Set on Spain’s southeast coast, the city of Valencia may not be as visited as Spain’s coastal resorts – or cities like Madrid and Barcelona – but there isn’t any good reason for that. This city can definitely hold its own; culture, history, and things to do abound in Valencia. Not only does this city have one of Spain’s most extensive public parks – the lengthy Turia Gardens, following the former course of a river – but it’s also got a huge arts and sciences center with striking, ultra-modern buildings housing everything from art galleries to aquariums.
Map of Valencia
1. Ciutat Vella · 2. L’Eixample · 3. Poblats Maritims · 4. Malvarrosa Beach · 5. Quatre Carreres · 6. Extramurs · 7. Camins al Grau
Valencia’s central area is defined by a historic walled city, which is where you will find most of its ancient and medieval sights. Outside of this area, things get a little more modern but no less beautiful. This is a charming city to walk around, but fun too. The area of Rusafa, for example, is famous for its bohemian nightlife, plus there is even a slice of beach to soak up some sun in the coastal area of the city. Architecture fans, history lovers, and those traveling with small children who want some entertainment (and education) won’t find anything amiss here.
The city has its own metro system, plenty of buses and, of course, a whole lot of accommodation options to choose from, making it a straightforward place to stay. From hostels set within the historic walls of the city to simple guesthouses in Poblats Maritims, and distinctly high-end options in modern buildings, it is easy to plan a trip to Valencia.
The historical center is the place to stay in Valencia if being close to centuries of heritage is interesting to you. Simply wandering around the cobbled streets of this formerly walled part of the city, dating back to the Roman era, is enough. Actual sights in this part of Valencia include the stunning Plaza del Ayuntamiento – a plaza redesigned with a modernist approach in 1931, the 13th century Centre del Carme – a former convent turned cultural center, and the remains of the city wall itself, some of which are Roman and some of which are of Moorish origin.
Ciutat Vella is a maze of pavement cafes and plazas. A bustling, workaday area where history and the modern day collide, government buildings and ancient sights share this district. Accommodation in this area runs the gamut from straightforward hostels for an affordable stay all the way to modern hotels and boutique offerings in historic buildings. There are a few metro stations on the border of Ciutat Vella and L’Eixample to the south.
L’Eixample is a large district of Valencia, neighboring Ciutat Vella to the northwest – a sprawling area with a grid system intersected by broad avenues. The Estacion del Norte – Valencia’s main train station – is located to the north of L’Eixample, making it a good place to arrive by rail. This district of Valencia is all about boulevards, grand buildings like the Mercado del Colon – located in the upscale Pla del Remei area – and mainstream nightlife in Canovas.
Located near the Estacion del Norte is the bohemian area of Ruzafa. Named after a Moorish ruler, this enclave of L’Eixample is a mix of old, working-class residents and young creatives, as much as immigrants, making it a melting pot of fascinating, colorful cultures. Here you’ll find craft beer and cafes, sushi joints and vegetarian restaurants.
Staying in L’Eixample can be expensive, or it can be affordable, depending on the type of accommodation you choose. There are cheap hostels near Estacio del Norte and more modern offerings in old buildings elsewhere in this large district.
To the extreme east of Valencia’s center, on the city’s coast, lies Poblats Maritims. The clue is in the name – these were once fishing villages. Today, this part of Valencia retains an original charm of being a collection of small town, seaside villages, with rambling streets and plenty of local color and charm. But it’s not all like that, of course.
The Poblats Maritims is the district which covers five neighborhoods. Beteró is very well connected to the rest of Valencia; El Cabanyal is perhaps the most well-known and picturesque neighborhood; El Grau is home to Valencia’s oldest port, Darsena Vella; Malvarrosa boasts a quintessential urban beach of the same name; Natzaret features a modern port area and a train station.
In essence an up and coming district, Poblats Maritims is a good option if you want to stay right by the sea, and within striking distance of the sandy beach here. There aren’t a lot of accommodation options, but there are a few seaside hotels – some chic, some much more affordable.
Named after the area where it is located (Malvarrosa in the north of the Poblats Maritims), this beach is certainly the place to base yourself if you are looking for your very own slice of sun, sea, and sand in Valencia. Though there are not a whole lot of accommodation options right next to the beach, the southern end at El Cabanyal is where you will find a small selection of practically beachfront hotels.
Head inland from Malvarrosa Beach and you will find more in terms of lodgings, however, with a few affordable guesthouses and studios to choose from. Being a beachside area, this neighborhood is not short of amenities, either. You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to drinking and dining; cafes, bars, and restaurants, souvenir shops and beachwear stores line the large promenade bordering the beach.
In terms of things to do away from the beach in this part of Valenica, you can head to the beautiful Casa-Museo de Blasco Ibáñez. This is the former home of Valencian writer, Blasco Ibáñez, and has been wonderfully restored, serving as a museum.
Bordering L’Eixample to the northeast and the Poblats Maritims to the west, Quatre Carreres is a large district of Valencia. Here is where you will find big, contemporary buildings that play host to cultural and sporting events. The crowning glory of it all is the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencas, or CAC.
Hosting yearly events like the Valencia Open 500 Tennis Tournament, this collection of curving, glass and steel structures is the place to get your fix of culture in Valencia. There is the Palau de les Artes – which serves as Valencia’s opera house – the Principe Felipe Science Museum, and Oceanografic – Europe’s largest aquarium.
Quatre Carreres is also home to the Estación de Valencia-Fuente San Luis, a large train station which serves as a transport hub for arrivals and departures from Valencia by rail. The Turia Gardens, one of Spain’s largest public parks, borders the north of Quatre Carreres.
Here, you can stay in refined hotels overlooking the park; modern, high-end lodgings near CAC or dotted around the area, some of which can be surprisingly affordable.
Extramurs means ‘outside the walls,’ and that is precisely where this district is located, hugging the old walls to the west of the Ciutat Vella. This is a great place to base yourself if you don’t want to be right in the middle of everything in in the Old Town, but still want to be close enough that you can get in and out with ease.
Another convenience is the Estacio del Norte, located in the northwest of Extramurs; inbound and outbound travel of the city is simple. Here you will find Valencia’s Chinatown. Though not officially designated as ‘Chinatown,’ there is a definitive presence of Chinese establishments adjacent to the train station.
The neighborhood of El Botanic boasts a botanic garden and the Natural Science Museum to explore, while Arrancapins to the southwest, is noted for its cool, early to mid-20th-century architecture. In the north, there’s the Turia Gardens. With a scattering of budget to mid-range hotel options, Extramurs is a refreshing alternative to the center of Valencia itself.
This district is positioned to the east of L’Eixample. Not only does it come with the southern portion of the huge Turia Gardens at your disposal, but it also puts you in a great location to reach the cultural area of CAC; that means museums, galleries, aquariums, and more to discover. In the north is the Palauet d’Aiora, a stunning palace and gardens dating back to 1900 that is well worth a look. There is more for architecture fans in terms of the Chimenea de la Fábrica Layana, a tall and uniquely twisting industrial chimney built in 1903.
Basing yourself in Camins al Grau is an excellent alternative to the more gridlike L’Eixample or the busy Ciutat Vella – being close to both. But it is also a good jumping off point to the Poblats Maritims and its beaches. With plenty of bus stops and several metro stations, it is easy to get anywhere. The hotels here are predominantly high-end (the sleek Barcelo Valencia, for example), with some less polished and budget options available, too.