Every year for our anniversary, my husband and I like to take a city trip in Europe. This time we chose Valencia in Spain. A city known for its oranges, the modern architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences, and its picturesque old town.
This time I didn’t follow my usual M.O. of doing extensive research beforehand. We knew the city center is small enough to cross by foot from one end to the other in about half an hour, so we figured we could eat and drink our way around the town quite easily. There are rental bikes available all over town in case you want to go a bit further, for instance if you want to cycle to the City of Arts and Sciences which is in the most southern part of the Túria park. The park curves around most of the historic city center; formerly a river, it has been redeveloped into a nine kilometer long recreational area. The beach can be reached by bike as well, or by public transport. We were there at the end of February, but there was already a brave guy sunbathing in his swimming trunks!
What and where to drink in Valencia
Horchata (orxata in Valencian) is a beverage made from tiger nuts. You can drink it a a horchateria. We had a lot of fun looking for ‘-erias’ in the city: cerveceria (cerveza = beer), panaderia (pan = bread), taperia (tapas = little bites, from the word ‘tapar’ which means ‘to cover’), arroceria (arroz = rice)… We drank horchata at Horchateria Santa Catalina, where my husband got dizzy from all of the mosaics on the walls. I had to soothe him with food. We didn’t care much for the horchata, but enjoyed the sweets, especially the churros with hot chocolate.
Via the Lonely Planet Guides app we ended up in Tyris on Tap, a tasting locale of the craft brewery Tyris. We probably wouldn’t have ended up there spontaneously, since we had to find our way there through the maze of narrow alleyways of the city center. We enjoyed a great night there tasting as many of the specialty beers as possible, and eating some delicious snacks to go with the drinks.
One night we had a bit of a pub crawl, starting at Cava Siglos for gin & tonics and then going to Café Negrito for local beers. We came across Café Negrito because we were drawn to the chatter of people, which turned out to be the chock-full terrace of this cool café. We ended the night with dinner and drinks at La Bodeguilla del Gato.
What and where to eat in Valencia
Paella in Valencia comes in tons of variations. You can even find paella fast food style! We had Valencian paella at the beach in restaurant L’Estimat. We chose this restaurant since there was nobody outside trying to pull us in, which made us conclude they don’t need that so it must be good. It was.
Obviously. Instead of tea time, the Spanish have tapas time. It would be hard to find a bar in Valencia that does not serve some sort of nibble to accompany your drink. My all-time favorite tapas are the classics: pan con tomate (bread with olive oil, garlic, tomato and salt), champiñones al ajillo (mushrooms in olive oil with garlic and parsley) and patatas bravas (fried/baked potatoes with aioli and tomato/pepper sauce). Titus loves jamón ibérico (the famous cured Spanish ham).
The central market was one of the reasons we chose to go to Valencia; it has hundreds of stalls selling fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. The building is quite impressive and it is definitely worth a visit. There is only one bar though, so it is not a place where you can spend hours eating your way from stall to stall (as I had dreamed about). We bought some smoked paprika powder (pimentón ahumado) there.
You can go to a horchateria for breakfast, but they serve only sweet stuff, which does not usually keep me full for long (empty calories!). I prefer a hearty breakfast, especially when hungover, for instance at Brunch Corner. For a healthier alternative there’s Zumm Salads where you can customize your salad and drink nice juices. They have sandwiches and coffee too.
Valencia is said to have some great museums, but we chose to spend our time outdoors. Sunny weather and twenty degrees centigrade does not ever happen in Amsterdam in winter, so we made the most of it!
Thanks to Carlos for hosting us and for all of the tips!
Also of interest: other European city trip destinations.