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Europe Travel: Valencia, Spain in One Day – Activity Recommendations

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This is a list of activity recommendations for a day in Valencia, Spain.


  • Valencia, Spain
  • Travel to Valencia from Barcelona, Spain, a 3 hour, 45 minute car ride.
  • Valencia has a full days’ worth of places to explore, and given the time invested in getting there, we recommend spending the night. If you are hard pressed for time, plan to arrive early morning and leave early-to-mid-evening.
  • Following your time in this city, either return to Barcelona or continue traveling south to Andalusia (southern Spain).

Depart Barcelona mid-morning and arrive to Valencia mid-afternoon

From Barcelona, travel south to Valencia. Arrive to your accommodation, find parking and drop your bags off before venturing into the city. This city is ideal for meandering – our favorite memories were stumbling onto street art, popping into quaint resto-bars and people watching in the plazas.

Map from Barcelona to Valencia

Valencia’s history at-a-glance

Valencia’s history dates back 2,100 years, beginning with the Roman’s founding of a colony in this place they called, “Valentia Edetanorum”. The city’s history includes occupation from the Visigoths (Germanic peoples) in the 500s AD, Moors (Berbers and Arabs) in the 700s AD, the Christian reconquest in the 1400s AD, a brief period under the Bourbons in early 18th century and the Spanish Empire.

The Valencian Golden Age was in 15th century; economic expansion enabled the culture, arts and exploration to flourish so much so that it partly funded Columbus’ 1492 voyage. Valencia’s textile industry was largely responsible for this growth, and the city created the Silk Exchange building which became a commercial emporium that attracted merchants from across Europe.

List of recommended places + things to do

  • Explore architecture
  • Plaza de la Virgen
    • Cathedral of Santa Maria, Our Lady of the Forsaken (Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados)
    • Palace of the Generalitat
  • Church of Saint Nicolas (Parroquia de San Nicolás de Bari y San Pedro Mártir)
  • Mercado Central (Central Market)
  • University of Valencia
  • Turia Gardens
  • City of the Arts and Sciences
    • The Oceanogràfic of the City of Arts and Sciences
  • Live music
  • Street art

Map of recommended sites in Valencia

One of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive to Valencia is the hodgepodge of architectural styles, including Romanesque façades, Gothic commercial exchanges, Baroque palaces and resplendent Moderniste marketplaces.

Plaza de la Virgen

Dating back to Roman times, the plaza is surrounded by three main buildings: the Cathedral of Santa Maria, Our Lady of the Forsaken (Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados), and the Palace of the Generalitat. The Cathedral of Santa Maria is home to the Holy Chalice and has a variety of Renaissance frescoes.

Church of Saint Nicolas (Parroquia de San Nicolás de Bari y San Pedro Mártir)

The church was founded in the 13th century and is one of the most recognized symbols of Valencia.

Mercado Central (Central Market)

This beautiful open-air market, architected in the modernist style known as Valencian Art Nouveau, brings one’s mind to Italian designs. Step inside the expansive 86,000 square foot, two-story space filled with mostly fresh food and produce.

University of Valencia

Founded in 1499, this university sits in the heart of the city. Its presence it felt throughout Valencia and its reaches. 58,000 studies in disciplines like the film program, arts and humanities produce exhibitions and live music, host debates and forums, and live performing arts programs open for the public to enjoy.

Turia Gardens

The gardens provide nine kilometers for locals and visitors alike for walking paths, leisure and sports areas, and romantic spots.

City of the Arts and Sciences

This is the largest scientific and cultural complex in Europe dots the Valencian skyline. Architect Santiago Calatrava’s work spans two kilometers, with seven distinct structures including a promenade, planetarium, science museum, open-air aquarium, opera house, suspension bridge and an event’s arena.

The Oceanogràfic of the City of Arts and Sciences

The 2003 opening of the Oceanogràfic represented the largest marine complex in Europe. It’s numerous buildings host exhibits around sea, ocean, wetland, swamps, fens and other water environs and one of the largest dolphinariums in the world.

Happy hour drinks & tapas

Catch a live music show

Valencian music incorporates early Iberian, Roman and Moorish musical elements.

Part of the culture includes “bandes”, performing brass bands that play religious and work songs. Bandes are incorporated into every festival, and the annual Certamen Internacional de Bandas de Música (International Band Competition) brings together thousands of musicians.

Street art

Love Valencia’s self guided urban street art tour brings visitors through murals and graffiti works that dot the city.

Depart Valencia

There are two main ways to get to Southern Spain from Valencia by car — through the center of the country or along the coast.

Though we are partial to coastal drives, much of the decision about which path to take comes down to time. The difference in drive time between the two options is three hours.

You may consider flying from Valencia to a major city in Andalusia. The maps below use the city “Andalusia” as the central marker for the region. Note that the Andalusian territory is divided into eight provinces: Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Seville.

Tourists often use Seville as a base for their explorations throughout Andalusia.

Valencia to Andalusia through Central Spain

Valencia to Andalusia via the Southeast coast

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