Valencia - Walking tour around the old town

Finding the Holy Grail, discovering gargoyles, stumbling across beautiful Spanish squares, admiring Gothic churches and grand palaces while tasting traditional cuisine in splendid historic buildings are just some of the delights to sample in Valencia’s old town.

The first thing you notice as you step off the train on the edge of Valencia’s historic heartland is the noise, especially if you have travelled up from one of the quieter beach resorts along the Costa Blanca or Castellon regions.

Valencia’s a vibrant place with a rich history and culture as well as a love of noisy – and slightly crazy –fiestas and a passion for sports, particularly football.

As you take a wander around the old town, you can find out more about the magnificent city. It’s an easy stroll but there is a lot to take in.

Valencia Nord train station

Valencia's train station pays tribute to its way of life

A good place to start is at the Valencia Nord train station, which was built in an interesting art nouveau style at the beginning of the 20th century. You’ll see orange and orange blossom motifs on the exterior of the building along with ceramics and stained glass depicting life on the nearby farms, the Albufera lake and rice fields.

Valencia Nord train station

Next to the station is the impressive bullring. Bullfighting still takes place here during fiestas and can hold 10,000 spectators. It was built in the mid-20th century by Sebastian Monleon.

You can also visit the bullfighting museum, which is one of the most important in Spain and houses one of the largest collections of memorabilia.

Valencia bullring

Bullfighting Museum, Pasaje Doctor Serra 10, Valencia

Open: 1 March to August 31 from 10am to 7pm Tuesdays to Saturdays. From September 1 to February 28 from 10am to 6pm Tuesdays to Saturdays. It is open all year from 10am to 2pm on Sundays, Mondays and public holidays.

Gems to enjoy in Valencia old town

From here, cross over to go up the Avenida Marques de Sotelo road to explore many of Valencia’s historic gems. 

Valencia town hall

Take in the sights at Valencia's grand town hall square

Firstly is the grand Plaza de Ayuntamiento, the town hall square, which plays a major part in the fiery fallas fiesta in March. The town hall square is the setting for the thunderous mascleta contests during fallas when very loud firecrackers are let off. They’re so loud you can see the windows shaking in the nearby buildings! 

This square is also home to two important buildings. The town hall stands at one end with its five tall towers with gilded tiles on the end towers. At the other end is the elegant post office, which was restored in 2004. 

Valencia post office

Impressive as the town hall square and its buildings are, Valencia’s architecture gets even better as you stroll towards the cathedral. 

Palacio del marques de dos aguas, Valencia

In the next square are the Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas and the National Ceramics Museum. 

This beautiful building is often said to be the jewel in Valencia’s architectural crown and is certainly one of the finest examples of Spanish rococo. There are two Herculean figures and at their feet are pitchers pouring water to represent Valencia’s two rivers, the Jucar and the Turia. On top of the building is a sculpture of the Virgin Mary and Child. 

It seems only fitting that Valencia’s finest building should house one of its best museums. The National Ceramics Museum has around 5,000 exhibits dating from prehistoric, Greek and Roman times as well as contemporary pieces including works by Picasso. 

National Ceramics Museum and Palacio Marques de Dos Aguas, Calle Poeta Querol 2, Valencia

Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 8pm, Sundays and public holidays from 10am to 2pm, Closed Monday. Entry is €3 but free for pensioners and under-18s.

Oranges are the only fruit in Valencia's Plaza de la Reina

Carrying on towards the cathedral we come to the bustling Plaza de la Reina to visit the cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace. It’s a pretty and colourful square with flowers in vibrant pinks and reds, trees and benches to catch your breath and admire the beauty of Valencia old town. 

Plaza de la Reina, Valencia

The cathedral was originally built in the 13th century but has had parts added to it. It’s an eclectic mix of architectural styles with three different types of doors – the oldest is Romanesque, the main door is Baroque and the third is Gothic. 

The Holy Grail can be found at Valencia Cathedral

It is at this third door that an unusual custom takes place each Thursday when members of the water tribunal meet to settle farmers’ disputes over irrigation. This custom is believed to have been carried out each week for the past 1,000 years or so. 

The cathedral has lovely chapels with impressive religious paintings and statues as well as the Holy Grail, which was used in the Last Supper and is said to have arrived in Valencia from Jerusalem. 

Its iconic bell tower, standing at an impressive 68 metres high, is Valencia’s main landmark. 

Valencia Cathedral, Plaza de la Reina, Valencia

Open November to March from 10am to 5.30pm on Monday to Saturday. Closed Sunday. April to October open from 10a to 6.30pm and Sunday from 2pm to 6.30pm. Entry is €5 or €3.50 for pensioners and under-12s.

Valencia Cathedral

Behind the cathedral is the archbishop’s palace which has been rebuilt and has some noteworthy artworks of the Virgin Mary and the Annunciation. 

Also in this area are the Almudin, whose name comes from the Arabic word for bushel, and was used for distributing and selling wheat, and the Generalitat Palace, a Gothic building used by the Valencian government. 

Palau de la Generalitat, Calle Caballeros 2, Valencia

Open Monday to Friday from 9am to 2pm, Free entry.

Historic towers guard Valencia old town

On the outskirts of the old town where the dried up Turia river bed divides the city creating a beautiful green park can be found the Serrano Tower, forming the former city walls. They were built in the 14th century to protect the city and from the style of the military fortress they would have given the impression of being a tough city to crack. 

The Quart Towers can be found along another side of the old city walls and served the same purpose. 

Valencia central market

Hundreds of goodies in store at Valencia Central Market

Heading back into the centre of the old town is one of Europe’s grandest markets in an interesting historic building. Valencia’s Central Market has hundreds of stalls selling regional produce, fish, meat, sausages, hams, fruit and vegetables. 

It’s a great place for architectural lovers and gourmets who can try some of the freshest and most delicious products from the Valencian region. 

Valencia Central Market, Plaza Ciudad de Brujas, Valencia

Open from 7am to 3pm Monday to Saturday

Silk and ceramics at Valencia's World Heritage Site

Next door is the Lonja de la Seda, or silk exchange, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site built at the end of the 15th century. The Valencia General Council built it with the aim of being a magnificent and sumptuous place to trade. And they did the city proud with their work. 

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 9.30am to 7pm. Sundays and bank holidays, 9.30am to 3pm. Tickets: €2 or €1 for groups, students and pensioners. Free entry on Sundays and public holidays.

Wandering through Valencia old town’s squares and streets, you will stumble across many old bars, cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy a drink or meal while soaking up the city’s grandeur. 

Seafood paella at Restaurante Mena in Denia

Valencia is the birthplace of the paella and there are many varieties to try as well as fideua which swaps rice for noodles. You can try some of the local craft beers for which Valencia is making a name for itself or the sweet horchata made from local tiger nuts. 

Enjoy Valencia's beaches and modern city too

While in Valencia, time permitting, it is also well worth visiting the magnificent sandy beach at Malvarrosa, the modernistic City of Arts and Sciences with its animal park, museum and theatre, and the park developed in the old dried up Turia riverbed where you can admire the gargoyles and other ornate sculptures on the old bridges crossing the river.