Rachel recently enjoyed a mini-break in the historic Spanish city of Valencia with her husband - here's her travel review and tips for those looking for a sunny city break...
April can be a funny time of year – in the UK, it’s prone to April showers, and across the Channel, there’s many parts of Europe which still haven’t fully opened up for tourist high season, making hotel availability difficult, and offering fewer options for activities. I was looking for a mini April break with a short flight and mild weather and came up with Valencia, on the southeastern coast of Spain, and renowned for its City of Arts and Sciences, so offering plenty to do, along with its famous cuisine to savour.
With a flight time of just over two hours and a 15-20-minute drive from the airport to the city centre, we arrived at our hotel at 10.30 am. We didn’t expect our room to be ready so left our luggage securely at the hotel whilst we had a wander. When I choose my own hotel, it is all about location so I booked a 3-star boutique hotel, San Lorenzo, which is just minutes from the Cathedral and opposite the Palace of the Borgias. This area is also pedestrianised with plenty of restaurants in the immediate area serving tapas and, of course, Paella, which was first created in Valencia - so it’s the perfect city in which to sample! In the adjacent square at the rear of the cathedral, you will find Segways for hire, with a free lesson included. I would have loved to have hired one of these but my balance leaves a lot to be desired!
We tend to use open-top buses as it is a wonderful way to get one’s bearings. There were two competing bus lines operating at the time, and we opted for the ‘red’ buses, as the ‘green’ buses do not run so regularly. A 48-hour ticket is just 19 euros as opposed to 16 euros for 24 hours, offering a much better-value option if you’ve got more time to explore the city. There are two routes, with one taking in the main city area, whilst the other route goes to the port and beach area. If cruising into the port of Valencia, you can pick up the ‘blue route’ which will take you to the ‘old city’ where – if time allows – you can wander around the historic centre and sample a Sangria (or two).
Valencia has wide avenues, plenty of parks and, unlike Barcelona, no traffic congestion as such. The Turia Gardens runs for nine kilometres across the city and were once the riverbed of the Turia. Here you will find plenty of green space, with footpaths, leisure and sports areas, museums and monuments. Like the beach area, the Turia Gardens are very popular with skateboarders, roller skaters, and cyclists of all ages.
Whilst we were in the beach area the sky was full of kites of all shapes and sizes which made a pretty sky line. This is a lovely area for families; the beach was clean and uncrowded, and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. There is a mini train around the port area which we tried, although I would not not recommend this; although it’s only five euros, it mainly travels through and around the car parking area, so a thumbs down from me!
Over the weekend we visited the ‘Biopark’ via the open top bus. This isn’t a traditional zoo, as the park brings the visitors into the habitat of the animals, known as zoo immersion. It has been cleverly designed. We really enjoyed seeing the baby gorilla which was being cuddled by the mother and watched closely by the father, this was literally just the other side of the glass, just inches from where we were standing. All the animals seemed very relaxed and at home in their surroundings.
The following day we visited the Oceanografic, the largest aquarium in Europe which is made up of different areas including the Med, Wetlands, Temperate and Tropical, Antarctic, Arctic, and Red Sea. They also boast an underwater Auditorium and Dolphinarium. The cost of entry is 29 euros per person and personally I didn’t think it represented value for money, however the reviews tend to be rated highly. The surrounding water areas near the restaurants need a good tidy up and are just full of algae.All in all, I would definitely recommend Valencia for a city break for all age groups, couples and families. It is also worth noting that the city is flat with generally wide pavements and is ideal for wheel chair users.
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