Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Weekend Adventures {Valencia}

At the end of May we spent an amazing weekend in Valencia -- a city that has been on our must visit list since before we moved to Spain!  Valencia is the third largest city in Spain and is about an hour flight from Sevilla (or a seven hour drive from our house) -- but we flew.  It is located on the Mediterranean so it does have a beach you can enjoy!

We have wanted to go to Valencia to visit the City of Arts and Sciences -- an area of the city that houses a top aquarium, an IMAX theater and an interactive science museum.  Trevor (and our sweet Peanut) love aquariums so this city was perfect for them!  Valencia also has a wonderful zoo -- so basically this whole town is extremely kid friendly and I highly recommend going if you have kids (or if you are a kid at heart).

We chose to stay at an apartment hotel close to the city center.  We stayed at this chain which happened to be perfect -- great location and great apartment.  It was a little more than we usually spend for hotels/apartments but we had credit on this website for saying ten nights (highly recommend if you travel frequently).  The apartment was super clean and the beds were really comfortable -- and more importantly, our Peanut actually slept in her own bed in her own room for the first time ever when we travel so that was a huge huge win!

The airport for Valencia is just outside the city which requires a taxi or subway ride into the city.  We attempted to taxi just so we didn't have to walk from the metro station but they wouldn't take us because we didn't have a carseat for Serafina (but we took a taxi to the airport for our flight out and didn't have a carseat -- so go figure).  The metro system in Valencia isn't the best -- it doesn't really go into the center of the city so most stops will require a 10-15 minute walk to get into the city.  However, two lines run from the airport all the way to the marina/beach so that is the cheap option to get into the city.  While in Valencia, the bus system is pretty extensive and great so we used the bus daily -- especially getting to the City of Arts and Sciences.  Valencia does have a tourist card but it was cheaper for us to just get a prepaid card of ten rides for the bus (we bought it at a local tabac shop and the card is called bonobus and does not work with the metro).

We packed a lot into our weekend away so once again I'll just break down each place we went and how it worked with the Peanut and such!

The BioParc is a huge zoo.  It is different from many other zoos because most exhibits have multiple animals, just as if they were in nature.  The park was laid out very well and perfect for kids -- there were so many viewing places at Serafina's level so she could see the animals and enjoy herself.  Her favorite part was the walk through the lemur enclosure -- she was so excited to see the animals so close!  Our favorite part was the brand new baby gorilla!  Obviously this place was super kid friendly (and stroller friendly).  We didn't eat there so I can't tell you about the food but there seemed to be plenty of places to eat or grab a snack.  It was also a trek to get out there -- highly recommend taking the bus.

City of Arts and Sciences
The City of Arts and Sciences is a huge complex located between the main part of town and the beach.  It houses an aquarium, an interactive science museum and an IMAX theater.  You can buy tickets online or at each of the places, and for each individual place or you can buy combo tickets.  We bought the combo ticket to the aquarium and science museum.  We had dedicated a whole day to the City of Arts and Sciences mainly because we didn't know what to expect (I'd say 1-2 hours at the science museum and aquarium would be perfect).  The interactive science museum was very cool, especially with an active toddler.  She could touch and try everything!  There was also an amazing kids area where Serafina got to play and run around to her heart's content -- building things, playing with the water table and more!  We had to drag her out of there with the promise of dolphins at the aquarium.

The aquarium was also very cool -- huge shark exhibit which frightened our poor Peanut -- the underwater tunnel was a little scary with fish and sharks swimming above and all around you! We timed it right (not planned) to attend a dolphin show and while I am not usually a fan of those types of things, it was really cool and Serafina loved it.  The aquarium was actually fairly spread out but we hit all the exhibits, enjoying the penguins and belugas the most!  We ate the aquarium as there really aren't a lot of food options around the surrounding area.  The food was to be expected for a theme park type place -- not that great and pretty expensive.

