The top 10 best things to do and best sights to see in Valencia, Spain. This fascinating city takes you from historic monuments, walls, castles and churches through to the modern city of the future and top-rated attractions such as the Oceanografic aquarium and the Bioparc. Bests things to do in Valencia. Top 10 sights and activities in Valencia. #Valencia

The city of Valencia surprised us with it’s diversity, and delighted us with how compact it was in the center, and easy to find our way around. We spent several days exploring the best sights the city had to offer, getting around mostly on foot and visiting sights old and new. Here are our top 10 things to do in Valencia and the must-see attractions (in no particular order).

Oceanografic Aquarium

Amazing! The Oceanografic aquarium is said to be the largest aquarium in Europe and the second best aquarium in the world. With the longest underwater tunnel in Europe, an underwater restaurant, HUGE tanks of the most amazing fish, a huge sharks and rays tank, tropical fish, lakes and wetlands, a 4D cinema, even whales, dolphins and walruses – you should not miss this all day excursion.

We have a full review including photos and videos in our separate article about the Oceanografic here.

La Lonja – the Silk Exchange

Enjoy an exceptional audio guide to the historic 15th century Silk Exchange building which takes you through the interesting history of both trade and architecture in old Valencia. The audio guide takes you on a tour of the outside of the building so you can learn about the significance of the architecture and the motifs, before heading inside to a shady courtyard filled with orange trees, and then inside to the stunning halls themselves.

A UNESCO World Heritage site. Excellent value at only €2 each for entry plus €5 for two audio guides. Entry is free with the Valencia Tourist Pass.

Serranos Tower

Part of the ancient city defences, building started on the Serranos Tower in 1392. An excellent example of Gothic architecture, and an impressive sight against the modern skyline of Valencia on one side and the ancient city and narrow streets inside the walls.

Climb to the top for stunning views over the city and the Turia park. If you aren’t comfortable with heights, avoid the area around the outside of the towers where part of of the stone floor is replaced with glass and you can see all the way down to the street below!

Entry is €2 each, free on Sunday and holidays.

Central market and street food

The Central Market is foodie and architectural heaven! Designed in 1914, it consists of columns and vaults, ceramics, metalwork and a beautiful glass domed ceiling. With space for 959 stalls, selling everything from wine, to hams, cheese, spices, olives, fish, candies, bread, fruit and vegetables, you can get everything you need here for cooking any gourmet meal.

Open 7:30am to 3pm, Monday to Saturday, entry is of course free, but take money with you – you will undoubtedly be tempted to try and buy many of the high quality wares.

If you aren’t already stuffed by the time you leave, there’s a small but popular stall outside to the right of the entrance which sells excellent snacks. Look out for the chocolate and churros, or try a local speciality – the horchata and fartons.

Valencia Cathedral and Queen’s Square

The cathedral’s facade is packed into one corner of the square

La Plaza de la Reina in the heart of the old town, is the ideal hangout spot in the center of the city, with orange trees, flower beds, souvenir stalls, buskers, street performers and popular bars. Interesting fact – Queen’s Square is Kilometer Zero for the city of Valencia and all of the house numbering starts from that point.

The plaza is dominated by Valencia Cathedral, built on the site of an original Roman temple. Expanded and altered over time, the cathedral is a mix of baroque, romanesque and gothic. There is an audio guided tour available in several languages.

Want to see the Holy Grail? Valencia cathedral claims to have it! In a small side room known as the Chapel of the Chalice, one of the leading claimants for the cup used by Christ at the last supper sits behind glass. Just one of the marvels of this awe-inspiring cathedral.

Be aware that entry to the cathedral is not free, except on Sunday when it is open for worship and services. There is a small area for worship set aside for local residents, but anyone else wishing to enter must pay €8 for the tour.

Malvarosso beach

Or as we like to call it – Marvelloso beach. Right on the edge of the city lies the ocean and the beach. You’ll be there in minutes. Wide and sandy with an excellent wide paved promenade, it’s ideal for young and old alike. Enjoy the activity and play centres, the fitness centres or the volleyball nets, or bike and stroll right alongside the sand.

An interesting selection of eateries and bars are provided for all budgets with plenty of outdoor seating so you can sit, relax and look at the ocean.

