1. Taste fresh produce at Mercado Central
One of the largest covered markets in Europe with almost 300 traders selling everything from live eels to giant legs of ham, this cathedral-like Art Nouveau building is constantly abuzz with locals doing their shopping and tourists checking out the city’s freshest produce. Don’t miss its cured meats and freshly squeezed juices, and you can even pick up your own pan to cook paella back home.
2. Admire architecture at La Lonja de la Seda de Valencia
Across the road from Mercado Central is a Gothic-style former silk exchange that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built between 1482 and 1533, the walled complex (Carrer de la Llotja, 2) includes a tranquil patio and imposing trading hall with lofty columns supporting a domed ceiling. The grandiose setting is a reminder of the power and wealth Valencia enjoyed in the 15th and 16th centuries.
3. Indulge your sweet tooth with horchata and fartons
Any visitor to Spain will be familiar with churros con chocolate, sticks of deep-fried dough served with chocolate sauce for dipping. Valencia’s answer to churros is horchata and fartons – a glass of sweet tigernut milk served cold (horchata), accompanied by sugary pastries (fartons). Try this popular treat (below) at pastry shop Horchateria Santa Catalina, a long-established favourite among locals.
4. Enjoy sweeping views of the city at Valencia Cathedral
Dating back to 1283, the Gothic-style Roman Catholic church is a cultural landmark in the heart of the old town. It is said to house the Holy Grail from the Last Supper and a mummified arm of one of the city’s patron saints. Climbing the 207 steps of the adjoining bell tower will lead you to a 360-degree view (below) of the city.
5. Try authentic rabbit paella
Valencianos (as locals are known) love arroz (rice) and proudly claim that Spain’s most famous dish, paella, originated in Valencia. Every second restaurant in the old town has paella on the menu but for a truly authentic experience you should sample the traditional version, made with rabbit, chicken and snails. Paella is also strictly a lunch dish for locals. Try authentic paella (below) in the countryside at La Genuina.