Tag Archives: Valencia

Why visit Valencia instead of Barcelona in Spain

2019-06-19

Valencia Cathedral, Spain, Europe
Overtourism (too many tourists in the same place at the same time – crowds so large that they negatively affect the daily life of residents) is a serious problem in the world’s most popular travel destinations. Particularly legendary European cities and ancient towns are planning ways to restrict the number of visitors. The New York Times has identified six different types of tourist destinations in Europe that are dealing with too many visitors, but The Times has also identified six perfect alternative destinations.

One of the New York Times’ recommendations is to visit Valencia instead of Barcelona.

Barcelona in northeast Spain (Catalonia Province) is a fabulous city destination, but it also one of the top three cities with high crime rate in Spain, and many residents are fed up with tourists (and some of them show it).

The ancient city of Valencia is located 350 km / 217 miles south of Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast. After Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia is Spain’s third largest city.

The atmosphere and cityscape in Valencia differs from Barcelona. Valencia is more relaxed. People on the streets and staff at hotels and restaurants have time to chat. Yes, even with tourists who can’t Spanish, or only know a few words. It is still a friendly city to visitors.

Valencia has slowly developed from the center outwards during thousands of years. Buildings and monuments from every era can be explored. Even the ultramodern wonder of architecture The City Arts and Sciences fits in to this long development.
a plaza in the old city center of Valencia, Spain
In addition to claiming to be the home of paella dish, Valencia’s authorities and residents believe the real Holy Grail is in their hands. Not literally, but safely stored in the Cathedral Museum where it can be seen.

The climate is pleasant around the year in Valencia, making it excellent choice for a city break any time of year. Well, if you don’t like very humid and warm weather, avoid the city in July and August.

Even though The New York Times assures that there are not many tourists in Valencia, my experience is that tourists have discovered the city. It is far from overcrowded, though. In fact, there might be just about the right volume of visitors because it ensures the fantastic selection of hotels, restaurants and bars in the city. The key sights – ancient city center, the city of arts and sciences, and the beaches – are large, so that there is enough space for everyone.
cover image for travel guidebook Valencia, Spain
Read more about Valencia in the recently published travel guidebook that shows you around the city and highlights the best sights, walking tours, local food and drink, historical places, beaches and nearby places worth visiting.

The other destinations The New York Times recommends in Europe if you want to avoid the crowds are:

Instead of:
– Amsterdam, try Delft and The Hague
– Prague, visit Olomouc
– Dubrovnik, go to Kotor
– Florence, visit Lucca
– Santorini, find a boat to Tinos

Easter Week is party time in Valencia, Spain, but visitors enjoy unique sights of the city as well

2019-04-10

In Spain, every city and village has its own festivities that are unique to the community. A number of these fiestas have long traditions, whereas others, like the Tomatina near Valencia in Bunol is a recent innovation. In addition to gazillion of local fiestas, national holidays are celebrated in Spain as well. If you want to experience a genuine Spanish fiesta, and visit the best sights of Valencia, here are a few tips.
easter cavalcade through a city center in Spain

Three massive festivities in Valencia

Epiphany is celebrated on the 5th and 6th of January. As a festivity and carnival, this is much bigger than Christmas or New Year’s Eve. Every town and city organizes one or multiple cavalcades in the town center. The leading theme is the Three Wise Men who bring gifts to children. For adults, it is another perfect excuse to go out and get a table at a restaurant or bar.

Fallas is a unique festival for Valencia. The entire fiesta lasts about three weeks, but the key events in mid-March that end the celebrations draw the biggest crowds. Fallas has become a popular event that Spanish people outside Valencia want to experience, together with plenty of foreign tourists.

In some countries, people can have one extra day of holiday because of Easter, but in Spain the minimum Easter holiday is one week. The entire population of the country is on the move. Every town with any self-respect organizes big cavalcades, Masses, and other events. A reason why the Easter is Spain’s biggest national holiday is that it often coincides with warm spring weather. Beach resorts can be fully booked.

