Top 10 things to do in Valencia

Spain’s third-largest city bordering the Mediterranean sea 350 kilometres south of Barcelona is the city of passion and paella, Valencia. While boasting both modern and progressive ways of life, at its heart, Valencia blooms with an intriguing history. Discover its secrets slowly, visiting attractions such as the city’s cathedral and the silk exchange market, stopping to marvel at countless Modernist buildings along the way. Consider coming in March to witness the haunting traditional celebration of Fallas which sparks the streets with fireworks and processions, culminating in the ceremonial burning of huge papier-mâché and wood ‘Fallas’ dolls, in commemoration of Saint Joseph. Alternatively, rock up in June for the pride parade of a lifetime.

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Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, Valencia | Photo: Samboep

1. Take to the streets for Gay Pride Valencia

Of course, being such a friendly and open-minded city means that Gay Pride Valencia is a big-hitting annual event here. Regardless of society’s labels, in Gay Valencia everyone is welcome, throughout the rainbow-flagged gay bars Valencia has become known for. Join locals, tourists, drag queens and everyone in between to fill the streets with colour for Saturday’s Pride Parade, starting at 7.30pm at Puerta de la Mar before spreading the joyous atmosphere all the way to Plaza del Ayuntamiento (City Hall Square) where the biggest party of them all – Fiesta del Orgutto LGBT – kicks off 9.30 pm with DJs and dancing until the wee hours.

Gay Pride Valencia is not just a one-day thing however, oh no. In fact, it spans the whole month of June, promoting LGBT voices and activism through festivals, events, concerts, performances and exhibitions. On 28th June, see the Diputación de Valencia government building light up with rainbow colours, in celebration of International Pride Day. As the month of July dawns, those not yet ready to give up on gay Valencia Spain can happily move to the seaside for the No Closet Summer Festival at the marina.

Photo: Weronika Marcinczyk

Photo: John Fornander

2. Enjoy the LGBT voices of LGBT Film Festival

One of the most significant events of Valencia’s gay pride month is Mostra La Ploma, the city’s very own LGBT film festival, providing a dedicated platform for raising the profile of LGBT documentaries, movies and short films. Celebrating its second year in 2019, Mostra La Ploma will host a range of cultural activities spanning literature and art across the Valencian community.

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In gay Valencia everyone is welcome, throughout the rainbow-flagged gay bars Valencia has become known for

Apartments BONNIES Suites & Spa

3. Rest up at one of Valencia’s best hotels

Choosing where to stay in Valencia can seem a pretty impossible task, thanks to the sheer number of fantastic hotels that reside here. One of our top choices is Hotel MARQUÉS HOUSE 4* SUP, based in a historic building in close proximity to the Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas monument, right in the commercial centre of the city, surrounded by upscale boutiques. Marqués House will grant guests a luxurious stay, both urban and bursting with heritage, complete with a chill-out terrace area, restaurant and one of the best cocktail bars in Valencia.

CARO Hotel

Just minutes from the winding streets of the ancient city centre, lies Hospes Palau de la Mar, a five-star boutique hotel based across two former palace buildings. Blending period features, such as grand double doors and impressive marble staircases, with contemporary lines and modern amenities, this hotel is a pleasant surprise. As well as resting beside the waterfall-fed pool, guests can enjoy the serenity of the subterranean spa which overlooks the courtyard gardens and offers Valencia-inspired massages and treatments using Mediterranean sea salt. Alternatively, try Apartments BONNIES Suites & Spa Valencia, a selection of modern suites centred in the old town, close to sites such as the cathedral, La Lonja and Sint Niklas. Take advantage of the late afternoon sun on BONNIES’ terrace which features a Jacuzzi, sauna and lounge area with unbeatable views over the city.

For an extra special foodie treat, the Caro Hotel has what you’re looking for, an independent contemporary getaway in the central Seu-Xerea neighbourhood, hosting its own Michelin-starred restaurant on site. Reminiscing on the gastronomic histories of Valencia, the hotel’s Sucede restaurant has been labelled by art publishers Taschen as one of the most stunning eateries in the world. Buen Provecho, indeed!

CARO Hotel

Apartments BONNIES Suites & Spa

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4. Hit the Gay Beach in Valencia

When you need a break from Valencia’s many urban delights, hit the nearby beaches, such as the Playa de las Arenas where you can swim and walk the promenade without ever leaving the city limits. Stroll northwards past the numerous beachside restaurants and you’ll reach the quieter Playa de la Malvarrosa, popular for its water sports opportunities and gay community. For the ultimate gay beach, Valencia has to offer, however, get yourself to Platja de l’Arbre del Gos by bike, bus or car, and walk south along the shore. About halfway down, past the abandoned factory and sand dunes, you’ll find the nude gay beach of your sunny, Mediterranean dreams.

