Once you have discovered Valencia, you’ll wish you had more than a day to explore Spain’s third-largest city, located on the southeast coast. With an easily walkable centre, gorgeous medieval monuments built from golden stone that glows in the sunshine, and some dazzling art nouveau gems, Valencia is a joy to explore. It is also the home of paella; the surrounding countryside green with market gardens and rice fields.

Exterior of the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia

City of Arts and Sciences

A botanic garden in the City of Arts and Sciences complex in Valencia

City of Arts and Sciences

Ships dock at the main port, a couple of miles out of town, and you’ll need to take a shuttle bus or a taxi into the centre. Once you are there, Valencia is full of surprises, one of the most pleasing being the Turia Gardens, the former bed of the Turia river that has now been diverted outside the city. This ribbon of green that winds its way across the centre is now a lovely park, and if you are feeling energetic, a great place for a cycle ride. The City of Arts and Sciences, overlooking the gardens, is a sight to behold - a dazzling cluster of futuristic white buildings, among them the science museum, planetarium, opera house and the Oceanogràfic marine park (a good detour if you have children in tow) housing belugas, sharks and walruses.

Historic buildings in Plaza de la Virgen in Valencia

Plaza de la Virgen

In the centre, the chunky cathedral on Plaza de la Reina, blending Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture, is worth a visit to admire a modest-looking chalice, believed by historians to be the actual Holy Grail. Surrounding the cathedral are all manner of lovely old buildings; La Lonja, the 15th century Silk Exchange, for example, is a stunning example of gothic architecture. But just wandering the streets is a pleasure, especially if you like quirky shops; as well as all the usual big names, you will find plenty of arty, independent vintage stores with reasonable prices.

Top tip

Seafood paella on a traditional stove in Valencia in Spain

Save time – and room – for a trip to the art nouveau Central Market on Plaza del Mercado. Apart from the fact that you can munch your way around more than 1,000 stalls, it is a great place for gift shopping: from bags of saffron for paella to cheese, iberico ham and olive oil. Paella pans are especially good value, if you can squeeze one into your luggage.

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Sue Bryant
Sue Bryant
Sue Bryant is an award-winning writer specialising in cruising. She is cruise editor of The Sunday Times and also writes for magazines and websites worldwide. She has written and contributed to several travel guidebooks, including the Insight Guide to Great River Cruises and the Insight Guide to Caribbean Cruising. In 2016, Sue was awarded the coveted ‘Contribution to Cruise Journalism’ award by CLIA for her coverage of the industry. She lives in west London with her teenage children and two dogs.

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