Since living in Valencia, I have seen so many beautiful, cool, and crazy things. The past 1.5 months have been packed full of fun activities and awesome views from here to Barcelona. I’ll share with you the top 10 places that I have seen since January.
1. The City of Arts and Sciences
This new-age structures are located in the Turia riverbed (now dry, of course) and are massive! I felt like I was in the future; I would not have been surprised to see spaceships flying in at that moment. It is really neat to see such modern buildings in a historic city. Although a little creepy, they are a must-see in Valencia.
2. Turia Riverbed
As I mentioned before, the Turia riverbed is one of my favorite places to go in the city. As an avid runner, I love meandering my way among the beautiful trees, dirt trails and stone paths from one end of the bed to the other. There are so many cool sections, so I never get bored. Sometimes I love to just stop and simply people-watch. There are bikers, runners, skate boarders, roller bladders, and once, I even saw a lady walking a pig on a leash. Interesting, to say the least.
The first time I walked among the tight, cobble-stoned streets of the famed Carmen neighborhood near the Torres de Serranos, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by all the activity. Walking there on a weekend night is prime because tourists and locals alike gather in the streets to socialize, go to dinner, and find a bar or club. The street lamps are lit and create a feeling of warmth on these “cold” Valencian nights.
I love, love, love this place! I balance out my love of running with my love of food, and this is just the place to come. Upon walking up the steps, my eyes widen as I see booths upon booths of fresh veggies, fruits, meats and cheeses, and pastries. The potent smell of fish hits my nose as I walk through the seemingly endless stands. This is one of the oldest European markets still opening its doors every morning. Every time I walk in, I am bombarded by colors and smells that inspire me to cook a great meal.
Our ISA group took a little rainy Saturday morning field trip to this cathedral, and I will never forget the amazing 360-degree view at the top. There is a long, skinny spiral staircase all the way to the lookout point, so I was incredibly happy with my choice of walking shoes. High above the city, the colors of the rooftops were unbeatable against the cloudy sky and mountains in the distance. I felt like I was on top of the world!
This is a seaside treasure that few people visit. Though Tarragona isn’t in Valencia, it is only a 3-hour car ride away from the city. It is literally built upon ancient Roman ruins, so there are pillars and structures that are older than my mind can comprehend. Our ISA group travelled there together and visited the old colosseum by the sea. The views are amazing, and who doesn’t think that it’s cool to stand where gladiators once fought?
7. Xátiva Castle
Imagine a mountaintop castle ages old with beautiful views in every direction. The small town of Xátiva is a 45-minute train ride southwest of Valencia. After a short hike up a winding road lined with gorgeous pines, you enter the castle doors and can hike the lower and upper castle, taking photos and exploring the nooks and crannies.
At the end of the riverbed is Valencia’s Bioparc (zoo). It is one of the most unique zoos I have ever been to because it feels like you can reach out your hand and literally touch the animals. I would advise against that, but it seems possible! We saw flamingos (my favorite), lemurs, giraffes, elephants, and more. With short fences, the Bioparc has a ‘We Bought A Zoo’-esque feeling; I loved that everything was so natural and accessible.
9. La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain
This is one of the most beautiful and unique churches I have ever seen. Begun by Gaudí in the late 1800s, this church is still being built today. I felt like I was part of history watching the cranes tower above the church adding more and more on to the structure. Inside, there were so many colors, strange columns and pillars, and stained glass. It looked a little like something Dr. Seuss would approve of. On the outside, it seemed as if the front was made of sand drippings. I will never forget this church.
10. Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain
On the same ISA trip to Barcelona, we visited this park designed and built by Gaudí on a cold and cloudy Sunday morning. The views out to the Mediterranean were unreal, and the tiled structures were colorful and intricate. I wandered from the touristy areas to the nearby gardens to unleash my inner explorer. Trails upon trails of pretty flowers that, I imagine, are best during the spring. I loved seeing the mix between the man-made and nature; photo-ops are necessary here!