Pretty Spanish city of Valencia is home of paella and offers great city breaks for foodies

It is fantastic for foodies, hosts fabulous fiestas – and is the subject of today’s city stay Q&A…

Why should I go?

This gem ticks every box. From the atmospheric old town with its medieval, gothic and baroque architecture to the Ibizan-style beach clubs and marina fronting miles of wide, golden sands, it’s the ultimate city beach break.

Add to that the astonishing Turia Gardens that snake for more than six miles from city to beach and a host of cultural must-sees as well as riotous festivals.

Are these streets made for walking?

The old town is compact with gracious plazas and squares.

Mercado Central is where Valencians shop for food. Take a seat at the Bar Central at its heart for top tapas on the go.

The wide boulevards Colon and Eixample are packed with high-end and high-street favourites.

The El Carmen and Ruzafa districts are adorned with cutting-edge street art and graffiti — take a turiart.com tour to explore the best. Hire a cycle from valenciabikes.com to explore the traffic-free Turia Gardens.

Anything for the bucket list?

Almost too much for one trip. The City of Arts and Sciences is a must.

This architectural marvel houses Europe’s largest aquarium, plus an interactive science museum, arts and music centres, planetarium, Imax theatre, bars and restaurants.

Or with paella the local speciality, just 15 minutes from Valencia is the Albufera Nature Park — gateway to the paddy fields growing rice for the classic dish.

Take a cruise in a traditional wooden boat around the lake and explore unspoilt dune beaches and forests.

Where should I eat?

It’s almost impossible to eat badly in Valencia.

Paella was invented here. But no Valencian would ever combine meat and shellfish in their paella — you choose one or the other.

Our favourites were at Nou Raco in the Albufera Nature Park and at the other end of the scale, the uber-cool Marina Beach Club, an Ibizan-style hipster paradise.

For Michelin-starred food without staggering prices, try Habitual from local celeb chef Ricard Camarena.

One of a host of restaurants and bars in the renovated Mercado de Colon, it serves fabulous fresh seafood, meat and veg with prices from around £15 for a three-course lunch.

Also great was Trencadish in Barrio del Carmen for a modern take on traditional tapas.

Festivals and fiestas

More than 800 oversized sculptures – usually wooden or papier-mache of people, beasts and more – are put on display around the city. But that’s just the start.

What follows are days of music and madness, with insane pyrotechnics and music from dusk until dawn before the finale sees the giants set on fire.

We were lucky enough to catch the Festival of St John on our visit.

Held on June 23, it sees locals head to the city’s beaches in massive numbers to build bonfires, let off fireworks, dance and party.

At midnight, thousands rush to the water’s edge to jump over three waves, said to bring luck.

It’s a fantastic night and another festival worth booking a trip around.

I fancy a drink?

The local speciality, Agua de Valencia, mixes gin, vodka, cava, orange juice and sugar.

Try it in a venue that will make you think you’ve already had three too many — Cafe de las Horas on Calle Conde de Almodovar is a bonkers riot of chandeliers, mosaic floors and gilded, art-adorned walls.
The terrace of Cafe Negrito in the Barrio del Carmen is perfect for people-watching on a warm night, or try Cafe Tocado in the trendy Rufaza district, known for its hipster bars.

By the beaches, there are dozens of bars and restaurants along the promenade but we loved La Fabrica de Hielo on Carrer de Pavia, a live music and party palace in old warehouses that exudes cool.

Where should I stay?

Tucked down a quiet side street but just minutes from the Cathedral, the 3* Ad Hoc Monumental is a perfect budget choice. Rooms with beams and exposed brick are from £70 a night.

Or if you fancy going upmarket, the newly opened Marques House is set in a fabulous historic building in the centre of Valencia and has 29 chic rooms and suites, an atmospheric bar and restaurant.

Rooms from £80 a night.


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