Five brilliant days on a city break in Valencia, Spain

It's so exciting to just take off and visit another country, and even better to find yourself in a strange but alluring new place, a city like Valencia, just waiting for you to discover the sights, smells and sounds of a city break in Spain.

This large city on the eastern Mediterranean coast, just north of the Costa Blanca, has hundreds of things to keep even the most demanding holiday-maker occupied for weeks on end. Taking some much needed time off work, we flew to Valencia from Bristol Airport with Ryanair, and over five days we explored this wonderful and quirky city.

Day one: The historic centre of Valencia

Valencia - Barrio del Carmen 

Valencia, like many cities across Europe, saw it's biggest growth in terms of population and buildings, during the 20th century, however, it's certainly not a new city and it's very easy to find small, shady streets full of medieval buildings, ancient churches and side streets that spill out into hidden squares.

Valencia has much of this in the centre so we reluctantly left our luxury accommodation and hired a bike through the Valencbici bike hire scheme and went to explore more of what the city has to offer. Cycling here is a joy thanks to the various cycle lanes and the flat terrain around the city. Bikes can be hired and dropped off at various places, akin to the "Boris bikes" seen around London.

On day one we caught a light breakfast at a shaded terrace bar in the Barrio del Carmen, the city centre's hip and trendy area where it's cool to be bohemian, but as is the nature of the place, business people and families also gather here too. Everyone seems to be welcomed with open arms here!

The city is very friendly and welcoming and coming from a somewhat "gritty" Naval city in the UK, this was like a breath of fresh air. Of course, the city centre always has various things going on throughout the year such as the crazy Fallas fiesta in March, but it is advisable to NOT visit the city in August because, apart from the fierce and stifling heat during this time, the month is when Spain takes its holiday so expect a near-deserted city if you come here after July!

Valencia - Barrio del Carmen

After having our wonderfully aromatic and strong coffee, along with a Tostada con mantequilla (Toast with butter!), we headed on out again to explore the barrio and what it had to offer.

There are various art galleries to discover, some free and some charging admission, various churches to see and so on, but to get the full experience we headed to the plaza del reina to catch the famous Valencia tourist bus. This is a bright red open-top double-decker bus which also offers commentary in English and is always packed with tourists from all corners of the world!

We had a great day today and after our guided tour, were glad to get back to the apartment we were renting for the week, in order to recharge and relax and plan the rest of the week.

Day two: Shopping in Valencia!

There were so many shops we didn't know where to look, however, for shopaholics, Valencia has many different shopping malls dotted around the city too, if you fancy getting out of the centre for a bit. Look on the maps for places such as "Nuevo Centro, Heron City Paterna, Centro commercial El Saler, and if you have the use of a hire car, we recommend the simply MASSIVE shopping village of Bon Aire, next to the A3 Madrid motorway.

One of the largest Malls in the EU, it is located near the airport. You can find top brands like Primark, Zara, C&A (Yes, they still exist in Spain!), Tommy Hilfiger, Starbucks, McDonald's, Decathlon etc. There is also a huge multi-screen cinema, loads of restaurants and cafes, and a huge food supermarket called Alcampo.


If you enjoy shopping as much as my credit card does, then the city of Valencia offers unrivalled opportunities to buy stuff, this article is not enough to explain just how many shops are here. Also bearing in mind this is a very large place, and many top brands are hidden away in some of the cities most exclusive areas, five days is just not long enough so we will have to come again one day!

Day three: Hit the beach!

No holiday in Spain is complete without going to the beach, even if you are not a sun worshipper, a trip to one of the three main beaches that Valencia has to offer should surely be part of your holiday itinerary?

The beaches are easily reached by public transport from the main city centre, and the tram line 5 (going to station Neptu) can be caught from the Metro (Tube) stop in the centre of Valencia known as Colon.

Using the metro system in a big city like Valencia is one of the best ways to get around, and to use it, simply go to one of the stations and purchase a travel card (below) for about 14 euros, which gives you 10 "all zone" journeys. 

 Valencia travel card


These cards are valid on buses, trams and the tube trains, and can be recharged at vending machines in many points across town and of course the underground stations themselves. When entering the tube station, simply pass the card over one of the red areas on the gates to the platforms and they open, and of course debit the journey from your balance. So easy!

Back to the beach and we find ourselves at Malvarrosa near the port, and in front of a large and grand luxury hotel called "Las Arenas". The beaches here are wide and long and rarely packed apart from in August so there is no clamouring for space with your beach towel here.

Valencia - Malvarrosa 

The beaches of Valencia city have never been very well promoted to holidaymakers and the facilities here are basic but sufficient, but enough to enjoy the time on an unspoilt and undeveloped beach.

If the restaurants along the foreshore seem rather expensive, the more adventurous head a few streets back from the beach and into the areas of Cabanyal, and also Malvarrosa itself, where many bars and cafes can be found, offering the typical "Menu del dia" (Set menu) for about 9 euros. This is HALF the cost of eating beachside, so for the traveller on a budget, doing your own exploring is the way to save money and its fun too!

Day four: The city of arts and sciences

No trip to Valencia is complete without visiting the fantastic and futuristic area of the City of Arts and Sciences, located at the end of the old Turia river bed, which contains 6 distinct zones or buildings ranging from botanical gardens bisected with wide flat pools of crystal blue waters, to the 3d cinema, a mini sea-world and a very interesting science museum.

 The city of arts and sciences in 2007

The whole thing really takes your breath away and the sheer size and scale, compared with the surrounding tall buildings is one that few forget in a hurry. The centre hosts many sporting and cultural events throughout the year, music concerts, fashion shows, conferences, and to find out what's on during your break away in Valencia, make sure to check their website before you book for your holiday.

Day five: The quest for the Holy Grail!

What better way to spend the last day of our city break in Valencia then to go on a quest to find the holy grail!

Monty Python jokes aside, many places across the world lay claim to have the original holy grail, the cup Jesus allegedly drank from at the last supper.

While I personally view the prospect of seeing the real one with a healthy dose of scepticism, as the artefact is held in the wonderful Cathedral of Valencia, we thought that it was worth checking it out all the same.

Valencia Cathedral

The cathedral of Valencia, located in Almoina Square is not a museum as such but is a real and working place of worship, however, the guided tour around the church is recommended to make sure all aspects of this place are appreciated. The church was originally a Muslim mosque and was consecrated in the year 1238 and then expanded upon over the years.

The holy grail or "Chalice" itself is, of course, a big draw for pilgrims as well as tourists and can be found in its own special chapel dedicated to the artefact.

Whether it is safe to assume that it really IS the real holy chalice is up to you, but the trip was certainly well worth it, and (maybe out of respect and awe) we didn't crack a Monty python joke once!

Holy Grail 

The end of day five and sadly our time to head for the airport on the tube line, to catch the evening flight back to Bristol, but what a fantastic city break we've had in Valencia, and one that we certainly take again next year as there is so much to see and do in Valencia, we needed a longer holiday!