More reasons than you think to visit Valencia

Date Posted: 03/05/2012

Indulge in a little tapas, go for a bike ride, watch some motorsport, visit the cathedral, and throw a tomato at the person next to you. Not at all the same time of course.

You may find the Spanish city of Valencia has more than a few surprises.

Located on the Mediterranean coast, it has become an increasingly popular short break destination and group travel organisers will find a wide range of hotels to suit all budgets.

Just over two hours away from the UK and enjoying mild weather all year round, Valencia offers a mixture of historic buildings and state-of-the-art tourist attractions, sandy beaches, excellent restaurants, and plenty of tapas bars and nightlife.

Valencia’s compact historic centre is best explored on foot, wandering through narrow streets, stopping at main sites like the Cathedral, Lonja (Silk Exchange Building, a World Heritage Site), or the city’s various museums. And it’s always nice to end up with a drink at one of the many terraces on its squares, just watching the world go by. 

Alternatively, you can opt to explore the sights by bike. You’ll find Valencia is a flat city and has one of the largest cycle-lane networks in Europe so it’s easy to get around on two wheels.

Linking the old town with the sea is the nine-kilometre ‘green ribbon’ of the dry Turia riverbed, a defining feature of the city. Following disastrous flooding in the 1950s, the old Turia river was diverted south of the city and its riverbed has been gradually transformed into an interesting leisure space with parks, sports facilities, children’s playgrounds and major attractions like the City of Arts and Sciences or the Bioparc animal park.

City of Arts and Sciences

This set of futuristic buildings, designed by renowned Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, is located on the dry Turia riverbed and has become a true icon of Valencia.

The City of Arts and Sciences (pictured above) is by far the city’s most popular attraction and a favourite venue for all sorts of events, as well as a backdrop for commercials and photo shoots. Each individual building has a lot to offer and is well worth a visit. But, if you’re short of time, simply wander around and marvel.

The complex includes:

  • Valencia’s Opera House (Palau de les Arts): an amazing building which the locals say even rivals Sydney’s opera house, where leading singers and directors including Placido Domingo and Zubin Metha perform regularly. The new 2012-13 opera season will start in October, and details of the programme will be available at lesarts.com.
  • The Hemisferic planetarium and IMAX cinema: with a constantly changing programme of impressive films.
  • The Science Museum: a fun space packed with interactive displays, extremely popular with younger groups.
  • The Oceanografic: one of Europe’s largest marine park and aquarium complexes. Here, your group can admire hundreds of species from around the globe, and even dine surrounded by them at its Underwater Restaurant.
  • The Agora: a multipurpose building which regularly hosts events such as the Valencia Fashion Week or the Valencia Open 500.
  • The Umbracle: a beautiful botanical garden that masks the access to the car park, which turns into one of the trendiest terrace nightclubs in Valencia during the summer months.

Major international sporting events

Valencia’s seafront and port was revamped for the America’s Cup, hosted by the city in 2007 and 2010. It’s now the setting for the second urban Formula 1 circuit after Monaco, where the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Europe will take place from 22nd to 24th June this year.

If you’re organising for fans of motorsports, Valencia is a good base to attend the grand finale of the Moto GP World Championship which is held at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Cheste, about an hour inland from Valencia, from 9th to 11th November.

Valencia also hosts the world’s best tennis players every year at the Valencia Open 500, one of the top events in the ATM World Tour which takes place at the Agora from 20th to 28th October.

Paella and tasty Spanish food

Valencia is said to be the home of paella and the best place to try this traditional dish, as well as many other rice and seafood dishes.

You can have fun taking part in a paella cooking class at a traditional farmhouse after shopping for the best ingredients at Valencia’s colourful Central Market. Alternatively, take a trip to the Albufera, a freshwater lagoon and nature reserve just south of the city where the rice is grown.

Fiesta time

Valencians know how to party and, whenever you visit, you are likely to come across a local festival or special celebration and be greeted by the unmistakable sound and smell of Valencian fireworks.

Some of the most popular festivals include:

  • The Fallas festival: when hundreds of huge papier-mache sculptures usually depicting topical issues, news or personalities in a satirical way, are set alight in spectacular bonfires. The festival takes place from 15th to 19th March every year and attracts thousands of visitors from around the world, so it’s best to book well in advance.
  • The Tomatina: one of Spain’s most boisterous fiestas where revellers pelt each other with tons of ripe tomatoes. The festival takes place on the last Wednesday of August (29th August this year) in the small town of Buñol, about an hour from Valencia. Buñol has very limited accommodation, so it is best to stay in the city and take a day trip.

For group travel organisers looking for further information on Valencia or to discuss ideas for a visit you can contact Valencia DMC’s UK office at uk@valencia-dmc.com.

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