Valencia is Spain’s third city, with a population of almost 800,000. This page was originally written as a brief introduction to the city following a weekend visit in 2015. We visited once more in late 2019. This time we had a wander round the craft beer bars which have sprung up in recent years. We’ve updated this page following that visit.
Valencia has been a settlement since at least Roman times and grew up at the centre of a rich agricultural area. From processing and exporting the local produce it developed into a major commercial and industrial city and one of the largest ports on the Mediterranean. The city prospered in the early twentieth century and once more in the post-Franco years. More recently the city has reinvented itself as a tourist and convention centre and cruise liner port, with the construction of new infrastructure and cultural facilities and the renovation of the port and beach area. Though the city was affected by the economic crisis it remains lively and prosperous.
The city centre is located a few kilometres from the sea, between what was a loop of the Rio Turia to the north and, to the south, a ring road along the line of the old city walls. The oldest areas are those closest to the river. Following serious floods in the 1950s the river was diverted away from the city and the drained river bed has since been converted into a linear park.
The main railway station (Estació del Nord) sits on the old wall ring road. Directly across from the station, the Avenida del Marqués de Sotelo leads to the attractive Plaça de l’Ajuntament (city hall square – pictured above). Round the square is the city hall and the main post office and in the surrounding streets are many of the impressive renovated commercial buildings from the early 20th century such as the Banco de Valencia building. The avenue continues from the square to reach the Plaza de la Reina, the centre of the city. The oldest part of the city lies between here and the river and includes the cathedral, the central market and the narrow streets of the Barrio de Carmé.
Beyond the centre, development in a grid pattern of apartment blocks on both sides of the river and extending to the port and the Mediterranean. More recent suburbs stretch out into the surrounding countryside.
High speed AVE trains from Madrid and elsewhere arrive at the Estación Joaquín Sorolla (the closest metro stop is Jesús). The station is a few hundred metres from the main station Estació del Nord (nearest metro Xàtiva) on the edge of the city centre (pictured). A free shuttle bus links the two stations.
As an important business and tourist centre the airport has frequent flights from major UK and European cities. The airport is linked by frequent metro services to Xàtiva metro station.
Walking around the city centre allows you to take in the pleasant squares, the twentieth century commercial buildings, the central market and the network of narrow old streets in the Barrio de Carmé. The cathedral (pictured) is close to the Plaza de la Reina, in its own square. The Torres de Serranos, by the river, are remnants of the old city wall. The photo in the introduction is the tower of Santa Caterina church.
The major recent tourist attraction is the Ciutat de les Arts I de les Ciències (between the city centre and the sea), a major cultural centre with visitor attractions such as the Hemisfèric, the Museo de las Ciencias and Oceanográfic aquarium (pictured below). Built mainly by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, the buildings are tremendous (though there was scaffolding up on one of them when we passed).
Valencia remains a major commercial port, with the more recent addition of a cruise liner terminal which brings many visitors to the city. Part of the port area was redeveloped for the America’s Cup yacht race in 2007 and now forms the Marina Real Juan Carlos I. This area was also used as a Formula 1 Grand Prix track. Nearby are the city’s beaches with a line of seafood restaurants along the shore.
The city centre sights are within walking distance of one another but reaching the Cuidat de les Arts I les Ciències involves a bus trip, and the port and beach are most easily reached by metro. A smartcard (from metro ticket offices) costs €2. The card is rechargeable at ticket machines and can be used on metros trams and buses.The best deal is the 24 hour T1 ticket for zone A for €4, Zone A covers the city, including the port and beach, but not the airport, which is in zone B.
As an introduction to the city, the hop-on hop-off open-top bus turistic is useful, linking all the main sights. There are two routes, historical and maritime, departing from and intersecting at the Plaza de la Reina, forming a figure of eight. One route focuses on the historic city centre and the newer suburbs, the other on the Ciutat and the beach area. Tickets cost €17 for 24 hours or €19 for a 48 hour ticket and cover both routes
Eating and drinking
In the Barrio de Carmé there are plenty of places, for example in the area round Plaça del Tossal and Carrer des Cavallers. We sat in Café Infanta in the Plaça del Tossal and people watched (including local hen and stag parties – a phenomenon which has now reached Spain).
