A couple of years ago, we were due to visit Valencia with friends but due to a double-booking, we had to skip Valencia and head for Germany instead. Ever since then, Valencia has been at the top of our minds for cities to visit in Spain.
The desire to visit Valencia was exacerbated by friends who’d just been and regaled us with stories of how amazing the city is, how much they loved it, how different it is from so many other Spanish cities, how delicious the food is… you get the picture.
Well we finally got to visit Valencia for the very first time but not quite as you’d expect it. On this trip, we visited with Uemura – a new travel start-up offering unique experiences. The best part is there’s no ‘one-way’ you get to plan your trip with them, it’s all personalised so if there’s some amazing experiences you’d like to have and others you’re not so keen on or perhaps even if you’d like assistance with certain things and are happy to do other things on your own, the choice is entirely yours!
To be honest, we’d just flown in from the Caribbean, taken a train down to London (we decided to fly from Manchester) and barely had 30 minutes to unpack and repack before heading for the airport again to fly out to Valencia so I was only too happy to hand the planning to someone else. I had idea of a couple of things I definitely wanted to do (the city sight, the beach, paella, churros and the famed aquarium) but I just didn’t have any other plans beyond this so it felt so good to have someone else who knew the city inside out handling things.
Like I mentioned earlier, this was our first time visiting Valencia but oh boy, what a first time it was. Most of these unique and amazing experiences probably wouldn’t have been on our itinerary if not for the amazing Uemura team and it’s such a different way to travel compared to the hard graft that I’m used to that I’m sold now on the concept of not just getting idea from a local expert but letting that local expert assist you in organising your trip.
1.) Eat the best Iberico ham in all the land and go wine tasting at Casa Montana.
As it turns out, this is a haunt of many a celebrity and dignitaries, I know some Prime Minister had just been a couple of days before, I wish I could tell you which one it was but I stopped paying attention once I saw the Iberico ham. Oh and even Gwyneth Paltrow visited a while back (see video on YouTube here). The guy who served here is the owner, along with his father and there’s a story behind every dish, it’s all sourced by them – as in they actually drive their cars across, not just the country but all across Europe, to get the best ingredients. Oh, and there’s the wine tasting too. The bottles of wine here range from €10 right up to €5,000!
2.) Indulge in a lap of luxury at a 5 Star Hotel
I love a good 5 star hotel but it’s never just enough for a hotel to say it’s “5 star”. I’ve stayed in 5 star hotels which have been much worse than say some 3 star hotels I’ve enjoyed in the past so for me, stars aside, it’s always about the service. When you then find a 5 star hotel, that actually has 5 star treatment (and a view of the beach right from your room), it’s definitely worth all the praise it gets. Placido Domingo (yup, the very same one) was actually staying at the hotel at the same time as we were but alas, I was unable to get a selfie with this great singer. Some others did though which definitely awoke the green-eyed monster in me.
3.) Get a full Michelin star cooking experience
Seriously, you start at the markets, buy the ingredients for the food – even get the opportunity to attend the fish auction (which the public can not attend) and head for the restaurant where the chef walks you through everything before you honker down for several courses of Michelin star deliciousness.
4.) Sip on artisanal cocktails
From the fruitiest, deliciousness of berries, mangoes and coconuts to the most unique frothy gin and tonic ever made, these Michelin star cocktails will leave your thirsty for more. Then again, I do quite like my gin!
5.) See the Holy Grail In Valencia Cathedral
It starts with a tour of the Cathedral (our tour guide was so funny) and finishes off with a sighting of the Holy Grail (yes, the same one you probably read about or watched in the Da Vinci Code).
6.) Get a personal tour of the city
I’m so used to seeing cities with Lloyd (and a lot of times with our friends Georgia and Chris) where we constantly try to find all the sights we feel need to seen in the city. The problem with this method is that if you don’t plan properly, you’ll end up skipping the sights so it was brilliant to get to see the sights with a guide who was not only funny (yup, the same one from the Cathedral) but also knew a lot about the Valencia’s history.
7.) Eat ALL the Churros
And don’t forget to dip it in thick hot chocolate sauce! I’ve always been a fan of churros but I realised I’d never really had it in Spain. This is like never having had fish and chips in the UK and suddenly, finding yourself in a British seaside town, you just know it would be utterly irresponsible not to have fish and chips here. That’s how I felt about these churros and boy were they good! I actually went for seconds… and thirds. (My sugar high was unbelievable by the time we left the cafe).
