Valencia may attract fewer tourists than places like Barcelona and Granada, but the city really packs a punch when it comes to historic sights, cultural experiences, and delicious food. The fact that the cobbled streets of the old town aren’t crammed with visitors is a huge plus too, and strolling through the centre you’ll be able to soak up the charm without having to contend with the crowds. This is Spain at it’s most authentic, and it’s a bit of an insider secret!
If you’re planning on spending a weekend in Valencia, we’ve rounded up some of the top sights that just have to make it onto your itinerary. This underrated city has everything from cathedrals to beaches, so it’s a superb place to enjoy a few days of contrasting experiences to keep everyone happy. It’s a city where past meets present in a pleasant fusion of time, and where orange blossom scents drift through the streets giving an exotic flavour to this captivating coastal settlement.
Your first point of call today should be the historic centre of Valencia, for a glimpse of the city of old which is still very much present today. Begin your morning with a visit to the Serranos Towers. Along with the Quart Tower, this formidable fortification is all that remains of the old city walls, which were built to defend Valencia from her enemies.
One of the most famous Gothic city gateways in Europe, the Serranos Towers feature a triumphal arch, and superb views of the Turia River and the town from the top!
Church of San Nicolas
Back down on the ground your next stop should be the Church of San Nicolas de Bari and San Pedro Martir. Built in the 13th century, it’s one of the prettiest churches in Europe, and known for its magnificent Baroque ceiling murals which have earned it the accolade of the ‘Sistine Chapel of Valencia’. You can seen why!
Continuing the religious theme, the ancient city cathedral should be next on your itinerary as it’s one of the top things to do in Valencia. This imposing structure lies at the heart of town, with its bell tower dominating the skyline and providing a focal point for anyone who gets lost!
Home to the famous Holy Chalice (also known as the Holy Grail) which is reported to have been used by Jesus at the Last Supper, Valencia’s cathedral is steeped in legend. Inside the cool interior, the Gothic architecture, Spanish Renaissance art, and striking altar frescoes never fail to impress. Before leaving, climb over 200 steps up the 14th-century Miguelete Tower and be rewarded with stunning views out across the city and beyond.
Outside once more, soak up the old world ambience in the Plaza de la Reina and enjoy tasting some local delicacies and glasses of wine at the tapas bars and restaurants around the square.
This afternoon you can visit the Silk Exchange which is also in the old town and is one of Valencia’s most important historic buildings. This 15th-century UNESCO World Heritage Site was founded by a community of secret traders and merchants who dealt with one of the city’s main commodities.
Today you can wander through the impressive hall and admire the architecture as well as taking a stroll around the courtyard that’s filled with fragrant orange trees.
A few streets away is the Silk Museum, which charts how this delicate fibre has been an integral part of the economic success of Valencia. Here, you can see traditional weaving looms, artefacts like tools and documents, plus the original housing where the silk worms were bred.
Fans of food and architecture shouldn’t miss the Central Market, which has been restored to its former splendour. It’s one of the oldest traditional markets in Europe and offers a dazzling array of local produce. Here you can do a bit of a food tasting tour and discover some of the most popular tapas dishes, whilst admiring the intricate stained glass windows, and colourful domed roofs.
If you’re up for another dose of culture, then the Museum of Enlightenment and Modernity, and the Ceramics Museum are both well worth a visit too, the latter being housed in a old palace. Or pop into the City Hall on the Plaza del Ayuntamiento where the traditional Mayoral School with its clock tower, museum, and sweeping marble staircase sits side by side with the modern city council.
El Carmen neighbourhood
As evening falls, make your way to the buzzing El Carmen District in the north of the old town. This neighbourhood has retained it’s historic authenticity and it’s a great place to wander as well as dine. The blend of modern street art, charming architecture, and boutique galleries is hugely appealing, and you can feast on tapas and traditional Valencian cuisine in the restaurants whilst enjoying a spot of jazz which often spills out onto the pavements.
Turia Riverbed Gardens
Today is going to focus on the modern side of Valencia, with everything from arts to sciences and even sharks on the cards. Begin your morning with a pleasant walk along the Turia Riverbed Gardens, which meander through the centre of the city. This delightful green space is 9 kms long, and a popular place for strolls, picnics, and even bike rides past the lawns and fountains. It’s one of the best ways to reach the City of Arts and Sciences, which lies to the east of Valencia’s centre.
City of Arts and Sciences
The City of Arts and Sciences is all about futuristic architecture and thought-provoking attractions, and you could easily spend an entire weekend here, let alone a day. Popular sights include the Oceanogràfic, which is Europe’s largest aquarium and home to a shark tunnel as well as a family of beluga whales and a dazzling jellyfish exhibition. The building is a huge draw too, with its stunning avant-garde design.
Check out the interactive Science Museum for an input of evolution and technology, and take selfies beside the colossal arched shaped Umbracle, with its outdoor sculpture gallery and landscaped gardens. Or, if you fancy a bit of chill time, head to the Hemisfèric 3D cinema and take in a show. The building is designed in the shape of an eye, symbolising wisdom and making for great photos!
Finally, you cant visit Valencia without going to the beach, so your final afternoon is dedicated to some sun, sea, and of course sand. You can walk from the City of Arts and Sciences, or take a taxi if you want to give your legs a break. The beaches of La Malvarrosa and El Cabanyal are great places to relax, and there are plenty of seafront cafes and restaurants along the shore.
So there you have it, all the best city sights wrapped up into one fabulous cultural weekend. We’ve rounded up some of the top visitor attractions that we think you’ll love, but don’t just take our word for it – pop over to the VisitValencia website for more inspiration to start planning your own trip.