5. Dance til dawn at the best Valencia Gay bars and clubs

The Spanish love a good party and Valencia doesn’t disappoint on that front, bursting with vibrant options and an ever-changing line up of hot club events that you’ll want to ask your bellboy or hotelier about. Your best bet is to get dolled up and head to the El Carme district in the historic old town, where most of Valencia’s coolest and craziest gay bars are located. Ease into your evening with a visit to La Boba y el Gato Rancio, a popular gay bar and café, stylishly decorated and serving up a range of cocktails alongside intimate events such as screenings of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Another one for early evening is the adorable Parisian parlour-themed Cafe de las Horas, where you’ll be treated to tea, cakes and exceptional cabaret shows.

Café de Las Horas

Deseo 54

Deseo 54 is your final call of the night, known as the biggest and best gay club Valencia has to offer, thanks to its stellar gay entertainment and quality parties featuring a line-up of international and local DJ talent. Find Deseo 54 over on Calle Pepita 15, where two huge stages cater to house music and new pop fanatics, with frequent themed parties and an exclusive VIP area.

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The go-to gourmet hub in the city, Mercat Colón is packed with foodie stalls perfect for taste-testing tapas or stocking up on bottles of horchata before being tempted by the surrounding restaurants and cafés

6. Taste Valencia

Wake up too late for breakfast and a smidge too early for lunch so you have an excuse to try out Bluebell Coffee Co., a charming brunch restaurant and café based in Ruzafa. With its distinct ‘Yankee style’ vibe and cosy inner courtyard, the Bluebell Coffee Co. will introduce you to the best American flavours as well as a few unique others, all complemented by the café’s home-grown, barista-made coffee. Drop a pin on Pelayo Gastro Trinquet for when dinner comes calling, as this Trinquet-themed concept restaurant is a real gem. Dedicated to Valencia’s time-honoured ball game, Pelayo Gastro Trinquet also impresses with its creative menu that spans traditional dishes such as tonyina and abaecho, as well as its pinnacle, made-to-order paella.

At some point in your food tour of Valencia, you’ll also want to make a trip to Mercat Colón Gastro Market, a century-old market recently restored to its former glittering glass and iron glory. The go-to gourmet hub in the city, Mercat Colón is packed with foodie stalls perfect for taste-testing tapas or stocking up on bottles of horchata (tiger nut drink) before being tempted by the surrounding restaurants and cafés. For fresh produce, head to the old town’s Mercat Central instead.

Pelayo Gastro Trinquet

7. Discover Europe’s largest aquarium

We’re not usually one for a visit to an aquarium but Valencia’s L’Oceanogràfic happens to be a bit special; being the largest aquarium in Europe, complete with an open-air design and an under-the-sea style dining experience. Its intriguing location is also worthy of a visit in its own right. Shaped by the floods of 1957, Valencia’s urban development saw the river Turia drained and redirected around the city, allowing cultural space to thrive on its original riverbed, including the huge Jardin del Turia and the monumental architecture of the Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences). As well as hosting the L’Oceanogràfic, this space is also home to the city’s extravagantly designed opera house, performing arts centre, science museum, and a multitude of other attractions.

Photo: Alberto Di Maria

8. Shop at La Llotja de la Seda market

Housed in a late 15th-century, Gothic-style civil building is the centre of commerce, La Llotja de la Seda. Formerly a hub for the city’s silk trading industry, the building is now protected with UNESCO World Heritage status, where it’s Market Square, lined with Renaissance-era busts of Roman emperors, remains as one of the main tourist attractions in town. For a better perspective on proceedings, away from the market crowds, head to Santos Juanes Church opposite.

9. Get back to Nature at Parc Natural de l’Albufera

Travel down south a short way for a break from Valencia city centre at the Parc Natural de l’Albufera. One of Spain’s most important wetland areas surrounded by rice fields, this nature park runs with winding trails and bike paths, perfect for an afternoon of bird watching and a sunset boat road from the nearby beach, La Devesa.

Parc Natural de l’Albufera | Photo: Jaser Cervantes

Parc Natural de l’Albufera | Photo: José Somovilla

10. Become a critic at Valencia’s best art museum

Laying claim as Spain’s first modern art museum and remaining one of the most prestigious in the country is the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern. Since opening its doors in 1986, the museum has presented the public with an eclectic collection of Spanish contemporary art from over the past century, including paintings, iron sculptures and video installations.

Institut Valencià d’Art Modern

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