Valencia as a tourist destination is something not everyone thinks of in the first instance when one speaks of Spain. Barcelona, Madrid and Seville seem to be the popular city breaks, Bilbao and San Sebastian for the love of Basque food, Malaga/Menorca/Majorca for the beaches and Ibiza for the parties. So we approached our trip to Valencia without much pre-information or referrals. We were sure of one thing though – plenty of Spanish sunshine, good food and refreshing cervezas!
Valencia is the third largest city of Spain (after Madrid and Barcelona) and, as I found it, truly a city of contrasts. On one hand, we have the charming, historic Old Town; on the other, brutalist modern developments. A dried up river bed has been converted into an urban green park (Jardi Del Turia – totally recommend the walk!) while an entire city complex is devoted to futuristic looking ‘white buildings’ that bear no resemblance to the ethnic architecture of Spain (The City of Arts and Science). To top it all, there are miles of sandy beaches, making us forget this is a busy, thriving, pulsating modern city.
For the next few days, I will be posting mini blogs of my trip to Valencia.
I want to start by mentioning our amazing AirBnB host whose eclectic and contemporary apartment was one of the highlight of our trips. If you are visiting Valencia, I highly recommend staying at this ‘creatively designed’ place. It is a stone’s throw away from the Old Town and with major bus routes, metro station and shops nearby, it was a highly convenient base to explore Valencia from.
It was a cool and trendy apartment, done mostly in a white palette with pops of colour, quirky furniture pieces and abstract upholstery. The owner is a former graphic designer which explains the tastefully done interiors.
First Stop: Mercat Central De Valencia
Our first day was spent walking around the Old Town and exploring the most famous market in Valencia – The Central Market or Mercado Central. This historic market is very popular, not only with tourists, but locals as well.
It runs every Saturday which explains why thousands throng to this place to buy their weekly supplies. All the trading happens under an impressive large-span modernist structure complete with glass domes, a high ceiling, stained glass windows and skylights.
It is the largest European fresh food market and one can find everything here – meat, fish, seafood, fresh vegetables, fruits, cheese, and cured meats. Some of the stalls can be a bit in-your-face with their slightly outlandish display of their cuts – especially the ones selling tripe, sheep brains, chicken feet, pig’s trotters etc. A bit stomach churning and definitely not for the faint hearted!
The market closes at 3 pm, but make sure you get here as early as possible as most of the fresh stuff is gone by midday. We spent a couple of hours admiring the quality of the products and freshness of it all.
Around the market are plenty of places to eat, drink and do some people watching. However, we found them to be a bit of a tourist trap, so I recommend walking further along and finding places to eat on the relatively quieter side streets.
The Mercado Central was a fun and exciting introduction to our week long stay in Valencia.
It is a vibrant place where tourists and locals come together for one common goal – to celebrate the glorious food of Spain. Valencians love their food and will want only the best and freshest ingredients. Strolling around the market, taking in the sights and smells of Spain’s culinary heritage was indeed a wonderful experience.
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