Ever found yourself sipping a Rioja at your local tapas bar thinking, ‘I wonder where paella was invented?’ Well, ponder no more. Valencia is indeed the true home of this mouth-watering Spanish favourite. Originally cooked with chicken, rabbit and snails, it’s an authentic recipe that Valencians remain fiercely passionate about. As if the draw of a hundred simmering paella pans isn’t enough, there are so many reasons to visit this beautiful Mediterranean city. Come and see. It won’t disappoint.
The area is known for its 300 days of sunshine and year-round pleasant climate, clear skies and perfect conditions for strolling, beach living or relaxing on sunny terraces. December to February, are considered low season. However temperatures remain mild with highs averaging 17 degrees and night time around 8 degrees. This is the best time to avoid crowds and snag deals on accommodation, although beware that during the popular December marathon and throughout Christmas week, this can be turned on its head.
The Old Town
Easily walk-around-able, the historic centre still showcases Roman, Visigothic, Muslim and Medieval cultures. Discover iconic monuments such as the grandiose UNESCO recognised Silk Exchange, the twin Serrano and Quart towers, and the lively Plaza de la Reina. These all bear witness to Valencia’s 15th century Golden Age when the city boomed. Don’t miss the imposing Cathedral with its Renaissance art and Baroque façade. It was built on a Roman temple that was later a mosque, and grew as the city itself expanded. It is said that that the cup kept safely in the chapel inside is the holy grail itself, the chalice of Christ. Reward your morning’s adventuring with tapas at one of the many bars of the central plaza.
Arts & Culture
Constantly evolving, Valencia is leading the pack with stunning experimental and award-winning 21st century constructions. Lovers of architecture won’t miss the City of Arts and Sciences by Santiago Calatrava, Norman Foster’s Convention Centre and Veles e Vents by David Chipperfield. In particular, hours can be spent wandering the open air spaces around the astonishing City of Arts and Sciences, admiring what looks like a sunken alien craft; and that’s before you go inside any of the complex’s buildings to experience the world class exhibitions and events taking place. Low season festivals include January’s FESTIN which combines art with gastronomy. Then in February CLEC fashion takes place as well as the Valencia Culinary Festival.
Colourful Mercado Central in the Old Town is one of the oldest and largest fresh produce markets in Europe. Hosting over 1000 stalls, it is a great place to wander or pick up supplies for a delicious fresh picnic. Ask to sample before you buy or enjoy a meal at one of the sit down outlets. In a modern twist, it was the world’s first market that accepted online orders for delivery. Leather, ceramics and linen are good buys, and if you can dodge the mass produced souvenirs, there are some beautiful locally produced products. Try Al Vent or Artesania Yuste close to the Old Town. Remember that many shops and boutiques still respect the siesta, so at least your credit card can have an afternoon break.