Travel guide to Valencia shows all the events, sights, places, and attractions of the city. It also covers cultural tips, key things about food and drink, and nearby towns and sights.
Valencia town hall with christmas lights

Three unique sights in Valencia, Spain

Even during a fiesta in Valencia, there is time to party, and time to do something else. The city is relatively easy to explore by foot, by bicycle, and by occasionally using the underground (metro) network. Here are three unique must-see sights in Valencia.

Old Town, the city center of Valencia, is a large and busy district with magnificent old buildings and monuments. It is not an outdoor museum, but Valencians live and work there. However, since locals like to spend plenty of time at their favorite restaurants and bars, there is an astronomical number of places to eat and drink in the city. Considering sights, La Lonja, Mercado Central, Catedral, and Plaza de la Virgen attract most visitors.

Turia Park is a green district that stretches a long way around the city center. The park is so large that there is space for everyone – well, weekends can be crowded. How is it possible that many kilometers/miles long park is located in the heart of an ancient European city? The park is built on the river banks of Turia River. The river used to flood the city so badly that finally, in the 1950s, it was diverted to flow around the city straight to the Mediterranean Sea.

The City of Arts and Sciences
The City of Arts and Sciences is a district in Valencia where modern architecture shines under the Southern European sun. It is place where a science museum, sea world, high-tech movie theater, concert hall and other institutions are open to visitors. Also, elements of parkland and water are cleverly applied to complement the ultramodern buildings.
the city of arts and sciences, sample page from book Valencia, Spain
The Valencia travel guidebook is available at all major online bookstores, for instance: Amazon.com, Google Play Books, and Kobo.

Valencia hosts the biggest spring carnival in Spain: Fallas fiesta

2019-03-05

Fallas carnival in Valencia, Spain, is considered such an important tradition that it has become a Unesco World Heritage event (Intangible Cultural Heritage). Party-goers, however, don’t have time to think about Unesco because there are so many happenings in the ancient city center – and if there are no organized events, local people make something up.

Plaza de la Virgen in Valencia during Fallas fiesta

The highlights of the loud, three week long fiesta are fireworks (every day at least once), unofficial street performances by local people, and giant sculptures that roam the streets in the city center until they are burned. A travel guide to Valencia, Spain, covers the fiestas, sights, attractions, food and other essentials of the city.

The events are fun, but perhaps the most interesting thing for a visitor is to explore the alleys and streets of the old city center. It is filled with restaurants and bars, and during Fallas, business is good all day and all of the night.

Every day in the afternoon a massive amount of firecrackers and fireworks are blown into air in the town hall square. The result is plenty of noise and a thick wall of smoke that covers the entire plaza. Yet, it is a popular event. Fortunately, fireworks are organized in evenings as well when it is possible to actually see the lights.
crowds at Plaza de Ayuntamiento during Fallas carnival in Valencia
Giant sculptures appear on the streets in city center on the 16th of March until they are burned on the 19th. The big-headed puppets represent politicians, artists, celebrities or a nasty neighbor.

The main events of Fallas take place from March 15th to 19th, but the festivities start at the end of February. The full program is available here.

The hotels can be packed during Fallas, so reservations have to be made early, or alternatively, consider finding a room in the outskirts of the city. The Metro (underground) network is fairly new and covers a large area (even the city’s main beaches). In the city center, loud street parties can go on all night which may not please everyone. Public transportation, cycling or walking are the recommended transport methods.

The origins of Valencia’s Fallas parties are fires that craftsmen used to burn outside their workshops hundreds of years ago. To feed the fire, they threw in chips of wood along with junk collected from the neighborhood. When rags and a hat were added to the object to be burned, the Ninot figure (giant puppet) was born.

Find out more about the travel guide to Valencia, Spain, here.
an excerpt from travel guidebook Valencia, Spain

Travel guide to the city of contrasts: Valencia, Spain

2019-01-13

As long as Spanish people living in inland regions have had the means to travel somewhere warm, Valencia has been one of the most popular destinations. Over the years, Americans, tourists from other Europeans countries and recently also Asians have discovered Valencia’s charm. Some travelers arrive in Valencia for the historic city, others for the ultra-modern City of Arts and Sciences, others for the beaches, whereas some people want to join a genuine Spanish fiesta. Here is a travel guide to the city of Valencia that shows you where to visit, and what to do in this lively city.

cover image of book: Valencia, Spain

Valencia is often regarded as the home of paella (a rice dish) and also the place where the Holy Grail is on display (in the Cathedral). They are only two of the curiosities that can be easily found in the city.

