This page may contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
I LOVE Valencia. The province is obviously fabulous, which is why I moved there, but the city is something special that I think is much underappreciated. I never get sick of going there. In fact, it feels a treat every time.
It’s a very walkable city, although the public transport is great when you need it. The great thing about walking around is you get to know it so well. I love discovering the different neighbourhoods. The only problem I find is that all the shops apart from the big, high street style ones, shut for siesta, so I can often be rushing from one side of the city to the other to get to a certain shop (usually one of my favourite vintage shops) before they close. I know it’s the Spanish way, but I do find siesta time is my preferred time to potter around the shops and sometimes find it difficult to kill that time in between, if I don’t want to stray too far from the shop I need. I really just need to get up earlier and be more organised, but I can’t pretend it doesn’t irk me. Saying that, that is literally the only thing I don’t like about Valencia. Everything else is wonderful!!!
Having spent so much time there, I’ve now collected a few favourites that I can recommend:
Breakfast isn’t really much of a thing in Spain, but Valencia seems to be embracing it with more and more options appearing all the time. A few years ago there weren’t many choices but now it’s become part of our Valencia experience, as I’d missed breakfasting out so much. It made me laugh that there is a small chain of American diner style places which don’t open till 1pm – that seems beyond wrong, the breakfast is the king of the diner experience.
Las Mas Bonita Bakery
I believe the original is down by the beach, but my favourite is the one in Ruzafa. It’s worth a trip just for the eye candy of their divine looking cakes, which I’ve not even tried. Their food may not all be healthy but feels nutritious and feeds your soul. It’s just a bit different from the kind of food you get anywhere else. It kind of reminds me of Brighton. If you’re too late for breakfast, lunch is lush too. And it is open all day every day which is double bonus points in a city where half the restaurants shut between 4 and 8!
The original was in a little square, Sant Bult, east of the cathedral, but I noticed the other day there’s a newer branch which is a good thing, as the other one was so small, you couldn’t always get a table so you could run off to the Le Virgen branch as an alternative. A huge pancake stack and some seriously good sausage hits the spot (that’s what she said!.. sorry, couldn’t stop myself).
The other thing we also nearly always do is take the opportunity to get our Asian food fix. Particularly Thai and Japanese. There isn’t a great deal of choice, but again every time we go more seems to be popping up.
We’ve gone here so often that they actually welcomed us back last time. This place does a mix of food from all over South East Asia. I used to be disapproving of places that did more than one style, but it’s a common thing in Spain and this place does it well, not going with the easy options, but has a really interesting menu. Mark nearly always has green curry but I’ve tried a lot of different things – the laksa, the rendang, various curries. The pho isn’t as pho-y as it should be but if you just think of it as a noodle soup, you’ll enjoy it. I also love their decor. The wall of waving Chinese money cats in the back room is inspirational!!
Japanese is one of the few foreign foods that the Spanish seem to have really embraced and there are a lof them even outside the cities. But they do tend to be mostly sushi or so almost Chinese style all you can eats. I don’t know why sushi is so big here – they even sell it in our little town’s local supermarket. Maybe it’s because it’s fish. Who knows. Anyhow, that’s great, but in Valencia they have gone a bit further with the different types of Japenese food they offer. There is a ramen restaurant which is a chain from Japan itself which I adore. It’s so good, the only problem is I have the same thing each time as I HAVE to have it so I never get to explore the rest of the menu.
I new Thai only place – we were very excited when this recently opened. It’s not the most mind-blowingly authentic Thai but it’s tasty and the decor and place settings (yes I notice these things) feel kind of luxurious in a funky, jungly way.
Other Eatin’ & Drinkin’
I’ve walked past this place, in El Carmen, so many times and thought it looks lovely, but never had the chance to stop and as time went on I wondered if it was a bit touristy. Then I took my mum to Valencia and the intention was to be touristy and I was so glad we stopped here. There menu del dia was amazing. The food was much more refined and modern than I had been expecting. It’s a great spot to watch the world go by, but I also discovered that the interior is lovely too. Such a warm, cosy feel.
