Valencia Travel Guide

Spain  #3 in Best Cheap European Vacations
Credit

Courtesy of Sergio Formoso/Getty Images

Valencia Area Map

Neighborhoods

Valencia faces the Mediterranean Sea on the eastern coast of Spain about 220 miles east of Madrid and 220 miles southwest of Barcelona. At 52 square miles, it's the third-largest city in Spain, but Valencia feels almost like a small town. It's contained from the south by the Turía River and the Bulevar Sud, or South Boulevard and to the north by the Avenue de los Hermanos Machado. The city itself can be divided into four distinct areas: the Center City, the University Area, Cánovas and the beaches.

Located in the heart of the city, the Center City is Valencia's historic district, characterized by narrow cobblestone streets and monumental buildings, some of which date back to the days when the city was occupied by the Arab nations. The Center City is framed to the north by the Jardines Viejo Cauce del Turía (Old Turía River Bed Gardens), which fill the channel through which the Turía river used to run. The southern border of the City Center is the rounded avenue Calle de Cristóbal Colón, which separates it from the southern suburbs. Some say this is the best place to begin a sightseeing tour of impressive sites like the Ayuntamiento (Town Council) and the Correos (Main Post Office). The Plaza de la Riena (Queen's Square), located near the heart of the Center City, is home to the massive Valencia Cathedral.

The Center City is also a great place to part with your money. The Mercado Central has been selling fresh food since the 1920's. Across the street from the market is the Silk Exchange (La Lonja de la Seda), operational since 1482. A few blocks northwest of the market, the narrow streets of the Barrio del Carmen are speckled with top-notch restaurants and boutique shops. 

Sitting on the northeast side of the Old Turía River Bed Gardens is the University Area, which branches off from the Universidad de Valencia and extends eastward to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The most famous building in this area is the City of Arts and Sciences, or La Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias. This is the largest cultural center in Europe, housing the Hemisfèric, an enormous IMAX theater, the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia art museum, the Oceanográfico, Europe's largest aquarium, and the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum.

The abundance of public gardens -- including the Jardines del Real o 'Viveros' and the Jardines de Monforte -- as well as the numerous restaurants, cafés and shops, make the University Area a pleasant district to explore during the day. When sunset rolls around, the streets come alive with some of the city's rowdiest nightlife venues.

South of the University Area and southeast of the Center City is the neighborhood of Cánovas, a traditionally residential area reserved for Valencia's bourgeois population. Cánovas has held on to its upscale identity by boasting some of the most chic restaurants and nightclubs in the city. Shopaholics will enjoy roaming through this neighborhood's elegant boutiques or the renowned Corte Inglés department store.

La Albufera National Park is located along Spain's Mediterranean coast, just south of Valencia. Visitors can enjoy a guided boat tour around the park's lake before spending the rest of the day exploring the many trails. The park is accessible from Valencia by both car and bus.

The coast of Valencia is divided into three separate beaches, las Arenas to the south, la Malvarrosa in the middle and Alboraya to the north. Stretching along the eastern side of the city, writers praise the shores soft sands and great azure views. Many recommend walking to the beach from the University Area via Avenida del Puerto, to stroll by the numerous traditional restaurants and quaint boutiques. You'll also find the seafront is littered with cafés and open-air terraces that offer picturesque views of the Mediterranean.

Visitors should relax while in Valencia: Although the city sees its fair share of petty theft, for the most part it's very safe. Guard against any petty theft by keeping an eye on your possessions, especially on the beaches.

You should also exercise common sense at night: Solo travelers should stray from walking through unfamiliar neighborhoods at night, and all should refrain from strolling the Turia gardens after dark.

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