Batman fans know that Gotham City refers to New York City. Yet, there are very few – if any – signs or symbols of bats in New York City. There is, however, a city in Europe where bat is the key symbol: Valencia, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. When exploring Valencia, look closely, and you’ll find bat symbols on the facades of buildings, towers, and even on the streets.
bat symbol in Valencia, Spain, Europe
Valencia, Spain – The Key Sights, Places, and Events covers the information a visitor needs on a city break, or during a vacation when there is enough time to explore also sights outside the city.

Spanish culture and customs are slightly different to the rest of Europe. The Iberian Peninsula was ruled by Arabs for five centuries, after all, and the long dictatorship of Franco ended only in 1975. The travel guide highlights the elements of the Spanish culture that travelers are likely encounter.
Plaza de la Virgen in Valencia, Spain, Europe
If you are already thinking what would be the best time to visit, here are a few tips. Summer months tend to be quite warm and very humid, which is why people escape to the beach or to the mountains in summer. If you want to join the biggest fiesta you have ever seen, the Fallas in March is your choice. Every weekend around the year is party time in the old city center, and every day is an exciting day in the City of Arts and Sciences. For outdoor activities, or exploring the city on foot or by bicycle, autumn, winter and spring are perfect seasons.

The Valencia, Spain travel guide book is available for download in all major online bookstores, for instance: Amazon.com, Google Play Books, and Kobo.

Valencia, Spain: city of arts and sciences
a main street in the city street leads to Plaza de la Reina in Valencia, Espana
All photos from the Klaava Travel Guide Valencia, Spain.

The Spanish way of celebrating Christmas: a night out in Valencia

2018-12-20

In the Western world, Christmas traditions are similar in many countries: presents, Santa Claus, colorful lights, reindeer, Christmas tree, and songs about a peaceful celebration of the darkest time of the year in the northern hemisphere. In Spain, Christmas is not necessarily the number one festivity of the year. Here is how people in the city of Valencia celebrate it.
ice-skating at town hall square in Valencia, Spain, Europe
Valencia is Spain’s third largest city with more than a million inhabitants in the metropolitan area. The origins of the city are in the era of the Roman Empire that settled military personnel on the banks of the Turia River. Even though Valencia is increasingly attracting tourists from across the world, it remains a genuine Spanish city. It has its unique culture, traditions, and big fiestas, like Fallas (in March) and Los Reyes Magos (in January).
Valencia town hall with christmas lights
You can find out more about the fiestas of Valencia in Klaava Travel Guide to Valencia, Spain. The top sights, attractions, and cultural tips are introduced in the guidebook as well.

Although Christmas is not the flashiest and loudest fiesta in Valencia (or in Spain), it is a perfect excuse to go out and spend a night out in the city center.

Shops and department stores are open late, swarming with customers. Cafes and restaurants are so busy that queues may form outside the most popular ones. If the world’s biggest lottery El Gordo hasn’t been announced yet, people queue to the kiosks that sell lottery tickets.
A popular cafe serves traditional Horchata drink
Traditional herbal shop in Valencia at Carrer de la Pau.
In Valencia, two destinations attract the biggest crowds: Plaza de la Reina and Plaza de Ayuntamiento.

The famous Cathedral of Valencia stands at the north end of the Plaza de la Reina, and that’s where the traditional Nativity Scene is set up. These Nativity Scenes are constructed every Christmas in every city, town and village.

Plaza de Ayuntamiento is a large Town Hall Square that has plenty of action during Christmas. The Town Hall and many other buildings have been lit up, as well as the fountain. Something that you probably don’t expect to find on the sunny Mediterranean coast of Spain – an ice-skating rink – has been built on the square. Courageously, Valencians test themselves on the ice as others cheer skaters on from the sides.

