Updated January 2020
We’ve experienced so many new and wonderful things since moving to Valencia, I thought I would begin to make sense of it all in a ‘The Best of…’ section. Easy to pull out by category and hopefully provide some quick tips, whether visiting Spain (Valencia in particular) or moving here.
There are so many fiestas or festivals throughout the year. Many surrounded around Saints days and are part of the traditional church calendar. While others are purely cultural and unique to the Valencia Communidad region.
Three Kings is January 6th and is the defining celebration for the Holiday Season. Easter week (Semana Santa) is a big holiday with processions in Cabanyal celebrating Jesus’s march to crucifixion. And Corpus Christi, 60 days after Easter, is celebrated as the day children take their first communion. This is a day of huge parades throughout the city and performances by children traditionally dressed.
Moors and Christian’s parades are held in every town in Valencia throughout the summer and are not to be missed. The costumes are planned and worked on throughout the year. Judges will determine the winners and it’s an honor to win for your side.
But its not until Fallas in March that the fiesta season in is full swing.
Fallas is the celebration of the coming of Spring. Valencia has been a community of artisans going back centuries. The varying guilds throughout the city represent those in the trades whose workshops or Tallers could be found on every block. The smocks of these groups are still worn today.
Over the winters, these tradesmen spend their time working on commissions for furniture and the like. They built models for sculpture and practiced their crafts. On the first day of Spring they brought all of their discarded models into the streets and piled them up to be burned. And Fallas was born!
Fallas is the festival of fire and while the main part of the event takes place the week running up to March 21st, the entire month of March is littered with celebrations, including fireworks and miscletas. Miscletas are fireworks made in the workshops of Valencia. You can study pyrotechnics at the local university.
Each neighborhood has its own Fallas fraternal organization and people from young to old work all year to raise money, design and build their Falla for the celebration. And each group nominates a Fallera and Fallero to represent their neighborhood. And a junior Fallera and Fallero. They wear traditional dress and it’s a huge honor to represent your group. The dresses run into the thousands of Euros and you can see the various tailors around town who sew and supply fabric and all the accessories for the costumes.
Once a Fallera, always a Fallera. The old woman who lives below us was in the elevator in her full regalia. She looked as proud as I have ever seen her as we ooh’d and ahh’s over her dress.
The Effigy’s (Minots) are epic and each neighborhood does a large and also and infantil for children. Some of the best are display throughout the year in the Fallas museum. Each year has a theme and usually there is a political element. But inevitably they will mock the tax man, the prime minister and the mayor – no matter what!
Plan your visit for Fallas well in advance. Hotels fill up and the city will be mobbed.
Valencia has a multitude of attractions. Some historical and some created in this century. For me, it’s the architecture that tells the real story of history here. Just walking the streets of the old city can keep me occupied for an entire day. But there are plenty of other things to do for just a day’s visit from a cruise ship. Or if you’re here for a week or more. So I decided to list my ideal itineraries for friends and family that visit. This includes things to see in the city and a bit further afield.
One Day In Valencia
If you’ve never visited Valencia before, the first thing you might check out is the calendar of events. If you’re visiting during a fiesta or on a regional or national holiday, that will alter what you might focus on. But the following is a list of where I would focus if you only have one day – boots on the ground. It looks like a lot but it’s totally doable. And next time you’ll be ready to tackle the rest of what Valencia has to offer.
- Start in the City of Arts and Sciences (Cuidad de les Artes y les Ciences). Beginning your day here will allow you to see all the amazing architecture of the Natural History Museum and the Opera House – along with the gorgeous blue reflecting pools that make the buildings pop against the blue Valencian sky. This will also lead to the next item on the list.
- Walk the Turia. This is the park that used to be the river – before they moved it after epic flooding that devastated the city in the 1950’s. The Turia is where everyone in Valencia walks, runs, bikes and plays one sport or another. And it’s chock full of things to see and do. If you have kids, Gulliver is there for them to climb upon. If you’re up for renting a bike you can find rentals there too. Many of the fiestas utilize the Turia near Alameda and the Pont de les Flors to add carnival rides or music.
- Continue up the Turia to Pont dels Serrans and look up. You’ll see the Torres de Serrano – the last gate where you can actually go up and see what James the 1st saw when he was defeating the Moors for the final time. OK. Maybe not, since the view has changed a bit but for 2 euros (cash only please) you can go up to the top and the 360 degree views are excellent.
- Leaving here you can take a slight detour to our favorite ceramic tile painter. He’s not on any map (google or otherwise), and he’s a bit hit and miss when he’s open, but his shop is very near Torres de Serrano at the corner of Carrer de Roteros and Carrer de les Roques. Wonderful gifts or keepsakes are individually painted and lovely. And he’ll give you the history of his designs for free.
