One year ago, I was in the frozen lands of the Midwest. Now I find myself sitting in a small café in a beautiful city on the eastern coast of Spain. Who would have thought?
Located approximately three hours south of Barcelona and three hours east of Madrid, Valencia takes the title of the third largest city in Spain. While I have only been in this city for a few short weeks, it is apparent I have only experienced a small fraction of what it has to offer.
Let’s start with the food. Valencia is home to the best paella in Spain. Paella is a traditional Spanish dish made in a large, shallow pan over the fire or stove. True Valencian paella is generally made with short grain rice, rabbit, bachoqueta, garrofó, tomato, oil, salt, paprika, saffron, rosemary and is topped off with seafood.
Don’t be turned off if there is an ingredient that you don’t like. There are plenty of variations to this dish that are sure to make your stomach growl. With food in mind, there are plenty of small cafés and bars across town. If you don’t see one you like, simply walk another 100 feet and check out the next place.
If you are looking for old city charm, simply walk through the Serranos Towers, the ancient, gothic-style gate that was one of the main entrances into Old Town, the old historic city center of Valencia.
Start and end your day taking a stroll through Old Town. Be sure to visit the hustle and bustle of the Central Market, swing by Valencia’s Cathedral, which is home to two Goya paintings, as well as what is believed to be the original Holy Grail.
While you are at the cathedral, climb up the 207 steps to the top of the Miguelete tower for a breathtaking view of the entire city. Additionally, you are sure to stumble across Plaza de la Reina and Plaza de la Virgen, both of which are great spots to sit and watch the Old Town city life go by.
Rainy day? Swing by the City of the Arts and Sciences, a complex made up of seven unique structures. Of these structures is L’Hemisfèric, a multi-purpose building that is home to an IMAX Cinema, a planetarium and a laserium.
While at the complex, you can also find El Museu de les Ciències Prìncipe Felipe, a science museum, and L’Oceanogràfic, the largest oceanographic aquarium in all of Europe with one heck of a dolphin show. Not too far away lies the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, a great place to see an opera performance or watch a show.
As this vibrant city is located on the coast, walk east and the sea breeze of the Mediterranean will greet you. While temperatures stay around the low 60s during the winter months, the sun is always shining with hundreds of feet of sandy beaches.
I like to think Valencia is the best of both worlds: old town charm meets modern style with plenty of beach and parks to keep you busy year-round.