Arguably Valencia’s most notable tourist attraction is its monumental complex of knowledge, the City of Arts and Sciences. The city (not actually an official metropolitan area) has a cinema, a science museum, an aquarium, and an opera house. Sounds impressive, no? What if I told you that you could spend a great afternoon at the City of Arts and Sciences without even going inside a building? Don’t believe me, Internet Stranger? Just join me for a day of delicious food, stunning public art, and wacky hijinks while pretending to be an American college student. It all starts now!
Morning: Valencian Treats and Tastes
Time: Every Day but Sunday at 10 AM
My street art tour with Lenny had been so successful the day before, that this day I was happy to try her food tour in the morning. We were going to head to some of the best markets in Valencia and snack our way through them. Allow me to present to you…
approximately five of the best places to eat in valencia
1) Our first stop was at the ornate Colon Market, pictured above. Lenny told us that this was a more upscale market than the Central Market, and you could tell from the minimalist interior.
We were stopping in this peaceful haven for a light Spanish breakfast of fartons and horchata. Though those both sound vaguely like English curse words, they mean some pretty delicious things. Horchata is a sweet drink made from the chufa nut, and a farton is a long, thin sweet bun that you are supposed to eat by dipping it into the horchata. It’s kind of like dipping a dough finger into some milk and then…biting the tip of your finger off. But much tastier.
The horchata and farton I had eaten the day before was good, but these were better. The farton tasted fresher and the horchata wasn’t as sweet.
2) Our next stop was the Central Market, which I had also visited the day before. It is definitely worth a second visit because there is so much food here that you couldn’t possibly eat it all even if you spent a whole week here and you had four stomachs like a cow. My favorite part of the market is the fresh seafood stalls. You can get so close to the shrimp that you can look them directly in the eye.
Look at them!!! Look at their eyes!!! They really do not look very happy at all, but that’s probably just because they are dead and about to be eaten. If you come here on your own, you can ask one of the restaurants in the market to cook the fresh seafood of your choice for you. But we were not here for fruits de mer. We were here for jamon!
Lenny told us that the fanciest of the Spanish hams was the Iberico and that the best Iberico is made from acorn fed pigs. We were able to sample some of this piggy goodness along with some less expensive serrano ham, aged goat cheese, and some fine Spanish red wine.
I think Spanish ham is just the perfect food because it combines salt and fat in the most flawless way. Bravo Spain! The world forgives you for the Spanish Inquisition.
Not So Fun Fact: Actually one reason that ham is so popular in Spain is because neither Jews nor Muslims can eat pig meat, so after the Muslims and Jews were expelled from Spain, you could test someone to see if they were Christian by trying to give them some ham. That’s the most depressing Food Fact I have ever heard.
3) Our next stop was not at a market, but rather a tiny little family-run chocolate shop called Trufas Martinez. The current owner is the third generation of her family to run the store. They specialize in truffles, chocolate cigars (one of which is pictured above), and elaborate objects made out of chocolate–for example a high-heeled shoe. I got to taste a little chocolate cigar, which is a high-quality chocolate shell filled with praline.
It tasted so amazing that I needed to have more. My name is Travelerette, and I am a chocoholic. So I got a bar of sea salt chocolate for the road, in case I was chocolate deprived and needed an emergency infusion of cocoa. (This tragedy ended up happening later on my trip when I had to take a bus from Marseille to Lyon with no food stop on the way. This chocolate bar saved me from dying of hunger. Thanks, Chocolate! You’ve never let me down yet.)
4) By this time, we had made our way to a more local neighborhood, Russafa, which is definitely off the tourist beaten track. And what better way to hang with locals than at their beloved local market? I think this Russafa Market might have been my favorite spot. There was just something so inviting and cozy about the place.
We got to stop at a wonderful stand that sells a myriad of condiments like olive paste, jam, and olive oil. We sampled both black olive paste and unripe olive paste. They were both delicious, but the unripe olive paste had a really special fresh taste to me. I could eat this every day.
Travelerette Treasure: My favorite, favorite thing we ate in any of the markets was this bell pepper jam. It tasted like sweet, freshly roasted peppers. I really regret not buying any; I bought some fig jam instead because the pepper jam jar was too big to take on an airplane. I shall come back to you soon, Valencia!! And I shall eat all of your bell pepper jam!!
5) Our last stop was for a sit down lunch at a local restaurant called El Huerto. We were treated to two appetizers, a refreshing and shocking pink beet gazpacho…
and some chilled scorpionfish tapas. These were served with a creamy aioli and black salt on top. I had never eaten scorpionfish or black salt before. It tasted pleasantly shrimpy. Do you know how some people don’t like to eat animals like rabbits or deer because they are so cute? You will not feel that way about the scorpionfish. Observe:
I feel zero guilt about eating that miserable looking MF. Suck it, scorpionfish!!!