8.) Enjoy fusion food
Valencia’s food scene is one of the best in Spain and to be honest, across Europe so a chance to try fusion food is absolutely imperative. Especially when there are so many course of it served out. Even the restauranteur is a fusion of so many cultures – Welsh, Indian, Spanish…
9.) Experience the art of Spanish Flamenco
Oh my gosh, this dance is as intense as it looks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen people dance with so much fire and passion like ever. There’s so much going on that you’ll probably be left tingling by the time the whole thing comes to an end! It’s absolutely brilliant!
10.) Explore Valencia by boat
But not just any old boat of course! The best part of this is how amazing the city looks while you look back at it when you’re sailing across the Mediterranean sea. Everything is so calm and tranquil and very different from the lively hustle and bustle of the city.
11.) Get an insider’s tour of the City of Arts and Sciences
Travelling in Europe, I’m usually a fan of the old historic parts of town but this City of Arts and Sciences is definitely one of the most impressive modern buildings I’ve ever seen. It always seems to captures the imagination of travellers visiting Valencia and it’s easy to see why. The buildings appear to be shaped after aquatic life or sea vessels and their ribbed architecture is as intricate as it is fascinating.
12.) Take a science class
Bear with. This one turned out to be such an unexpected delight. It first started off with simple science (like how a clock works) and before you knew it, liquid nitrogen was thrown in the mix and even a mini hydrogen explosion leaving you with a rush of adrenaline and a penchant for more!
13.) Have lunch in a submarine
Well, not an actual functioning one but as soon as you enter the restaurant and see the fish, stingrays and sharks swimming around you, you’ll see why this is one of the places you definitely need to experience when in Valencia.
14.) Go behind the scenes at the famed Valencia aquarium
Seriously, you get to walk above the sharks, watch them getting fed and see them in a way no one else would behind the glass. You even get to see the newly ‘born’ aquatic life and understand all the action that goes on behind the scenes to protect and preserve the animals here.
15.) Dine on delicious sushi
That’s not Spanish, I hear you say. Trust me, once you taste the food here, you’ll understand why you need to visit.
16.) Enjoy some Jazz and Tango
Oh and don’t forget to throw in a pitcher of sangria while you’re at it! After my amazing experience of Flamenco, I had this conflict of emotions with experiencing Spanish dancing – on the one hand, I wanted to see more but on the other hand, I wasn’t sure if any other kind of Spanish dancing would live up to my experience but oh boy, the tango definitely did! I just love how emotive and graceful the tango is. I also love a good boogie any time so it wasn’t long before they had me wishing I could have joined in on the dancing.
17.) See the sunrise on a hot air balloon ride
This. Was. Uh-mazing! I’d wanted to do this for quite some time now and this experience exceeded my expectation. Best part – it was kept as a surprise till the last minute so you can imagine how excited I was when I found out about it. 🙂
18.) Go off-roading
This one started at the Valencia circuits where the grand prix is held. We got to see the parts the public would usually not get a chance to, including some of the winning cars and motorbikes. We then moved off to experience some off-roading which is terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure. Definitely a fun way to spend an afternoon!
19.) Visit an ancient Valencian home
There are very few of these remaining – and even if you find one, it’s hard to find one in a decent state so this experience which offers a unique insight into Valencian was definitely one of my favourite stops. Oh, and it’s also one of the most picturesque places you’ll get to experience when you’re here.
20.) Feast on delicious paella
A trip to Valencia would be incomplete without a meal of paella! Valencia is after all where this famous Spanish dish comes from. The biggest learning point here is how paella as most of us know it around the world is actually different from real paella. That aside, the chance to feast on some proper paella when in Valencia is definitely one you should sieze with both hands and ask for seconds once done. 🙂
And there you have it! 20 amazing experiences to have in Valencia that will set your trip to the city apart from anyone else’s. Huge thanks to Uemura for this amazing experience of Valencia. There’s so much more I want to tell you more specifically about each experience we had and I will have proper blog posts coming up on each experiences over the coming days/weeks.