Ooh La La, Valencia!
Ethan Weil is the Content Creator on the 2023 Trans-Europa Cycling Tour. He reports on the Spanish city of Valencia, where the riders enjoyed a well-deserved rest day.
“I believe this is my favourite city on tour so far!” – Geoff Bailey
The comforting golden hue of the sun reflected off the ornate architecture in the last few hours of daylight. We had just arrived in Valencia and I was speechless at just how beautiful the city was! Gorgeous architecture lurked around every twist and turn, every detail was well thought out and perfectly placed. Not one building was remotely the same. Thankfully, we had a rest day to explore the city and after talking to a few other riders on tour I’m not the only one that fell in love with the city of Valencia!
It has to be one of the most charming cities in Spain, if not the world. It’s blessed with balmy weather year-round and is surrounded by a line of beaches with Blue Flag status – Cabanyal, Malvarrosa and Arbre del Gos. This rating guarantees the quality of the water, the sand, and ensures respect for the environment. With impressive architecture, both old and new, the city rivals any other when it comes to the arts and design. Santiago Calatrava, a famous architect and Valencian native, designed many of the buildings within the city such as the Queen Sofia Palace of Arts, Hemisfèric (IMAX Theater & 3D Cinema), Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe (Science Museum), Agora (Cultural Center) and L’Umbracle Sculpture Garden. He was also responsible for such notable buildings around the world like the World Trade Center in New York and the Creek Tower in Dubai. Valencia, home to hundreds of brilliant architectural creations, was named World Design Capital of the world in 2022.
Founded by the Romans, Valencia’s history spans over 2,000 years. As one of the oldest cities in Spain its strategic location in the Mediterranean has made it a vital asset to the country. I was surprised to learn that its port is now the main economic driver and influencer within the region of Western Mediterranean and is the most efficient port in southern Europe.
Now, let’s talk food! More specifically, the delectable dish, paella! One of the most well known, if not the most famous dish in Spanish cuisine, it’s a rice dish that originated in Valencia. There is even a tournament – World Paella Day – where they celebrate the dish and Valencian culture and host a global competition to see who can make the world’s most delicious paella! Last year’s winner took home the cup representing France and this year the competition is taking place on September 20th.
There are many great places in Valencia to get paella and you simply can’t go wrong with choosing one or another. I can personally recommend the restaurant at the base of the Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts – Restaurante Contrapunto Les Arts – for for a lunch paella. It opens at noon but doesn’t serve food until 13:30. What makes this place special is that you get to eat and drink on the outside patio surrounded by the decorative waters that line the beautiful architecture created by the Santiago Calatrava. I ordered a coffee to start before having the Carne Paella which came with Iberian ham
Overall, the food and drink scene in Valencia is simply fantastic! Moving beyond paella, the city has all the gastronomic choice that your heart could desire. On the night we arrived in Valencia, I joined rider Ming-Jiing for dinner at a Chinese restaurant called Min Dou. Ming revealed that the reason we went is that, “Sometimes I miss the food I have at home and so on rest days I look for a good Chinese restaurant to go to.” It was a great meal and I got to experience a part of the city that I wouldn’t have otherwise visited.
I strongly suggest spending a morning sitting outside at a local cafe, enjoying the early activities of the day and taking in the surroundings. In the evening, if you fancy a drink, feel free to explore the multitude of bars and restaurants scattered around the city. Valencia breaths anew at night as people walk around, relax in parks and meet up with friends and family . The local cocktail of Valencia is Agua de Valencia. The ingredients include cava or champagne as a base, orange juice, and vodka and gin. If you want a rooftop viewing experience, particularly of the Queen Sofia Palace of Arts, visit the 270º Terrace at Barceló but be aware that it can fill up quickly. Arrive early or make a reservation in advance in order to enjoy the view Valencia from above!
Another notable highlight in Valencia is the Mercado Central Market. It is the largest fresh produce market in all of Europe with 1200 stalls serving fresh fruits and vegetables in a beautifully decorated building with Art Nouveau design.
Valencia truly has something for everyone of all ages and backgrounds. From festivals to operas, from art festivals to sporting events, there is always something going on. While staying for only a day makes it difficult to see everything, I hope you took something away from this little piece on Valencia and you can get out there to explore it for yourself.
Join us on this spectacular 2 1/2 month cycling adventure across Europe. The route passes through eleven countries, starting in Tallinn and finishing...