- Then head down to the Place de la Virgin. It’s the plaza in front of the Cathedral and the heart of all Valencian fiestas. But it is also home to the Tribunal de las Aquas and if you’re there at noon on a Thursday you can watch the spectacle of the oldest judicial body in Europe decide water disputes for the entire Valencian Communidad. Yes, there’s a blog about it here to learn more: https://vivaespanamovingtospain.com/2018/05/03/tribunal-de-las-aguas/
- Next, you want to hit up the Mercat Central. It’s the largest Public Market in Valencia and is a must see. I buy all my spices here and anything you want in the culinary world you can find it there.
- At this point you’ll have some choices to make. Do you want to see the main Cathedral – where all the other tourists are? Or do you want to see St Nicholas’ church? It’s not called the Sistine Chapel of Valencia for nothing. It is said that if you are a true believer in need of something you can leave your home in silence for the first three Mondays of the month and make your way to pray at St. Nicholas church. After that you just wait for it to rain down on you with all you desire. I’m not sure if any of this works but the church is one of a kind and a true wonder of the world.
- Finally, if you’re not tired yet then you’re more energetic and younger than we are. To round out our day in central Valencia we like to head to the top of El Corte Ingles at Colon and go up to their roof top restaurant. Now, I’m not a fan of department store dining but the views from the deck are not to be missed looking back over the old city where you just spent the majority of your day. Even on a cold winters day it’s fun to sit outside wrapped in your warm coat and watching the weather come in from the west.
If you’re heading back to your cruise ship, Panorama restaurant is on the dock and might also be a good way to wind down after a long day of sight seeing. In the shoulder seasons, before June and starting in September, you’ll be able to get a table on the deck in the sun. It’s a good place to get your last glimpse of Valencia and it will leave you wanting more.
First of all, let me say that we are not Foodies. I don’t take photos of my food on Instagram or FB – since I’m not on either anymore. Although when my friends do it I find my mouth sometimes actually waters. Jeff is a meat, potatoes, hamburger and pizza guy. The only reason he ever eats anything else is because I make it, or the reservations.
So moving to another country has been stretching his notion of what he will acceptably eat to the fullest extent. But, almost daily, he strikes out with me into the abyss. Sometimes its a big miss. But others have been surprising, even to him. The following are some of the best restaurants, gastro bars and watering holes we’ve encountered along the way, for culinary peasants like us. I’ll be updating them regularly. Perhaps I’ll have to start taking photos of my food.
- Best Indian Food – Swagat – Indian right off Grand Via on Salamanca – It’s authentic and the dishes are just the right size. The food is traditional tandoori and vegetarian dishes. I love the Murg Pakora and the Meat Samosas, but maybe just order the Swagat Platter and get a variety on the first time out. We try to go there once a week but it’s a little far away – worth the 25 minute walk from our house – or quick metro ride.
- Best Tapas – Birlibirloque Bar – Spanish Gastro bar near the Cathedral– We found this place when it was threatening to rain and it was lunch time. We saw it and ran in as drops had begun to become monsoon. It’s small and the furnishings are IKEA. We sat down and they presented us with the menu for tapas. Usually, tapas isn’t for us. It can mean sardines on toast with some sauce or something else neither of us are interested in. This menu was a little different and the tuna tacos were heavenly. I ordered 3. We had good wine/beer and then some of the pork rib mini-sandwiches and small bite-sized burgers with caramelized onions and a sauce that melted in the mouth. Finally, the triple chocolate desert of chocolate gelato, brownie and a strange chocolate mousse with caramelized sugar skewers sprinkled with local sea salt that was so good we both moaned when we ate it. If I could marry a meal, it would be the one we had on this rainy day. But I’d rather live in sin with it forever. Go here – eat – and tell me what you think.
- Gelato Amuri – Heladeria (Ice cream) near the Mercat Central– In our family, ice cream matters. And we will walk a looong way if the ice cream is good. Gelato Amuri is good ice cream. Wait! No, it’s great ice cream. It’s about a 15 minute walk from home. The ice cream is good but the people who run it are even better. And they give samples. On a cold winter Friday night when we were out for a stroll before Christmas they were serving Hot Chocolate. And it was to die for. You can find them here: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Gelato+Amuriemail@example.com,-0.3791981,20.58z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0xd604ff77788c377:0x9466d75732b73172!8m2!3d39.4746843!4d-0.3790525
- Leila – Moroccan food on Salamanca near Swagat – Authentic Moraccan food cooked in the tangine oven. If you’ve never had food cooked in a North Africann tangine oven you’ve missed one of the great culinary experiences in life. I like the chicken with the vegetables and spices. Just the smells make your stomach growl. The staff are nice and the perfectly spiced food is to die for. You can literally order anything on the menu at Leila and it will be delicious.
