If your holiday budget is running low you’ll find plenty of free or low cost things to enjoy in Spain’s third largest coastal city of Valencia. If you’re on holiday on the nearby Costa Blanca or Costa del Azahar you’ll enjoy a day or two seeing the sights in Valencia and the city also makes an ideal short-break destination.
Don’t miss La Lonja de la Seda, the 15th century silk exchange building that is a Unesco World Heritage site which was restored in recent years. The airy open hall is known for its twisted stone columns, like skeins of silk that reach up to the vaulted ceiling. There’s a shady small courtyard with orange trees and then up the stone steps you’ll find the Pavillion of the Consulate with a wooden coffered ceiling and patterned marble floor. Entry is €2 but free on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.
The Plaza de la Virgen with its fountains is a pleasant place to sit with a picnic and if you want to want to visit the nearby Cathedral there is a charge which includes an audio guide. There is also a charge to climb the Miguelete church tower to see the famous bells and for a view over the city. But if you attend one of the many masses then there’s no charge for entry – there’s a Sunday 9.30 mass held in the Chapel of the Holy Grail with Gregorian Chant.
The Turia river once flowed through the centre of Valencia, but after a series of floods it was diverted away from the town in the 1950s. The riverbed, complete with bridges spanning it was turned into a series of public parks running like a ribbon through the city and it’s an ideal place to take your picnic or enjoy an afternoon stroll. For families you’ll find a Gulliver’s Travels themed children’s playground and the area around the Palau de la Musica is particularly pleasant with shady trees and fountains playing in the lake. If you’d like to make a day of it, you can hire bikes at Orange Bikes or Do you Bike in the Barrio Carmen neighbourhood and cycle right through the park, past the Cuidad de las Artes y las Ciencias and on to the port and the beach.
Valencia’s port area got a wash and brush up for the America’s Cup in 2007 and the Playa de Malverossa city beach is an easy tram or cycle ride from the centre of town. Although the coast here is quite built up, you can spend a pleasant afternoon strolling along the boardwalk, in front of all the restaurants, playing a game of volleyball or just relaxing on the wide sandy beach – the calm shallow water is ideal for families. This is the place to try Valencia’s traditional rice dish of Paella or some delicious seafood in one of the many seafront restaurants, but be sure to book on Sundays when the Spanish families gather for an extended lunch.
In the Turia gardens you’ll find the Cuidad de las Artes y las Ciencias or City of Arts and Sciences designed by internationally renowned, Valencia born architect Santiago Calatrava. The bright white space-age buildings contrast beautifully with the shallow blue pools that surround them and you’ll find a concert hall, science museum, Oceanographic aquarium and IMAX. They’re all quite expensive to visit but it costs nothing to wander around, admiring the architecture, enjoying the metal sculptures in the garden and strolling through the shady , L’Umbracle botanical greenhouse, that looks a little like a dinosaur skeleton.
None of the many museums or galleries in Valencia are particularly expensive but for free entry try the following;
Museo de Bellas Artes -with a large collection of painting, portraits, sculptures and works of art, situated on the north bank of the Turia river park
Museo Taurino or Bullfighting Museum – a small museum beside the Valencia bull-ring with photos, matador suits and other bull-fighting memorabilia and normally including a tour of the bullring itself.
Museo de Prehistoria (also known as La Beneficienca) – dedicated to prehistory of the area around Valencia up to Roman times and has a great restaurant
The Palacio del Marques de dos Aguas, which contains the Ceramics Museum, is free on Saturday afternoon and Sunday too – with beautiful ceramics housed in a wonderful rococco palace
Being on a budget needn’t mean going without the delicious fresh fruit and produce that you can find in Valencia – just head to the Mercado Central to buy your picnic to eat in one of the pleasant squares or the Turia Gardens. The market building is large and airy with stained glass windows in the roof and you’ll find fresh fruit, bread and pastries, delicatessen counters and stalls specialising in jamon and spicy sausages. Don’t forget to pass by the amazing seafood section at the back of the market and if you’d like a little snack, you’ll find a tapas bar in the market too.
If you’d like to eat out, I can recommend a couple of modestly priced restaurants that a local friend took us to;
At the ground floor restaurant in the shady garden courtyard of the Museo de Prehistoria (free entry), also known as La Beneficienca you can try a delicious and inexpensive 3 course set lunch from 2pm – the Spanish are known for their late eating.
We also enjoyed an evening meal of traditional Spanish dishes, at the blue and white tiled La Utielana tucked down a side street behind the Palacio del Marques de dos Aguas. The restaurant doesn’t take bookings but if you’re eating on English time you shouldn’t have a problem as the Spanish tend to go out to dinner from 9pm onwards. La Utielana, Plaza del Picadero de 2 Aguas 3, Valencia
By day the old quarter of Barrio Carmen is a sleepy network of narrow streets with a few small, trendy designer shops, but after 10pm it comes alive as the bodegas and restaurants open their doors. Try the local wines and if you’re on a budget, just stick to the tapas or small tempting dishes that are ideal for sharing. We enjoyed a tapas style meal at Bodega La Rentaora, Plaza Mosen Sorell, 11, Barrio del Carmen, another local recommendation, sitting outside in the warm night air.
Posted : Tuesday, July 20th, 2010 at 11:53
Heather Cowper is the author of “Heather on her Travels“, a blog she started to share her passion for her travel experiences with her friends and quickly became as passionate about her travel writing.