Think Valencia and you might think oranges
True, you’ll find citrus trees lining its sweeping boulevards, but there’s much more than Vitamin C in the new Valencia – a modern city of jaw-dropping modern architecture (in its brand new cultural quarter), laid-back Sunday brunches and full-on bars that never seem to close. Fly here and you’ll say ‘Viva’.
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Valencia is a great place to shop, running the gamut from designer chic, high-street bargains or original one-offs. Shoes, leather goods and clothing are good buys, and you’ll also be tempted by locally produced foodstuffs. The restored, 20th-century covered marketplace, the Mercado de Colón (Jorge Juan), has a few upmarket flower and souvenir stalls, plus cafés and restaurants, while the busy Central Market is where to stock up on olive oil, cheese and other local delicacies. The city’s main shopping street is La Calle Colón, which bristles with shops such as Zara, Mango, Mango and El Corte Inglés, with plenty more shops in the surrounding backstreets.
Food & Drink
Valencia is a fantastic place to eat, with a wide array of cafés, restaurants and tapas bars offering both international and Spanish dishes. This is said to have been the birthplace of paella, so all things rice are an obvious choice, but there are many other specialities too. Whatever you select, bear in mind that people head out for dinner late from around 9pm at the earliest. La Pepica (Paseo Neptuno 2, 6 and 8) has fed paella to happy beach-going hordes for centuries – including Ernest Hemingway – while you can sample gastronomic tapas at the cool Mercatbar (Calle Joaquín Costa 27).
Cabalgata de Reyes Magos
Valencia’s children rejoice as Epiphany is celebrated with a festive early evening parade. The three kings parade through the city with a huge cavalcade of floats, throwing thousands of sweets to the excited crowds.
Valencia’s most famous festival is Las Fallas (the fires), a huge celebration featuring fires, fireworks and fiestas. Displayed on every corner all over the city are huge-scale papier mâché figures, usually satirical renditions of contemporary personalities.
Valencia’s seaside areas are the best places to experience Holy Week, when penitents carry figurines through the city to the music of Valencia's brass bands. Most famous of all the events are the Gathering of the Palms, the Procession of Placing in the Tomb and the Resurrection Cavalcade.
Two processions wind through Valencia’s streets to celebrate Corpus Cristi. The first features folk dance, pipers, costumed giants and ‘La Moma’, a character who represents the virtue of having overcome the seven deadly sins. The second procession is more solemn, with traditional floats bearing Biblical scenes. Mystery plays also take place on the streets of Valencia.
Noche de San Juan
On the Night of the Witches, the locals head to the city's beaches, which are dotted by small bonfires and parties.
Valencia has a ravishing array of sumptuous hotels. The utmost in comfort may be found at the five-star Caro Hotel (Almirante 14). Jaw-droppingly splendid, this is housed in a 19th-century palace in central Valencia, and offers elegant, minimalist-chic rooms designed by Francesc Rifé. At the other end of the scale, there are modest guest houses, such as Hospedería del Pilar (Plaza del Mercado 19), with clean, simple rooms set in the heart of the old city. There are myriad options in the middle range price bracket too, like Expo Hotel Valencia (Avenida Pío XII 4), with a rooftop pool and views over the old city centre.