Valencia is a Mediterranean city with a legacy as rich as Barcelona. Its historic Old Town is a walkable area whose highlights, like the Valencia Cathedral and Quart Towers, you can see on a day trip. With more than 24 hours, there are beaches and paella food tours you can indulge in. And in five days you can do all of the above plus visit can't-miss attractions like the famous aquarium at the City of Arts and Sciences.

Planning Your Stay in Valencia

Most travelers who visit Valencia do so on a pitstop to or from other locales. This makes sense, as Valencia sits in the center of Spain's Mediterranean coast, and it's well serviced by trains to Andalusia, Barcelona, and Madrid. If you are here for a limited time, you'll have no problem seeing the most popular sights on a walking tour. This includes some truly impressive Gothic churches, expansive plazas, and stone defensive towers. 

The history is so rich here because Valencia thrived in the Middle Ages by dealing in goods on the Mediterranean trade routes. In Valencia's case, it was silk, and you can still see its old financial center, the 15th-century Llotja de la Seda palace, in the city center. Beyond the history, though, in this city you'll also find great nightlife, inviting beaches, and regional cuisine second to none. Below you'll find the best of recommendations depending on how much time you have to spend in the city.   

Curious as to what the best time of year is in which to plan your escape to Valencia? Click here for info regarding the best time to visit Spain.

24 Hours in Valencia

Valencia Cathedral, the most impressive church in the city

You've just arrived by bus or train and you're here for a day or less—what do you do? Your best bet for immediate fun is to head north from the Valencia Nord train station by foot into the city center. In 10 minutes you'll be at Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the beating heart of Valencia. Around this central plaza are important municipal buildings like City Hall plus historic landmarks like the aforementioned Llotja de la Seda and the Mercado Central. The latter opened in 1839, which makes it one of the oldest indoor markets in Europe. 

Northwest of Valencia are the narrow streets that comprise the historic center, or Old Town. And old it is, since Valencia was founded over 2,000 years ago around 130 BCE. You'll see this history on the stone streets and in the ancient architecture, particularly in the bell towners and Quart Towers—defensive towers that were built in the 15th century and were instrumental in repelling Napolean's troops in 1808.

Also in the center is Valencia's most famous church, the Valencia Cathedral, which dates to the 13th century. Both the church and the plaza in front of it are as impressive as anything you'll find in Madrid and Barcelona. Regarded as the "Sistine Chapel of Valencia," it's home to the Holy Chalice, which is displayed inside and is, according to historians, one of the most likely candidates to be the true Holy Grail. 

If you're only in town for the evening, stay in the historic center. Not only will you find a great many restaurants here but the best nightlife options are concentrated in this area as well.

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2-3 Days in Valencia

It was Valencia that gave the world paella

With a couple of days (or even three) to spare, you can relax without running from city sight to city sight. With some more time, you could even plan a family vacation in which you spend three days in Valencia with stops in Madrid and Barcelona to tour the highlights.

Whatever you decide, upon arrival in Valencia, you'll definitely want to tour the historic landmarks. If you're in town at noon on Thursday, head to the Door of the Apostles in the Plaza de la Virgen. Here you'll get to witness something truly special: the Tribunal de Las Aguas. This tribunal dates back over a thousand years and is comprised of eight local farmers who wear black robes and sit in a circle in public, deciding on solutions to irrigation issues in the huerta (fields outside the city). 

Then there's the cuisine of Valencia. This city is the birthplace of arguably Spain's most famous dish: paella. And Valencia is the place you want to eat it, as many of the best paella restaurants employ chefs who have been cooking this dish for decades. Oftentimes they're even working from recipes passed down through generations in their family. It's a close race as to which restaurant serves the best, but you'll never go wrong with local-approved Alqueria del Pou.

4-5 Days in Valencia

The City of Arts and Sciences, in Valencia

With four to five days you can really enjoy the city. After seeing the sights, spend a day or two lazing on Valencia's wide and inviting beaches. The city's efficient metro train will take you to the La Marina station, which allows easy access to the many sections of the beach, like Playa de la Malvarossa. And trust us, if you're traveling to this city any time during the summer, you'll want to beat the oppressive Mediterranean heat with a dip in the water. 

You can also enjoy a refresher by imbibing in one of the area's regional beverages. These include horchata (a sweet drink made from tiger nuts), and agua de Valencia (a champagne/orange-juice/vodka cocktail reminiscent of a mimosa.

On day two or three you could venture beyond the beaches and historic sights for something more modern. Many people don't know that Valencia is home to one of the most imaginative and forward-thinking complexes not just in Spain but in the entire world: the City of Arts and Sciences. This six-section, 87,000-square-meter area is comprised of an interactive science museum, opera house, planetarium, and the Oceanogràfic, Europe's largest aquarium. It's a great place to take the entire family.

Another idea is to combine a four-day trip to Valencia with a Barcelona vacation. The two cities are only three hours apart by rail, and the journey north along the stunning Mediterannean coast is one of the most beautiful train rides in the world.