Is Valencia, Spain Worth Visiting?

Valencia Is Not for Everyone

Valencia may be Spain's third-largest city, but most tourists barely give it a second chance. Rick Steves, whose European travel guides are read by millions, doesn't even mention it in his 1,000-plus page guidebook on Spain.

Why?

Is Valencia worth visiting—a secret stud of a city that's being unfairly overlooked? Or is it a dud of a destination?

Here's what we've learned from living there for three months and how to decide for yourself.

View of Valencia's city of arts and sciences buildings
Valencia is not what you expect of quintessential Spain.

Do you want to visit quintessential Spain?

If so, don't visit Valencia.

Valencia is more practical, modern, and livable than it is dreamy, stylish, and historical.

Sure, Valencia has a bullfighting ring in the center of the city, some beautiful old buildings and squares, and lots of tapas bars, but its streets don't have the same level of charm and character as other Spanish cities.

If you want to add some quintessential, non-touristy destinations to your trip, see our post on How We Stumbled Off the Beaten Path in Spain for inspiration.

People on Valencia's beach
Valencia's beach is O.K., but not worth making a holiday out of.

Are you looking for a beach holiday?

If so, don't visit Valencia.

As underrated as Valencia may be as an overall tourist destination, its beaches are overrated.

The beaches are just ok. They're expansive, blue flag status, and the water's warm. But they're not beautiful and, most importantly, they're not conveniently-located.

Getting to Valencia's beaches from the city center takes a good 15 minutes by car or 40-plus minutes by bike or tram. The beachside restaurants aren't worth their inflated prices and the neighborhoods behind the beach, notably Cabanyal, are worth a wander for maybe an hour but not much more.

Touristy Valencia street
Valencia isn't as touristy as other Spanish cities, but it's no "hidden gem."

Are you looking to escape from tourists?

Keep looking because tourist swarms have found Valencia.

Valencianos aren't telling foreigners to, "Go home!" like Barcelonans are, and tourists don't outnumber locals like in central Seville or San Sebastian, but the city center is already chock-a-block with inauthentic paella restaurants, bike rental outfits, and souvenir shops. It's not an off-the-beaten path Spanish destination anymore.

That said, it's not hard to get away from tourists, as we explain in our Off the Beaten Path Valencia City Guide.

Enjoying some cheap food in Valencia
Cheap food and drink (by Western European standards) keeps us happy in Valencia.

Do you like eating cheap meals?

Valencia's worth visiting for its menu del dias.

These bang-for-your-buck lunch deals are available from 1:30 to 4 p.m. and usually include your choice of drink (wine, beer, water, or soda), bread, a hearty starter (sometimes more than one), an entree, and dessert or coffee (sometimes both). And you get it all for 10 to 15 euros.

You'll find menu del dias all over Spain, but pay more for them. And in some cities, like Seville, very few restaurants offer them anymore.

We list our favorite menu del dias on our Where to Eat in Valencia guide, but here are a few to whet your appetite:

  • 64 Restaurant: Our easy #1 pick. For €10.90 you get three starters to share between two people, a main course, a drink, coffee, bread, and dessert. The experimental menu changes weekly.
  • El Trovador: The working-class favorite. Watch out for the waiters as they fly around dealing with the hungry hordes who come in every day for their filling €10 menu del dia.
  • Forastera: For something a bit fancier, but still casual. La Forastera's €15 menu (drinks not included) serves creative market-to-table dishes that changes daily.
Beautiful Albaraccin, which is one of the few worthy day trips from Valencia.
Albaraccin is one of not-that-many worthy day trips from Valencia.

Are you looking for a base to explore Spain from?

If so, don't pick Valencia.

The day trip options from Valencia underwhelm compared to day trips from other cities in Spain you could base yourself in. The towns aren't as historically interesting as elsewhere in Spain, the beaches are over-developed, and natural areas are few and far between.

But that's not to say there's nothing. We found some beautiful places outside Valencia and shared the details in our blog post on our 7 Favorite Day Trips from Valencia.

Authentic senyoret paella in Albuferra
Our Arroz al Senyoret seafood paella from Pasqualet was the best paella we've had.

Do you love rice?

If so, Valencia's worth visiting.

Word is Valencia's locally-grown rice, which comes from the Albufera rice fields 20km south of the city, is exceptionally tasty because of the unique minerality in the water here. Whatever it is that makes the tap water gross to drink also makes rice that's grown and cooked in it delicious to eat.

Paella is the obvious go-to rice dish in Valencia because it was invented here. But if you're nuts about rice you'll want to try other dishes like arroz caldoso, meloso, al horno, and a banda too.

