Before starting work in October, I wanted to squeeze in one last day trip somewhere in Spain. I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about Valencia and was intrigued to check it out. Needing a bit of ocean therapy, I headed to the east coast of Spain to explore Valencia for a day.
Aside from reading the article, I did zero research other than knowing it had an amazing market. I only knew that Valencia was a mix of old and new architecture and is known worldwide as the "City of Arts and Sciences" for its impressive scientific and cultural complex, which includes the Oceanographic, Europe's largest aquarium, along with a cinema, science museum, and garden. A day trip isn't enough time to see all that Valencia has to offer, so I settled for eating paella, touring the city and hanging out by the ocean. I'm sure I missed a ton of other important "must-see" sites, but I enjoyed aimlessly wandering around and going where the wind took me so to speak. I am planning a return visit in March for the Las Fallas festival, so I'll have to do a better job of planning the second time around. After taking the early morning high-speed train from Madrid, I arrived in Valencia not having any idea where to go next. I knew the famous Mercat Central de Valencia was centrally-located, so I headed there for my first stop.
The market was inaugurated in 1928 by King Alfonso XIII and has more than 1,000 stands selling everything from meat and fresh fish to fruits and vegetables. I loved wandering through the rows of stalls taking in the smells and sounds of the market and seeing the various products that were on display. After touring the market, I stopped at a cafe outside for a cafe con leche pick-me-up and to figure out my next move.
Being Spain, it was still a bit too early for lunch, so I continued my aimless wandering while keeping an eye out for a place to try paella, Valencia's most famous dish. I had avoided the tourist trap paella places in Madrid in order to wait for the real thing in Valencia, so I was on a mission.
On a mission for paella
After checking out the menu, I settled on El Clot located on a pretty back street. I ended up having a delicious paella of black rice and seafood that was incredibly flavorable along with great service. I was able to watch them bring in the giant paella pan, which is how you know it isn't frozen and reheated from a package. I've since read the reviews of El Clot and am slightly baffled at the negative ones. Everything I ate was delicious and the waiter was nice and efficient. One thing I do regret not trying is the "agua de valencia," which consists of orange juice, cava, vodka and gin. I had no idea this deliciousness existed, but will certainly be trying it on my return trip in March.
After stuffing myself with admittely not the most photogenic paella, I got on the touristy "hop on, hop off" bus to make the most use of my time and to see more of Valencia before making my way to the beach.
Passing by the Agora...the most recent addition in the CIty of Arts and Sciences
On the advice of the tour bus driver, I hopped off at the impressive Las Arenas hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the comfy chairs, drinking cocktails and enjoying the salty air...totally my happy place!
My time in Valenica was great...although I didn't plan very well. It was much larger and spread out than I anticipated and is definitely a city that needs at least a full weekend in order to see its gorgeous architecture, eat your weight in paella and spend time enjoying the beach. Also, I definitely regret not buying this dress on my mad dash back to the train station!