Hawaika Tiki Bar
Not just for drinkers, as they also are an ice-cream vendor, so more than just the booze hounds get to enjoy their amazing tiki aesthetics. Though if you do like a drink, supping a margarita through a super sized straw in one of their boothes is an utter delight. I was like a kid in a candy shop here. I hate a half arsed tiki place and they’ve done themselves proud here. There are cute little boothes you can sit in and out the back it’s got an area that is like being under the night sky. So far I’ve resisted buying anything other than a bottle opener from their merchandise but it’s only a matter of time before I succomb to some tiki mugs.
Cafe de las Horas
This is a very recent discovery for us, even though it makes it on lots of the ‘things to do’ in Valencia lists. What took me so long? It’s a touristy place no doubt, with prices to match, but it’s worth it to hang out in such decadent decor. It somehow manages to have a real cosy, chilled out vibe too. I imagine every time you go you spot something new. I was always going to love a place with cupids and fake parrots.
Dulce de Leche in Ruzafa
Soooo many tasty, tasty things. They do great juices. It’s particularly nice to sit outside and watch the comings and goings of the funkiest Valencian neighbourhood, Ruzafa.
A wonderful shop, which in itself is designed beautifully and has the added bonus of Olivia the cutest, fluffiest dog you ever did meet. It’s difficult to walk out of there without picking something up. We once picked up a little ninot from a children’s Fallas from the 70s, which is a bit special.
This is vintage heaven – such an amazing collection. I could live in this shop!! There’s some large furniture pieces, lamps, ornaments, medical and sports goods, everything you could think of. She also has some interesting reasonably priced art prints. The only downside is that it’s gotten a little awkward now that they’ve limited going into the back room to a couple of people at a time. I get that it must be tricky to run this kind of business – maybe they’d had some stealing or breakages. I’m just the kind of shopper that likes to circle around a few times and often go back to things to finally decide to buy them.
Lots of quirky and contemporary bit and pieces. It’s got some nice Valencia specific stuff for a more stylish souvenir.
I loved Habitat so much and was gutted when the majority of the stores disappeared in the UK when they went into administration. I was rather surprised to find there is a store in Valencia and as sad as it is, I find going in there so calming and relaxing 😉 The bonus is that it stays open during siesta so I have a good excuse to drag Mark in there.
Wonders and Oddities
The Cream of Street Performers
Once you’ve been to Valencia once, you know the area around the cathedral is a bit of a tourist trap but we go back there time and again as you never know what treats you might find as it has some of the best street performance artists I have ever seen. I normally don’t like them at all, to be honest, but some of these guys and girls go the extra mile and are so creative.
The River Park
The jewel of Valencia. You can never get sick of spending time in this park. It was created by draining the river after a huge flood trashed the city, many decades ago. It curls around old city to the north and to the east. The area to the east is my favourite. It’s so nice to just stroll around there and we have taken to the old folk activity of enjoying finding a bench and just sitting. There’s really interesting trees and planting. Never thought I would find such things interesting but this park has been so well thought and planned out that even that is interesting. It’s lovely when it’s warm to find some shade here too and we really need to borrow some kids to go play in the Gulliver Park too.
This place is a bit out of the way, but definitely worth it. I think you’d have to have experienced a Fallas though, to really get the context. It has the most amazing old Fallas – all the ones that aren’t burnt each year go here. There is some beautiful, creepy, and plain bonkers stuff there. It’s worth it just for the display of the posters from each year – illustration heaven.
Lifante Hipercontrol Restaurant Supply Store
This really is a restaurant supply shop. We stumbled across it walking back into the city after a stint in the river park. It has a ton of old tills on display. I don’t know if they collected them or if the place has been around for such an extremely long time and it’s ex stock. Either way, it’s really cool. I love an old till. But really. It is just a restaurant supply shop.