2 Days in Valencia: The Ultimate Itinerary (From A Local)
Valencia is the birthplace of paella, the cradle of Las Fallas, and for many, the best city to live in, so sooner or later, you might feel tempted to visit. Whether you decide to spend the weekend or include it in a longer Spain itinerary, 2 days in Valencia is just enough to scratch the surface and leave you longing for more.
That’s not to say you should postpone your plans until you have more free days. Yes, 3 or 4 days will allow you to see, taste and experience more of Valencia, but 2 days is a wonderful start for a first-time visit.
About this 2 days in Valencia itinerary
Valencia has a great number of attractions and that number is only growing bigger. As the city is awakening to its new reality as a tourist hotspot, new museums, parks, and restaurants are popping up throughout the city.
I’ve designed this 2 day Valencia itinerary with active travelers in mind. This means that by following my itinerary you will be walking quite a bit, but I’ve also included plenty of tasty breaks so you can experience Valencia’s thriving coffee and food scene.
As for where to stay in Valencia during your 2 day visit, I recommend the Old Town, hands down. This is the best area if you want to be close to pretty much everything except for the beach.
To see the best of Valencia in 2 days, simply follow this itinerary. If you think you might have even less than 2 days, check out my 1 day in Valencia post. And if you have more time, check out my 3 days in Valencia itinerary.
Day 1: Morning – walk around the city center of Valencia
The downtown features the oldest part of the city and this is where I suggest you start your 48 hours in Valencia. This area is comprised of 6 neighborhoods, each slightly different than the next.
The Old Town is where you’ll find some of the oldest and most striking buildings but also some of the most cutting-edge restaurants and shops. The best way to explore this part of Valencia is on foot, be it by joining a walking tour or exploring on your own.
When it comes to tours, you have plenty of options, including free walking tours. The best part of exploring Valencia with a local is that they will help you put things into perspective and you’ll likely discover some hidden gems you might not find otherwise.
I recommend you check out the tours below before you make up your mind.
If you want to venture on your own, here are some of the must-see spots around the city center. Depending on where your hotel or Airbnb is located, I suggest you start with the one that’s closest to you.
The City Hall and the City Hall Square are Valencia’s km 0, the heart of the city and the place where many events take place. The Town Hall itself can be visited every morning during work days and the visit is free. I really recommend you pop in to see the magnificent Salón de Cristal (Crystal Hall).
Also in the City Hall Square, the old Correos building has recently been converted into an exhibition space. Its imposing glass ceiling is reason enough to visit.
A couple of minutes away, the Mordernista-style Estación del Norte and the bullring are two other impressive buildings. While the bullring is still in use and you might not feel comfortable visiting it, architecture-wise, it’s still beautiful.
Up next, I’d suggest you head to Mercado Central. This is the largest fresh food market in Europe and one of several must visit markets in Valencia. The Modernista architecture and the vast array of local produce make it a cathedral of the senses.
The market is open every morning from Monday to Saturday. Although it officially closes at 3 p.m., I don’t recommend you leave it to the last minute. This is a great spot for a coffee break or a mid-morning snack.
Across from Mercado Central, the UNESCO-listed Lonja de la Seda is another building worthy of your admiration. While beautiful on the outside, it’s even more impressive on the inside.
If you like heavily ornate Baroque churches, then prepare to be spoiled for choice. Many of Valencia’s beautiful churches are located in the Old Town and you should definitely visit at least one.
Next to Mercado Central and La Lonja, the Church of Santos Juanes won’t take much of your time, but it will definitely leave a long-lasting impression (book here). Not far away, the San Nicolás Church, nicknamed the Valencian Sixtine Chapel, is perhaps the most beautiful church in the city (book here).
If you want to see what might just as well be the real Holy Grail, make sure you budget some time for visiting the Cathedral. And if you like panoramic views, climbing the 207 steps up the bell tower is well worth it.
Day 1: Lunch – try the menú del día
Come lunch, I recommend you look for a restaurant serving menú del día. You won’t have a hard time finding one and you won’t regret it.
The popular menú del día is a meal deal offered by most restaurants in Valencia. It includes a three-course meal and usually a drink. Sometimes, coffee is included as well, but most often than not you’ll have to choose between coffee and dessert.
Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in Valencia. Valencianos love ending their lunch with a cup of coffee. They also love spending a good couple of hours chatting over lunch. So ordering a menú del día in a bustling restaurant is not only a culinary but a cultural experience as well.
The Old Town has hundreds if not thousands of restaurants. Of course, this can sound overwhelming, but I can recommend you some of my favorite ones, such as La Diva and Volteretta.