- Beach Coffee – La Mas Bonita – We also like this place for our morning coffee before we walk on the beach or right after. It’s on the other side of the river that separates Valencia’s Malvarossa Beach from Alboraya’s Patacona, and it’s quiet. The smoothies and detox fresh squeezed juices are excellent. And the coffee is good but you’ll pay extra for the pleasure of looking at the Med while you drink it or sit in the cool of their courtyard on a hot summer day. A very small price to pay. For afternoon coffee? Now that will depend greatly on where you find yourself at lunch or late afternoon, needing a pick-me-up. Then all bets are off.
- Beach Eats – Torreta – Just damn good food on Patacona – We discovered Torreta by mistake. We tried to eat somewhere else but they were rude. So we saw Torreta and wandered in. What a heavenly mistake. Their ratatouille is perhaps the best I’ve ever had. And the pork cheek with vegatables, in a red wine reduction over root vegetable puree is like a massage for your mouth. When I cut into the pork cheek it fell apart. I could have eaten it with a dull baby spoon. We watched others order desserts that looked divine. The staff is nice and very, very attentive. We are going back for our Anniversary to enjoy more of their wonderful menu. Totally unpretentious but not your typical ‘Beachy’ atmosphere. Great food and good views of the Med. What more can you ask for and this time we’ll be ordering dessert!
- Best Pizza – Bajo Flores ~ Pizaa a la Piedra – Old Benimachlet – We stumbled on this place. Literally, stumbled after wandering around looking for food. Nothing was satisfying and we just kept walking. We smelled it before we knew the place was there. They bake the pies in a ceramic pizza oven. The air tasted like heaven. My mouth watered. Emilie proclaimed it in her top pizza’s of all time. The pie was huge. Jeff had the lasagna and said it was good enough to send me out to get him more on a cold night. I had the Capresse salad meant for a table of 4 and ate the whole thing. The owner is a very cool guy in grey dreadlocks who was more than welcoming. Now we have our Pizza/Italian place. Whew!
- Best Burger – Asier’s Burger Route – American Burgers at the trams stop at Playa de Malvarrosa (Malvarrosa Beach) – This is our new favorite. It’s all about motorcycles, and it’s plywood interior is authentically American. You can go gourmet or a little more upscale on your burger. I chose the Gorganzola, spinach, pear burger. And here’s the best part – on a gluten free bun! Yum. The first real ground meat that tasted like home and was cooked on a real bbq grill. And the fries are straight from home with real ketchup. If you find yourself a homesick American, head to Asier’s.
- Best Place to Watch Sports – Portland Ale House – American Burgers on Salamanca off Gran Via – It’s a Portland-Style pub, as in Portland, Oregon in the US. It’s funky and packed to the rafters with all things Portland and Oregon, really. The pictures on the wall show Cannon Beach, where we used to vacation as a kid. The college memorabilia is hanging on the walls and the local soccer team is well represented. There is more than one street sign from my old stomping grounds in college. But while the trip down memory lane is fun, the burgers and fries are the read deal. These are Jeff approved since he’s the burger guy in our family. On a day when you just need to watch a sports game from back home in a place that looks familiar, the Portland Ale House if for you.
Best Chinese Hot Pot – Bar Caribe – I love good Chinese food and it had been thin on the ground until I met someone from Hong Kong who took me to Bar Caribe in the Chinese food area (that’s what I call it) of Valencia – Arrancapins. Just last week I went there with friends to enjoy Hot Pot. And boy was it YUMMY! You grill and cook the hot pot at your table after selecting from the many coolers with all the fresh ingredients. Then adding in the bowls and bowls of spices. Its 21 euros – all in and I left feeling ready for a nap!
Saigon Saigon – (Benimachlet) Asian with a Vietnamese Focus – We’re always on the look out for new food choices. Saigon Saigon open very recently and we are hooked! They serve a selection of Asian dishes from Vietnamese to Thai and some traditional Chinese dishes. Emilie will be in heaven when she gets here in May. I was so busy eating my Pad Thai (sin huevos) I didn’t take any photos. But it was just that good. Next time!
You can’t live in Spain and not LOVE olive oil and olives. First of all, if you drink in any bar, they will plunk down a bowl of olives in front of you to snack on. And in about 75% of the restaurants, you’ll have them placed on the table while you’re waiting for your meal, sometimes in place of bread.
