8 Places to Visit in Valencia: Best Sights and Attractions
Are you on the lookout for the best places to visit in Valencia? Then I’ve got you covered! Valencia is bursting at the seams with jaw-dropping sights and attractions that will leave you in awe. From the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences to the historic Mercado Central, this city is any traveler’s dream. So get ready for a treat as these landmarks will surely knock your socks off.
The City of Arts and Sciences
This breathtaking architectural masterpiece was designed by Santiago Calatrava, and it’s truly a sight to behold. A few years ago, a friend of mine who was an architecture student at the time, came all the way to Valencia just to see these mesmerizing buildings. Yes, they study them in universities around the world! So you definitely don’t want to miss out on this when in Valencia.
The City of Arts and Sciences consists of six incredible buildings, each with its own unique design and purpose. One of them is a stunning opera house, another is a family-friendly science museum, and so on.
This city within a city is an amazing experience whether you’re a history buff, an architecture lover, or just looking for a fun day out. It’s actually fascinating how this landmark can be whatever you want it to be.
If you’re visiting Valencia with kids, this is a wonderful place to spend some quality time together as a family. If you are on a romantic getaway, it can be the perfect romantic place to walk hand in hand among the blue pools of water. Traveling solo? You’ll never feel lonely here!
And the best part? The City of Arts and Sciences is completely free to visit! Of course, if you want to go inside the buildings to see any of the shows or exhibits, you’ll need to purchase a ticket, but that’s entirely up to you.
Valencia’s Oceanographic is an impressive aquarium and marine park that’s part of the City of Arts and Sciences complex. Families especially love it here because there are tons of fun activities to keep everyone entertained!
The exhibits at the Oceanographic are varied and include a diverse range of marine life. From jellyfish to penguins and sea lions, here you can learn all about the fascinating creatures that inhabit our oceans.
Personally, I believe that one of the biggest attractions of the Oceanographic is the underwater tunnels. These sleek tunnels offer an immersive experience as you walk through while surrounded by sharks and other sea creatures.
The Oceanographic also offers two thrilling dolphin shows daily and is home to the only family of beluga whales in Europe. And if you’re looking for a unique adventure you can even spend the night sleeping with the sharks!
Getting here is easy, as you can take a bus, tram, or bike from the city center. If you’re up for a scenic walk, it takes about 45 minutes to get here from the Old Town via Turia Park.
La Lonja de la Seda
La Lonja de la Seda, also known as the Silk Exchange, is a magnificent Gothic building located in Valencia’s Old Town. Built towards the end of the 15th century, during the Valencian Golden Age, La Lonja was a stunning marketplace meant to leave anyone in awe.
To fully understand the importance and economic power of Valencia at the time, it is key to note that Christopher Columbus’ voyage was actually founded by a Valencian banker. Incidentally, La Lonja was put into use the same year Columbus reached the Americas – 1492.
During its glory days, merchants from all over Europe would come to trade and do business here. While commerce was not limited to silk as its name suggests, given the importance of Valencia’s silk industry at the time, the silk trade likely counted for the great part of the transactions.
Today, La Lonja de la Seda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the lack of furniture might put you off, the truth is that the intricate architecture and historical significance of this building make it a must-see attraction.
There are so many fascinating details about this building, that I could go on and on! For example, the main hall is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, with twisted columns that resemble silk skeins and palm trees. This hall was used for trade agreements and also served as the location for one of the first public banks in Europe, which consisted of just one table!
Additionally, La Lonja has a tower that used to be a prison. This tower is accessed via a mindblowing spiral staircase made entirely out of stone. What’s special about that, you might ask? It has no central axis! Definitely pay attention to that when you visit!
The Cathedral of Valencia, also known as the Saint Mary’s Cathedral, has been a prominent landmark in the city for centuries. This magnificent cathedral was built on the site of an ancient mosque in the 13th century. What’s interesting is that the mosque itself had also been built over a prior Visigoth cathedral.
The main architectural style of this cathedral is Valencian Gothic, with some Romanesque, Baroque, and Neoclassical elements mixed in. While it might not be the prettiest of the cathedrals, not even the pretties church in Valencia at that, it does have several interesting things going for it.
One of the most notable features of this cathedral is that each of the three gates was built in a completely different architectural style. So I encourage you to walk around it to see it from all angles.
