Although there’s certainly no shortage of things to do on a short trip to Valencia, the trick is to get organized in advance so that the must-do Valencia activities can be as diverse and fun-packed as possible.
We had booked a self-catering apartment in the Campanar district, north-west of the city center. As well as enjoying the highly-recommended Science and Nature venues, we also wanted to plan in some lazy downtime in and around the parks and suburbs in the afternoons and evenings.
So – on a short trip and with a modest budget – here is our shortlist of 7 must-do activities in and around Valencia.
7 Must-Do Valencia Activities – Bioparc
In the north of the city, the Biopark is well worth a half-day out.
The park houses a huge number of tropical and exotic animals. Each area of the park is beautifully landscaped, and is a joy just to walk around.
Though we’re not that keen on the idea of zoos, the Bioparc seems to have got the balance right. The park covers one square kilometer, with large segregated areas devoted to the different species.
Boundaries are marked by rivers, waterfalls and mini-mountain ranges. The Bioparc is definitely one of the better attractions in Valencia, and well worth the €24 entrance price.
7 Must-Do Valencia Activities – Museum of Illustration and Modernity
In an effort to absorb some culture, we paid a visit to the Museum of Illustration and Modernity in the old city. There was a semi-interesting photo exposition of African kings and a very small collection of paintings by Spanish masters. Fine to while away an hour if you happen to be in the area.
The museum offers free entry on Sundays.
7 Must-Do Valencia Activities – The Science Museum
The City of Arts and Sciences is an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex in the south of the city. It is the biggest tourist destination in Valencia and one of the 12 Treasures of Spain.
This scientific and cultural leisure complex covers a large area of the former riverbed of the river Turia.
You need tickets to enter the Hemisfèric, the Science Museum and the Oceanogràfic. You can buy them separately or combined for the areas that you would most like to visit. We paid €37 each for tickets to all 3 venues. We were advised to spread our visits over 2 days to ensure we’d have enough time to see everything.
Be sure to plan your trip well since there is a lot to see.
The Science Museum building resembles the skeleton of a whale. It occupies around 40,000 m² on three levels. The hotchpotch of exhibits it contains is designed more for entertainment value than for scientific education.
The building is made up of three floors of which 26,000 square meters is used for exhibitions. Much of the ground floor is taken up by a basketball court sponsored by a local team and various companies.
The Science Museum may be handy to keep the kids occupied, but we found it a bit underwhelming.
The initial promise from the magnificent exterior of the building is not really fulfilled by the dozens of displays and ‘hands-on’ scientific experiments you find inside. Unfortunately the equipment is not well maintained. Many of the set-pieces you can physically engage with are either very simplistic or no longer work properly (if at all).
Each exhibit is numbered, but in a non-sequential and completely illogical way. It’s difficult to navigate to ensure you see all there is on offer. We ended up wandering around randomly until boredom and fatigue got the better of us.
The City of Arts and Sciences is located at the end of the former riverbed of the river Turia, which was drained and rerouted after a catastrophic flood in 1957. The old riverbed is now a picturesque sunken park.
7 Must-Do Valencia Activities – Hemisfèric
The Hemisfèric is located next to the Science Museum, and offers a more immersive experience. The building is meant to resemble a giant eye, and is also referred to as the planetarium or the “eye of knowledge”.
Inside you’ll find a digital 3D cinema with a huge 900 meter concave screen which envelops the spectators. Several films are screened daily, mainly educational documentaries of no more than 45 minutes – suitable for all audiences.
You get a snazzy futuristic-looking headset with your ticket, and can choose your language from the headset.
There are 3 different movies you can watch on the concave surround-screen. It’s definitely a unique visual experience, though after 30 minutes of staring up at the ceiling it gave me a thumping headache.
7 Must-Do Valencia Activities – Oceanogràfic
The open-air Oceanogràfic is the largest aquarium in Europe, covering 110,000 square meters and containing 42 million liters of water. It is built in the shape of a water lily by the architect Félix Candela.
Inside, the Oceanogràfic is divided into a series of areas which represent different aquatic environments. These include the Mediterranean, Wetlands, Temperate and Tropical Seas, Oceans, the Antarctic, the Arctic, Islands and the Red Sea.
The aquarium is home to over 500 different marine species including belugas, sawfish, starfish, sea urchins, walruses, sea lions, seals, turtles and rays.
The main attractions of the Oceanogràfic feature dolphins, whales, penguins, sharks and jellyfish.
Again, the different attractions are not numbered in sequence, resulting in a certain amount of confusion for the guests. As for animations, there is an outdoor dolphin show, repeated 3 times a day.
Though very popular with the kids, keeping large mammals like whales and dolphins in captivity and trained as a tourist attraction is not to everyone’s taste.
7 Must-Do Valencia Activities -Turangalila
A visit to Valencia isn’t complete without a night out at Turangalila. Here you can combine a late-night restaurant with a show, and enjoy the decadence of Cabaret together with some very reasonably-priced food and drink.
You can find Turangalila in the San Vicente district of the city, a 25-minute brisk walk from the nearest metro.
7 Must-Do Valencia Activities – Picnic in Turia Gardens
The Turia Gardens is one of the largest urban parks in Spain. It runs through the city along nine kilometers of green space boasting foot paths, leisure and sports areas, and romantic spots where you can unwind.
From Cabecera Park to the City of Arts and Sciences, the Turia Gardens is the perfect place for runners, cyclists, families … and picnic-enthusiasts.
Just pick up some ready-to-eat snacks at your local hypermarket and enjoy a picnic in the park. A variety of Spanish hams and cheeses together with a bottle of local wine will set you up for the day.
The park is crossed by 18 bridges, and the former riverbed passes by the city’s main museums and monuments on either bank. There are lots of beautifully landscaped areas and places to sit
The gardens are built on the former riverbed of the Turia, whose course was altered after the flood in the 50s. The Turia was diverted south of the city, leaving a huge tract of land that crosses the city from West to East, bordering the historical center.
Our Final 4-Day Valencia Budget
So how did our planned budget of €350 per person measure up after 4 days in Valencia?
Our actual costs for 2 people sharing worked out as follows:
|Return inter-Europe flights to Valencia||€114|
|Plaza Picasso Apartment for 4 nights||€206|
|Airport Metro Transfers & Buses||€31|
|Restaurants & Cafes – 4 days||€147|
|Biopark & City of Arts and Sciences tickets||€122|
|Sundries (Picnics, Breakfasts, Snacks)||€104|
A total of €724 or €362 per person, all inclusive. Just a little over budget, but nothing to worry about.
If we did the trip again, we’d probably opt for accommodation in the center and spend more time in the old town. There’s certainly plenty more to see and do in Valencia, but we were happy with what we managed to cover on our first short visit.
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