The diverse city of Valencia offers a variety of attractions to entice all types of travellers. If you’re limited to just one day in Valencia, you may struggle to explore everything. It’s a vast city with a lot to see and do, which makes it one of the best destinations in Spain.
In the old city centre, you’ll find the type of ancient architecture, stone streets, and public squares that you expect from a typical European city. But it’s also got a touch of modernism.
In the City of the Arts and Sciences, you can walk past futuristic structures that stand in stark contrast to the more historic buildings in the middle of the city.
Not sure where to begin? Start planning your adventure with this 1-day Valencia itinerary…
Table of Contents
- What to do in Valencia in 24 hours: A complete 1-day itinerary
- Fuel your trip with breakfast at the Central Market
- Take an audio tour through the historic Silk Exchange
- Experience more history and culture at Valencia Cathedral
- Round out historic sights at the Plaza de la Virgen
- Walk through the City of Arts and Sciences complex
- Climb on top of a giant at Gulliver Park
- Get interactive at the Prince Philip Science Museum
- Observe sharks and whales at the Oceanographic
- Take a dip at Malvarrosa Beach
- Where to stay: The best hotels for 24 hours in Valencia
What to do in Valencia in 24 hours: A complete 1-day itinerary
One-day city itineraries can help you explore as much of a destination as you can during your short trip. Make the most of your limited time while still checking out the most popular sites.
With just 24 hours in Valencia, you will need to cover a lot of ground. This itinerary will help you navigate the city to cram more excitement into your vacation.
Luckily, the city is easy to experience on foot. You’ll start in the old district and follow an old riverbed that cuts through the centre of Valencia, making it almost impossible to get lost.
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Fuel your trip with breakfast at the Central Market
If you want to truly explore Valencia in 24 hours, you’ll need to rise early. The Central Market is the perfect spot to start your day, as it’s in the middle of the old city centre and offers plenty of choices for an early meal.
The market opens at seven, and it’s typically busy all day, but if you get there shortly after the doors open, you’ll beat most of the crowd. Take your pick of local fare, including fried dough or fresh fruit.
It’s one of the largest markets in Europe, covering over 8,000 metres and two floors of a massive enclosed building.
The exterior of the building combines Art Nouveau and Gothic elements, while the interior simply looks like a massive, open market filled with hundreds of food stalls and vendors.
Take an audio tour through the historic Silk Exchange
After you’ve filled up, it’s time to learn more about the history of Valencia, starting with a trip to the Silk Exchange. This 15th-century mercantile exchange is a culturally significant landmark in the city.
The exterior of the building looks utilitarian, with its straight lines and minimal decorative elements. The interior is much more elegant, however, featuring marble floors, carved columns, and a completely decorated ceiling.
When you walk into the exchange, you’re immediately overwhelmed with the size of the place. In medieval times, the exchange needed to be a large area to provide a spot for merchants to conduct trade. Even today, when the interior is crowded with tourists, it’s easy to feel small while gazing up at the expansive ceiling.
If you want to explore the history of Valencia, spend a couple of dollars for the guided audio tour. It’s informative and will give you a chance to delve into the past and understand more about the city.
Experience more history and culture at Valencia Cathedral
The next historic site is just a few blocks northeast from the Silk Exchange. In fact, most of the historic sites are within a small area in the middle of the city.
Valencia Cathedral opens at 10 am and becomes busier as the day goes on. After a quick tour of the Silk Exchange, you should arrive just after the start of visiting hours.
Valencia Cathedral is an historic site, much like the cathedrals that you’ll find in just about any old European city, but it has its own unique charm. The façade is quite impressive, thanks to the multi-storey entrance known as the Door of the Irons. The entrance has a large cast iron gate and exquisitely detailed carvings.
The interior features a variety of architectural and design influences, including Gothic and Baroque. The chancel in the cathedral is one of the grandest areas, featuring large stained-glass windows, classic paintings, and golden décor.
Round out historic sights at the Plaza de la Virgen
When you step out of the cathedral, cross the street north of the building to reach the landmark public plaza – Plaza de la Virgen. It’s the last spot to explore in the old district before entering the more futuristic area of the city.
The square is surrounded by historic architecture, including more churches. It’s also surrounded by various eateries and tapas bars. It should be about lunchtime during this stretch of your itinerary. As you walk the public square, find a restaurant or café that isn’t too crowded, and order a quick bite.
You can sit on any of the cement benches or ledges and eat your meal while enjoying the central fountain or watching locals and tourists alike come and go.
