Valencia Travel Guide

Spain  #4 in Best Places to Visit in Spain
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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 Turia 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 Arab nations. The Center City is framed to the north by the Jardí del Túria (Old Turia River Gardens), which fill the channel through which the Turia 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 sights like the Ayuntamiento (Town Council) and the Correos (Main Post Office). The Plaza de la Reina (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 1920s. 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. Top hotels, including the Westin Valencia and Hotel Hospes Palau de la Mar, can also be found in this area.

Sitting on the northeast side of the Jardí del Turia 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 Ciutat de les Arts y les Cièncias. This is the largest cultural center in Europe, housing the Hemisfèric (an enormous IMAX theater), the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía art museum, the Oceanogràfic, Europe's largest aquarium, and the Museu de les Cièncias.

The abundance of public gardens – including the Jardines del Real o Viveros and the Jardines de Monforte – as well as the numerous restaurants, cafes 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 chicest restaurants and night clubs 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, the shores feature soft sands and great azure views. Many recommend walking to the beach from the University Area via Avenida del Puerto in order to stroll by the numerous traditional restaurants and quaint boutiques. You'll also find the seafront is crowded with cafes 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.

The U.S. Department of State recommends exercising increased caution when traveling through Spain due to threats of terrorism. Consider signing up for the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP) to stay up to date on any alerts.

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