Top 25 Valencia Sights and Day Trips

What to Do and Where to Go Nearby

The old castle above Xativa, Spain.
••• The old castle above Xativa, Spain. Julian Elliott Photography / Getty Images

First the bad news. Valencia, Spain's third biggest city, doesn't have that iconic, must-see reason to visit. There's no Sagrada Familia or Prado museum here, or anywhere near the number of sights Madrid and Barcelona have.

But Valencia is still a fine place to visit. It is under two hours from Alicante and Madrid (though the latter is on an expensive high-speed train) and three hours from Barcelona. If it fits into your schedule, you'll find a city that doesn't feel as big as it actually is (the suburbs sprawl out much further than a tourist will ever see), with fine cuisine at good prices and a number of excellent museums. 

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    City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia
    ••• City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia. O Palsson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    1. Explore the Old Town
    Explore the city center, starting with the two main squares (Plaza Ayuntamiento and Plaza Victoria).

    2. Cathedral
    Valencia's cathedral is said to be home to the Holy Grail.  More on Valencia Cathedral.

    3. City of Arts and Sciences 
    This mega cultural center, designed by Calatrava, is host to a dolphin show, an IMAX movie theater, a science museum, and much more.  More on the City of Arts and Sciences.

    4. Port & Beach 
    Valencia's revamped port area has played home to the America Cup in recent years and now hosts a Formula One Grand Prix every year. The beach is good as far as city beaches go, though there are better ones in the region.

    5. Mercado Central
    Valencia's market is more spacious than the more famous Boqueria market in Barcelona, less touristy and not so expensive.  More on Mercado Central.

    6. La Lonja 
    The old silk exchange looks like something out of Lord of the Rings! More on La Lonja.

    7. Bullring
    Valencia's bullring is a modern design, but...MORE that doesn't mean it doesn't get some good fighters occasionally, especially during the Fallas festival. More on bullfighting in Valencia.

    8. Turia River
    The river Turia passed through the city until a 1957 flood forced the council to redirect it around the city. The former riverbed is now a park that snakes through the city. There's also a fun Gulliver (from Gulliver's Travels) children's climbing frame. More on River Turia.

    9. Bioparc 
    Valencia's self-proclaimed "new generation zoo" is walking distance from the city center. More on Bioparc.

  • 02 of 05
    The old castle above Xativa, Spain.
    ••• The old castle above Xativa, Spain. Julian Elliott Photography / Getty Images

    After a while, all cities can blur into one and another. If you want to stretch your legs a little and get out of metropolis, take one of these day trips from Valencia.

    10. Cuenca
    A beautiful city on the way to Madrid, now accessible from Valencia by high-speed rail, famous for its 'hanging houses', dwellings that hang off the edge of a cliff! See more on Cuenca 

    11. Segorbe
    A water park, cathedral, and aqueduct await visitors to Segorbe.

    12. Castellon
    The largest city between Valencia and Barcelona.

    13. El Palmar
    The rice fields where paella's key ingredient was first grown. Some good paella restaurants in the area.

    14. Cueva de las Calaveras
    Ancient caves with all the stalagmites and stalactites you'd expect of ancient caves. More on Cueva de las Calaveras.

    15. Requeña
    Valencia's wine-producing town.

    16. Xativa
    Historic town with a scenic castle built on a hilltop. More on Xativa.

  • 03 of 05
    Paella cooking over an open fire
    ••• Jan Harenburg/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

    Valencia is at the heart of Spain's reputation for great Mediterranean cuisine, with plenty of great food for you to try. But the two you mustn't leave the city without sampling are:

    17. Paella 
    Spain's most famous dish comes from Valencia! More on paella in Valencia.

    18. Horchata
    Valencia's milky (though there's no actual milk in it) drink, made from tiger nuts, whatever they are. (No, they're not that.) More on ​Horchata in Valencia.

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    Interior del museu Valencià de la Il·lustració i de la Modernitat
    ••• Interior del museu Valencià de la Il·lustració i de la Modernitat. Joanbanjo/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

    Valencia's museums don't hit the international headlines, but I especially enjoyed the first two.

    19. MuVIM museu valencia illustracio i de la modernitat
    This museum has such a strange name that it is invariably referred to by its acronym. Excellent street photography that probably "challenges our relationship to the modern world" or something like that, if you bother to read artists' pretentious blurbs. More: Valencian Museum of Illustration and Modernity

    20. Toy Soldier Museum
    Truly a lovely museum! Toy soldiers re-enact famous eras from history - from prehistoric man to Franco's motorcade. Children will love running around choosing their favorite scene and it's a great way to spark a child's interest in history.

    21. Valencia's Modern Art Institute
    Pop art, sculpture, photography and art installations are the focus of Valencia's modern art museum. More: Modern Art Institute

    22. Museo de Bellas Artes
    Valencia's fine art museum, next to the royal...MORE gardens. More: Museo de Bellas Artes de Valencia

    23. Prehistoric and Ethnology Museums
    Two interesting museums, housed in the same building, next door to the modern art institute. More: Prehistoric and Archeology Museum

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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    Structure burning during the Fallas festival
    ••• Fallas. SantiagoPucelano1/Wikimedia Commons/SS BY-SA 4.0

    Valencia has two wonderful festivals.

    24. Tomatina Tomato Fight 
    The world's most famous food fight. More: Tomatina Tomato Fight Guide.

    25. Fallas
    Valencia's festival of bonfires and loud bangs mixes hedonistic fun, glorious pyrotechnics and a religious element for grandma. More: What to Do at Las Fallas.