Valencia is located on the Mediterranean and is the third largest city in Spain with a population of approximtely 807,000. It is an energetic and cosmopolitan city, but has a more relaxed atmosphere than Madrid and Barcelona. The people of Valencia take pride in their region, and the area has retained a distinctive character in spite of increased tourism and international influences. The Valencianos have some of the most unusual festivals in all of Spain, and they are also known for their lively tradtional music, excellent food, and beautiful regional crafts. The surrounding countryside is some of the most fertile land in all of Europe, known as La Huerta. Valencia also has a great seaside charm, with some beautiful beaches and peaceful views of the water. The nearby mountains along the coast add to the beauty of the scenery.
Valencia has a fairly consistent Mediterranean climate, and neither the summer nor winter temperatres are extreme. The summers tend to be warm and dry, with temperatures averaging between 17 - 29˚C (63 - 85˚F). The winters are more humid but never very cold, and temperatures typically range from 5 - 16˚C (41 - 60˚F). Spring and fall are the stormiest seasons, but it rains very little in Valencia. Regardless of the time of year, you can expect many clear, sunny days.
Castilian Spanish is the official language of Spain and the version of Spanish spoken in Valencia. There is also a Valencian dialect that was revivied following Franco’s death in 1975, and is spoken by some residents of the region.
Roman Catholicism is by far the most common religion in Spain, and therefore the most prevalent one in Valencia. Almost 80% of the population declares themselves to be Catholic, though this doesn’t mean that they necessarily practice the religion. Muslims are the second largest religious group, currently numbering over 1 million throughout the country. Protestants and Jews are present but rare.
The currency used in Spain is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5, and the coins in use are €2, €1, 0.50C, 0.20C, 0.10C, 0.05C, 0.02C and 0.01C.
Service charges are almost always included in bills from restaurants, but a small tip is usually expected in addition. A tip of 5% is fairly normal, but you can give less for a small meal or more if the service is exceptional. Tipping for taxis is likewise usually between 5 - 10% of the bill if you are happy with the service. In cinemas and theatres where someone shows you to your seat it is normal to give a tip of 50 cents. This is also done for services such as coat checks. Tipping in bars and cafés is done, but at a lower rate, usually around 20 cents per round of drinks.
Spain has two different sales tax rates, at 7% and 16% depending on the items purchased. The 7% tax is for all items or services considered “essential” and is always non-refundable. This tax rate is used for hotel and restaurant bills, for example. Most items you buy in a shop, however, will be taxed at 16%. This tax can be refunded to tourists who are not from the EU, as long as you spend more than € 90.15 in the same store. Not all stores participate in tax free shopping, but the ones that do will give you an invoice to present at customs when you leave the airport. The airport bank will reimburse you for the amount listed on the invoice.
The country code of Spain is +34 and the local area code for Valencia is 96. To call Valencia from abroad, dial 00 34 96 followed by the local number. There are several good mobile networks throughout Spain, and it is usually easy to pick up a signal with a foreign mobile. International phone cards with cheap rates can be found at a variety of newsstands or tobacco shops in Valencia. Pay phones accept both phone cards and change. Phone rates for both national and international calls are cheaper after 10 pm and during the weekend.
There are several good internet cafés in Valencia. Some are open quite late, while other close in the early evening. Prices are normally between €1 - 2 per hour.
Ambulance, Fire and Police: 112
Local Police: 092
Civil Guard: 062
Most shops and other businesses are open Mon - Sat both morning and evening with a break in between. Typical opening times are from 9.30 am - 2 pm and from 5 pm - 8 pm, though with some stores the break may be shorter. Certain large stores stay open all day. Some shops in the centre stay open late, until around 9.30 pm. On Saturdays, it is not uncommon for small shops to close early, around 2 pm. Banks open earlier than stores, usually around 8.30 am, and close around 2 pm. Banks and government offices are closed on Saturday. On Sunday, almost everything is closed.
The following days are public holidays in Spain, and means that shops and banks will be closed. Transportation may also be more limited, and taxis add a small surcharge to the bill.
1st January, New Years Day
6th January, Three Kings’ Day
20th March, San José Day
Easter Thursday and Friday
1st May, Labour Day
15th August, Feast of the Assumption
1st November, All Saints Day
6th December, Constitution Day
8th December, Feast of the Immaculate Conception
25th December, Christmas
Spain has a low rate of violent crime, and Valencia is basically as safe as any city can expect to be. Crimes that tourists should be on the lookout for, however, include pick pocketing, thefts from cars, and other kinds of robbery. These can be avoided in almost all cases, though, if common precautions are taken. Keep an eye on your surroundings and your belongings, and don’t carry valuables in places where pickpockets could get at them. Areas of Valencia where it is wise to be careful after dark include the Malvarossa area near to the beach, Cabanyal and the paths along the Turia River.
Silk Exchange (Lonja de la Sed
This old building that used to house the Valencia Silk Exchange is now a World Heritage Site. The Silk Exchange was founded in 1469 and includes a beautiful Gothic trading hall and a crenellated tower. Nowadays it is primarily used for hosting exhibitions, and is one of Valencia’s top tourist attractions. The building is fascinating on a large scale as well as a small one. It has an incredibly high ceiling with vaulted arches, as well as surprising detail work. For example, there are some distinctly risqué etchings on some of the woodwork. In addition to the beautiful interior, there is also a quaint little garden with orange trees and a fountain. On Sunday mornings there is a stamp and coin collecters market held in the hall.
