Best Things to Do in Valencia, Spain

Looking to explore the East Coast of Spain? Unearth old-world charm and futuristic splendor by exploring the myriad of fun things to do in Valencia. Spain’s third-largest city, Valencia is a mesmerizing blend of Gothic palaces, cutting-edge architecture, and sun-kissed Mediterranean shores. Whether you want to explore the cultural attractions of Ciutat Vella (Old Town) or Santiago Calatrava’s iconic City of Arts and Sciences, supercharge your sightseeing with this quick & easy guide!

What to do in Valencia

Tour the Silk Exchange (La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia)

Plunge into Valencia’s rich history at the majestic Silk Exchange. Known as the La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia in Spanish, the Silk Exchange was constructed between 1482 and 1492 when the city was experiencing the peak of its commercial prosperity. This 15th-century mercantile exchange is a marvel of Gothic architecture and dominates the city’s must-see list.

Old Silk Exchange

Step inside this UNESCO World Heritage Site to meander through the grand Trading Hall. Marvel at the lofty vaulted ceilings hovering above, supported by its characteristic twisted columns. Check out the beautiful chapel on the main floor of the Tower before climbing its spiral staircase to enjoy lovely views over the city.

Elevate your experience by grabbing an audio guide. It’s only a few Euros and will help contextualize the landmark’s deep-rooted significance.

Expect to spend two or three hours at the Silk Exchange, between waiting to get in and taking the full tour. Before leaving, indulge in the tranquillity of the courtyard, adorned with orange trees and a serene fountain.

Walk the cobblestone streets of Ciutat Vella (Old Town)

Dive deep into Valencia’s heartbeat at Ciutat Vella, the historic city center. Also known as Valencia Old Town, Ciutat Vella is home to many of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Navigate its enchanting cobblestone streets, flanked by beautiful historic buildings, to stumble upon churches, museums, lively cafes, restaurants, and bars.

Casco Antiguo Old Town

Start your Ciutat Vella visit at Plaza de la Virgen, an ancient square surrounded by Gothic marvels like the Catedral de Valencia. Peek inside the cathedral to glimpse the purported Holy Grail or ascend the 15th-century Gothic-style Miguelete Tower for a breathtaking city view. Nearby, the Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados flaunts its ornate frescoes and blue-tiled dome and is a must-see for architecture buffs travelling to Valencia.

Meander down to the Central Market, one of the oldest markets in Europe. Let your senses dance amidst the colorful stalls, inhaling the rich aromas of local delicacies. After tasting some delicious food, head across the street from the market to satisfy your cultural cravings at La Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange), a UNESCO World Heritage site, and marvel at its intricate Gothic architecture.

Seek out the hidden stories of the Barrio del Carmen, one of the coolest quarters in Valencia Old Town. The neighborhood is a must-visit, even if you only have one day in Valencia. Every alley in El Carmen has a tale to tell, from the remains of its ancient Arabic walls to contemporary street art. Round off your adventure with some authentic Valencian paella in a tucked-away bistro.

Step into the future at the City of the Arts and Sciences

With ultra-modern buildings and structures, the City of the Arts and Sciences is among the most unique Valencia points of interest. This architectural marvel, designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, offers a stunning contrast to the historic areas of the city, just a short drive away.

Immerse yourself in the oceanic wonders at L’Oceanografic, one of Europe’s largest aquariums. Get up close with over 500 marine species, from playful dolphins and cute penguins to sharks and jellyfish. Let your curiosity guide you to the Hemisfèric. Its planetarium and giant IMAX cinema will transport you to galaxies far away or explore the natural wonders of the planet.

City of Arts and Sciences

If you’re traveling with kids and hungry for knowledge, head to the Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe. The whole family will love playing with hands-on interactive exhibits in the Exploratorium or learning about human DNA at the Chromosome Forest.

Set yourself up for an evening of enchantment by catching one of the avant-garde opera performances at Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia. Before you step into the performing arts center, pull out your camera to snap the perfect photo of the modern buildings reflecting into the pools in the twilight.

Walk through a fairy tale at Gulliver Park in the Jardin del Turia

Need a break from the city bustle? Step into the enchanting world of the Jardín del Turia, a sprawling green ribbon that weaves through Valencia. Also known as the Turia Garden and Jardí del Túria (in Valencian/Catalan), this large public park is one of the city’s highlights. Once a flowing river, this transformed space now invites you to wander through fragrant rose gardens and vibrant playgrounds. 

