The unflattering urban reputation of Spain’s third largest city is on its way out as people are finally beginning to see Valencia for the place it truly is; a stunning, intriguing, and vibrant cultural hotspot. Known for its original food and stretching beaches, this Mediterranean city is becoming increasingly favoured for summer breaks and weekend escapes. Yet, delving into Valencia a little further reveals a brimming nightlife with plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants all offering that little extra to attract young visitors.
The first thing for anyone to do in Valencia is to head straight into the old town. With a metro system circling the city centre it couldn’t be easier to find yourself caught up in the historic centre’s lively atmosphere, no matter where you are staying. Single tickets only cost €1.50 or get ten journey tickets for €7.60 making it extremely affordable to see everything on offer. Alighting at Estació Nord, one will emerge right outside the imposing bull ring which, although controversial, is undoubtedly a breath-taking sight. Take a stroll into town, past the equally impressive Valencia Nord train station, and admire Valencia’s alluring mixture of the old, the new, the wide, and the winding streets.
Once in the centre there is an endless number of cafés, restaurants, and bars to choose from. However, the Mercat Central gives the best variety and atmosphere if one should start to feel a little peckish. Busiest at lunch time, the stain-glass indoor market represents a hub of food stalls offering everything from fresh seafood, to takeaway snacks and pop-up bars. A must try is the local favourite sweet drink of orxata accompanied by fartons, a local sweet bread, although personally I would go for churros. The Mercat Central is by no means the only option, also visit Dulche de Leche if you have the time, although there are plenty of cafés all over the city to check out as well.
The meandering cobbled streets eventually open out onto the Plaza de la Virgen, where the cathedral sits. From here, the sightseeing can truly begin with tons of museums, ancient architecture, and famous artwork all available to the public for under €3. A truly authentic meal can be found just a stones throw from the cathedral in Colmado LaLola which offers a gateway to Spanish life, with tapas classics such as homemade croquetts, patatas bravas, and Iberian ham being served in an up-scale manner.
When in Valencia tapas is not the only traditional dish on offer. The Valencian paella dish containing rabbit, and sometimes snails, is a staple on menus at restaurants such as BISBE and Navarro, with servings for two costing between €20 and €30. Much like tapas this meal is perfect for sharing and encourages communal eating.
Areas such as El Carmen and Russafa are home to lively bars that spill out onto side streets and squares. Particularly energetic areas are the Sant Jaume and Negrito squares. A Tinto de Verano (a red wine cocktail) would not go amiss in front of the fountain at Negrito square, or try Agua de Valencia costing around €12 a litre. This is made from Spanish wine, orange juice, vodka, and gin and this local favourite has been the starter to plenty of good nights out. Convent Carmen and Slavia are just two of the infinite bars to serve this dangerously cheap and delicious drink.
As for what many students care about, the Valencian nightlife is buzzing. Smaller bars become clubs, such as Unic, and are an easy option for a night out. Mya is the obvious go-to, and is no ordinary club with a huge outdoor area filled with palm trees. Marina Beach Club is another stand out option, with a pool and sea views the club offers something different to your typical English clubbing experience. Although these may be the biggest venues, the music can be somewhat trashy so if that’s not for you, try clubs like Oven or events put on by theBasement that tend to avoid the Spanish reggaeton in favour of house and techno.
The city centre is clearly not Valencia’s only attraction. Taking a tram past the University and to the beach for €1.50 gives the best opportunity to catch a tan, or in some cases a sunburn. Places such as Fábrica de Hielo offer an alternative to the sunbathing that both students and locals can enjoy well into October. Another unmissable trip from the old town is the City of Arts and Sciences, rent a bike for only €5 and cycle along the Turia – a dried up riverbed turned into a beautiful park along the circumference of the old town – which will bring you right up to the oasis of modernity in this historic city.
Evidently, Valencia offers a vast variety of culinary and cultural experiences for a visitor to enjoy whether there for a weekend, a week or more, and with the popularity of the city increasing day by day there is no better time to visit than right now.