By Anne de Vries
During the first week of November I got to catch a plane on my way to Valencia. Besides it having a great climate and being the third largest city in Spain, it is also the place my brother chose to live his adult life, working for a game design company. Seeing that he doesn’t live in the same country as his family anymore, we get to visit him in sunny Spain.
Valencia was founded in 138 BC during Roman rule. From 711 to 1238 Valencia was under Arab rule, of which a remnant can still be observed in a little bakery upheld by a piece of the Arabic town wall, near the Torres de Serrans to the north of the city. The city nowadays has around 800,000 inhabitants in its centre. Valencia handles 20% of Spain’s exports, because its port is the biggest on the Mediterranean western coast. And for the academics amongst us, the Universitat de Valencia Estudi General (University of Valencia) is one of the oldest surviving universities in Spain, founded in 1499.
To me, Valencia’s city centre really feels more like a small town than one of the biggest cities in Spain. The largest distance from one place to the other takes you 20 minutes by bike (so in a way it is a lot like Groningen).
- I can definitely recommend renting some bikes on your visit there. While everything can be reached by foot, bikes are just that much easier, and you can rent them on nearly every street corner. While the Valencian people did try to make their infrastructure more bike friendly, if you follow the scarce bike paths on the sidewalks you occasionally run into a bus stop or you have to swerve to keep from hitting a tree. Though, I will still stress not to use the roads: the cars (especially the taxis) will not take your presence into account!
- When staying in the city overnight, I recommend to use the wonderful services of AirBnB. It is generally cheaper, often because you have a kitchen so you can cook your own meals, but they’re also generally more centrally placed in the city. We had a nice apartment with a roof terrace, so while the locals walked around in winter coats down in the streets, we could enjoy the warm sun.
- Also, taxis are great to take you everywhere. However, especially if you’re taking one from the airport to the city, mind your wallet or they’ll charge you extra for their return ride back to the airport!
- You should definitely take a walk in the park that surrounds the city. This used to be a river, which they drained and it is now full of football fields, playgrounds and bike paths.
- When following this park to the East, you will run into the Oceanografic, the largest aquarium in Europe, which is worth the visit (it might be too expensive for a student budget, I was glad to have my parents with me).
- If you follow the park to the West, you will find the Valencian zoo, Bioparc. It’s pretty because the animal enclosures look very natural.
- If you have the time and the stomach, go spot the many pig heads on display in the Mercat Central, also one of the largest marketplaces in Europe.
- At the restaurant LaLoLa they will make you fresh Sangria for just €5,- a glass, which is relatively well-priced compared to many other cafes.
- For the gluten free people amongst us, I visited the gluten free bakery Celiacruz daily, because their bread, cakes and pastries are just to die for!
- Lastly, you haven’t really visited Spain without eating paella, and you haven’t visited Valencia without eating their Valencian paella, which includes chicken and rabbit. You can get a plate of paella almost literally everywhere, so eat up!