Valencia, Spain is a great destination for budget travellers with affordable accommodations, low-cost transportation, affordable food and drink and a plethora of free cultural activities. Valencia can be visited all year round, but if you travel during the low season, you'll find greater discounts and fewer crowds.
Valencia is a vibrant city on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. It is known for its rich history, an intriguing mix of stunning architecture modern and old, and delicious food. Valencia has become a popular destination for travellers from around the world and deservedly so!
It can get very hot during the summer months and Valencians have perfected a way of year-round living that is most active in the mornings and evenings. Dinner is eaten late and doesn't typically start until at least 20:30. The hottest part of the day (usually about 14:00) is spent resting. The afternoon siesta is common. If you are meandering around during the siesta time, expect to see many beautifully painted business doors firmly closed.
The city was founded by the Romans in 138 BC as a port city and was called Valentia Edetanorum. During the Roman period, Valencia was an important city due to its strategic location on the Mediterranean coast. It was also an important center for agriculture and trade.
In the Middle Ages, Valencia was ruled by the Moors and was a prosperous city with a vibrant cultural and intellectual scene. The Moorish architecture, including the famous Silk Market, comes from the Middle Ages when Valencia was a prosperous city ruled by the Moors. Valencia also became important for trade and agriculture, particularly in the production of silk and paper.
After the fall of the Moors, Valencia was ruled by the Kingdom of Aragon and then by the Spanish Empire. Under Spain's control, the city underwent significant economic and cultural growth. Many of the city's landmarks including the Cathedral of Valencia and the Torres de Serranos were built during this era. In the 20th century, Valencia underwent major modernization and industrialization and is part of the autonomous province of Valencia. The entire region, but especially the city, is considered to be an important economic and cultural hub.
Food and Drink
No trip to Valencia would be complete without sampling the local cuisine, which is heavily influenced by both Mediterranean and Arabic flavours. The city is home to many affordable restaurants and cafes, serving traditional Spanish dishes at budget-friendly prices. Valencia also has a vibrant nightlife, with many bars and clubs that offer drinks at reasonable prices, but that's not my scene, so you'll have to discover those on your own.
Some must-try dishes include paella, a traditional Valencian rice dish made with seafood or chicken and vegetables; horchata, a refreshing drink made from ground almonds and tiger nuts; and bunyols, deep-fried doughnut balls filled with chocolate or cream. I'm not much into sweets but I ate more than my fair share of bunyols during my visit.
Getting Around Valencia
Valencia has an efficient public transportation system, which makes it easy to get around the city without spending a lot of money on taxis or car rentals. We found the bus drivers to be incredibly helpful, with one even adding an unscheduled stop right in front of our hotel just to make sure we didn't get lost. The city also has a bike-sharing program that allows visitors to rent bikes for a small fee. I spent a good part of a day on a rented bike exploring Turia park on beautiful bike paths.
Where we stayed
Valencia offers a wide range of affordable accommodation options, from budget hotels to hostels and vacation rentals. The city also has a growing number of budget-friendly vacation apartments, which can provide a more homely and comfortable stay.
We chose the Valencia Flats which offers apartment-style accommodations right next to the City of Arts and Sciences. These apartments are fully equipped with a kitchen, bathroom with amenities and hairdryer, living room with sofa bed and flat-screen TV with international channels and free Wi-Fi. There is 24-hour reception, cleaning, parking, and a bar that also serves snacks. Seems it was fate this room was assigned to me, don't you think?
Things to see and do in Valencia
Valencia offers many free cultural activities, including meandering the historic city center, Central Market, Cathedral of Valencia, or any of the beautiful parks. The futuristic City of Arts and Sciences complex is free to walk around and offers discounted combination tickets to the exhibits and shows around the site. It is a marvellous place to explore inside and out. It is easy to experience this city's rich history and culture without spending a lot of money.
The City of Arts and Sciences
One of the most iconic landmarks in Valencia is the City of Arts and Sciences, a futuristic complex that houses a planetarium, an IMAX theater, an oceanographic park, and more. Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, this impressive complex is impossible to miss and absolutely should not be overlooked.
The entire complex with the futuristic architecture of the buildings, including an opera house, planetarium, and science museum, is a sight to behold. Even though we were visiting in the high season it felt spacious and uncrowded.
The huge man-made ponds attract plenty of opportunities to indulge in some activities, including kayaking.
We were highly amused watching people of all ages trying to navigate themselves around in Zorb balls.
Attractions in the City of Arts & Sciences include the Science Museum with interactive exhibits on science and technology. Also within the complex is Hemisfèric, an IMAX cinema and planetarium, and the Umbracle, a landscaped terrace that provides a great view over the complex and the city.
The Museum of Natural Science
The Museo de Ciencias Naturales is located in the Botanical Garden and has exhibits on botany, zoology, and geology. The museum also features interactive exhibits and a planetarium. New temporary exhibits change frequently so every visit can be a very different experience. It is a stunning piece of architecture and a fascinating experience with really bad English translations.
It is currently free to visit from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 - 19:00. It is closed on Mondays, as well as for public holidays January 1 & 6, May 1, and December 25
Oceanográfic de Valéncia is a 3-minute walk west of the City of Arts & Sciences along Carrer d'Eduardo Primo Yúfera. There is a clearly marked pathway between the two. Oceanografic is one of the largest oceanographic centers in the world, featuring a wide range of exhibits and activities while contributing to marine conservation and educational efforts. The large park has over 500 species of marine animals, including sharks, dolphins, and whales. The park's architecture is a work of art in itself, with a futuristic design that reflects the oceanic environment.