Valencia is a lovely city to visit and great for travel with kids. My daughter was born there and spent the first two years of her life there.
Here are the things I love about this Spanish City:
There is an expansive beach, a number of parks, a beautiful old town and ultra modern City of Arts and Sciences to explore. If you have a baby or a little one you’ll probably have people saying how ‘guapo/ guapa’ (beautiful) he or she is and being helpful. People there generally love children and they will be welcome in restaurants, even quite late at night (just as well as many of the restaurant kitchens don’t open until 9 p.m).
If you have a buggy and fancy a stroll then go down to the Turia-it’s flat, 9 km long and there are plenty of trees offering a shady spot to rest. It used to be a river, but in the 50s after severe floods, the city reclaimed the riverbed, diverted the river and so turned it into a park. It’s a good idea to take a picnic or at least refreshments as cafes are few and far between. Take something to sit down on the grass too in case the benches are in the sun… If you fancy taking your son/ daughter to a play area, in the Turia park, head to Pont Àngel Custodi.
You can get to the Turia by heading down Peris y Valero Street either on foot or by bus (number 19). Go over the bridge Pont Àngel Custodi for a step-free entry. There you will find ‘Gulliver’ with its huge slides made on a giant (only bigger children) and just past there a typical play area for the little ones with slides, climbing and swings.
Casco antiguo / Ciutat Vella- the old town:
You can walk around the old town, exploring the narrow streets. The streets are narrow and there are cobbles though, so a buggy is not very practical for exploring them. To go to the lovely Plaza de la Virgen even if not going for a wander into the rest of the old town. The square has a fountain with a few cafes dotted around and Valencia’s cathedral. Locals say that if you are pregnant and overdue, you should walk round the cathedral 12 times. A friend of mine had ago at this but gave up after 8 laps; she later found out you were meant to walk round the inside not the outside!
Home of paella:
If you fancy tasting the best paella in Valencia you can take a tour bus or a taxi to Alboraya and explore where they grow rice. It’s a beautiful spot! Once there, you can go to the jetty to get a narrow boat to explore the river before going into El Palmar to enjoy delicious plate of ‘Paella valenciana.’ You may want to ask for it ‘sin conejo’ if you don’t want rabbit in it. What, no seafood? I’m sure you can get it, but the local paella is made with chicken and rabbit. Once upon a time some people say rats were put in it, so maybe rabbit isn’t that bad?!
City of Arts and Sciences:
Don’t miss the ultra modern Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias: there you’ll find the aquarium (Oceanografico) with a dolphin show and parts to explore inside and out; also the interactive Science museum (your kids can prod and poke things to learn about science; great from 5 years and up). There’s also Hemisferic, a 3D cinema. Bus number 95 goes there or you can take a taxi.
Valencia has a number of shopping centres- Aqua, Nuevo Centro and Centro Comercial El Saler (not to be confused with the beach ‘el Saler’). However one of my favourite places is Calle Colon- a long street with a mixture of High Street shops, such as H&M, mixed in with Designer stores. You will also find the famous department store ‘El Corte Ingles’ here; there is more than one, the biggest one being near the metro ‘Colon’. If you like small shops, with artesan goods, go and explore the streets behind the Cather in ‘El Carmen’. Siesta still plays a big part in Spanish life, though, so many (smaller) shops are closed 2-5 p.m..
When to go:
The climate in Valencia is great for travel through the year but make sure your room has heating if visiting in winter. In summer it can get really hot so you may need air con. Also, bear in mind that many shops and even restaurants are closed in August.
If you are going in March, there’s madness and mayhem afoot with the start of the Fallas festival. The local communities spend a year planning and making ‘falla’- colourful, satirical structures that comment on events and often mock famous people. It’s amazing to see, but beware the firecrackers being let off here and there in the streets! If you’re in Ruzafa by night, don’t expect to be able to move at more than a snail’s pace. There’s plenty to look at though. The lights there are something else: they fill entire streets, connecting them across the blocks of flats. On Calle Sueca you will find the main lights and each evening in the hour there is a light show to music. One year the theme was Paris and it was pretty amazing.
You also get stalls selling all sorts from mojitos to handicrafts. The traditional ones sell a sort of donut and hot chocolate (churros y chocolate) as well as cocktail stalls. The main time is mid-March, and the ‘falla’ are burned on the final Sunday (around 19th). If with little ones, it’s not the best time to go unless you stay away from the centre.
Getting around the city of Valencia:
Valencia has a great public transport system with underground (el metro), bus, train and trams. The metro takes you from the airport to the bull ring in the centre (Xativa) without changing. Check out the local equivalent of tfl ; it has an English language version. From the square just below the cathedral -Plaza de la Reina- you can get a tour bus to explore the outskirts of the City. There are two routes to choose from.
It ahs quite a number of cycle paths and is quite a compact city, so hiring a bike could be a good option…
If taking a taxi, it is worth having the address written down to avoid any confusion. My mum once read out my whole address, including the ‘puerta’- door number; the driver understood ‘Puerto’ and took her to the port!