencia is a wonderful city but timing was not on our side. Two weeks later, there was a festival called Las Fallas. This festival is essentially a huge fireworks show which lasts a whole week and involves the whole city setting huge paper mache figures on fire. If you are ever in Spain during March, I highly recommend visiting Valencia during that time.