Spain | How to spend 2 days in Valencia

To be honest, I don't remember much about arriving in Valencia. We'd attended a friend's funeral the day before and I think my mind was still preoccupied by it. We flew into Alicante airport, hired a car (we've used GoldCar for years with no problems, and recommend their Super Relax insurance. Find them here*) and drove the winding roads North to spend 2 days in Valencia. This beautiful city with it's palm lined streets and glorious beaches turned out to be just the therapy I needed. 

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Sitting on a bench on Puente de las Flores in Valencia
Plant interior of Hotel Malcom & Barett

Day 1

Check In - Arriving late afternoon on a Sunday, with just two nights booked at Hotel Malcom and Barret* we were determined to make the most of our time. The hotel was a little out of the city centre but still within walking distance of most attractions. Following our usual arrival routine, we dumped our bags in the room, quickly freshened up and headed straight out to explore. Having no plans in particular meant we were free to just wander and get a feel for the city. It didn't take long for the August heat to hit us and we soon found ourselves stopping at the interestingly named Bastard Coffee & Kitchen to cool down with drinks and get our bearings.

Masked man by David de Limon in Valencia
Moses with a beard of snakes by street artist Blu in Valencia

Take a Street Art Tour - I'd read about Valencia's street art scene and so we embarked upon a little self guided tour. The streets of Valencia have become something of an urban canvas for talented resident artists like Argentinean Hyuro (who's work you may be familiar with from Aberdeen's NuArt festival) with a large concentration of artwork situated in the city's El Carmen neighbourhood.

Street art in El Carmen, Valencia
Leaning against the elephant mural at Plaza de Carme

There is something new to discover around every corner here, from smaller scale pieces like David de Limon's masked men to huge murals like Blu's Moses with a beard of snakes. My personal favourite was the elephant on the corner, which is part of a larger piece overlooking Plaza del Carmen as well as la Casa de los Gatos just up the street. In 2003 this hole in the wall, already popular with local strays, was transformed into the luxury façade known as the House of Cats that we see today.

Casa de los gatos, Valencia
Agua de Valencia artwork

Drink Agua de Valencia - Having watched Richard Ayoade and Sara Pascoe enjoy this drink on the Valencia episode of Travel Man, it was high on our must try list. Café de las Horas is one of the most recommended places to experience Agua de Valencia, so we had to pop in when we stumbled across the bar on our walk. With it's extravagantly opulent (leaning towards garish) interiors I can see why this place sticks in people's minds. The cocktail is a fruity concoction of both vodka and gin, mixed with freshly squeezed orange juice and topped with cava. Despite it's large alcohol to mixer ratio, it's surprisingly easy to drink and it'd be very easy to get carried away!

Inside Cafe de las Horas in Valencia
Agua de Valencia in Cafe de las Horas

Most places will serve Agua de Valencia (meaning Valencian water) in a jug to be shared and it should be reasonably inexpensive. We paid 10 euros for a jug for 2 people at Café de las Horas. Another great place to sample this local cocktail is Café Madrid, where it is said to have been originally created in the 1950's.

Torres de Serranos

Admire the Architecture - If you need a little fresh air after sipping cocktails, take a stroll through the city streets a little more and discover the Torres de Serranos - a Gothic style gate that formed part of the ancient city wall, which you can climb and enjoy city views for just a 2 euro entry fee.

Cathedral view from Plaza de la Virgen
Turia fountain, Plaza de la Virgen

We stopped to enjoy a dance performance in Plaza de la Virgen, where you'll find the Turia fountain and the cathedral that's said to house the original Holy Grail. The plaza is a popular spot in Valencia, central to the annual Las Fallas celebrations and used as a meeting point for various tours.

If you arrive earlier than we did I'd recommend starting the day here with a free walking tour of Valencia. Alternatively you could visit the Cathedral museum and climb the 207 steps of it's Miguelete tower for another panoramic view..

Patatas bravas and croquettas - tapas in Valencia

Eat Tapas - In Spain, dinner is traditionally eaten later in the evening than we might be used to at home. It can be tricky to adapt to but our late afternoon arrival helped, and we gave in to our rumbling stomachs around 9pm. While I'd usually recommend heading off the beaten track to find great restaurants, we settled for a nice looking tapas place on a corner near the Cathedral. It wasn't the best tapas I've ever eaten but it was the perfect way to end our first day in Valencia.

Palm trees lining a road in Valencia
Colourful exterior of Ruzafa market

Day 2

Breakfast - Our 2nd day in Valencia started with a short walk to the Ruzafa neighbourhood where we tucked into breakfast at La Mas Bonita. The urban boho café brings beach vibes to the city centre with it's soft blue and white décor and rustic details. The wooden swing chair is every instagrammer's dream!

Scrambled eggs and salmon with coffee - breakfast at La Mas Bonita
Nutella with banana and strawberries on toast, and matcha latte at La Mas Bonita

He opted for the scrambled eggs with salmon (minus avocado) while I couldn't resist Nutella on toast with strawberries and banana. You can grab dinner and drinks at La Mas Bonita too, or at their sister restaurant at Patacona beach. It's also a great spot to grab coffee and cake!