The bars and restaurants around the Plaza de la Reina and the cathedral are more upmarket and expensive but once more eminently suitable for people watching from their terraces.
There are plenty of small places around, even on the main streets, for a coffee, drink, snack or a cheap breakfast.
Only a couple minutes walk from Plaza de la Reina is a pedestrianised square, Plaça de Lope de Vega, also good for watching the world go by. We used a bar on the square, Pinxtos Traigas, and another, Taska Hogan, just off it. We never did find out why this group were in traditional Valenciano dress.
Near the station and our 2015 hotel there were plenty of bars in Carrer del Convent de Santa Clara and neighbouring pedestrianised lanes. Some of them are Spanish chains, but the food, from tapas and pinxtos to main meals was good.
Specialist craft beer bars had begun to appear in 2015, but we didn’t have time to reach them. More had sprung up by 2019 and became the focus of our evening out in Valencia.
We visited several bars in the area near the Central Market (Mercat Central). The most prominent, on a corner site, was the Birra and Blues Valencia brewpub (Avinguda de Maria Cristina 12). The beer was OK, but the bar is large and impersonal. Much better was Tyris on Tap (Carrer de la Taula de Canvis 6), a modern friendly bar and showpiece for the local Tyris brewery, which has now become a substantial concern. Nearby is The Market Cerveza Artesana (Carrer de les Danses 5), a fine boozer with a wide range of beers on draught and in bottle.
Out of the city centre towards the port (close to our 2019 hotel) was Sanders (C/Samuel Ros 30 bajo, at the corner of Avinguda Franca 45). This is an excellent place, run by a Swedish / Indian couple. He brews his own beer (see the list) on the premises and can rustle up Swedish meatballs and other dishes on request while she makes fresh Indian meals from scratch. It’s not cheap but it’s a great combination.
Where to stay.
There are plenty of hotels to choose from throughout the comfort and price range, though prices may be high if there are major conventions in the city.
In 2015 (and on an overnight stop in 2014) we stayed in the three-star Hotel Sorolla Centro at Carrer del Convent de Santa Clara 5. It’s modern but the rooms are fine (some of the rooms facing the street may be noisy) and comfortable. There are plenty of places to eat and drink nearby and it is less than five minutes walk from the Estacio del Nord and Xàtiva metro station.
In 2019, city centre prices were high and we stayed at the three-star Hotel NH Ciudad de Valencia (pictured) out towards the port at Avinguda del Port 214. It is about ten minutes walk from Marítim – Serrería metro station and close to frequent buses to and from the city centre. Its comfortable enough and there are places to eat and drink nearby.
Out from the city – Xàtiva
For some time out from the city in 2015 we caught a local cercanias train to the historic town of Xàtiva – about an hour away through the countryside. Above the modern town centre there is a hill topped by a castle. On the lower slopes the old town is grouped around the basilica and the old market square (Plaça Mercat). It was a pleasant a wander around followed by a stop for a drink of lunch.
(i) Many of the locals speak Valencianco which is closer to Catalan than Castellano (Spanish) and most street signs are in Valenciano. Everyone can speak Spanish, and when they do, we found their Spanish very clear and easy to understand. We have used the Valenciano spellings here.
(ii) Prices are correct at December 2019
Acknowledgments: In 2015 Ted and Steve were joined by Steve Law who can vouch for the quality of the rosé wine in the bars we visited. In 2019 Ken Donald was with us and he can vouch for the craft beer.
Photo credits: All of the photographs are by Steve Gillon except for the following: The two photos of beer bottles and the Sanders beer list are by Ken Donald. The Hotel Ciudad de Valencia is from http://www.macuvi-incoming.com, sourced via Google Images.
The text and all photos apart from those mentioned above are © Copyright Steve Gillon 2015, 2020