Then there’s the Miguelete Bell Tower, with an interesting octagonal shape and a spiral staircase. With a total of 207 narrow steps, climbing all the way up might not be super fun, but once you reach the top, you are rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the bustling Plaza de la Reina nearby.
Another fascinating aspect of Valencia’s Cathedral is that it is believed to host the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper. This priceless artefact is displayed in one of the chapels, and it’s definitely a peculiar attraction.
Besides, the cathedrals host 15th-century paintings and holy relics including the bones of several saints which you can see in a chapel behind the altar.
Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart
Valencia had three different walls throughout its 2000-year history – a Roman one, a Muslim one, and a Christian one. You can still find bits and pieces of these walls scattered around the Old Town, but the most notable remains are Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart.
These iconic landmarks were built during Medieval times as part of the Christian wall, a 4 km defensive wall with 13 gates that surrounded the area that is now called the Old Town. The Medieval wall protected Valencia from the 14th century until the 19th century, before it was taken down as the city outgrew it.
The Torres de Serranos were built at the end of the 14th century and served as one of the main city gates during the Middle Ages. They were built in Gothic style and have been used for many things, including as a prison for nobles and knights and a depository for artworks from El Prado during the Spanish Civil War.
The Torres de Quart, on the other hand, were built in the mid-15th century. They were also used as a prison at some point, but they also took one for the team. The holes in them might be easily dismissed as simple signs of wear and tear, however, what not many people know is that they’re traces of cannon shots from the Peninsular War.
Today, both towers are important tourist attractions and I highly recommend you climb for stunning views over Valencia’s rooftops. Trust me, it’s definitely worth it!
Mercado Central is another must-visit attraction in Valencia. This iconic covered market was built in the early 20th century, although a market had been organized in this very spot for hundreds of years prior.
The building itself is a stunning example of Modernista architecture, with colorful tiles, a domed roof, and ornate ironwork.
Step inside, and you’ll find yourself in a bustling world of vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, spices, and all sorts of local delicacies.
The market is a true feast for the senses, with an endless array of colors, scents, and flavors. Personally, I always find something new and delicious to sample whenever I visit, be it olives, cheese, or even a new and exciting local craft beer.
Today, the market continues to be a popular spot for locals to shop for fresh ingredients, but it’s also a major tourist attraction.
Whether you’re a foodie looking for a unique culinary experience or just curious about the local culture, the Mercado Central is a must-see place in Valencia.
Marquez de Dos Aguas Palace
The magnificent Marquez de Dos Aguas Palace is an iconic building and a shining example of Rococo architecture that will transport you back to the 18th century.
Nowadays, the palace houses the National Museum of Ceramics and Sumptuary Arts, where you can admire hundreds of pieces of pottery, porcelain, and ceramics as well as gorgeous pieces of furniture spanning many, many centuries.
I know it all might sound a bit boring, but I can assure you it’s not. In fact, this palace is one of the most beautiful places in Valencia, both inside and out.
On the ground floor, you can see two carriages fit for a queen. The second floor features lavishly decorated rooms that will take your breath away. While the last floor offers an amazing opportunity to discover the history and art of ceramics and its importance in the local culture.
Definitely don’t skip the last floor! This is the most important ceramics museum in Spain and some of the objects here are more than two thousand years old. Still not convinced? Maybe knowing that there are several unique pieces created by Pablo Picasso will?!
From the grand staircase to the magnificent ballroom, every room is decorated with impeccable taste. If you’re looking for a dose of history, art, and beauty, the Marquez de Dos Aguas Palace is definitely the place to be.
San Nicolás Church
San Nicolás Church is one of the most beautiful places to see in Valencia. Located in the Old Town, not far from the cathedral, this 15th-century church hosts some of the most spectacular Baroque interiors.
Such is the case with many churches in Valencia, Iglesia de San Nicolás too was built over a former Arab mosque. The mosque in turn had been built over a Visigoth temple, which had been built on top of a Roman temple.
The stunning frescoes dating back to the 17th century cover every inch of the ceiling and have gained this church the nickname of the Valencian Sistine Chapel.
In recent years, the San Nicolás Church underwent a thorough restoration project and it’s a sight to behold, so don’t hesitate to put it on your list of places to visit in Valencia.
Access to the church is through Calle Caballeros, although it’s very easy to miss. Look for the signs, not for the church, as the church it’s situated at the end of a nondescript alley and cannot be seen from the street.
The church organized both touristic visits and daily masses. Touristic visits are not permitted during the mass.