Exterior of mercat central building
Inside the mercado central
Various local rices for sale at Valencia's central market

Visit Mercat Central - Our next stop takes you to the historic city centre. Valencia's Central Market opens Monday-Saturday from 7.30am-3pm and is well worth a visit for any foodie. The dome roofed Art Nouveau building houses over 900 stalls selling everything from local cheeses and a rainbow of fresh fruit, to rows of spices and even live eels! I had hoped for more of a street food offering, but even without that, it's an explosion of colours and flavours. A great way to immerse yourself in local life and get a feel for the abundant richness of Valencia's cuisine.

The spiral columns and vaulted ceiling of the trading hall at Lonja de La Seda
Intrinsic ceiling design of the Consulado del Mar in Valencia

Explore La Lonja de la Seda - Across from the market, you'll find La Lonja de la Seda, or the silk exchange. We paid 2 euros each to enter the historic Valencian gothic style building which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The twisted columns of the trading hall are the main attraction here, and the vaulted chamber makes a good spot to cool down too!

Looking up at the columns in Lonja de la Seda

In the 15th century merchants from all over Europe would meet here to trade silks and other textiles, and it's since been used as a bank. As well as the trading hall, you can meander through the central orange garden, marvel at the towers (used as a prison for traders who didn't pay their debts!) and climb the stairs to admire the intrinsic design of the 16th century Consulado del Mar, the Consulate of the Sea.

Tiled exterior of Horchateria de Santa Catalina
Dipping a farton in a glass of horchata

Try Horchata de chufa - This Valencian delicacy is a milky drink made from tiger nuts mixed with sugar, and is traditionally enjoyed with fartons. If you can resist the childish giggles here, you're better than me. A farton is a long pastry dusted with icing sugar which is commonly dipped in horchata. You'll find horchaterias all over Valencia but we visited one of the oldest in the city -Horchateria de Santa Catalina, where a retro monochrome style is complimented with a splash of colour from the traditional ceramic designs on the walls.

Drinking horchata with fartons

If you want my honest opinion, I don't like horchata. My face says it all! It tastes a bit like sugary, watered down almond milk. Neither of us enjoyed drinking it but we did like the fartons. Just because it's not to our taste, it doesn't mean it won't be to yours! Horchata is extremely popular in Spain for a reason, so give it a try and see for yourself. I hear good things about the hot chocolate at Santa Catalina too!

Puente de las Flores

Walk in the Jardin del Turia - Thirst quenched, head for the Jardin del Turia, via the spectacular Puente de las Flores, or Flower Bridge. I don't need to explain the name to you, do I? It's a beautiful spot for a photo. I've read that the flowers are replaced 3-4 times a year so that the bridge is always in bloom!

The Turia river was rediverted after a devastating flood in 1957, and one of Spain's largest urban parks now occupies the former riverbed. 9km of green space makes up the Turia Gardens, featuring many paths, ponds, playing fields, a skate park and even the Gulliver children's play park. At one end you'll find the Bioparc Zoo and at the other, the famous City of Arts and Sciences complex. If you're not big on walking, there are Segway tours available and lots of places offer bike rental too.

Paella Valenciana with a wedge of lemon

Eat Paella - Did you know that Valencia is the home of paella? Traditional Paella Valenciana is made with chicken and rabbit, and sometimes even snails, flavoured with saffron and paprika. Seafood versions known as paella de marisco are also considered authentic and contrary to popular belief, neither should feature chorizo! Another similar dish is arros negre, a seafood rice dish coloured black with squid ink.

Locals are proud of these dishes, with the region's wetlands making ideal rice growing conditions, and it'd be rude not to try an authentic paella when visiting! We stopped at a small café not far from the Puente de las Flores, and enjoyed freshly made paella Valenciana out on the terrace, watching the world go by.

Pilau de les Arts at the City of Arts and Sciences

Visit Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias - One of the most popular attractions in Valencia, the City of Arts and Sciences is a complex of six spectacular buildings designed by Santiago Calatrava, including the science museum, the Hemisferic planetarium featuring an IMAX cinema, and l'Oceanografic - Europe's biggest aquarium. We decided not to enter any of these, instead enjoying the architecture from outside.

Sculptures in water at Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences

Tickets for the Oceanografic are over 30 euros per adult, but the others are more affordable at 8 euros each. Alternatively, you can buy a combined ticket for the three venues at 38.60. If you do intend to purchase tickets, I'd allocate the rest of the day to be spent here as it will take at least 4-5 hours to enjoy the attractions properly.

Couple looking at a cat in l'Umbracle Valencia

Pools of water separate the futuristic structures from each other, with activities such as kayaking and water zorbing available, and cafes alongside the lakes. If you're short on money or time, you'll be pleased to know you can visit the Umbracle sculpture garden for free. The walkway is lined with palm trees and other local plant life, and part of this space is used as a rooftop nightclub in the summer, known as l'Umbracle Terraza. From it's position above the car park, it's a great vantage spot to admire the complex.

