I've never had any particular desire to go to Valencia. it's not somewhere people really talk about, it's not on anyone's 'must-see' list, so I hadn't really thought about. But when the opportunity arose to spend a night there last week, we took it - and were so pleasantly surprised.
We were very kindly put up by the Caro Hotel, which proved to be the best location we could have had, at the centre of the old town; the hotel itself is in a converted old palace, and the area was all narrow lanes, with sky-high crumbling buildings either side, pastel pink churches and beautiful old squares.
We had so little time in the city that we spent most of our time just wandering around in the sunshine but here are a few little tips we picked up along the way.
1. Don't miss La Pepica
It was Las Fallas festival when we were there, which meant there were thousands of people all over the streets and bangers exploding every ten yards, which just got really annoying, so we jumped into a cab and went straight to a beachside restaurant we'd both read about to escape the noise. La Pepica opened its doors in 1898, and has been serving what is universally acknowledged to be the best paella in the world. A favourite of Hemingway and Orson Welles, as well as Queen Sofia, the walls are covered in faded photographs of Spanish celebrities who've made the pilgrimage to sample its wares. All pastel pink and sky blue, 70s lino and stainless steel, it has an old-world charm which is so romantic, we're already planning another trip back.
2. The Beach
We were there in early March and very luckily saw the sun, which lit up the most immaculate and massive stretch of beach. We wanted to explore some more, so didn't have time to relax on it, but would heartily recommend anyone that does have the time to do so. There's restaurants and stores all along the palm tree-strewn boardwalk, which give the whole place a bit of an 80s Miami feel.
3. The Arts and Science Museum
We jumped in a cab from La Pepica to the Arts and Science museum (which took about 5-10 mins) and walked back into town from there. The museum is... nuts. The Spanish do architecture in the most dynamic and awe-inspiring way, and this museum is the ultimate showcase of that. There's so many elements to it - which cover the opera house, an aquarium, and the museum itself, none of which we actually had time to go into - each of which is as bizarre and gravity-defying as the last. Definitely worth a look even if you can't go in.
4. The old river bed
After a massive flood a few years ago, the government redirected the river outside of the city centre, and filled the former-river bed with a beautiful park. We walked all the way back from the beach to the centre of town along here and on a sunny Spring day it was heaven.
Having read a lot about Spanish chef, Quique Dakosta, we made sure to visit one of his two Valencian restaurants (the cheaper one...). Despite some incredibly dodgy interiors, and questionable lighting, it was amazing. I'd highly recommend the Thai ceviche and the Bao buns, and don't leave without trying the egg-potato bite thingies, which i've forgotten the name of (helpfully).
The Museum of Arts and Sciences