When you think of a trip to Spain the usual places always pop up.. Barcelona.. Madrid.. maybe even Ibiza for you party people out there; well I’m here to tell you Valencia is the place to be! Now I could try to convince you by telling of how the city is steeped in historical culture or how beautiful the beaches are, which is all true, but in my honest opinion the same could be said of pretty much every coastal town/city along the Mediterranean. The true beauty of Valencia is in its hidden charm, its strong cultural traditions and its people.
Valencia itself is surrounded by some of Spain’s most astounding natural formations! Most of which make for excellent hikes, rock climbing and cave exploration. Having spent 6 months living in the city I had plenty of chance to explore the surrounding areas and have compiled a list of my favourite hikes:
Hidden away in the foothills of the mountainous Spanish countryside is Montanejos.. a truly spectacular place for anyone who loves nature. It is full of unexplored caves, amazing vistas and (my personal favourite) natural hot springs. This area is also well known for early human life who inhabited the local caves where their paintings can still be observed to this day! Reachable in just over an hours drive out of the city centre, Montanejos really is the perfect place to absorb the beautiful nature that surrounds Valencia on all sides… and if you’re lucky you might spot a mountain goat or two!
A little closer to the city at about 40 minutes drive, the little town of Chulilla(Xulilla) resides. It is a quiet & sleepy town with not much happening among the local residents; however, it is surrounded on all sides by some amazing examples of Spanish nature at its finest.There are a variety of routes to hike here ranging from beginner to expert so it is fun for people of all ages and if you do decide to visit make sure not to miss out on the embassament de loriguilla which makes for some amazing views!
Finally my favourite of the three.. Serra. This hike has it all! Outstanding views of both mountain ranges and the Mediterranean coast at the same time! Need I say more.. It is a fantastic route which takes you through forests, across open plains and up to the top of the mountains peak. A word of warning though: it takes a required level of fitness to reach the top and get those amazing views so if you’re not the sportiest of people I advise you try one of the other previously mentioned hikes first to get a feel.
Besides the absurd amount of natural beauty, Valencia is also famous for its inner city beauty and the number of international street artists based within its community. The El Carmen district, located in the city’s old town, is the unofficial centre of street art.. you can barely walk down any street there without seeing an example of incredible artwork painted upon one of the many buildings. One such artist, David de Limon, has been very active in Valencia over the last few years and his famous black and white ninjas can be seen dotted all around the city. Along side him you can see my favourite Valencian based artist who goes by the name ‘Blu’; they have some of the city’s most notorious works under their belt, this includes having the prestigious title of ‘most instagrammed wall in Valencia’ thanks to their building sized mural! The work of these artists and the many others make Valencia a real vibrant city, full of colour and art and a truly unique place to live.
Food & Drink
Valencia is full of quirky little eateries and places to visit for a quick bite to eat. In my opinion the best way to discover these places is just to allow time to wander aimlessly around the city and stumble upon these hidden gems yourself; but if you’re more of the got to have a plan type then check out the below list for some of my favourites:
Dulce de Leche
Based in the trendy, expat-heavy neighbourhood of Ruzafa this rustic themed cafe is the perfect place to grab breakfast, lunch or (if you’re one of those) brunch! They have a wide selection of bites and tend towards a younger, lively atmosphere if that is what interests you. Having eaten here on many occasions I can personally speak on behalf of the exceptional customer service the staff provide even at the busiest of times and the exquisite range of cakes and pastries they have to offer.. if you do visit I implore you to treat your taste buds to the Oreo cheesecake!
This all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant rates very highly in my books. At €15 per person it is slightly more expensive than most places but as anyone who enjoys good sushi will tell you it doesn’t come cheap! With a huge range to choose from and all cooked fresh when ordered by authentic Japanese chefs you are sure to enjoy this place whether you’re a fan of sushi or not.
Again based in the Ruzafa district, this bar/restaurant takes it name from the famous American red solo cup which is made obvious by the interior design. It is the perfect place to pop in for a quick bite with its extensive range of American-styled tapas including mini burgers, cheese-covered nachos and spicy hotdogs to name a few! And if you visit before 9pm you can get a red cup beer for €1 thanks to their daily happy hour deal!
In this article I’ve highlighted just a few different things that make Valencia stand out from the crowd but to truly experience the city and all it has to offer there really is no other choice than to book your flights and come and visit. Whether you’re a fan of nature, art or food Valencia has something for you! So I will end this article with a plea.. a plea for you to come and visit this beautiful, vibrant city before mass tourism takes over as it has done in some of Spain’s more prolific destinations. Valencia really is Spain’s hidden gem.. but it won’t be for long.