Valencia is one of the most family-friendly destinations anywhere, with beaches and parks for miles, plus museums and attractions like a world-class aquarium and zoo. Add in the year-round pleasant climate and affordable prices for lodging and dining, and you have one amazing destination. I think you’ll be able to see why our family chose to spend a year getting to know beautiful Valencia.
#1 Take a dip in the Mediterranean. If you visit Valencia in the summer, you must spend a day at the beach. The water is warm and the energy at the beach is palpable. In the city itself, El Cabanyal/Las Arenas, Malvarosa, and Patacona beaches are essentially one long stretch of beach that goes for several kilometers. Endless sand and relatively calm, warm water make this a great set of beaches for families. You are never too far from services such as restrooms, first aid, and restaurants. But, if you want to get away from the crowds, head to El Saler beach, which is a 40 minute bus ride from the center. The water here is a bit more clear and the dunes separating the beach from the road give it a more low-key feeling. Services are few and far between, so you’ll want to be sure to bring everything you need.
#2 Learn to cook authentic paella. Valencia is the home of paella and Valencian paella is a surprise to some because it is not made with seafood. At a number of cooking schools in the city, you can learn how to make a true Valencian paella with chicken, rabbit and even snails. If that doesn’t suit your needs, you can usually opt for vegetarian, seafood, or mixed paella. This rice dish is never eaten by locals for dinner, so book your class at lunch time.
#3 Wander el Carmen in search of street art. The Carmen area of the old town is teeming with street art, cafes and shops. Get lost in the winding streets and find your favorite mural, or take a small-group walking tour to discover them with a knowledgeable guide.
#4 Wave from the balcony of the Ayuntamiento. The Plaza del Ayuntamiento, or Town Hall Square, is the center of city life in Valencia. Throughout the year, celebrations and parades are held here: New Years Eve fireworks, the mascletas of Fallas, and the Valencia Day parade, to name a few. Standing in the square is awe-inspiring enough, but to get a better view, head into the Town Hall itself and climb to the second floor balcony, which affords a great view over the hustle and bustle of the square.
#5 Get a glimpse of Las Fallas festival at the Museu Faller. If you aren’t lucky -or crazy- enough to be in Valencia during its huge Fallas festival in March, head to the Museu Faller de Valencia to learn more about this centuries-old celebration of spring. The festival, which features huge statues called fallas that can be up to 5 stories tall, fireworks of all types, and a two-day long offering to the city’s virgin. The culmination of the festival on the last night is a collective burning of all of the fallas, except for one piece of one falla which was selected by the public as the winner. The museum houses the winning statues, or ninots, from the last 80 years. You’ll be able to enjoy the artistry of these ninots, learn more about the festival, and see other festival artifacts from years’ past.
#6 Shop for a picnic lunch at the Mercat Central. The Art Nouveau Central Market is one of the largest and most beautiful in Europe. Take a wander and explore the stalls offering fresh produce, meats, seafood, jamón and other cured meats, cheese, olives, and even freshly prepared tapas-style offerings that you can munch while you walk. If you are looking for something to take home, you can also find high-quality saffron and local delicacies such as turrón (a candy made with almonds) or membrillo (quince paste).
#7 Ride a bike through the Turia. Valencia is one of the most bike-friendly cities anywhere, offering over 150 kilometers of bike lanes and paths. Nowhere is it more pleasant to take a spin in the city than in the Turia, a 12-kilometer ribbon of green space that winds through the city. This park, which connects the Bioparc on one end to the City of Arts and Sciences close to the port, was once a river. This history is still evident in centuries-old bridges and ramps throughout the Turia.
#8 Climb the Torres Serranos. The Serrano Towers were originally connected to the city walls, which were destroyed to make way for the expanding population in the mid-1800s. Once used as a prison, the towers now serve as a beautiful viewpoint of the Turia gardens and old town below. The climb is not for the faint of heart, with steep stairs and minimal railings. If you visit on a Sunday, admission is free!
#9 Play at Park Gulliver Kids of all ages love to explore Park Gulliver, a giant playground built in the shape of Gulliver of Gulliver’s Travels. Be a Lilliputian as you climb and slide all over Gulliver. It’s best to go in the morning prior to noon (or before 10 in the summer months) and on a weekday to enjoy the park without the crowds of Spanish schoolchildren who descend on Gulliver at lunchtime while on field trips.
#10 Explore the world’s oceans at the Oceonografic. Valencia’s aquarium is Europe’s largest and features an aviary with brief naturalist tours, an underwater tunnel featuring sharks, and a dolphinarium highlighting conservation. Among a variety of other habitats, a favorite among visitors has to be the Arctic/Antarctic exhibit featuring penguins, beluga whales, and walruses.
These ten activities are just the tip of the iceberg. Both within the city of Valencia and in the surrounding area, there is so much more to see and experience. If you’d like assistance planning a trip to Valencia, or anywhere in Spain, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Not only am I a certified expert in travel to Spain, I’ve spent about 1.5 years living and traveling in Spain including places such as Valencia, Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Costa del Sol, and more!