3 Day Itinerary For First Time Visitors In Valencia
If you are new to Valencia (Spain), it may get overwhelming to choose what to see in a short period of time. This 3 day itinerary for first time visitors covers both main attractions and less known but spectacular areas. You are sure to fall in love with this region!
Start your first day with a light snack – order a cup of strong local coffee. Otherwise, go for a glass of juice made of Valencia oranges. In any case, leave your first real meal for a little later, like locals do.
Begin your city tour at the local food mecca – the Central Market. Because this beautiful mercado doesn’t only burst at seams with fresh produce – it is the biggest one in Europe. In addition, it is housed in a very pretty modernista building. As a matter of fact, just watching how Spanish moms and restaurant chefs make their purchases is fun in itself…
Whether you consider yourself a foodie or not, this market simply needs to be part of your 3 day itinerary in Valencia.
The Central Market. Image source: 16:9clue
What To Buy At The Central Market:
If you wish to take home some of the delicious salty Spanish olives, here you can find dozens of types.
Ask the vendor to vacuum-pack them for you – it will be so much easier to transport them in the luggage.
A package of 100% Iberian acorn-fed ham – one of the traditional tapas – can serve as a delightful souvenir from Spain!
A leg of ham and other Spanish cured sausages.
Treat the friends and family members back home to turrón – a typical almond nougat from this region.
It traditionally comes in soft and brittle forms. But nowadays turrón is made with coconut, chocolate and many other ingredients. Apart from being a delicious sweet thing, the packaging is both travel-friendly and pretty!
The colorful spices such as paprika and saffron are also top Spanish essential products.
After wandering around the market and seeing all of its colorful local produce, make sure you pop into the seafood section. There you will see a mind-blowing variety of fish and other sea creatures.
Esgarraet at Central Bar.
If you are in Valencia for only 3 days, you have to try the traditional breakfast at least once! And what better place to eat it than at Ricard Camarena’s Central Bar. This is the only sit-down eatery at the market, so you will not miss it.
The ever present line of people waiting for a seat should not scare you off. The experience is oh, so totally worth the 10 minute wait! This bar changes the menu daily, and the fresh produce comes directly from the market stalls.
Order anything on the sizable menu and enjoy the waiting pay-off. My favorites here are the local dish esgarraet and the ubiquitous Spanish potatoes patatas bravas.
The Old Town Charm
The Ceramics Museum.
Needless to say, the Old Town is a must for any visit. So once you have satiated the hunger with your local mid-morning breakfast, continue the sightseeing there. It is rather packed with widely-known sights and hidden gems.
The most convenient way to go around the Old Town is walking. This might sound like a strenuous task, but it’s really not. On the contrary, the area is rather compact and there are a plenty of tapas bars to stop for a snack at.
Right across from the market there is the Silk Exchange (La Lonja) building. Look for the entrance at the back. This is one of very few civil gothic buildings in Europe that still exist. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Plaza Redonda. Image source: santiago lopez-pastor
Once you exit, go to your right and find Plaza Redonda – “a round square”. Back in the day there was a meat market on this spot. Now this tiny plaza is filled with charming local craft shops.
The Miniature Plazas
Go out to Plaza de la Reina, and after taking in the view, walk to the Cathedral. Visit the recently opened museum inside the Cathedral or, your fitness level permitting, take the 206 steps to go up the Miguelete tower (Micalet) to enjoy an elevated view of the city.
On Thursdays at 12.00pm watch the Irrigation Council (Tribunal de las Aguas) – a reunion outside the Gothic door of the Cathedral. Uniquely, this council is the oldest in the world (over 1000 years of continuous functioning).
Visit Almoina behind the Cathedral – a good-sized underground Roman settlement from the 2nd century BC.
Another historic gem is the so called Arab Baths (Baños del Almirante): a 14th century building stylized with Arabic motifs. You can find it on a side street not far from the Cathedral.
Go to Plaza de la Virgen. After admiring the beauty of this medieval square (and perhaps snapping a shot of yourself for your Valencia album), follow along Carrer dels Cavallers. After a few steps pop into the Plaza del Negrito – a tiny and cute square surrounded by bars.
Plaza del Negrio (Plaça del Negret). Image source: Antonio Marín Segovia
It’s a nice place to relax here to the sound of the running water. After a break, continue the walk towards Torres de Quart.
This is another site where you can get a bird’s eye view of the city. Make sure to see the pocks on the façade – made by Napoleon’s cannons in the 19th century.
If you are hungry, go back to the Old Town for a tapas lunch. Otherwise, continue along Carrer de Quart and visit the Botanical Gardens. The most peculiar plants there are the cactii, located at the very back.
You just have to find time during the 3 days in Valencia to stuff in as many tapas as you can!
Have lunch at the informal tucked-up Tasquita La Estrecha next to the most narrow building in Europe! (It’s only 1.07 m wide). Taste the sweet local tomato with olive oil and coarse salt.
Otherwise, if you live for seafood, go to Tasca Angel – another casual and minute tapas bar. Here they grill fresh seafood in front of you. There’s hardly any space to sit down, but who cares, if the food is that good (and cheap!)?
For dessert, stop at Horchateria Santa Catalina – a touristy place with beautiful traditional tiling. Order the sweet and thick drink horchata – local specialty.
Should you prefer a more formal place for lunch, head to Sucede restaurant at Caro Hotel. Surrounded by the city walls of the Arab Balansiya, the setting is just magical.
You will not be disappointed with Chef Miguel Angel Mayor’s modern take on Valencia’s cuisine. Make sure to plan ahead and book in advance.
