Fishing districts and modernist masterpieces are ripe for discovery in Valencia’s neighborhoods. Use our guide to explore this Spanish city.
Valencia’s diverse neighborhoods, which are also known as barrios, are what truly give Spain’s third biggest city its unique flavor. As you wander from place to place, the buildings evolve, sights and scents fluctuate, and the people who make up the local community change, too. In other words, there’s more than one side to Valencia, and exploring each neighborhood is what makes a trip here so memorable.
From the old town to the new and blue-collar areas to the trendy, our guide to exploring Valencia’s neighborhoods will push you in the right direction. Wherever your travel instincts take you, feel free to head off your own way, too. After all, sometimes the best discoveries are the ones you stumble upon by accident.
El Carmen is part of Valencia’s old town – the Ciutat Vella – on the north-western fringes. It’s perhaps the prettiest part of Valencia, and definitely the most authentic if you’re looking for the raw Valencian experience. It has a very local, residential vibe, but it’s also a great place to visit since it’s home to many of the city’s most interesting tourist attractions.
As you begin to explore El Carmen, you’ll be struck by the winding lanes, pretty cobbled streets, and the balconies that overlook the bustle of life below. It’s hemmed in by the remains of the old city walls at Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart, where you’ll also find the wonderful market, El Mercado Central. Gorgeous inside and out, it’s a brilliant place to pick up fresh food or take your time at a tapas bar while life carries on around you.
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes asking for attention in El Carmen. Head for Café de las Horas on Calle Conde Almodovar. It has a glamorous baroque interior and sensitive lighting for a romantic Spanish experience.
Barrio La Seu
Located close to El Carmen, the La Seu barrio is perhaps the oldest part of the Ciutat Vella and the very core of Valencia. Head for Plaza de la Virgen, with its sense of grandeur and statues, including the one of Our Lady of the Forsaken.
Valencia Cathedral is here as well, which is a Roman temple turned mosque turned church with a variety of architectural styles. It’s a happy marriage of the Romanesque, Baroque, and Gothic styles, and contains what some claim to be the Holy Grail used by Christ during the Last Supper. You’ll also see a painting by Goya and get a sense of the ornate importance of religion in Spanish life.
The Turia fountain in the plaza is another much-photographed and Instagrammed landmark that symbolizes the city’s river. The eight statutes of women pouring water depict the eight channels of the river. For food, head over to Calle Caballeros with its plethora of cafes and tapas bars. You can wander from bar to bar here, although look out for Pepita Pulgarcita with its fried morcilla and tasty camembert with tomato marmalade.
The neighborhood of Ruzafa once had a scruffy, edgy vibe, and while it retains some of its bohemian character, it has also been somewhat transformed by the influx of young people and artists who’ve set up home here. In the process, it has become Valencia’s hippest hotspot, where pop-ups, new art galleries, and independent shops are a dime a dozen.
It’s a chilled-out place during the day, making it an ideal spot for people-watching or an alfresco café con leche in the sunshine. At night, the restaurants and bars are buzzing. Grab a cupcake from a family-run bakery or try a wonderful Spanish gin at one of the phenomenal new bars – Spain is the spiritual home of the European gin revolution.
The striking Canalla Bistro mixes Spanish style with a distinct New York influence and is a landmark restaurant in the area. The eclectic menu makes room for pastrami sandwiches, tacos with oxtail, and a nigiri sandwich of Beijing duck. Such fusion can often be a disaster – but here it’s handled superbly.
Similar to the Barcelona district with the very same name, L’Eixample is a place of wide-open boulevards, boutique shopping, and buildings dripping with modernist style. The train station – the architecturally impressive Estacio del Nord – is here, as well as the bullfighting ring Plaza del Toros, which dates back to the mid-19th century.
Those with deep pockets will love the upmarket designer stores of Calle de Colon, while the modernist market hall has been converted into a place full of upscale cafes, along with gourmet food stalls. There’s culture here too – the Museu de Belles Arts on Carrer de Sant Plus hosts major pieces from Spanish legends Velazquez, Goya, and El Greco.
It’s a great area to get dressed up for a night out. Start your soiree at Doce Gin Club. It stocks more than 600 different gins and is open until the early hours. Afterwards, have some stellar tapas at the atmospheric El Albero Taberna.
Once upon a time, El Cabanyal was its own town that was slowly swallowed up by the expanding Valencia. It retains some of its unique feel, mostly because it’s a residential area far from the commotion of tourists in central Valencia. This is where you come to see the real city.
The old fisherman’s quarter has its own lovely beach, and its history as the core of the fishing trade in the city means there are few better places to try a fresh seafood paella or a platter of freshly caught prawns. You can combine a day at the Las Arenas beach with some time strolling around this genuine neighborhood, with its smattering of modernist buildings and friendly locals. The restaurants here are cheap and unpretentious, aimed squarely at those who live in the city, but friendly to those visitors who venture here in search of the city’s authentic flavor.
Let us know on Twitter if there’s a vital Valencian neighborhood we’ve missed.