- Spanish arabesque
- City life
- Fireworks, fallas, parties and paella
Revamped and rejuvenated, Valencia’s an ancient Mediterranean port with grand modern designs, and it’s not just the oranges that benefit from the region’s year-round sunshine…
When Spain’s third largest city landed the America’s Cup in 2007, it could finally stick two fingers up to its bigger sisters, Barcelona and Madrid. Not that it hadn’t anything to be proud about beforehand – the sun-soaked port of Valencia has earned the gratitude of chefs everywhere for being the birthplace of paella, and the city’s glut of 15th-century architecture was turning heads even before its recent renaissance. Now, however, Valencia’s fast gaining a reputation as a designer-boutique shopping destination, a culinary hub (and not just for the ubiquitous paella), and a party city every bit as banging as Brighton or Barcelona. Add to that a stretch of beachy Mediterranean coastline, a handsome historic harbour, a cloud-free sky, and some world-beating museums and galleries, and you’ve got yourself a year-round European city-break destination with looks, brains and attitude.
The Valencia region’s beverage of choice is horchata (‘orxata’ in Valencian), a sweet and creamy blend of crushed tiger nuts, usually consumed in summer with dippable bread buns known, sniggeringly, as fartons. Its alcoholic stablemate is Agua de Valencia – a potent cocktail of cava and orange reminiscent of buck’s fizz.
- There are plenty of ranks in Valencia city centre, with the white cabs displaying a green light when free. To book a car in advance, try Radio Taxis (+34 96 370 3333), or Taxi Star (+34 639 616 666).
- Tipping culture
- Servicio is normally added to restaurant bills, and further tips aren’t expected, but throwing in 50 cents to €1 a person will always be appreciated.
- Siesta and fiesta
- It could be the warm climate and the long sunshine hours, or it could just be the fact that Valencianos have midnight oil to burn by the bucketload, but days generally start late and end later. Most bars open all day, and it’s not uncommon to see locals dining in restaurants at or after midnight. No one eats before 9pm. Nightlife in Valencia could more accurately be dubbed ‘early-morning life’, as the club scene doesn’t kick off until well past the witching hour.
- Packing tips
- Walking shoes and sun lotion for the day; dancing shoes and midnight oil for the evening.
- Recommended reads
- The novelist, film-maker and political firebrand Vicente Blasco Ibáñez is Valencia’s most famous literary son. His most famous novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, tells the story of a Spanish family afflicted by the First World War.
- Tapas don’t carry the same culinary weight in Valencia as they do elsewhere in Spain, but the country’s other famous gastro-gift to the world certainly does. Paella was invented in Valencia, and you’ll find it on the lunch menu of almost every restaurant. Rabbit and snails are the traditional staples, but freshly caught seafood often finds its way into the mix too. Other rice dishes and paella variants abound, including arroz negro (rice in squid ink) and fidéua (paella made with noodles). The region’s beverage of choice is horchata, a sweet and creamy blend of crushed tiger nuts, usually consumed with dippable bread buns known, sniggeringly, as fartons.
- Time zone
- GMT +1 hour.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Spain: 34; Valencia: 96
- Do go/don't go
- Famously, Valencia enjoys more than 300 cloudless days a year (part of the reason its oranges are so tasty), only seeing remotely serious rainfall infrequently in autumn and spring. July and August are usually exceedingly hot and humid, leading to a mass exodus of locals from the city and the closure of a fair few restaurants and shops. The fringes of summer – May and June and September – can be the most pleasant periods to visit, although Valencia makes a good year-round destination.
Don't go home without...
A Valencian paella pan from the street-side stall between the Mercado Central and La Lonja.