Gulliver's Park
Gulliver's Park is a huge playground/play structure in the middle of the Jardin del Turia (a huge park that surrounds the city -- it is the old riverbed, the city diverted the river and created a gorgeous park).  We had heard amazing things about Gulliver's Park so we were excited to check it out.  While very cool with lots of things to do -- slides and climbing, our sweet girl was just a little too young to really enjoy it.
La Lonja
A UNESCO World Heritage site that used to be the silk and commodity exchange for Valencia.  While the building was gorgeous, there was no signage or anything to explain what we were looking at -- definitely get the audio guide if you go.  No elevator and lots of stairs up to the upper level, so just have someone watch the stroller if you want to go to the upper level (the ceiling is cool so its worth it).
Mercado Central
Gorgeous covered central market (fairly modern in terms of markets) that houses amazing food stands -- even if you aren't looking to buy food, you definitely should go and wander through.  There are a few tapas bars where you can grab a bite to eat.  There is another market in town -- Mercado del Colon -- which is also worth a run through (and grabbing a bite to eat if you want).
Catedral de Valencia
The very centrally located and large and gorgeous cathedral.  Mostly Gothic architecture and famous for having two Goyas as well as the chalice that is claimed to be the Holy Grail.  The museum which is attached to the church was worth a quick run through.

Museo Fallero
A museum dedicated to the ninots that are saved each Las Fallas festival (a huge festival each March where neighborhoods create fallas (huge elaborate sculptures) that are eventually burned on the last night of the festival).  The town votes to save one ninot from the fires that year and they go into the museum.  The museum is small but it is amazing to see the various ninots from the past years (dating back to early 1900s).  We loved this museum and so did Serafina.
Playa de las Arenas
The beach in Valencia that stretches past the marina -- this part of the beach is very touristy but fun nonetheless.  Lots of restaurants and bars line the boardwalk.  It is on the Mediterranean so the water is fairly warm and while the beach is sandy, it is not the smooth, fine grained sand we are used to in Rota -- a little more rocky.  We did have to wait out a pretty big rain/thunder storm at one of the beach bars/restaurants but our time spent at the beach was pretty fun!
Food & Drink
Valencia has tons of amazing places to eat as Valencia is known for its food, especially the paella.  Valencia is said to be the birth place of paella, made traditionally with chicken and rabbit rather than seafood.  There are so many places to eat in Valencia, seriously -- there are so many restaurants and you really can't go wrong!  Well, I take that back -- we did try the horchata here which is a Valencian speciality made from tiger nuts (chufas).  However, it is not the Mexican horchata we are used to and it was disgusting -- but the sweet long buns called fartons you eat your horchata with were super yummy!  I do higly recommend trying agua de Valencia which is not water at all but an amazing cocktail -- made with cava (Spanish champagne), orange juice, gin, vodka and any other alcohol you want to add.  It's Valencia's version of a Long Island Iced Tea and so so yummy!
Valencia seemed to have a lot of museums -- art (fine art, ceramics), history and more but we didn't want to spend all day in museums so we only did the ones that were of interest to us (Museo Fallero La Lonja, and the cathedral).  So do your research if you want to see other museums.

We also did a lot of walking around to see various places such as the train station, the bullring and the big Jardin del Turia park.  Valencia also has a lot of fancy architecture on random buildings -- many in a modernista style, so be sure to look up as you are walking too.

Also, Valencia is much more a family-friendly city rather than a party/go out type city (although we did see a ton of hen/stag parties).  The city seemed to be a popular British spot, so many people spoke English.  There also seemed to be great shopping but we didn't really have time (or the energy to take a toddler).  There are plenty of day trips outside of Valencia that looked really amazing but most seemed to require a car.  So if you have kids, then I highly recommend a weekend in Valencia.  If you don't have kids, then just a day is perfect or skip it altogether.

But we loved Valencia and so did our Peanut -- we had a blast on our weekend away and so happy we finally got to experience Valencia!

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