Sand sculpture on a beach in Valencia

Head to the beach - The final stop of your second day in Valencia takes you to the golden sands of the coast! It's roughly an hours walk from the City of Arts and Sciences, so I recommend getting a taxi or hiring a bike to get there, unless you're wearing comfortable footwear. I wore flimsy sandals and ended up with massive blisters after a full day of walking in the heat - the perfect excuse to sit down with a cocktail!

Frozen margarita at Sunset Gabbeach

Valencia really is the perfect Spanish holiday spot, combining the best of both worlds for city break lovers and beach holiday fans. From Playa de las Arenas and Cabanyal the promenade leads north to Playa de la Malvarrosa and Patacona. Although popular, the beaches here don't suffer from over tourism like much of the Southern Costa Blanca. There's plenty space for everyone, with volleyball courts, toilets, snack bars and sun loungers available for hire.

Bars and restaurants line the promenade by playa de las arenas, and after the long walk there, we stopped for some much needed margaritas at Sunset Gabbeach - a super stylish cocktail bar, that makes up part of the Gabbeach hotel and restaurant. From here we wondered barefoot in the sand, via a browse in Ale-Hop, to Malvarossa beach before deciding where to eat for the evening.

Burger with goats cheese and red onion, side of fries and sangria pouring in the background

Where to eat at Valencia's beaches? - At the top end of Malvarossa, leading to Patacona beach, La Mas Bonita and La Girafe are both good food options, but we made our way back to the restaurants by playa de las Arenas. Newly opened Boa Beach serves up boho style alongside breakfast, brunch and dinner, or La Pepica is considered one of the oldest and best spots in the city to eat paella, and was frequented by Hemingway himself.

However, we opted for the party vibes at nearby Destino 56. Goats cheese topped burgers accompanied our shared jug of sangria, as we took shelter from a sudden thunderstorm and watched lightning strike the night sky.

Gordon with a glass of sangria at Destino 56

If you want to continue the party into the early hours, head across to the Marina Beach Club. Just remember you may have to make a reservation. A nearby taxi rank makes it easy to get back to the city centre from the beach, and we paid about 10 euros to get dropped off at our hotel at the end of the evening.

Bed in Hotel Malcom and Barett

Where to stay in Valencia

Hotel Malcom and Barret - A well priced, three star hotel with a great location - walking distance to the historical city centre and the City of Arts and Sciences. The lounge and dining area are beautifully styled with lots of greenery creating a tropical vibe. The hotel is actually made up of two buildings and our room was in the opposite building to the one housing the bar. We didn't spend much time in the hotel, but the bed was comfy and the room had all the facilities we needed. Breakfast was buffet style which I felt was overpriced but convenient. Book online here.


Hotel Gabbeach - If you'd rather stay closer to the beach, this boutique hotel is the perfect option. Each room is uniquely themed, with some featuring terraces and sea views. The bar and restaurant are right on the beach and you can rely on busses to get to the city centre. Check prices with Booking.com.

Gordon sipping coffee at breakfast in Hotel Malcom and Barett

What to eat in Valencia?

The main local must try dishes and drinks, as described above, are 

  • Paella Valenciana
  • Paella de marisco
  • Arros negre
  • Horchata and fartons
  • Agua de Valencia
Be sure to sample at least one rice dish and don't miss agua de Valencia! If you have a sweet tooth I'd also recommend trying turron (a fudge-like nougat made with almonds and honey) and bunuelos - a sugary fried dough, made with pumpkin batter, and especially popular around Las Fallas festival time.


48 hours in a new city doesn't sound like much but it's surprising how much you can fit into 2 days. We managed to tick everything off our list of things to see and do in Valencia, and would love to go back and just hang out in the cool city cafes and beach bars again in future. If I was to move to any city in Spain, this would be it!

Have you been to Valencia? What's your favourite Spanish city?

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8 comments:

  1. Spain looks so beautiful! I have never been but would love to go there and Portugal! Hopefully next summer after life calms down a bit :)

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    1. Portugal looks lovely too, would love to go to Lisbon!

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  2. We were expected to go on Spain a few weeks ago - but our trip was cancelled due to the lockdown. Valencia seems a nice city to explore for a week-end :). I like street art tour - it is always a cool activity to visit a new city :).

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    1. I hope you can reschedule soon! I see they are starting to open up to tourists again now :)

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  3. I never made it to Valencia, I've only been to Barcelona but Valencia looks like a beautiful city. The street art looked cool! I love wandering cities with street arts.

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    1. Valencia is a great alternative to Barcelona, especially if you wanted to avoid the crowds!

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  4. What a great itinerary! I haven't been to Valencia yet but it seem like an amazing getaway destination!

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    1. Thanks. It really is lovely! Hope you can visit one day :)

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