The City of Arts & Sciences
Spend the afternoon exploring the top attraction in Valencia – The City of Arts and Science. From its huge aquarium complex (you can easily spend 2-3 hours just there), to its Hemispheric IMAX theater – there is plenty to do, whatever your age is.
Dinner is eaten late in Spain, so next – a siesta is in order. On the contrary, if you are feeling energetic, go for a walk on Malvarrosa beach.
For a delicious tapas dinner in a traditional environment head to Casa Montaña. This venerable establishment has been offering an extensive traditional tapas menu since 1836 and it would be a crime not to visit it during your first time visit.
It also boasts one of the biggest wine cellars in the city. It is the oldest tapas bar in Valencia.
Due to the to the fact that Casa Montaña is housed in 19th century living quarters, it has a funny layout. Eat in one of the house’s rooms or at the bar. Book in advance.
Sunset at Lake Albufera
Depending on the weather, you might want to drive or take a short taxi ride to one of the emblems of Valencia – Lake Albufera – and watch the most beautiful sunset.
Rent a car for a day. There are a few car hire companies in the city, mainly concentrating in or near the Joaquin Sorolla train station.
Rausell bar and restaurant. Image source: Guida Valencia
Go off the beaten track and have a filling traditional breakfast at the locally loved tapas bar Rausell. Order a bread roll with a stuffing of your choice: local sausage, tortilla (that’s right!), local roasted beans (habitas), roasted peppers etc.
Day Trip to Altea & Denia
There can be a lot to do for first time visitors in Valencia, especially if you only visit for 72 hours! But the neighboring pueblos feature their own characteristics! Such as cuisine, architecture and local holidays. So why not explore the precious nearby towns?
One of them is Altea. Head south to this little village, it’s a beautiful 1.5 hour drive.
Park your car at one of the municipal parking spaces. Walk the streets of the whitewashed rustic Old Town. Visit church Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Consuelo, pop into the tiny art galleries and souvenir shops.
Continue your day trip by hopping back into the car and driving to Denia (30 minutes).
Arróz de bogavante (lobster rice) at El Mirall, Denia.
Leave your car in the port’s parking in front of the adorable hilltop castle.
Enjoy a delicious seafood lunch at one of the port-front restaurants. For example, El Raset serves great fresh seafood. Or go for the local specialty in Denia – lobster rice dish in saffron broth, at El Mirall.
After lunch take a relaxing walk going deep into the colorful lowrise buildings area. Then go up the hill to Denia’s Castle. Visit the Archeological Museum located within the castle. Here at a high viewing point you can take in the vistas of the city’s port. The prominent mountain of El Montgó is hard to miss – it is a wonderful Nature Park that you can visit, if you would like to do some hiking.
If you are visiting in summer and want to go to the beach, here you can choose between a sandy (Les Marines – in the north) or rocky (Les Rotes – in the south) beaches.
Come back to Valencia for dinner. Sample cured ham and Spanish wine at Patapuerca Taberna Iberica or if it is vegetables you are craving, go to the vegetarian restaurant Copenhagen. Both restaurants open for dinner on Sundays.
Have a substantial breakfast at Puerta del Mar not far from the Main Square. Order a shot of the alcoholic coffee drink carajillo in colder months.
Then visit the City Hall building and go out to its main balcony. You will be facing the Main Post Office of the city, worth a visit, too, because of its stained glass ceiling.
If you would like to better understand the local culture in Valencia, visit the Ethnology Museum. It consists of various sections, one of them focuses on the last century’s traditional crafts.
For art lovers there is the Modern Art Museum (IVAM) and the Fine Arts Museum (Museo de las Bellas Artes).
There is a peculiar Fallas Museum (Museo Fallero), where some of the Fallas smaller papier mache figures are kept on display.
The Ceramics Museum (Museo de la Cerámica) housed in a precious little palace is representative of one of the crafts Valencia is famous for.
La Genuina restaurant. Image source: La Genuina
Take a quick taxi ride outside of the city to have the traditional paella valenciana (with chicken and rabbit) at La Genuina – a typical local thatched house turned into a restaurant, where traditional rices dishes are made to perfection!
Skipping paella on your first time visit in Valencia is simply a crime… Make sure to book in advance.
Cabanyal-Cañamelar & Russafa
Walk around the unique neighborhoods of Cabanyal and Cañamelar, which once were separate villages. They originated thanks to James I’s desire to promote fishing in this area in the 13th century. You can immediately see by looking at the city map the old village itinerary encapsulated into the bigger city.
See the bright tiled houses, quirky bars and long-lived businesses. These historic neighborhoods are partially run down, which adds to their charm.
Take a bus or a taxi to transfer to Russafa.
This colorful historic neighborhood (where I run my tapas & wine tour) was established as a country estate by the Arab governor of Balansiya in the 9th century. Surprisingly, it only became part of the city 140 years ago.
See the San Valero Church, the market and the numerous street-side bars, restaurants, quirky shops and bright neoclassical architecture.
This trendy district boasts a wide range of eateries, from alternative to refined ones:
La Finestra – a hole-in-a-wall eatery where upon entrance you are only asked how many small pizzas you would like to have. Then you sit down and a few minutes later you get your pizzas, with the ingredients chosen by the chef. They are yummy (the chef is Italian!) and super cheap!
Dos Estaciones – the restaurant is run by the pupils of the famous local Chef Ricard Camarena. They serve fresh author cuisine made of local fresh produce.
Ricard Camarena – a Michelin starred restaurant.
La Catrina – making some great signature alcoholic cocktails.
Dulce de Leche – a family run bakery that produces a mind-blowing variety of desserts. Closes at 9 pm.
I hope you find this 3 day itinerary for first time visitors in Valencia intriguing and helpful! And if you would like to discover authentic bars – hidden gems off the beaten path, join my delicious food tour!