When we booked flights to Valencia to escape the colder months in London I wasn't sure what to expect, in fact I wasn't expecting anything much at all! Valencia is the 3rd largest city in Spain and known as the home of paella so I knew I would get a delicious feed during our time there but I was more than pleasantly surprised with everything else in the city!
What I love about Mediterranean culture is the late night culture so even though our flight arrived at 9pm there was still an extremely lively buzz in the city and we stumbled into the cutest place that night for a late night supper! Ruzafa, apparently the best kept secret of Valencia and dubbed as the Shoreditch of London is often filled with hipsters & delicious tapas was the suburb we chose to wander around. We absolutely loved La Conservera, an old fish shop turned sardine / canned fish shop served with some extremely tasty home made vino verde. You'll recognise the shop with the colourful tins lined up against the wall behind the white marble top!
After totally satisfied with the gem of a find in Ruzafa we decided to retreat and head back for a good night's at our hotel (Hotel Zenit Valencia), super conveniently located right next to the the train station!
First up on the agenda on the Saturday was a quick little jog towards the City of Arts & Sciences. Who knew you would be able to find such modern buildings just a short 2-3km away from the old town of Valencia?! The dried up riverbed has been converted into a long jogging path and it definitely is a scenic & easy run (otherwise if running's not your thing, try a leisurely walk instead!)
Having well earned the reward, we quenched our thirst with freshly squeezed orange juice at Mercat Central de Valencia and filled our hungry little bellies at the Central Bar by Richard Camarena. This is a super busy place and at first glance looks confusing with how to get seated but on closer inspection an orderly queue was formed towards the back on both sides of the bar. We were recommended the most delicious grilled red prawn & Matt thoroughly enjoyed his "Richard Camarena" bocadillos.
Satisfied that we almost ate our weight in tapas we decided the best way to work it all off was to do a self guided walking tour of Valencia old town. As we weaved through plaza redonda and passed Llotja de la Seda we decided to make the most of the blue skies & sunshine and we headed up 200+ steps in the tower in Valencia Cathedral (of course we had to climb up a tower - at a small cost of 2 euros!)
As we were within the old town there were plenty of city gates to check out; Torres de Quart at one side of the town to Torres de Serranos, built during the 14th Century on the other side. These tower gates are also worth a climb up if you have the time as it provides a high but also closer perspective of the town compared to the cathedral tower.
Tapas bar hopping was on the agenda during our time in Valencia and first on the cards was Bar La Pilareta, an authentic and traditional tapas bar. We were a bit hungry early on (must have been all the eating) so we were actually first in the bar! Here we gorged on valencia mussels, calamari, chorizo bocadillos & tomato on bread. Satisfied, we moved onto la taberna de marisa, a modern & fancier take on the traditional tapas bar & enjoyed another glass of tasty wine & accompanied with tasty anchovies and croquettes.
After lots of eating the day before we started Sunday by taking a slow & relaxing walk along the garden pathway towards Valencia Beach via the City of Arts & Sciences. The stroll usually takes a leisurely hour and a half with no stops, so you can imagine it actually took us a bit longer as we stopped multiple times for all the photo ops!
Never too far from from the thought of food, we popped into Bodega Casa Montana, an extremely well known tapas bar open since 1836. Luckily we arrived slightly early (it seemed to be a trend of the trip!) as the waitresses asked if we had any reservations and even though we didn't they still happily sat us down in the tapas bar. We 'snacked' on ajo arriero (smashed potato with garlic & cod - so tasty!), grilled sardines, codfish croquette and stuffed red peppers.
Absolutely delighted we had bright blue skies (compared to the forecast prior to arriving) we decided to walk the whole length of Malvarosa Beach and oh my, we were so excited to see a beach with soft sand instead of small white pebbles (as per the usual trend in Europe)! Although having just eaten, one of our other main sights at the beach was Casa Carmela, a restaurant founded in the 1920's and famous for their paella. This is a place you definitely need to reserve ahead of time, and we nearly had to find out the hard way if Toni, the restaurant owner wasn't kind and amazing enough to let us take a seat at the bar instead! We ordered the peeled shellfish paella, which is cooked via wood fire (& we overhead from the wood of orange trees in the region - pretty cool hey!)
Extremely full from the paella that was bigger than both of our heads combined we decided to then take an extremely lazy afternoon lounging around the beach before getting the #19 bus back to the old town where we then enjoyed a coffee in a bookstore / coffee shop which also serves wine if you're so inclined instead!
As we did when we arrived, we caught a direct metro from Xativa station straight to the airport. If you buy a paper ticket at the machines, hold onto this because you can "recharge" the ticket instead of issuing a new ticket each time!