Speaking of nuts…

Blending chufa nuts in our Valencian horchata workshop in Alboraya
We learned how to make Valencian Horchata from these chufa nuts, at a workshop in Alboraya.

Do you love almond milk?

I doubt anybody loves almond milk so much that they'd plan a trip around it. But if someone's out there, Valencia's worth visiting to try its almond-milk-like horchata.

Valencian horchata has nothing to do with the typical sweet, cinnamon rice drink from Mexico.

Here, horchata is made from ground tiger nuts, "chufa" in Spanish. (FYI: They aren't actually nuts but tubers.)

Most horchata sold in Valencia is very sugary, but if you go to an actual horchateria—Vida is our favorite—you have the option to try natural, sugar-free stuff that's truly healthy and tastes like an exotic version of almond milk.

Street art unicorn in Valencia's El Carmen neighbourhood
Valencia's walls, especially in the El Carmen area, are often decorated like this.

Are you a street art aficionado?

If Banksy is your hero and Exit Through the Gift Shop is your favorite movie ever, visiting Valencia is worth it.

Banksy may not have visited Valencia, but he's left his mark on the city's walls all the same. His influence on local artists like Escif, David de Limon, and Julieta XLF is evident in their colorful, creative, and sometimes provocative art that spices up the city's streets, especially around the central El Carmen district.

Valencia street art tours run daily between April and September.

Do you know someone who lives in Valencia?

Then visit Valencia!

This one may seem obvious, but we have to mention it out of frustration at all our friends who made plans to visit nearby Spain or Portugal but didn't feel visiting Valencia was worth including in their itineraries even though we invited them.

Mistake! We could have shown them a way better time than they had getting lost amongst the hordes in Barcelona or Lisbon.

Your friends can do the same for you, too. So don't even think twice about visiting Valencia if you have a host.

Valencia Fallas poster
The Fallas celebration has been setting Valencia aflame for years and is worth checking out.

Are you visiting Spain in mid-March?

Valencia's worth visiting for Las Fallas.

From the March 15-19, the city explodes into parties, parades, surreal paper mache statues, fireworks, and flames for this UNESCO cultural heritage festival.

Ask anyone who's experienced Las Fallas and they'll give the same response: they'll shake their heads, chuckle, and say, "it's crazy."

Here's the most comprehensive guide on Las Fallas we've seen.

Working out in Valencia's Turia Park.
Valencia's Turia Park is a dream for people who like to work out outside.

Do you enjoy working out outside or running while traveling?

If so, then Turia Park makes Valencia a must-visit.

The park occupies the 9-kilometer-long, 175-meter-wide strip where the Turia River flowed until 1957, when it was diverted to protect the city from future flooding.

It's an unbroken, 100% car-free park with running and biking paths, outdoor workout areas, open grass, fountains, sports facilities, and playgrounds. It may just be the best urban park we've ever been to.

And why not try an outdoor workout while you're there? Maybe even these partner exercises we filmed at Turia Park.

Chris walking in El Carmen.
The only things Chris has to look out for are cute dogs (and their mess) and slippery, freshly washed streets.

Are you concerned about safety?

Don't worry because Valencia is super safe.

The petty crime virus that plagues Barcelona has yet to spread south to Valencia. There's got to be some crime in the city but neither we nor anyone we've asked about it has heard about it.

Are you traveling with younger kids?

Visit Valencia.

Valencia's full of kid-friendly things to do and see:

  • The crazy architecture of the City of Arts and Sciences will stimulate their imagination.
  • Gulliver Park will blow their minds.
  • The Valencia Bioparc Zoo is a surefire hit.
  • Turia Park is full of kid-friendly parks and bike paths.
  • There seems to be a different parade every week.
  • The beach is near enough for a fun and easy half-day trip.
Kim riding bike through Plaza de la Virgen in Valencia.
Valencia's one of the most bike-friendly cities we've visited.

Do you like exploring cities by bike?

Valencia's worth visiting because it's very bike-friendly:

  • It's as flat as a paella pan. The only "hills" in Valencia are the ramps down to the Turia Park.
  • Turia Park is a dream for biking because it is car-free and cuts through the whole city.
  • A web of dedicated bike lanes blankets the city's streets.
  • Traffic is relaxed and drivers respect cyclists.
  • Not as many people steal bikes as in Barcelona, for example.

Do you like being close to nature?

If so, then don't visit Valencia.

Whichever direction you head out of central Valencia you'll have to get past kilometer-after-kilometer of six-to-eight story apartment buildings before seeing open sky. And even then you'll either be amidst tightly-packed farms or at the well-developed beach.

