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Top 5 Things to do in Valencia

Updated on December 3, 2012

Valencia is becoming Spain’s worst kept secret. Often kept in the shadows by the country’s big crowd pleasers, travelers to Valencia are discovering a city of world class art, sandy beaches and striking architecture – and all with half the amount of tourists.

Here is the top 5 things to do in Spain’s third largest city.

Valencia at night
Valencia at night

1. City of Arts and Sciences
An architectural wonder, the City of Arts and Sciences has become the iconic image of Valencia, and comprises of countless must see attractions rolled into one.

L'Hemisfèric – which is home to an Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium, is a huge eye shaped building in the centre of the City of Arts and Sciences, which frequently plays host to various shows and projections using its cutting edge 3D Imax screen.

L’Oceanogràfic is a Marine Park Oceanarium, and home to more than 45,000 species of marine life from around the world. The park is divided into 10 distinct areas which reflect the habitats and surroundings of the various seas and oceans of the planet.

After a day exploring, catch a dolphin show in Europe’s largest set of dolphin pools, before enjoying dinner at the spectacular Underwater Restaurant, surrounded by the aquarium. El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe – The Principe Felipe Science Museum is an interactive museum, offering many hands on, educational tours for tourists, students and teachers.

The museum is now recognized as an important figure in the world of Science, and has played host to any special scientific congresses and summits.

Also within the City of Arts and Sciences, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía – The Palace of Arts - is an opera house comprising of four theatres, while the Umbracle is a gardened esplanade which winds around the City of Arts and Science, and offers spectacular views of the complex.

2. The old Town
Valencia’s old town shows off the city’s romantic side, with winding alleys, lazy outdoor cafés and centuries old buildings. Head up to the top of Micalet, the octagonal bell tower, for a rewarding view of the city, before people watching around Plaza Ayuntamiento.

At Plaza de la Reina you will find the impressive Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Desamparados, a combination of renaissance and baroque themed architecture.

Valencia's world famous Paella
Valencia's world famous Paella

3. Paella
Being the home of the original paella, it’s unsurprising that there are now an abundance of paella restaurants looking to cater for eager tourists.

While many of these restaurants will be tourist based, La Marcelina has been serving paella since 1888 and is where the locals choose. Restaurante el Forcart, near the Torres de Serranos, and La Pepica on the beachfront are also said to be some of the most authentic.

4. La Lonja and Central Market

Competed in 1533, La Lonja de la Seda, literally, the silk exchange, is a breathtaking example of Valencia’s wealth during the 15th and 16th centuries and was primarily used for trading silk. With its unique gothic style architecture of twisted marble pillars, draped in renaissance art, La Lonja is now a UNESCO world heritage site and is still used as a trading centre, as well as being the venue for various exhibitions and cultural activities. Entry is free.

Directly opposite La Lonja is Mercado Central – Central Market. This is one of Europe’s oldest food markets, and regarded by many as one of the best. Here one can get a glimpse of the daily Valencian life of centuries ago, while picking up some of the delicious local delicacies.

5. Las Fallas Festival, 13 – 19 March
One of Spain’s best known festivals, Las Fallas de Valencia is a weeklong festival which essentially consists of the creating, displaying, and eventually burning of huge, homemade papier mache effigies – which often resemble current social and political figures in Spain.
The week consists of daily fireworks, paella contests, a huge parade, and daily firecracker wakeup calls, before the models are burned in a celebratory finale at the Plaza Ayuntamiento.

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