10 Fantastic Things to do in Valencia Spain

Adina Keeling Avatar

The Valencia Cathedral, from below, Things to do in Valencia Spain

Located on the Mediterranean Sea, Valencia Spain is known for its year-round sunny weather, blossoming orange trees, palm-fringed beaches and lively festivals. Visitors are also attracted to all the fantastic things to do in Valencia Spain.

Valencia is the third-largest Spanish city, yet it is often overlooked in favor of the more popular Barcelona or Madrid. Having been to all three, I find Valencia to be the most relaxing, as it is cheaper and less touristy than its competition, and boasts the best beaches.

During my time in Valencia, I visited charming museums, gothic cathedrals and elaborate parks. The Mediterranean city is also the birthplace of Spanish paella which can be enjoyed on the seafront, or in the bustling city center. If you’re a foodie like me, be sure to try the city’s famous horchata, or sample tapas in Valencia’s old town. Plan your next Europe trip now with my roundup of the best things to do in Valencia.

Beautiful Valencia, Spain. Photo taken in the Turia Gardens. Photo credit: Adina Keeling

1. The City of Arts and Sciences

The City of Arts & Sciences is Valencia’s most iconic attraction. It is a futuristic landscape made up of museums, gardens, aquariums and pools that are scattered along the dry river bed of the Turia River. Designed by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, the “city” spans approximately two kilometers and encompasses the following six attractions: the Hemisferic, the Oceanografic, the Umbracle, the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía Opera House and the Agora.

Hemisferic Planetarium and IMAX theater

The Hemisferic planetarium and IMAX theater is housed in a building that forms a large white dome. It’s meant to emulate the human eye and is surrounded by a pool of water. The interior features a large projection room where viewers can watch movies about space travel, nature and more.

Visit Europe’s largest aquarium. The Oceanografic is home to beluga whales, crocodiles, sharks, jellyfish, penguins, seals, dolphins, tropical fish and a lot more. The aquarium also boasts a 4D cinema, a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium and an opportunity to sleep beneath sharks. There are several restaurants inside the aquarium in case you get hungry.

The Umbracle at night, Things to do in Valencia Spain
The Umbracle at night Photo credit: Olivia Skipworth

Umbracle Sculpture Garden

The 4-acre outdoor sculpture garden and event space featuring native Valencian plants. The space is sprinkled with sculptures and is covered in wide arches that illuminate at night. In the summer, the garden turns into a popular outdoor nightclub.

Find interactive family-friendly science exhibitions spread across four stories at the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum. Here, you’ll learn about DNA, Marvel superheroes, climate change, space, the discoveries of famous scientists and a lot more.

Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía Opera House

The Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía Opera House is a futuristic building with gardens, pathways and reflective pools. Operas, concert, ballets and theater productions are hosted here in one of four different venues. Visitors can take a guided tour of the building or celebrate the performing arts by watching a show. The program can be found here.

The Agora is an event space that has been used for concerts, exhibits, conferences, sports tournaments and more. The building is shaped like an oval and features a retractable roof. For anyone interested in architecture, the building is certainly worth a visit.

2. Valencia Cathedral

The Valencia Cathedral sits in the heart of the city’s old town, between Plaza del la Reina and Plaza de la Virgen. This gothic-style cathedral dates back to the 13th century and features art in a variety of styles, including Baroque and Romanesque. The cathedral is also said to be the home of the Holy Chalice, said to be the Holy Grail that Jesus drank from during the Last Supper.

For panoramic views of the city, climb up the cathedral’s bell tower, called El Miguelete. You’ll have to climb up a spiral staircase before emerging onto a terrace. The entrance fee is 8 euros and includes the options for an audio guide, available in several different languages.

Turia Park, Things to do in Valencia Spain
Valencia’s Turia Park. Photo credit: Adina Keeling

3. Jardín del Turia

Wander through the Jardín del Turia. These gardens are one of Spain’s largest urban parks. This green space stretches for more than 4 miles, between the Bioparc and the City of Arts & Sciences. It is built in the former Turia River, which was diverted after a flood in the 50s.

Historic bridges, biking paths, fountains, ponds, palm trees, orange trees and native plants decorate the garden. The Turia Gardens are a great place to get some exercise or simply reconnect with nature. If you get hungry, visit some of the bars or cafes that line the gardens.