Day 1: Afternoon – visit some museums
In the afternoon, continue your itinerary with a visit to some of Valencia’s best museums. As the third largest city in Spain, Valencia certainly has its fair share of noteworthy museums. While none of them are of the caliber of El Prado or Reina Sofía in Madrid they are the next best thing.
A short walk away from the Old Town, the Museo de Bellas Artes, is the second most important fine arts museum in Spain, after El Prado.
To get there, you simply have to cross on the other side of Turia Park and you’ll suddenly find yourself surrounded by thousands of fantastic masterpieces, some dating as far back as the Middle Ages. The best part? Unlike El Prado, this museum is completely free.
Another museum you can (and honestly, should) visit, is the Almoina archeological center. This unusual museum is situated in the Old Town, right behind the cathedral, and here you can learn about Valencia’s Roman origins while walking down the two millennia-old Roman roads.
There are many more museums in Valencia, all pretty much niched down and dedicated to a well-curated collection, be it Semana Santa, tin soldiers or rice, or local personalities.
With only 2 days in Valencia, it’s unlikely you’ll manage to visit many museums. But if you want to visit a third one, I’d suggest you choose the Ceramics Museum.
Situated inside the stunning Rococo palace of Marquez de Dos Aguas, this is the largest museum of its kind in Spain. The displays are hundreds, some thousands of years old and there’s even a set of plates designed by Pablo Picasso.
The first floor of the palace hosts the Museum of Sumptuary Arts, with gorgeously decorated rooms that will not let you indifferent.
Day 1: Dinner – have tapas at a gastro market
Not too long ago, I’d have recommended you to have dinner either in the beautiful Mercado de Colón or in the Canovas area. These days, however, I believe you should head to the newly opened Mercado de la Imprenta.
This absolutely astounding gastro market in the Arrancapins neighborhood is only a short walk away from the city center, in a part of Valencia that until recently didn’t have much going for it.
So whether you are visiting Valencia for the first time or you are a repeat visitor, Mercado de la Imprenta will surely surprise you.
Housed in an old printing house, this gastro market is a welcomed effort to decentralize leisure and tourism and redirect people to the neighborhoods.
Here, you can dine on tapas, pinsa, burgers, sushi, or bao buns and wash everything down with a glass of draft beer or wine.
Most food stands, however, serve local dishes, with the added advantage that you can mix and match the plates as you like. This is great if you want to have a full culinary immersion in a fun and informal setting, without the pressure of having to order a whole meal.
Just be aware that Mercado de la Imprenta is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
If you are visiting Valencia on the first 2 days of the week, you still have plenty of options. For example, you could dine in the above-mentioned Mercado de Colón, in the nearby Canovas area, or even in the bustling Ruzafa neighborhood.
Day 2: Morning – explore El Cabañal and relax at the beach
On your second day in Valencia, I recommend you take the metro and head to the El Cabañal neighborhood. This neighborhood is completely different from the Old Town, and will surely surprise you.
El Cabañal started as a fishing village separate from Valencia. But roughly a century ago, it became fashionable for the Valencian middle class to purchase a second residence here.
The influx of money was followed by an influx of ideas, and the whitewashed huts were soon replaced by Modernista-style houses.
When hearing Modernista, Gaudí’s lavish houses might pop to mind, but in El Cabañal, this style was adapted to the budget and taste of the Valencian middle class as well as the local climate. As a result, many of the facades are covered in colorful tiles with Modernista motifs.
I recommend you take your time to stroll along the streets of El Cabañal. It can be blissfully quiet here, contrasting immensely with the bustling streets of the Old Town. Personally, I have a hard time accepting that I’m still in Valencia whenever I visit, and you’ll probably experience the same.
After exploring El Cabañal, head to the beach, be it for a stroll, a drink or to relax on the sand.
Note: If you are visiting Valencia in the heat of summer, you might want to head to the beach first thing in the morning and explore El Cabañal later, especially if sunbathing is up on your list. The Valencian sun can be quite strong, so I wouldn’t recommend sunbathing in the middle of the day, and definitely don’t recommend skipping on the sunscreen.
Valencia has not one, not two, but three urban beaches.
Playa del Cabañal (also called Playa de las Arenas) is situated right next to the marina and borders the neighborhood with the same name. Next to it, Playa de la Malvarrosa is the most popular of Valencia’s beaches.
If you are looking for a more quiet beach experience, you can head to Playa de la Patacona. This beach is a bit further away and can only be reached by bus. The journey to and from the city center takes some 45 minutes, so if you only want to spend a couple of hours on the beach, you’re better off stopping at either Playa del Cabañal or Playa de la Malvarrosa.