It was then time for the main dish, a fascinating creation that looks like paella, but is not paella. You might be expecting paella because that delicious homage to the humble rice grain is native to Valencia and you can find it all over the city. But this is another dish–you can tell because it’s soupier than a normal paella. I believe it’s called arroz meloso.
The AM was made with duck, mushroom, and yellow rice. The rice was perfectly cooked and the dish was full of duck fat, and as far as I am concerned, duck fat makes everything better. (The rice dish was not included with the price of the tour, but it wasn’t expensive, especially given the amount of food and how tasty it was.)
Afternoon: City of Arts and Sciences
Friends, do you like Star Wars? Did you ever think Star Wars would be better if only it had more flowers? Then the City of Arts and Sciences is for you! As I mentioned, the city is full of attractions, but my favorite thing to do was just wander around outside and boggle at all the strange and fantastic sculptures and buildings. I leave you with…
the approximately top five coolest things to see at the city of arts and sciences
1) This metal man who is tragically trying to walk through a lake. Water is not good for metal, Iron Giant! Didn’t anyone tell you that?
I think this metal woman has a much better idea to dance in the sunshine. She’s less likely to rust this way.
2) I’m terribly girly, so I think pink flowers are always welcome.
3) Then there’s this helmet that looks like it’s going to try to play a giant harp. I don’t know how that’s going to work, helmet! You don’t have hands!
Oh no! I’ve made the helmet angry and now it’s going to attack. Farewell, cruel world!
4) Here’s a giant hamster ball, but no hamster. Did the giant hamster get out? Is it standing behind me ready to eat me? Farewell, cruel world!
5) There’s a pool with some giant golden rods sticking out of it. I don’t like to criticize art, but what is the purpose of having giant metal rods sticking out of a pool? It seems like it would make it harder to swim.
6) If you don’t think I’m going to get excited about a bridge guarded by a pair of gargoyles, you have never read this blog before, Internet Stranger!
Travelerette Treasure: When evening comes, be sure to check out one of the performances available. You can always check here to see what is playing at the Palace of the Arts, but I was lucky because Lenny and the Australian couple on the food tour with me invited me to join them at a free outdoor concert that evening right by the pool at the City of Arts and Sciences.
The concert was given by students at the Berkeley Music School, and it was mostly memorable to me because of the quality of the sunset in the background.
Just look at those colors! Sorry, student performers! You were very good, but who can compete with Mother Nature?
Travelerette Tip: I didn’t actually go inside any of the museums because they are pricey and I was having more fun playing outside, but supposedly the Aquarium, aka the Oceanographic, aka a pair of giant evil owl eyes rising out of the pavement, is the Must See attraction here. If you want to go inside, go there straight away after the food tour so you’ll have as much time as possible to see it before it closes.
Evening: Red Cup
Address: Carrer de Cadis, 70
Our group was not very hungry after the food tour, but we still wanted to get a drink and a bite to eat in the evening. So we went back to the Russafa neighborhood to hang out at the super authentic Spanish bar Red Cup!
I kid because Red Cup is an American-themed restaurant. But that doesn’t mean that its target audience is Americans. The people here seemed to be mostly Europeans and Aussies who wanted to Party Like an American College Student, which of course means drinking out of a red cup.
As an American, I never realized there was anything unusual about drinking out of a red Solo cup until I went abroad. But apparently it really is just something that American high school/college students do so no one can see what liquid they are drinking because in the rest of the world, no one cares if high school or college kids have a beer.
The restaurant also serves “American tapas”, so we got to snack on chicken wings, onion rings, French fries, and nachos. They were really tasty! I was impressed that they got the right kind of plastic cheese for the nachos. But I guess the one concession to being in Europe is that the food was served with a spicy barbecue-like sauce instead of ketchup. You can’t be an American-themed bar if you won’t serve the people ketchup, Red Cup! That’s just science.
The nice Australian couple happened to have some American baseball caps, so they thought the photo would be better if they put them in with the food. I’m sure this made the caps feel less homesick for the United States, just like Lenny and the Nice Australians made me feel less homesick with their company.
And That’s How to Have a Perfect Day in Valencia!
What would you do with one day in Valencia? Have you ever eaten scorpionfish? What would you do if a harp-playing helmet-building attacked you? Please leave your thoughts below!
I am here to provide perfect travel itineraries with 24 hours, 3 fun facts, and 1,000,000 laughs! I hope that I can motivate you to get out there, see the world, learn something, and have a sense of humor about it all.