Over half term my Dad and I ventured down to Valencia for a few nights. We've always had a tradition of visiting a city the two of us each year and, this time round, we were keen for somewhere Spanish. We've already ticked off Madrid and Barcelona and I'd heard great things about Spain's third city - it's set right on the sea and has managed to avoid being over run with tourists.
Whilst there's not a huge amount to fill more than a few days (unless you want to factor in some relaxed time lounging on the city's beautiful beaches), it's a really vibrant, properly Spanish city and we really enjoyed our time there. It was also very chilled as there wasn't a huge list of things to 'tick off', it was much more a case of mooching around and soaking up the atmosphere.
We stayed in a great airbnb (surprise, surprise!) which was on the edge of Russafa, an up-and-coming area of the city that is seeing an explosion in cafés, bars and restaurants. It was easy walking distance from everywhere and a great base from which to explore. It also had a terrace which is ideal when the sun in shining and you want somewhere to kick back with a drink.
On day one we wandered around the beautiful old town, taking in the old silk exchange, the cathedral and the pretty squares. For dinner we discovered Ruzanuvol which was a fantastic Italian craft beer and antipasti place jut round the corner from our apartment. We liked it so much we ended up eating there twice (very boring of us but I blame the horrid cold I had for curbing my sense of adventure!).
Day two was a culture vulture day. I unleashed my not-so-inner geek and took Dad to the Museo Fallero which is all about the most famous festival in Valencia (Las Fallas which takes place each May - if you can coincide a visit with it you are winning!) and then wandering down to the majestic Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias. It's a modernist architectural feat and, whilst we decided not to explore it, the aquarium is meant to be incredible.
We headed to the Mercado Central for a late lunch, The market is incredible - huge and very much still a place where locals go to shop. It's much less touristy than San Miguel in Madrid or La Boquería in Barcelona. Richard Camerena (who's Valencia's lauded Michelin chef) has a low key tapas restaurant called Bar Central (a bit deceptive as it's actually tucked down one end of the market). and we had an absolutely phenomenal lunch there. It would be my top tip (maybe joint with the paella place later on!) for anyone visiting. Camernea also has a low key restaurant called Canella Bistro in Russafa which is meant to be delicious but we hadn't reserved and couldn't get any tables before 11pm (we weren't feeling quite that Spanish...!).
We spent the evening mooching around El Carmen, a really pretty area just north of the cathedral with lots of windy streets and squares full of bars and cafés. We had a healthy dinner at Alma Libre which is a health food shop selling acai bowls, hummus, vegan burgers and all sorts of other yummy treats. Not particularly holiday-ish but we were still stuffed from lunch. Vinostrum is meant to be a great wine bar in the area but we didn't make it there.
On the last day - after an insane breakfast at Dulce de Leche in Russafa (photos below) - we headed out to the beach via the El Cabanyal fishing district which is set just behind the museums. The beach felt so far removed from the city and it's absolutely vast with a long promenade that lets you walk for a good few miles next to the sea. Hiring bikes was a really popular way to explore this area and there are plenty of spots to do that in various different parts of the city. Our main focus for the day was lunch at Casa Carmela to gorge on the famous Valencian paella. We ended up going for a seafood one rather than the traditional rabbit and chicken but it was divine and absolutely worth venturing off the tourist strip to get a good one rather than the dross that gets trotted out to unsuspecting tourists. L'Estimat on the seafront by El Cabanyal is also meant to be a winner.
And that was it! After a second breakfast at Dulce de Leche (it was just so good!) we were back on the plane home.
Airbnb link: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/7209862