I started my journey in Valencia in early January, and had 4 months of new experiences, new travels, and new cultures during my time abroad. Studying abroad in Spain really opened my eyes to how different the way of life can be for different cultures, and it made me step back and look back at how I was living my life. I traveled to many different countries outside of Spain, but Valencia will always hold a special place in my heart for what it taught me and how it helped me grow.
Valencia is a diverse city with many parts to explore, I wish everyone had the chance to fall in love with it like I did. There’s the old town, the University district, the urban Ruzafa area, the beach, and more. It’s hard to choose where and how to spend your time, so here a re a few things I recommend doing when in Valencia!
Ride Bikes in the Riverbed
There’s not better way to see the city than by poking through it. All over town, you can find bike rental shops that let you rent a bike for the day, for soo cheap! I love riding through the riverbed, because you get to see local sports and people in general, and you also can ride straight to the beautiful arts and sciences museum. Even if you don’t go in, you get amazing views that are worth taking some pictures of. If you follow the Riverbed Turia all the ay down, you can take some side streets and head to the beach! You can save money on transportation by paying the all day bike fee, and it’s such a fun way to get around – especially with nice weather!
Stroll through the Central Market
For food lovers like me, walking through the central market is such an experience. Rows and rows and rows of fresh fruits, vegetables, as well as dried goods, wine, beer, candy, pastries, meats, coffees, olive oil – you name it, you can probably find it here! Grab a fresh fruit cup as you walk, or grab a latte from one of the little cafes inside. This is also the perfect place to grab a picnic for the day, and have fresh food rather than eating at a restaurant!
Walk Through the Old Town
Lucky for me, I live right in the Old Town Valencia. Close to cathedrals, churches, and the Torres De Serranos. There are winding streets that narrow and widen, leading you to hidden corners of the city. It’s fun to get lost and explore areas, because you will always find a cute cafe or small authentic restaurant. The main plazas are also a part of this area, and are always bustling with people. Spend time walking through here and street shopping from vendors, or stop off to grab a midday drink. You can also find free walking tours through this part of town, if you’re interested in knowing a little more history.
Tapas, Tapas, Tapas!
One of the many traditions of Spain: Tapas! Locals usually enjoy these late afternoon, after lunch and before dinner (which is really late compared to the United States). Find a tapas restaurant to spend a couple hours enjoying small bites and a nice drink! You’ll have no issue finding one, trust me, they’re on every corner! You get a drink, and then can go up to the bar where they have the tapas displayed. Pick which ones ya want, and once you’re done they will add up how many you ate and charge you (usually per tapa). It’s such a fun way to socialize over food and drinks, so don’t miss out on this chance to experience Valencia like a local!
Visit the Arts and Sciences Museum or Aquarium
Valencia is well know for the City of Arts and Sciences Museum and Aquarium. It costs around $35 without a student card to visit both, but if you are looking for something to do, it’s a good way to spend the day. If you aren’t in to museums, maybe not the best for you. They alternate showcases, and the aquarium is always fun to visit! Again the outside is beautiful, and when it warms up they have activities outside in the water for people to try – like paddle boarding and canoeing. It’s a great place for families, especially those with younger kids who can enjoy the interactive parts of the museum!
Try Churros and Chocolate
Although my favorite dessert is and forever will be ice cream, one has to try churros and chocolate while in Spain. This combo was created here, so of course they have the best! Going somewhere in the Old Town is your best bet for an authentic experience, but fried churros dipped in chocolate are really hard to mess up! However, make sure wherever you go serves it with a thick chocolate, not watery – cause this tastes like watered down hot chocolate, and you just end up with a sad, soggy churro. My favorite place is Horchatería Santa Catalina, they have amaaaazing chocolate, and it has been the best I’ve tried so far!
Sit and Enjoy a Drink in the Afternoon
Do as the locals do, am I right? Everyday, I walk by a restaurant or cafe and see adults enjoying beer or a glass of wine as early as 10 A.M. It’s culture here to take a break in the afternoon (a siesta) and rest, or have a nice drink. I love finding an outdoor spot to grab an Agua de Valencia, and spend time just taking
in the city around me! You’re on vacation, enjoy the day drinking while you can, cheers!
No matter how you spend your time in Valencia, I can almost guarantee you will be relaxed and content, because that is just how everyone is here. Studying abroad has given me much more than an education in a new place; it has given me a new perspective on life overall and made me more mindful of how I am living day to day. I wish everyone could study abroad to gain experiences like this in life, because I believe these are much more beneficial than anything you learn in a classroom.