Spain is the largest olive producer in the world and thus the largest olive oil producer. Its crazy cheap. I mean – really crazy. Wesson oil in the grocery store in the US costs about the same. We’ve gone on tours of some of the groves and met some of the people who make the oil (or just press what nature gave them) and we’ve developed our favorites. Pro tip: don’t buy your olive oil in a grocery store. Buy it from the grower – like wine. Get to know them and get access to their reserva. Its well worth it. Your afternoon ritual of dipping toastada in this heavenly, extra virgin nectar will thank you. And so will your taste buds and you will be rewarded. We do this ever afternoon and we’re starting to be able to tell the subtle differences between the types of olives, the age of trees and the presses. Here are our favorites.
- Mirall de la Terra – Chozas Carrascal – This is oil from the plateau southwest of Valencia, about 60 miles away. They cold press their olives from the 240 acres of groves that surround their winery. It’s a smooth oil and the finish at the taste isn’t acidic. The color is a rich green on the plate – I hadn’t seen this before. I can eat it every day, but I try to alternate so I don’t run out. A trek out there isn’t a quick undertaking but I’ll do it when I run out.
- Gota de Oro – San Mateu – The groves from this small farm to the Northwest of Valencia contain millennium trees. That is, trees that are over a thousand years old. They are very interesting as they store their own water in burl-like bulbs on their trunks, guarding themselves against the olive tree’s biggest enemy – drought. Gota de Oro produces two types of olive oil:
- Farga – This is the very trees producing the oil. Farga oil is thought to have almost magical properties and the trees are rare. It’s believed that they were brought to Spain from the Holy Land over a thousand years ago. Growing Farga trees is hard, apparently. They haven’t had luck in growing new ones, so the old trees are just that much more valuable. The oil is smooth going in, but it has more of a bite on the back end. Like a bit of pepper. Not bad but you notice it.
- Fruita – It’s more of an easy-to-eat oil. It actually has a fruity taste – almost sweet and means that you can eat more of it without thinking. Very dangerous. Fruita is made from much younger trees – but is still from the first gold press. No grocery store quality here. Just smooth, yummy light oil that goes down easy. Great for salads too.
NEW! Jeff is now obsessed with olive oil. Every day he eats it with toast and olives in the afternoon. So we’ve begun an olive oil journal – much like we did with wine back in the US. When I have sufficient data collected I will post the results here. It’s been fun hearing his take on each oil and how they differ from each other in tang, bitterness, sweetness and weight. For a guy who has historically not cared about the food he consumed his palette is evolving. He’ll let me know when he has something to share.
We live in the city. Yes, we have Jeff’s motorcycle and we live near a Metro and Tram stop but sometimes you don’t feel like going out and you just want someone to bring it to you. Here in Valencia, this is an easy fix.
Most traditional fast food chains, your McDonalds and Burger Kings want you to initiate ‘en casa’ delivery. They seem to prefer it judging by all the ads on TV and the innumerable scooters parked outside them with the ‘En Casa’ signs festooning the boxes on the back.
But for me, while I can get my food delivered by Uber Eats – just like back home, here I prefer Glovo. Glovo will pick up and deliver nearly anything to you, presupposing it fits into what would be considered the size of an average fish tank. But they’ll also pick something up from you and take it somewhere or to someone else. It’s cheaper than a cab ride and they’ll go nearly anywhere – including ‘Taste of America’ which is rather a hike from our house.
I love how inexpensive it is (anywhere between 2,50 – 4 euros), but they advertise that they’ll literally take ‘Anything’ as long as it fits on a bike or motor scooter. This includes picking up prescriptions and gifts (oh, we do have an anniversary coming up – so Jeff will be off the hook this time:))
But if Glovo is busy it’s good to have Uber Eats to fall back on.
Home Improvement Stores
If you’re like us, we practically lived at Home Improvement stores on the weekends back in the US. We were always doing something to the house or garden. Making 3 trips down there wasn’t unusual in one weekend. So it stands to reason that when we got here we’d need to find one.
Also, getting settled requires tools. Drills and wrenches and screw drivers. Jeff shipped some of his more important tools – things he couldn’t live without. But it took about 6 months for it all to show up and we needed some things before them to set up house. And just like back in the US, we have our favorite. ‘The right tool for the right job’ is something my Dad always said. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses.
- BrickoMart – This is the Home Depot of Valencia. And it even looks like Home Depot when you go in, with the orange motif and the hand written signage in black marker. It’s the first thing I thought of when we walked in. The closest one to us is in Shopping City in Alfafar, but you’ll fine everything you need, from plumbing, tiling and even scaffolding. It’s the real workman’s supply store. The staff here don’t speak great English but since it’s for the local tradesman I wouldn’t expect them to.