Walk through the City of Arts and Sciences complex
After getting your history fix in the old district, you can start walking northeast. Within a few minutes, you’ll reach part of the City of Arts and Sciences.
Cutting through the centre of Valencia, the City of Arts and Sciences complex spans over two kilometres. It’s a collection of futuristic structures and venues that are built along the former riverbed of the River Turia. These buildings are the top attractions in Valencia, as they help frame the city in a different light. Instead of just another European city with old historic buildings, it’s also a forward-looking city with architecture that you can’t find elsewhere.
The river that once ran through the city is now covered in parks and the stunning buildings that comprise the City of Arts and Sciences. The path of greenspace and futuristic structures curves around the northern boundaries of the old city centre and heads east toward the beach.
Follow this path as you check out some of the out-of-this-world buildings, such as the opera house. There are also many public parks between the buildings, which will give you a chance to rest as you work your way to the next destination.
Climb on top of a giant at Gulliver Park
The parks and futuristic buildings that comprise the City of Arts and Sciences eventually lead you to Gulliver Park. It’s hard to miss the 70-metre sculpture of Gulliver as you approach.
The park was built in an area that was renovated after the River Turia flooded Valencia in 1957. After the river was diverted, the old riverbed was covered in parks, including Gulliver Park.
The massive sculpture of Gulliver is the central attraction in the park. You can climb stairs or ramps to get to the top and then take a large slide down to the bottom. While it’s mostly intended for kids, it’s still a lot of fun for adults.
Get interactive at the Prince Philip Science Museum
The path of the riverbed takes you through more parks and futuristic buildings, such as the Prince Philip Science Museum. The exterior of the building, much like many of the other City of Arts and Sciences buildings, looks like it belongs in a science fiction film.
Inside the museum, you’ll find numerous interactive exhibits designed for children and adults. Unfortunately, the exhibits are not open year-round. During slower tourist seasons, you can explore most of the museum in just 30 minutes.
If you arrive at the museum, and there isn’t much to do, you’ll find a lot more excitement at the next stop.
Observe sharks and whales at the Oceanographic
Continuing the same path, you’ll reach the Oceanographic, which is a massive aquarium with over 45,000 marine animals from several hundred different species.
As part of any Spain itinerary, the Oceanographic is a must-see destination. It’s the largest structure of its kind in Europe, taking up over 110,000 square metres and containing over 42,000,000 litres of water.
The species inside the aquarium include various fish, birds, reptiles, sharks, dolphins, penguins, walruses, and even beluga whales. The aquarium contains nine different marine ecosystems housed in different underwater towers.
If it’s not too late in the afternoon, treat yourself to a meal at the underwater restaurant. You get to eat your meal while watching marine life swirl around you.
Take a dip at Malvarrosa Beach
Travelling from one spot to another while trying to see all of Valencia in one day is likely to take its toll on your body. Cool down and relax your muscles with a swim at Malvarrosa Beach.
Even during the busiest seasons, the beach is rarely full of tourists or locals. You should have no problem claiming a spot in the sand for yourself. While the waters and the beach itself are rarely crowded, the adjacent promenade tends to attract people from all over.
When you tire of swimming and feel like calling it a day, wind down with drinks or food at any of the bars or restaurants that line the promenade. Have a few cocktails or order a meal while recounting all of the sites that you explored on your Valencia itinerary.
Where to stay: The best hotels for 24 hours in Valencia
As one of Spain’s biggest cities, choosing where to stay in Valencia isn’t much of a problem. There’s plenty of accommodations inventory here with much of it focused on the main areas of the city centre where you’ll find most of the top attractions.
When you’re crunched for time, the areas in & around Old Town (Ciutat Vella) are your best bet. Get your search started with a few of these top hotels in Valencia:
- Hostal Venecia: Holding a prime location in Valencia’s main square, Plaza del Ayuntamiento, this budget-friendly hotel offers clean & comfortable rooms that won’t break the bank. Several transportation options and some of the top tourist attractions in the city lie within a short walking distance.
- Marques House: This 4-star hotel occupies a beautiful historic building in the heart of Ciutat Vella (Old Town). Rooms are decorated with a minimalist modern style that coaxes relaxation with ease.
- Caro Hotel: Situated in a former 19th-century palace with sections dating back over two millennia, this luxury hotel brilliantly combines modern amenities with the property’s historical prowess. The Michelin-starred on-site restaurant, Sucede, is a huge bonus in staying here.