Some places in the old city center of Valencia can be crowded during the evenings and nights of Christmas, but there is always a seat and a table in a restaurant or bar a short walk away from the busiest areas.

travel guide to Valencia, Spain, South Europe

Top 5 must-see historical places in the city of contrasts: Valencia, Spain

2018-10-27

Our travel guidebook author has explored the ins and outs of the city of Valencia in Spain, and this is his conclusion: Valencia is a city of contrasts, an exciting destination even for travelers who think they have seen it all. The ancient city center with majestic buildings and ancient shops and bars is simply remarkable. A fifteen minute walk away from the old town, the ultra-modern City of Arts and Sciences drops the jaw of any globetrotter. These are the five top sights in the historical city center of Valencia in Spain.

The top 5 sights have been extracted from the travel guidebook Valencia, Spain – The Key Sights, Places and Events (published in Klaava Travel Guide book series). The text has been edited for this blog post.

Plaza de la Virgen

Plaza de la Virgen in the old town of Valencia, Spain, Europe
Plaza de la Virgen is a home for a number of key buildings in the city. It is not a coincidence, because the plaza is the former center of the city. The town hall used to stand at the west side of the plaza. During the Roman era, the square was a Roman Forum, a central place in the city.

The key historical buildings around the square are:

Basilica Virgen de los Desamparados
Cathedral
Palau de la Generalitat
The fountain at the square is a new work of art, revealed in 1976.

Plaza de la Virgen is a meeting place for Valencians, a central place for many fiestas and one of the sights that attracts plenty of tourists who like to snap selfies in front of the fountain.

La Lonja

La Lonja, Valencia, Spain
The original purpose of La Lonja building (opened in 1533) was trading. It may not sound like an exciting, soul-stirring experience, but judge after you have seen it yourself. Nevertheless, La Lonja was built for merchants who arrived in Valencia to negotiate about silk produced in the region. The city wanted to impress merchants, and invested in the architecture of the building.

Pere Compte and Joan Ibarra were the architects who conducted the work for 50 years. Today, La Lonja is a Unesco World Heritage site.

Barrio del Carmen neighborhood

Barrio del Carme, Valencia in South Europe, Spain
Barrio del Carmen is the oldest district of Valencia where many buildings are so old that they can’t stand straight anymore. This part of the city used to stand on an island in Turia River. As the city expanded south, the south side of the island was connected to the mainland. The entire river was diverted away from the city center in 1956.

The Carmen neighborhood shows its age in many ways. Houses are small, many of them are worn down, and alleys are more narrow than in other parts of the city. Near Plaza del Tossal, a number of restaurants and bars keep the nearby streets busy all day and night.

Plaza de Ayuntamiento

Plaza de Ayuntamiento in Valencia on the Mediterranean coast
The buildings around the Town Hall Square are big, tall and decorated around the largest square in central Valencia.

It wasn’t always like that. Until late 19th century, Convento de San Francisco, a monastery, covered the space that is today the Town Hall Square. The city wanted to move the town hall to a more spacious place away from Plaza de la Virgen, and when the monastery couldn’t maintain its property anymore, it was demolished. The new central square of Valencia was established, and the Town Hall moved to a large school building overlooking the plaza.

Facades of many other beautiful buildings line the square, like

Correos (Post Office),
Ateneo Mercantil and
Teatro Rialto.

Plaza de Ayuntamiento is also a central place of many big fiesta events, such as Fallas.

Torres de Serranos: medieval towers and gate to the city

Torres de Serranos during Fallas fiesta party event
Valencia has had fortified walls around it three times during its long history. Only two gates have survived the third wall: Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart. In addition to being watchtowers, they are also gates where entrance to the city was controlled.

For tourists, Torres de Serranos is the primary destination because it is located near Plaza de la Virgen and the Cathedral.
The massive towers were built in 1392-1398. It is possible to ascend to the tower to see the city from a bird’s view, but even taller towers that let you see over the roofs of the city are, for instance, in Santa Catalina Church and in the Ateneo building.

More about the travel guide Valencia, Spain here download ebook travel guide to Valencia, Spain