Opening times: Tues - Fri 9 am - 2 pm and 4 pm - 6 pm, Sat and Sun 9 am - 1.30 pm
Entrance price: € 2
Crypt of Saint Vincente
Macabre though it may sound, a very interesting place to visit is the crypt of what used to be the Prison of Saint Vicente the Martyr. It is located underneath the Church of Saint Vicente, a historic site that was originally an ancient Visigoth chapel. In later years it was used to imprison Vincente, who became Valencia’s patron saint. The crypt contains old Visigoth alters, Muslim artifacts, Roman murals, and other artifacts. Audiovisual tours are provided, taking visitors through the ancient history represented in the crypt. Admission is free.
Opening times: Tues - Sat 9.30 am - 2 pm and 5.30 pm - 8 pm, Sun 9.30 am - 2 pm
Plaza de la Virgen
This is one of the most beautiful squares in Valencia and contains several historic landmarks. The centre of the square was once the site of the ancient Roman forum, and now has a nice fountain made to represent the river Turia. Important buildings located on the square include the ornately Gothic Palau de la Generalitat, the seat of government for the Valencia region, and the Basiclica de Nuestra Senora de los Desamparados. The latter is a Baroque church with amazing frescoes inside. Sitting at one of the many outdoor cafés or on a bench in the plaza is a great way to people watch and get a feel for the Valencia atmosphere.
Valencia has a unique character due in large part to its distinctive combination of architecture. The city contains examples of almost every main Spanish style, including Visigoth, Gothic, Baroque, Art Deco, and some interesting modern buildings as well. The city has some lovely, quaint old quarters with winding streets and little old fashioned shops, as well as some modern areas, of no less interest to tourists. The most popular attraction in the city is the modern City of the Arts and Sciences complex, which houses many fascinating exhibits and shows. Valencia also features some classic and dramatically adorned churches, one of which claims to have the Holy Grail. In addition, there are beautiful parks offering respite from the urban environment and scenic views of the river. Valencia is also known for its markets, always lively and bustling, selling everything from fresh fruit and seafood to second hand clothes.
City of Arts and Science (La C
This famous attraction is a complex that covers a large area, comprised of five futuristic buildings designed by Santiago Calatrava. The buildings are built over a man-made lake, and accessed by a grand walkway covered with flowering plants. The center features a science museum, an Imax cinema, a planetarium, and the largest aquarium in Europe. The complex is easily accessible by both bus and metro. Many concessions are available within the park.
Opening times: 2 January - 30 June and 16 September - 30 December: Daily 10 am - 7 pm
1 July - 15 September 10 am - 9 pm
Entrance price: € 30.50
El Carmen (Old Quarter)
Valencia’s old town includes much of the most picturesque parts of the city. It is characterized by narrow alleys, winding cobblestone streets, surprising nooks and crannies, and some cozy cafes and bars. Historic highlights of the district include ruins of the old medieval walls, Gothic architecture, and a convent dating from the 13th century. Wandering about in this area, you can feel as if you have gone back in time, as there are virtually no modern buildings.
Catedral (La Seu)
This impressive cathedral is the most famous church in Valencia. It is well known for several reasons, one of which being that for more than 500 years it has claimed to be the home of the Holy Grail. This cup of legend is on display in a side chapel. The cathedral is a handsome and elaborate building, including huge arches, a domed basilica, and a Gothic tower known as Miguelete. The cathedral was founded in 1262 but adapted later, and in it’s present state it combines architectural styles of the Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque, though Gothic is dominant. A climb up the Miguelete tower is well worth the effort, as you will see a panorama of the whole city as well as the green farmland beyond. There is also a cathedral museum, which features an exhibit of paintings by Goya and Zurbarán.
Opening times: Cathedral: Daily 7.30 am - 1 pm and 4.30 pm - 8.30 pm
Cathedral museum: Mon - Fri 10 am - 1 pm and 4 pm - 7 pm
Entrance price (for museum and tower respectively): € 1.20
Basílica de la Virgen de los D
The name of this church means “basilica of our lady of the forsaken” and is also known as “Geperudeta” or Little Hunchback. This nickname comes from the statue of the Lady of the Forsaken, which hangs from the ceiling inside the church and tilts forward, giving it a hunchbacked appearance. The church is old and full of character, and has a lovely location, situated on the Plaza de la Virgen in the Old Quarter.
This church has one of the most grand and impressive interiors in the city. The tall ceilings, wide open spaces, stained glass windows and classic stonework make for a contemplative atmosphere. Santa Catalina is one of the oldest churches in Valencia, built in the 14th century. The church was badly damaged during the Spanish civil war, but has since been renovated and returned to its original state. It has a famous tower that was added in the 18th century and is one of the landmarks of Valencia.
Jardín del Turia
The Turia River originally ran straight through the centre of Valencia, but in 1957 a devastating flood made the city government decide to reroute the river and dry it out within the town. The dried out riverbed that runs through the heart of town was made into a park called the Jardín del Turia. Nowadays it is a large nature park that also includes some cultivated gardens and sport and recreational facilities.
Jardines del Real (Royal Garde
One of the most popular parks to relax in in the city, these gardens have nice paths, trees and grassy areas to explore. The Natural Science Museum and the zoo are located within the gardens, and there are also some nice bars and cafés.
The Botanical Garden
These were the first botanical gardens in all of Spain and are a lovely place to visit, with both indoor greenhouses and charming outdoor gardens. There is a great variety of trees, plants from all over the world, including many rare species, and greenhouses with special themes. These include the cactus house, the rockery, and the exotic plants section.
Opening times: Tues - Sun