I had been wanting to see Valencia after hearing about its great new architecture particularly that of Santiago Calatrava who is from Valencia and who has an office there. I took the AVE from Madrid which has shortened the trip to 90 minutes (great service and breakfast). I stayed in the southern part of the old city that is surrounded by many stores, cafes and tapas bars and is bustling late into the evening. I really enjoyed my time in Valencia and think it is well worth a stop on your itinerary.
I purchased the Valencia Card which allows me entry into certain museums or at least discounts off the price, offers discounts on restaurants and includes rides on the Metro. Unlike Barcelona and Madrid, there are not that many Metro stations, so I have ended up walking and taking taxis.
Here is what I suggest you see and do:
Mercado/Mercat Central, Plaza del Mercado: This is a very impressive market in the center of the city with over 1,000 stalls. It is an iron structure with a great dome and stained glass windows.
La Lonja Plaza del Mercado: This is Valencia’s former Silk Exchange Building that became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. It was built between 1482 and 1533 and is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. Calatrava has said that the building has been an influence in his architecture. It is across from the Mercado.
Horchateria del Siglo, Plaza Santa Catalina 11: I read in my Wallpaper* Guidebook that I needed to stop in and try horchata in this bar/café that was started in 1836. The atmosphere of mirrors and painted walls was right out of the 1800’s. All of the servers loved seeing their bar/café pictured in the book. I tried the drink and really liked it. It is like drinking a soy chai latte in some respects. It is a drink made from chufas (tiger nuts) that were brought to Spain by the Moors. They let me try the actual chufas and, the best of all, they had me sample their ice cream which was really good as well!
Cathedral de Valencia, Plaza de la Reina: This is a large cathedral of several styles that is worth a visit. The altar is beautiful. There are two Goya paintings in a chapel on the right side.
Museo de Belles Artes de Valencia, Calle San Pio V, #9: This is the art museum located in a former Seminary College. I focused on the works by Goya, Velazquez, van Dyck and Ribera that were highlighted in the Museum brochure. My favorite part was by far the rooms that contained close to 40 paintings of Joaquin Sorolla. They included still lifes, portraits and some of his famous seascapes. I have become a fan of Sorolla and saw his home and studio in Madrid along with more paintings at the Prado.
IVAM/Institut Valencia D’Art Modern, Guilem de Castro 118: This is the local contemporary art museum that features a permanent collection as well as temporary exhibitions. I was able to walk through five including painting, drawing and wonderful sculptures in the permanent collection by Julio Gonzalez, one of the most important sculptuors of the 20th century. There is also a small cafe on the first floor.
Explore Russafa: I read that The Russafa area was the historic Moorish Quarter that is now a hub for students and artists. It is fun to explore. Make sure to see and walk through the colorful Russafa Market.
Museo Nacional de Ceramica, Calle del Poeta Querol 2: I spent some time in this museum since I like ceramics and collect pottery and ceramics and have taken two pottery classes. The museum is situated in the Palacio de Dos Aguas in the center of downtown. The rooms of the palace on display are decorated beautifully with frescoes, gold-leaf and marble. Here you will see ceramics on display. Upstairs, on the top two floors, are display cases with pottery and local tiles some going back for centuries. It was a treat to see. If you like decorative arts, furniture and ceramics make sure to stop in to see the collection.
Estacion del Norte, Calle de Xitava: I stopped in the train station which dates back to 1917 in the modernist tradition. The ticket hall has some beautiful stained glass windows, mosaics and ceramic sculptures. It is worth a stop when you are across the street at the Metro station.
Nearby is the Plaza de Toros where you can check out the schedule and see a bull fight.