Keep walking and you’ll get to one of the smart marinas where you can marvel at the super-yachts. The drive to the beach passes the old harbour sheds. Built in 1910, these modernist sheds are falling into disrepair but still show their splendor with ornate nautical decorations and ceramic tile.

Estimated time for your visit – you can stay all day to soak up the sun.

Plaza Redondo – the round square

Image courtesy of Valencia Tourism Office

Most plazas or squares are, well, square-ish or rectangular. The exception to this is the round square at Plaza Redondo. Built in 1840, the buildings around the square form a perfect circle, with four alleys at ground level and under the upper floors allowing access into the middle. Open to the sunshine at the center, sit at the fountain and enjoy a little peace and quiet here for a few moments.

Surrounded by craft stalls, souvenir stands, and some nice bars and cafes, it’s loved by locals and visitors alike. Read the history and learn about the renovation that took place in 2012 to return the plaza to the glory you see today.

Perhaps join the ladies learning lace-making if you have time, or buy some ready-made lace as a souvenir.

Santa Catalina church and bell tower

Not too far from the cathedral, you’ll notice two towers dominating the skyline of the historic city centre. Both are worth a visit and can be climbed for excellent views if you aren’t too clautrophobic.

The church of Santa Catalina is one of the oldest in the city, but often overlooked due to its proximity to the cathedral. You’ll enjoy the quiet and simplicity, and the coolness of its interior. Pretty stained glass windows bring multicolored streams of sunlight to dance across the walls.

It’s 250 steps up to the top of the tower where you can enjoy panoramic views over the city. Entrance to the church is free, €2 to climb the tower.

City of Arts and Sciences

In stark contrast to the historic center of the city, is the ultra-modern City of Arts and Sciences which looks like it could form the perfect backdrop for any science fiction film about the perfect city of the future. The complex includes:

  • Oceanografic aquarium – recommended above
  • Hemisfèric IMAX cinema with planetarium and laser show
  • Science Museum with rotating displays and interactive exhibits. Free to just wander inside and look around or use the cafe and toilets
  • Palau de les Artes – for operas, concerts and other stage performances
  • Agora – event space. Closed for renovation when we visited.

You can enjoy the lakes, gardens and stunning architecture for free and it’s a great place to take some souvenir photos and selfies. The modern complex is right next to the Turia gardens if you want to enjoy a picnic, or a longer stroll into the older parts of the city.

Visit in the summer to try zorbing on the shallow pools!

Bioparc Zoo

Bioparc is a truly modern zoo with a truly modern approach to the displays where you can actually mingle in with (some of) the animals. Mimicking the natural environments of the animals, the 25-acre zoo feels like it has no boundaries as the enclosures blend into the landscape and flow seemlessly from one to another.

We were astonished how close you can get to the animals, and sometimes even go into the enclosures with them. The lemur exhibit is amazing. We seriously thought we had gone through the wrong door when we found ourselves in their enclosure with the lemurs running and jumping around in there with us. It’s truly mesmerizing.

It is an innovative project, that offers visitors the opportunity to delve into habitats of wilderness, where animals live in social groups of their own kind and coexistence with other compatible species, as occurs in nature.

Our tip to get the most of your visit and make sure you don’t miss anything. Visit the part in an anti-clockwise direction, and keep to the right at every turn and fork, and you’ll find your way naturally through all of the exhibits without getting lost. It’s also worth buying your ticket in advance to skip the queue and save 20-30 minutes at busy times.

Entry costs €23.80 for adults and €18 for children. The park is open everyday from 10:00am. Closing time may vary depending on season. Check out the map given when you enter for the animals feeding times.

Love it or hate it – graffiti

And a bonus 11th item to love or hate about Valencia – graffiti. It’s literally everywhere. Every blank space in Valencia is covered in spray paint. There are areas within the city where graffiti-style art is well worth visiting such as the El Carmen district. These artists with their huge striking murals provide a welcome splash of color, but then there are the usual idiots with a spray can who have no imagination or skill and have to just write their ‘handle’ on everything.

Love it or hate it, you’ll find plenty of graffiti on the streets and buildings of Valencia.

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