Valencia’s urban beaches have fine golden sand and wide stretches of sand. Due to this, they rarely feel crowded. Plus you can enjoy a series of fun activities, from beach ball to sailing. Check out some of these activities below.
Day 2: Lunch – eat paella
As I mentioned in the beginning, Valencia is the birthplace of paella. Well, not the city of Valencia per se, but the nearby village of El Palmar a few kilometers south.
El Palmar is situated on the shores of Albufera Lake, one of the best day trips from Valencia. But since you are visiting Valencia in 2 days, going all the way to El Palmar to eat paella doesn’t make much sense. Especially since Valencia has some absolutely fantastic paella restaurants right on the beach.
Most of the restaurants lining the promenade serve delicious paella, so you can pretty much stop wherever you feel comfortable and find a table. They really know what they are doing, since many of them have been preparing paellas for decades, so you are in safe hands.
One thing to take into account though is that the paella is made to order. This means you’ll have to wait some 40 minutes give or take for your paella to be served. But if you order a starter, the wait won’t seem long at all and it’s definitely worth it.
Another thing is that paella is always prepared for an even number of people (see these interesting paella facts to learn why). Also, paella is a rice dish first and foremost, so don’t expect a lot of meat or vegetables.
The point that I’m trying to make is that in Valencia, paella might not be exactly what you’ve grown used to in other parts of the world or even Spain. But this is the original recipe and I believe anyone should try it to form their own opinion.
Personally, I love paella the way it is prepared in Valencia and I wouldn’t change a thing.
But I had family and friends come over and some of them were less impressed, mostly because they had tried paella before and were either hoping for paella with chorizo (that’s a British invention!) or seafood paella that has more seafood than rice. Paella is a rice dish and the original recipe doesn’t even have seafood!
That being said, and while I definitely recommend you try the paella Valenciana (the one with chicken and rabbit), there’s a myriad of other local rice dishes you can try. Many Valencian dishes use rice as the main ingredient, but if rice is not your thing, you can try fideuá, paella’s lesser-known, noodly cousin.
Day 2: Afternoon – visit the City of Arts and Sciences
Whether you visit Valencia in a day or a month, the one attraction that cannot miss from your itinerary is the City of Arts and Sciences.
This futuristic complex will surely captivate your imagination and will make you want to explore every nook and cranny.
Comprised of six interesting-looking buildings, most of which were designed by local architect Santiago Calatrava, this place was used for filming various TV series and movies, including Westworld and Tomorrowland. In fact, they are filming a new Star Wars movie here, as I write!
Walking around and admiring the buildings is completely free, but if you want to see an opera performance, an IMAX movie, or visit the science museum or aquarium, you must purchase tickets, ideally in advance.
The City of Arts and Sciences is a fantastic spot for a romantic stroll but it’s also a great place to visit in Valencia with kids.
The Oceanogràfic is probably the most family-friendly attraction in the city, as it is home to an incredible array of fish species and even some birds. They also organize dolphin shows and shark sleepovers, so if you are traveling with kids, this place is a must-visit.
If you don’t want to visit any of the buildings, but would still like to learn more about the City of Arts and Sciences and its architectural defiances and challenges, a tour of the complex might be right up your alley. You can check out some of the available tours below.
Day 2: Evening – end your 2 days in Valencia with a flamenco show
What better way to end your Valencia in 2 days itinerary than with a flamenco show? While flamenco is originally from Andalucia, Valencia has quite a few tablaos (venues where flamenco is performed) and they are pretty top-notch.
So whether you’ve attended a flamenco show in Seville or another part of Spain before and especially if you haven’t, seeing a flamenco performance in Valencia is a wonderful way to end your 2 days in the city.
Flamenco shows in Valencia typically involve both singing and dancing. Expect a lot of foot stomping and hand clapping. Traditional flamenco instruments such as the guitar and cajón are also commonly used.
The costumes tend to be colorful and eye-catching, often adorned with sequins and embroidery. The female dancers typically wear long, flowing dresses with ruffles or frills, while the male dancers wear tight-fitting trousers and shirts.
In many places, the audience is encouraged to participate by clapping along with the music. So don’t be shy and join in the fun!
Many flamenco shows in Valencia are accompanied by a drink or even dinner. Check out some of the most popular ones below.
If flamenco is by no means your thing or there’s no flamenco performance on the days you visit (most flamenco shows in Valencia are organized in the second half of the week), perhaps a jazz club or free night tour of the old town will manage to add some excitement to your evening.
No matter what you choose to do on the last evening of your trip to Valencia, I can assure you, your time won’t be wasted. And if you still have things unchecked on your Valencia bucket list, you can always book another 2 day trip to Valencia.