This year Nick Denton (WW 08-13), traded England for Valencia's exceptional restaurants and nightlife, huge golden beaches and year-round sunshine, starting as a marketing employee and tour guide at local food and wine tour company, Sea Saffron. He brings you his must-see travel tips for the city.
With over 300 days of sunshine per year, there is never a bad time for your City Break in Valencia. The summertime is especially ideal and depictive of the party spirit of the local people. The open-air nightlife and breathtaking sunsets are just a couple of examples of how the city comes alive throughout the summer months, and there is no shortage of celebrations and festivals throughout the year. As we move away from the summer it is important to flag that Valencia is not just a summer city with winter temperatures still often reaching 13 degrees Celsius. Don’t write it off as just a summer weekend getaway.
Valencia is the third-largest city in Spain and is unique for its seamless blend of architectural styles. In one day, you can travel through many different periods of history. Valencia's Old Town encompasses Baroque, Roman and Gothic styles with architecture dating back to 1238, when King James I of Aragon reconquered Spain from the Arab population. On the other side of the city, set in the verdant ex-riverbed of the Turia Gardens, you will find the iconic City of Arts & Sciences, a futuristic complex reminiscent of a sci-fi lover's dream.
For an authentic welcome to Valencia nightlife, head to Ruzafa, the city's hipster district home to a myriad of great bars and trendy restaurants. We recommend eating at Bocamada or Canalla Bistro. If you're feeling cultural, adjust your body clock to Spanish time where there is a huge focus on late-night culture. Typically, Valencians enjoy dinner around 10pm, after-dinner drinks around midnight, and, for the more energetic, hit the nightclubs around 3am. This is not for the faint-hearted and the Valencians are adept at partying late in the night.
There is nothing more traditionally Valencian than a simple breakfast of 'tostada con tomate' (tomato and olive oil on toast) and a 'café con leche', enjoyed al fresco at the foot of Mercado Central, one of the most iconic Valencia sights. Gaze up at the impressive art-deco facade and soak up the ambiance of the busy marketplace. Then, marvel at this imposing building from the inside, paying special attention to the Moorish domes.
After a laidback morning of people-watching and sampling the various delights of the market, you are perfectly located to explore the narrow streets of El Carmen. With the dramatic basilica in the Plaza de la Virgen, the spectacular cathedral in Plaza de la Reina, and the architectural masterpiece of Palau del Marqués, there is no shortage of incredible sights to see in Valencia's old town.
If you arrive at the Central Market a bit later on, between noon and 14:30 then we recommend some great tapas at Central Bar, owned and run by Ricard Camarena. The food is of a superb quality and it definitely won't break the bank. Be sure to try the chicken croquettes.
Wander back through the main shopping street of Calle Colón where you will find everything from the best of the high street brands to Calle Jorge Juan, replete with exclusive boutiques and the perfect place to have an afternoon coffee: Mercado Colón. With its stained-glass windows and lofty ceilings, this ex-market hall is yet another example of Valencian architecture and perfect place to enjoy coffee or a glass of wine in style. This is also the perfect moment to try traditional Valencian 'horchata', a refreshing sweet drink, best enjoyed with 'fartons', a sweet bread finger.
Take a sunset tour of the modern City of Arts & Sciences complex and learn the story behind this incredible feat of engineering from our local hosts. After getting the insider scoop on Calatrava's 7-piece complex, be welcomed into the home of our private chef, in the highest terrace of Valencia, complete with epic panoramic views. The guides at Sea Saffron share our love of our home city through our passion for gastronomy and wine, inviting travellers to enjoy a high-quality tasting menu of Valencian cuisine, paired with a comprehensive wine-tasting of prizewinning wines from the region. We offer travellers the unique experience to dine in the home of a Valencian, with hand-crafted menus designed to showcase the best of our local produce. In the past 2 years, we have welcomed over 2000 travellers from all over the world, and given them the unforgettable opportunity to see our impressive city from above.
Stroll through the city's greatest asset, the stunning Turia Gardens which extend for over 8 kilometres and enjoy the early sun of a Sunday morning. If you're feeling particularly active, we recommend hiring a bike (Valenbisi offers a good service, similar to London's 'Boris Bikes' with plenty of stations all around Valencia and you can easily buy a weekly pass on their website. Failing that there are plenty of bike shops that offer a rental service) and taking a leisurely cycle from the Turia Gardens down to the less-touristy beach of Patacona. This beach town maintains an old-world charm with coloured-fronted houses and idyllic beach-side views; one of the best places to take your Valencia photos.
Valenbisi offers a good service, similar to London's 'Boris Bikes' with plenty of stations all around Valencia and you can easily buy a weekly pass on their website. Failing that there are plenty of bike shops that offer a rental service.
No trip to Valencia is complete without trying traditional Valencian paella. This famous rice dish was actually invented in Valencia and is a huge part of local tradition, with families in the region sharing a paella for Sunday lunch. Contrary to popular belief, traditional Paella actually consists of rabbit, chicken, saffron, green beans and butter beans, and artichoke when in season. It is not a seafood dish. After undoubtedly working an appetite from your cycle, we recommend Casa Navarro for authentic paella.
To find out more about Sea Saffron's food tours, visit:https://seasaffron.com/