The closest pure nature to Valencia are the short trails and small protected beaches of Albufera Natural Park, which aren't particularly interesting or beautiful.

But if you venture a bit further, you can find some spectacular natural sights. Check out these posts for some recommendations:

Gargoyle in Valencia looking at the City of Arts and Sciences.

Final Verdict

Here's our final answer to the "Is Valencia worth visiting?" question:

If you visit Valencia, you won't regret it.

In every other blog post and forum questioning, "Is Valencia worth visiting?" the consensus is a clear, "YES!"

So evidently just about everyone who visits Valencia enjoys it. And if you go, you probably will too.

But…

If you don't visit Valencia, you won't regret it either.

Few (if any) of those who've visited Valencia will pick it as their favorite in all of Spain. And those who skipped it don't regret it. The country's got A LOT to see.

So if you give Valencia a pass, you won't regret it either.

So that means…

Good news: Whether or not you decide to visit Valencia, you can't go wrong!

Town of Ujue off the beaten path in Spain.

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29 thoughts on “Is Valencia, Spain Worth Visiting?”

  1. Seems like an odd way to position a travel article…. I’ve traveled all over Europe and valencia is easily one of the coolest cities. And anyone I know whose visited feels the same. You can come up with reasons to not visit any city…uh.. don’t go to San Francisco if you don’t like hills.. don’t go to NY if you don’t like skyscrapers…but seems like an odd angle to take. Oh well. Good luck.

    Reply
    • Right. Every city has its pros and cons. My experience is most blogs and guides only list the pros, which they also tend to exaggerate. And most people can't go everywhere, so we've listed our perceived pros and cons to help people with limited time decide whether or not Valencia's a fit for them and their itinerary.

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      • The article is excellent. There's nothing odd at all about it, and it is way more helpful than "I’ve traveled all over Europe and valencia is easily one of the coolest cities".

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    • Hey Jaci. If you can, check it out for yourself to give it a fair shot. We were thinking of living there longer, but changed our mind after 3 months. But some people love we met love it. A lot depends on who you meet.

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    • Maybe this is too late: Valencia maybe not a good place to visit, I agree, it is not over-amazing. But, Valencia is a wonderful place to LIVE. If you're considering spend half a year living in Spain, you probably will live more confortably in Valencia than in Barcelona, Madrid or Seville. It has been ranked in first position among all the cities of the world in expat rankings (The expat insider survey 2020). Note also that the author of this article decided to LIVE in Valencia.

      Reply
  2. > Do you like being close to nature? If so, then don’t visit Valencia.
    > Whichever direction you head out of central Valencia you’ll have to get past kilometer-after-kilometer of six-to-eight story apartment buildings before seeing open sky. And even then you’ll either be amidst tightly-packed farms or at the well-developed beach.

    Excuse me? 🙂 Valencia has a beautiful Turia park (almost 8 miles), it has a beatiful zoo, and the sky is always seen, have you ever been there?
    And Valencia is so close to nature like no other major Spanish city, come on…

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    • I like your approach. It's very hard to find a critical evaluation of places. As you said, every blog or guidebook merely deals with the attractions of a place – the cathedral, the museum, the gallery, blah, blah. You haven't said Valencia is crap – just not a major priority as a destination. I might still go for a change of scene as it's not too far.

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  3. OMG I stumbled across this article as I was googling "is Valencia Boring?".

    Me and my husband are scouting European cities for our upcoming retirements – and Valencia was high up in our list. I am writing this review while I am sitting at the kitchen table of our downtown airbnb eating manchego and boquerones in olive oil (what a treat!)

    We already spent a week here while working remotely and our vacation starts next week. A full week. And I feel we have already seen most of what was worth visiting. Hence my google search….which led me to this article which totally resonated with my experience

    The beach – which was described as STUNNING – in many travel guides is just meh and the city feels a tad sedated with a level of energy and excitement certainly below what I would expect from a large Spanish city. It has the feel more of a large town rather than a true metropolitan area. Also day trips seem limited.

    This said – the city seems to be very well managed. It is super clean, people are very friendly and go out of their way to help. The Turia gardens are possibly the most beautiful metropolitan park known on earth (certainly better than central park in NYC), downtown is refurbished charming and historical and The ciudad de las artes y de las ciencias architecture is simply mind blowing. I won't even talk about the food with ingredients of incredible quality

    All in all we are happy we are visiting. But honestly if we had not we would have been fine. The beach for us was a big let down as we were planning to spend a good chunk of our time roasting on the sand.

    Reply
    • Ha, I'd say your comment is a "very superficial assessment," too! It would help me and other readers if you could you specify what part of what I wrote is ridiculous.