If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to check out Gulliver’s park, a large park with slides and rope-courses inspired by Gulliver’s Travels.

4. Las Fallas Festival

Plan your trip for March to see the biggest celebration in the entire Valencian region of Spain. Las Fallas is a bizarre festival featuring fire, explosions, noise, music and huge artworks. The historic festival commemorates Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, and although celebrations take place between the first and the 19th of March, the primary festival days are from the 15th to 19th.

On these days, fire crackers, bands and parades hit the streets at 8am. Around 2 pm, organized explosions go off around the city. The real show is on the night of March 19th, when ninots, huge puppets made of wood and paper mache, are burned.

The Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas, Things to do in Valencia Spain
The Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas. Photo credit: Adina Keeling

5. Ceramics Museum

The Ceramics Museum is another must-see attraction in Valencia. Located in Valencia’s old town, the museum showcases primarily medieval ceramics. In addition to ceramics, you’ll see carriages, tiles and 19th century rooms.

The museum is inside a baroque building called the Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas. The building’s exterior is just as impressive as the museum’s interior. A lavish doorway carved by a Valencian sculptor decorates one side of the building. If you really want to take in the view, I recommend having a drink or a bite to eat at the restaurant directly in front of the palacio.

6. Silk Exchange

While you’re there, be sure to tour the silk exchange, or la lonja de la seda. This famous gothic building was constructed in the 15th century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With columns, a domed ceiling, a beautiful patio and an ornate interior, the silk exchange is considered one of the best examples of gothic architecture in all of Europe.

The building is located in the old town, near the Central Market. On Sundays, there is a flea market outside the building where you can shop for jewelry, postcards, art and more.

7. Bioparc

Travel to Africa while exploring Bioparc. This 25-acre zoo is home to more than 150 African animal species, including gorillas, giraffes, leopards, hippos, monkeys, lemurs and more. The zoo is split into four different habitats: Savannah, Wetlands, Madagascar and Equatorial Forest. There is an amphitheater and an indoor restaurant. Tickets are 23.80 euros for adults and 18 euros for kids.

The Central Market interior, Things to do in Valencia Spain
The Central Market interior. Photo credit: Adina Keeling

8. Central Market

If you’re exploring downtown Valencia, be sure to check out the Central Market, or Mercado Central. It is located inside an ornate Art-Nouveau building featuring columns, domes and stained-glass windows. Stunning frescoes decorate the market’s interior and intricate ceramics line the building’s exterior.

The market is filled with vendors selling bread, wine, meat, cheese, produce and more. I bought a delicious bag of pistachio-filled dates at a Turkish stand. There are also several stands that give out samples of turron, a type of nougat popular in southwestern Europe.

9. Albufera Natural Park

Reconnect with nature and fill up on paella while visiting Albufera. This natural park is located just outside of Valencia and is home to rice fields, beaches, coastal forests, lagoons and lots of wildlife. Visitors can explore the park independently or take a guided bike tour or a walking tour.

The area around Albufera is also said to be the birthplace of paella, and thus one of the best places to sample the Spanish staple. One of the best places to order paella is at El Palmar Restaurant, located in El Palmar, a small town near the Albufera lake.

One of the best ways to see Albufera is by boat. These tours typically last between 40 and 60 minutes and many include a paella dinner. The best time to go is around sunset.

Malvarrosa Beach, Things to do in Valencia Spain
A beach day at Malvarrosa Beach. Photo credit: Adina Keeling

10. Malvarrosa Beach

You can’t visit Valencia without hitting the beach at least once. Malvarrosa Beach is the most popular Valencian beach. It is a lively clean beach with soft golden sand. You can rent beach chairs and order drinks while sunbathing. A bustling boardwalk runs alongside the beach, with bathrooms, restaurants, bars, cafes and beach boutiques.

Adina Keeling Avatar
Adina Keeling is a freelance travel writer from San Diego, CA. She worked in local news for a year until her wanderlust drew her to Costa Rica, where she is now based while freelancing and traveling the world. She has lived in three different countries and traveled to 27. An avid solo traveler, Adina wants to empower other women to safely travel alone.
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