With a few days of leave in June and no plans, Joe and I made a last minute decision to visit my sister Lizzie and her boyfriend Jarett in Valencia, Spain, where they’ve been living for just under the past year. And what a great decision it was!
I didn’t really know much at all about Valencia, so left it up to Lizzie to plan whatever she fancied with us. She works from home, so was able to fit her work in around us and still manage to get out and about a lot, which was great.
We flew in to Madrid, and caught a quick flight across to Valencia with Iberia on standby (which was half the price of the train ticket!) and Lizzie came to meet us in the early evening.
It was a beautiful summer’s evening, and we walked back to her flat, admiring the pretty buildings and greenery along the way.
Having been on a plane all day, we decided to get a bit of fresh air and exercise, and headed to the “river park” for a workout.
The Turia Gardens (aka the park) are located in the former riverbed of the River Turia. The river used to flood regularly, so in 1957, after a particularly bad flood, the river was diverted away from the city centre, and a 7km riverbed has been transformed into a beautiful park with cycling and walking paths, pretty gardens and plenty of exercise spaces.
The next day it was time to explore some of the city.
Valencia’s Central Market is a huge indoor market, selling everything from freshly baked pastries, to fruit and vegetables, nuts, cheeses and charcuterie, as well as a huge selection of fresh fish and meat.
The exterior of the building is just as stunning as the inside.
We strolled inside, taking our time at all of the stalls, and sampling a few delicious goodies on offer.
After eyeing up all of the pastries on offer, it was time to find somewhere for a coffee and something sweet. Lizzie took us to one of her favourite cafes for some sustenance before continuing our walk through the city.
Plaza del Ayuntamiento
Literally translated “Town Hall Square”, the grandiose Plaza del Ayuntamiento is the main square in Valencia and probably the best starting point from which to visit the city.
It’s full of beautiful buildings, tree-lined streets, and plenty of shops and cafés.
From the main square it’s an easy walk to the bullring. I’m not a fan of bullfighting, but we decided to have a look inside to see what the bullring looks like from the inside, as well as the outside.
There is plenty to see in the centre of the city, and we all enjoyed just walking through the pretty streets, soaking up the sights and getting as much fresh air as possible, especially after the stifling heat of Dubai!
The next day Joe and I left Lizzie and Jarett doing some work, and went for another walk through town, stopping at a few shops and a cafe for some delicious pastries.
We had planned to go to the beach that afternoon, but arrived back at Lizzie’s apartment just as the heavens opened and it starting absolutely pouring with rain! All beach plans were obviously cancelled, and we stayed home cooking and drinking delicious Spanish wine.
Albufera Natural Park
The next day Lizzie’s friend drove us to a place around 40 minutes from the city, called the Albufera Natural Park. The park is home to the largest lake in Spain and one of the most important wetland areas in the Iberian Peninsula. It is a place of great ecological interest with rare species of wading birds and a rich variety of wildlife.
We arrived to a beautiful calm, still lake, with boats lined up ready to be taken out on the water.
We arranged for a boat ride across the lake, which took us past fishing spots, tall reeds blowing in the breeze, and a wonderful view across towards Valencia.
After the boat ride we stopped at a little café nearby for a coffee, before heading down to the beach. The sea wasn’t quite the warm Dubai temperatures I was used to, so only Lizzie and Jarett braved a swim!
The beach stretched on for miles, and was much quieter and a lot less crowded than the main beach in Valencia.
La Lonja de la Seda & The Cathedral
The next day, Lizzie had some work to do, so Joe and I walked back into the city to do a bit more exploring.
We passed by the central market once more, for some delicious juicy cherries and addictive pastries that we couldn’t get enough of!
Just behind the central market is the “Lonja de la Seda”, a gothic style building, built between 1482 and 1548. The main hall is a large space with huge twisted columns, and inside is a walled courtyard full of orange trees.
Just next door is the cathedral, where we popped inside for a look around.
We decided to hire some bikes, to be able to cycle to the beach in the afternoon. Our ride took us through the pretty river park once again, and past plenty of lovely flowers and trees.
It was around a 40 minute cycle to the main beach at a leisurely pace, where we locked up the bikes and walked down towards the water to relax. The beach was a lot busier than the quiet beaches of the Albufera, and the sun was trying it’s best to hide behind the clouds, so none of us swam this time.
Before we knew it our time in Valencia had come to an end! We both fell in love with the city, big enough to have plenty to offer, but small enough to know your way around within a short amount of time. The food we tried was all delicious, in small local no-name restaurants, and the wine was always tasty and cheap!
I would honestly recommend Valencia for anyone looking for a relaxing getaway, with plenty to see, lots of nature, and good food and drinks!
It was time to say goodbye, and get back on a plane to Dubai. Hopefully see you again soon, Valencia!
P.p.s. Thanks to Lizzie and Jarett for having us to stay and showing us around all of your favourite spots!