how to do valencia
How to Do Valencia: Stay With a Great AirBnB Host
No guide book or self-researched travel itinerary beats the hands-on help of a capable and compatible host. Luckily, I found both in Guillermo, my AirBnB host in Valencia. Not only did he meet me at the train station on arrival, he was kind enough to share his lunch with me after showing me the way to his flat.
|Home-cooked lunch at Guillermo's|
|Guillermo's surprised face when he's not expecting to be photographed.|
Before I headed out to do some exploring on my own, Guillermo provided me a selection of maps to use during my stay, and quickly gave me the lay of the land.
Where I Stayed: AirBnB Private Room in Ruzafa, Valencia
How to Do Valencia: See the Sights in Ciutat Vella (Old Town)
After resting up a bit, I decided to head out and walk around the historic area of Valencia, otherwise known as Ciutat Vella. Despite Guillermo's map and explaining, I managed to get a little turned around during my stroll, but still found my way to the following points of interest.
|Porta de la Mar - at the eastern end of Ciutat Vella|
|Christmas lights and shopping on Carrer del Pau|
|The Valencia Cathedral, or, the Metrpolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia|
|Torres de Serranos at the northern end of Ciutat Vella, El Carmen|
|Torres de Serranos - front view|
|Christmas lights at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in Valencia|
|Plaza de Toros, Valencia|
Sights to See in Ciutat Vella, Valencia (Spanish)
How to Do Valencia: Wander Around the Ruzafa Market
|Free samples of cava? Why yes, thank you.|
|roasted pumpkins - you get to try before you buy|
How to Do Valencia: Taste Authentic Argentinian Italian Pizza
|Carpaccio de pulpo - La Nonna|
|Veggie pizza at La Nonna|
La Nonna Calle Puerto Rico, 16 Valencia, Spain
How to Do Valencia: Hang with the Hipster Set at Calypso
Calypso Russafa Carlos Cervera, 9 Valencia, Spain
How to Do Valencia: Have Sunday Paella with a Valencian Nationalist
|Vicent prepares what he says is not truly paella, but octopus rice. Guillermo supervises, beer at the ready.|
|Shared salad to accompany the main course|
|Vicent's 'octopus rice'|
|"This right here? Is how you do pumpkin," says Vicent.|
|All smiles! An after-lunch coffee at the cafe on the corner|
How to Do Valencia: Take a Stroll Through El Cabanyal
Vicént stops at regular intervals to point out one crumbling, dilapidated building after another. “My grandmother was born there. We used to go pick up huge chunks of ice over there. My uncle’s house was here. My first job was washing cars in that place over there.” I can feel the mix of wistfulness and pride in his voice.
Guillermo and Vicént share that the state of the neighborhood is an intentional move on the part of the local government. They want to expand a nearby avenue so that it connects with the beach further to the south – El Cabanyal is right in the path of this proposed throughway.
We leave El Cabanyal and stroll along the beach, catch a batucada group practicing their moves, watch the sun set over the waves. After our walk, Guillermo and I bid Vicént thanks and goodbye, and catch the metro back home.
How to Do Valencia: Have a Farewell Dinner for a New Friend
|Cordero con ciruelas at Restaurant Zakaria|
|Chicken and vegetable couscous at Restaurant Zakaria|
Our after-dinner plan to find a bar or club with some cool tunes was mostly a bust and ended up with Tanya and me going on a Google search-inspired wild goose chase around the city center that lasted ‘til the wee hours of the morning. But, in the end, it was all good. We had just as much fun getting lost, people watching, laughing like giddy teenagers, and even singing the hooks of old funk and soul tunes on the streets of Valencia. Sometimes it’s not so much about where you’re going, but who you’re travelling with.
|Tanya and I outside of Havana, the Cuban restaurant where we met in Valencia|
How to Do Valencia: Head Down the River to the City of Arts & Sciences
How to Do Valencia: Watch a Revolutionary Screening at Recordshop
When I return to Guillermo's, he asks if I’d be up for seeing a free documentary screening at a nearby bar this evening. “Sure. Which documentary?” I query. He shows me the flyer on his computer. I nearly squeal with excitement. Turns out it’s Wattstax. I’ve been wanting to see it for years, but have never gotten around to it. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity now. We head out a little while later to Recordshop, which is part bar, part ‘cultural association’ with lots of vinyl on display. The owner regularly screens films in the space that is about as big as a large living room. Before the movie, the owner plays Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Axis: Bold as Love’ album (on an actual record player), while Guillermo and I sip beers. Soon, the movie begins. I settle into a worn couch and immerse myself in the sounds of a soulful revolution.
Recordshop Cultural Association Calle Sevilla, 31 Valencia, Spain
How to Do Valencia: Savor Handcrafted Burgers at Slaughterhouse
For my last meal in Valencia, Guillermo and I head to Slaughterhouse, a popular burger restaurant that actually was a slaughterhouse in a previous incarnation. We’d walked past the place on my first night in town, and the smell wafting out onto the street had instantly grabbed my stomach by the nose. Online reviews and Guillermo's own personal recommendation confirmed that this place made some really tasty burgers, so I was glad to have a chance to sample one before heading home. Each of the burgers on the menu at Slaughterhouse gets its name from a fillm or book that is also listed as a recommendation on the menu. All the ingredients on the burgers are fresh and/or homemade, all the way down to the ketchup. I don't always eat burgers back in the States, but when I do, I want it to be a damned good burger. Here in Spain, I've tried burgers a few times, but they've always been 'off' somehow, falling short of my expectations for a well-prepared, proper tasting burger. Thankfully, I found redemption at Slaughterhouse. The Movska burger that I ordered was everything I'd been missing from home. By this time, I wasn't even surprised. After all, in just a few days in Valencia, I had already found so much that made feel right at home.
|The Movska burger at Slaughterhouse|
|A disco ball and a meathook - part of the eclectic decor at Slaughterhouse|
Slaughterhouse Carrer de Dénia, 22 Valencia, Spain
How I Got There: AVE High Speed Train (Spain Pass)
I'm a heavy user of Spain's discount railway pass for non-Spanish travelers. It's called Spain Pass, and I've used it several times to visit cities that are far enough away for me to want to avoid a bus ride (my bus limit is about 3 hours). The trip to Valencia from Ciudad Real took a little over 2 hours on the high-speed train. The same trip would by bus would take about 6 hours, and cost about the same.
Have you had a chance to visit Valencia yet? Share your favorite finds in the comments!