- Leroy Merlin – More of a home store, Leroy Merlin has a lot of home decor. Draperies and window coverings, pictures and framing, lighting and paint. Definitely a do-it-yourself type of stuff. Smaller things with easy homeowner assembly. They do have some tools but they’re more low end to mid range on durability. But as a homeowner, who is no building a house themselves, it’s probably OK for most people. Especially the apartment dweller. The staff can mostly speak English. You can find Leroy Merlin at both Shopping City in Alfafar and in Port Saplaya behind the Alcampo.
- Bauhaus – Last but not least, this store is a combo of both and twice as big. One side is home decor. The other is more for the tradesman or very ambitious home owner. Bauhaus has the best garden section with more outdoor furniture than Leroy Merlin and the seasonal selection of merchandise puts them to shame. The staff speak English and are very helpful. The only one of these we’ve seen in Valencia is at Shopping City in Alfafar.
So many people read books on iPads or e-readers that finding a good book is a couple of clicks away. We like to hold the book – even our kids are like this. So moving here proved a bit of a challenge because even ordering books in English on Amazon was not very successful. And the ones you can get are nearly double the price of what the publisher lists on the actual book. In the summer, Emilie and I went looking and we hoofed it all over this city. So now we know where some of them can be found.
- English Wooks – Google listed it as a ‘Book Store’ but it’s really just an alcove attached to an English Language school in Campanar. They do have a lot of English lesson exercise books. But they also have a few shelves of books in English by popular authors. And they have a decent shelf of used books that they sell at a fraction of the price. They also buy books too. You’re welcome to go in and browse and purchase but they’re not so used to people walking in from the street so you’ll have to explain why you’re there before they let you in. The person working the counter didn’t speak English very well (ironic for and English school) but my Spanish is crap so I can’t complain).
- Abacus Cooperatives – This is sort of an office supply/school supply store. They have everything you’ll need on that front. And in a couple of small shelves in the corner – mixed in with their other books in Spanish – they have some books in English. Some of them are the latest titles. Some are Harry Potter books, but we bought a couple for Em and she was happy. The staff speak English and are very helpful.
- El Corte Ingles – The book department on the ground floor at the one in Colon is impressive. They have all the first run titles in Spanish when they’re released. And tucked in there are 4 shelves of English books. I was so excited I wanted to buy them all. It was nice to stand there and just read the jackets – like I do back home at a Barnes and Noble. There is also a Starbucks on the ground floor – right by the books so I could have bought a grande soy chai extra hot no foam latte – and just pretended I was at B&N but it was 10,000 degrees outside that day so it seemed a little contrived. But I enjoyed it all the same. We bought so many books I’m still reading through the stack, but part of what I love the most is looking at our shelf and seeing what I’ve already read and feeling that sense of accomplishment. And being surrounded by books is my life’s ambition.
*Updated January 2020
You’ll have lots of choices here. There are private hospital aplenty in Valencia. Both those that affiliated with the Catholic Church – just like the US – and others that are privately run.
There is also an English speaking doctor at Clinica Sorolla near Ayora. Dr. Ceasar Angeles is Valencian but raised in Florida. He speaks English like a southerner and is very nice. He takes his time with the exam too. He did Emilie’s sports physical for last school year and was very thorough. But the clinic isn’t fancy and it’s more for small issues.
Dr Angles is typically in clinic Mondays and Wednesdays in the mornings. And Tuesdays and Thursdays after 3pm.
Dr. Angeles referred me to a good English speaking OBGYN only two blocks from his office but connected to Clinica Sorolla. Her name is Dr. Cristina Rizo and she is thorough and wonderful and it’s easy to get an appointment.
Having just utilized Hospital Casa de Salud I would rate it up there against IMED any day. HCdS is a Catholic hospital so you’ll see nuns everywhere. But they are top notch, quick and efficient and will get you in without fuss. Best of all, their ER docs speak Ingles.
I have been struggling since we moved to Valencia with my back. Not sure why but it’s been an ongoing problem. But after trial and error. A LOT of error and plenty of trials – I found a wonderful massage therapist. Sergio at MassageValencia.com has made a huge difference in how my back is feeling. So much so, I am starting Yoga again at the new Yoga and Pilates studio in Trinidad. (More on that later). He charges 40 euros for a full 60 minutes and if you buy a 4 session package it’s only 35 euros and hour. He’s very professional and speaks great ingles – important in a health care provider.