Gulliver Park

Kick-start your morning at the Jardín del Turia with a refreshing walk on its picturesque paths, or hop onto a bike and meander past contemporary sculptures and lush landscapes. Need a breather? Lay down your picnic blanket and indulge in a tranquil afternoon amidst palm and orange trees.

Traveling to Spain with kids? One of the more interesting features of the garden is Gulliver Park, an homage to Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Gulliver Park includes numerous sculptures, including a 70-metre depiction of Gulliver, washed up on the shore. Kids and adults alike can climb the sculpture through various ramps, stairs, and slides.

Get some culture at Valencia Cathedral

Want to dig into Valencian culture on your vacation? Carve out time to explore Valencia Cathedral, a masterpiece of architectural diversity nestled in the heart of the city. Dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries, this cathedral shows off a stunning blend of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architecture, making it one of the city’s most important tourist destinations.

Valencia Cathedral

Step into the Valencia Cathedral, known as the La Seu de València in Valencian/Catalan, to admire its intricate vaulted ceilings. Drift over to the Capilla del Santo Cáliz and marvel at the cathedral’s most noteworthy attraction: a chalice that’s believed to be the Holy Grail.

Need some active adventure? Climb the 207 steps of the Miguelete Tower. At the top of the tower, step onto the open platform to be greeted by a 360-degree view of Valencia’s skyline. 

Indulge your senses at Central Market (Mercado Central)

Located across from the Silk Exchange, Valencia’s Central Market (Mercado Central) is one of Europe’s oldest, still-running markets. The market covers over 8,000 square meters, with almost a thousand different food stalls and vendors sprinkled around the large building.

Mercado Central Market

Dive into a sensory feast at Mercado Central as you meander through aisles filled with fresh seafood, fruits & vegetables, aromatic spices, and freshly baked bread. Bargain for that perfect chunk of Manchego cheese, or indulge in some salty jamón ibérico. Pull up a seat along the counter at Central Bar, one of the market’s most popular tapas bars. Try local favorites, from fresh seafood to traditional Valencia paella. Sip on a coffee, cocktails, or a pint of beer, and let the ambiance sink in. 

Even if you’re not a foodie at heart, the Central Market is worth a visit to admire its beautiful Valencian-style Art Nouveau architecture. Take time to gawk at the at the beautiful stained glass, mosaics, and ironwork.

Get a tan or stroll the promenade at Malvarrosa Beach

Looking for a sunny escape from the city to the coast? Step onto the golden sands of Malvarrosa Beach. Feel the warm breeze off the Mediterranean Sea as you stroll along the palm-lined promenade at one of the city’s favorite public beaches.

La Malvarrosa Beach

Dive into the sparkling waters at Malvarrosa Beach for a refreshing swim. Or add a little adventure to the mix and try your hand at windsurfing along the waves. If you’re in the mood for a little competition, mingle with the locals and get in on a beach volleyball match.

Built up an appetite? Grab a seat at one of the buzzing chiringuitos (beach bars) or restaurants along the promenade. Treat yourself to delicious paella, a Valencian specialty, and a cocktail while you soak up the panoramic sea views to the gentle lull of waves. When the night falls, experience the beach’s vibrant nightlife at one of its nightclubs or bars, and dance the night away.

Where to stay in Valencia for sightseeing

Want to get the most out of your trip? Choosing where to stay in Valencia will be a big part of the equation. Fortunately, many of the city’s best places to stay are found in the areas in & around the Ciutat Vella (Old Town), where most of the action for travelers unleashes. Start searching for your accommodations with these top-notch hotel suggestions…

  • Hostal Venecia: Located in the main square of Plaza del Ayuntamiento, this budget-friendly hotel offers simple, comfortable rooms that deliver everything you need to make your stay in Valencia shine.
  • Marques House: Occupying a stunning historic building in Old Town, this lovely 4-star hotel sets itself apart with a relaxing minimalist modern style. Upgrade to one of the superior rooms or suites to chill out on the balcony with views over Ciutat Vella.
  • Caro Hotel: It doesn’t get much better than this luxury hotel, situated in a 19th-century palace with Roman Empire roots dating back over two thousand years. The uniqueness of this property is in how seamlessly they’ve integrated the building’s historical elements—from the city’s former city walls to Gothic arches to mosaics—with the hotel’s impeccable contemporary design.

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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