Valencia. We’ve all heard of it… either from Instagram or your favorite orange producer, right? Maybe if you’re a little more ~cultured~, you’ve heard of Las Fallas.
But what do we actually know? At least for me, Valencia was one of those cities people would mention in passing as a “cool spot” in Spain, but no one ever stopped in their tracks, shook my shoulders, and said “YOU NEED TO GO THERE.”
YOU NEED TO GO THERE.
Valencia was a delight. Valencia was a surprise. In lieu of shaking your shoulders, I’m just going to give you four reasons why you should add Valencia to your list.
Yes, it is really that good. I had tried paella before and honestly, I wasn’t that impressed. I mean, it was tasty, but nothing to write home about.
Then I went to Valencia.
We showed up for lunch at La Rivà, a Valencian staple, at the respectable time of 3:30 pm and had to wait another hour to snag a table because this place was so packed.
La Rivà’s extensive plate collection rivals that of any self-respecting, chotchky-acquiring grandmother and its amount of enormous pans could put any sous chef to shame.
Seriously, these pans are bigger than my head.
Contrary to popular belief, traditional Valencian paella is not made with seafood. Instead, it includes rice, green beans, white beans, chicken, and rabbit.
We were a little wary about trying rabbit, but in the end, it actually just tasted like chicken. *shrugs*
Valencian paella is a delight to the senses, overwhelming you with a symphony of flavors and textures. It tempts you to finish the entire pan… but I recommend this to advanced eaters only.
The Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències
Back in the day, the river Turia ran through the center of Valencia but was infamous for its flooding problems. After a particularly devastating one in the 50s, the city of Valencia decided to divert the river around the city and converted the old riverbed into a massive, 8 km park with soccer fields, parks, concert venues, bridges, and gardens. At the very end of this park (aptly named el Jardín del Turia), lies the architecturally astounding City of Arts and Sciences (in Valencian, “Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències”). The buildings look like they could be from the Lost City of Atlantis while simultaneously giving the impression they’re about to blast off into space.
This truly impressive complex was officially completed in 2005 and features four main buildings: an opera house, a plantearium that looks like a gigantic eye, an interactive science museum, and Europe’s biggest aquarium.
The aquarium, called the Oceanogràfic, hosts marine species from all of the world, a cool underwater tunnel, a gigantic birdcage, and some truly entertaining seals (just to name a few).
In case you needed another reason to fall in love with Valencia, there’s a beach. This long stretch of sandy coastline is about a 15 minute bike ride from the city center and is home to surfers, sunbathers, and delicious fried squid sandwiches. When you reach the shore and gaze out at the blue, blue Mediterranean, you begin to wonder “Am I in paradise?”
Spaniards are big on ambiance, or “ambiente” in Spanish. It’s honestly one of the best things about living here.
Ambiente is the feel of a place; that intangible thing you can’t quite describe, yet can identify immediately. It’s the intersection of culture, society, architecture, sounds, smells, community, and probably a hundred more things.
Valencia is very much alive and thriving. Its coastal location makes it international city, but in a way that still feels like Spain. There are all different types of people, from all over the world… take for example the Dutch owner of a cafe we found near our hostel (I sadly don’t remember the name, but it is located on Carrer dels Cordellats). We came for the apple pie and coffee and stayed for the dog and the company.
Valencia preserves its own unique culture and language (Valencian), while welcoming the rest of the world in.
So go ahead, move it to the top of your list. You’re welcome.