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  4. I went to Valencia once and i reallly enjoyed the city specially, it was summer time as i remember,food was really good in valencia and they have Tapas really nice and delicous also there is an ageny who rent bikes passed a day with my friends in the city centre it was really nice day and they have cheap prices.

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  5. My wife and I just came back from Valencia and had a wonderful time. Our two great friends are moving there and knew the city well , so as you wrote we had a great insider look at the city.

    With regards to crime, my wife got her purse stolen off of her chair at one of the beach restaurants in the middle of the day. We chased after the couple and they had already passed the bag to someone else … the waiter said that it happens often at the beach restaurants …

    We have been fortunate to have traveled all over the world from Hungary to China, Israel, India and all over Europe, and I found your review on València to be 100% spot on. Nicely done.

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  6. I am very fortunate to live very near the city of Valencia and can understand your assessment but like to add for the ones that think reading such a report is the be all guidance and assure you that truly any city in any part of the world is worthy of a visit as its solely down to ones own experience and expectations perceived or not. We are all excited for new experiences and sometimes these are not as high as ones expectations of the journey of getting there.

    2023 Update: Valencia has changed (post covid) its no longer a small city with local ideas its outlook has expanded I think not for the good, but I am not the one for chain restaurants or cheap fast food type place's looking to gain the loss of the past years!! . Local independent shops are gone, some due to the way the world has changed, now your’ll find a ‘too many food outlets’ pulling in now many a tourist with the post covid adventure bug – it’s there we feel it. The roads with the bike lanes are/were encouraging for all to pleasantly move round the city but now the ‘scooter’ kids use them without the road sense and courteous obligations that other road user had that seems to go with this new generation of transport. The historical sites are still there the transport system still operates exceptionally, peak times of the day still exists and could quite easily be avoided by finding one of the many quite ‘resting’ places to reflect the day.
    Come to Valencia with a open mind, its great to read such assessments but this and what you just read is mine or someone else experience, not yours to have…

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    • Thanks, Phil, for the perspective and updates. Sorry to hear scooters are taking over and independent business are struggling. I agree that every city is worth visiting and that we should always visit with an open mind and open expectations. If only we all had the time to visit every city! That's why I wrote this, to help people plan the cities to visit on their trips.

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  7. I've got to say, I actually enjoy everything that Valencia has to offer, especially when you consider how packed places like Barcelona and Madrid can get. It feels spacious and more laid-back. But yeah, if it's a full-on beach holiday you're after (or nature for that matter), Spain has better options to offer. All in all, Valencia easily ranks as one of my favorite cities in Spain. Definitely worth visiting!

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    • Thanks for chiming in, Timon! I suppose "is Barcolona/Madrid worth visiting" posts would be worth writing, too. Gotta spend more time there, first. Unless you want to write something for me!

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  8. Harm Done, so I will not waste time in a long review trying to counter review since the effect would be just inexistent., so this is just for you Chris. Valencia is a historic, friendly, sunny and welcoming city that didn´t intend to like you and it definitely does not deserve your superficial, crappy, overpaid and coming-from-the-racist-north tourists like you. Keep yourself at your cloudy dark place and enjoy TV 🙂 and try not to keep drinking that much!

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    • Ouch! I thought you said you're my "Spanish friend from Valencia"? Not very friendly! Well, aside from the suggestion to not drink too much. Not an issue for me, but I appreciate the concern.

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  9. This felt a bit harsh, it is changing for the better quickly as well. The beaches and boardwalks are so open, large and I think not inaccessible at all. The subway and then tram go right past the sand. The bike paths and electric scooters make it about 15 minutes from Colon and town center to the sand for us. Valencia is perfect because it doesn't try to hard, has open spaces and beaches without fanfair, just well kept.

    Reply
    • Fair enough! Most blogs tend to exaggerate the positives and round down the travel times between places. I tried to share my experience as accurately as possible, but everyone's experience differs, so I could very well be an outlier.

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  10. Hi Chris,

    I just stumbled onto this while a friend is texting me from Valencia as the guest of a soon to be expat. Just as you suggested one should visit . She waxes poetic. Me, I have over a million airline miles. Grain of salt.

    I loved your straight forward opinions, understood the this but not
    that and the not quites you presented.

    What I extrapolated from
    your post is Valencia would be too white, wholesome, and civilized, with a soupçon of saffron for me. Exactly what so many others are looking for. The qualities one looks for in places to live versus going on holiday are so vastly different, as are the things one looks for at the various different stages of life.
    Travel blogs are like a box of chocolates …

    Reply

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