Dining in Valencia, Spain

Mercat Central, Valencia, Spain
Mercat Central in Valencia.

The Central Market of Valencia (Mercat Central) is filled with people bustling about when we visit mid-day. In the city’s hub, it is a great spot to to experience the local culture. Inside are close to 1000 stands, large and small, each run by a different vendor. Here you will find cured meats like the local jamon, fresh fish, local fruits and vegetables, nuts, and bakery goods. We stocked up on two of our favorite snacks… Valencia oranges and marcona almonds.

Inside the Mercat Central
Inside the Mercat Central

Known as one of the largest and oldest European markets, this wonderful piece of Art Nouveaux architecture was designed by Catalan architects Alejandro Soler March and Francisco Guardia Vial between 1910 and 1928, when it was opened to public.

The Central Market is open Monday through Saturday year round.

Mar d'avellanes Restaurante in Valencia
Mar d’avellanes Restaurante in Valencia

With its innovative concept of serving “haute cuisine at a good priceMar d’avellanes revolutionizes and democratizes the dining scene in Valencia. “Innovating from the essence” they offer a sublime dining experience through a cuisine in which quality and creativity are a premium. The decor and the culinary offerings provide a unique style and experience. At Mard’avellanes we enjoyed the most deliciously sensual meal of our trip.

Mar d'avellanes Restaurante in Valencia, Valencia, Spain
Mar d’avellanes – Huevo a baja temperatura con cremoso de patata, migas y jamón (Eggs cooked at low temperature with potato puree , bread crumbs and ham)
Mar d'avellanes Restaurante in Valencia, Valencia, Spain
Mar d’avellanes – salad with guacomole and crab dollops
Mar d'Avellanes
Mar d’avellanes – Cochinillo con reduccion de naranja (roast suckling pig with Valencia orange).
Mar d'avellanes Restaurante in Valencia
Mar d’avellanes dessert – a beautifully deconstructed fruit napoleon

Looking for a restaurante to enjoy Sunday lunch with the locals, we got a great tip from a lovely lady in one of the information centers – La Cigrona – a hidden treasure located on a quiet street close to one of the old towers of Valencia. Priding themselves on using the freshest local ingredients, they are farm to table. Arriving without a reservation, the owner graciously found a table for us among the local, multi-generation families.

La Cigrona in Valencia
La Cigrona in Valencia
La Cigrona - grilled squid
La Cigrona – perfectly grilled squid with black ink sauce.
La Cigrona - grilled vegetables
La Cigrona – fresh, local grilled vegetables

Restaurante de Ana’s specialty is Valencian cuisine. They are known for their wide range of delicious paellas and rice dishes. Located in downtown Valencia just a short walk from our hotel, the meal was good, though the restaurant is larger and more formal then we prefer… kind of like the Vincci Palace Hotel where we are staying… professional but impersonal.

Restaurante de Ana in Valencia
Restaurante de Ana in Valencia
Paella at Restaurante de Ana, Valencia, Spain
Valencian Paella at Restaurante de Ana

A note on Spanish wines… Throughout Spain, we found the diversity and deliciousness of the country’s wines impressive and the price tag very reasonable. Ranging from 3 to 4 euros for a glass of wine, an excellent price for the quality.

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Strolling in Valencia, Spain

Strolling in Valencia, Spain

Cty of Arts & Sciences, Valencia, Spain
Cty of Arts & Sciences, Valencia, Spain

Arriving in Valencia, after touring Granada and Seville, where we were steeped in history and ancient architecture, we experience our first taste of contemporary Spain. As a city, Valencia has uniquely combined its history, dating to the year 138 BC, with innovative and avant-garde buildings and ideas.

Valencia's old riverbed park is called the Garden of the Turia.
Garden of the Turia, Valencia’s riverbed park.

After a catastrophic flood in 1957 which devastated the city, the Turia river was divided in two at the western city limits. Valencia diverted its flood-prone river to the outskirts of town and converted the former riverbed into an amazing ribbon of park winding right through the city.

Historic bridges carry traffic across the park.
Historic bridges carry traffic across the park.

The old riverbed is now a lush sunken park that allows cyclists and pedestrians to travel across much of the city without the use of roads. The park, called the Garden of the Turia, has numerous ponds, paths, fountains, and flowers.

Marking the park’s eastern extreme is Valencia’s strikingly futuristic City of Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias) designed by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish neofuturistic architect, structural engineer, sculptor and painter.

The complex, including an aquarium, museums, and opera house constructed over the past 15 years, is intended to help Spain’s third-largest city become a world-class tourist destination, and to
fire up the masses with enthusiasm for the arts and sciences. The breathtaking structures are enough in themselves to lure visitors in the millions. You don’t have to be an opera or science buff to enjoy a day here – in fact if you’re on a tight budget you can just wander around this incredible city without even buying an entrance ticket.

L'Umbracle, part of the City of Arts and Sciences, is a landscaped walk with plant species indigenous to Valencia.
L’Umbracle, part of the City of Arts and Sciences, is a landscaped walk with plant species indigenous to Valencia.

History and all its glory is never far from view, and heading back into the city center we find ourselves in a glorious sun-filled square filled with palm trees and old majestic buildings.

Historic Valencia architecture is a feast for the eyes.
Historic Valencia architecture is a feast for the eyes.
Architecture in Valencia, Spain.
Truly majestic.

Sunday morning we set off on foot to slowly make our way across town to IVAM, Institut Valencia d’Art Modern. Purposefully passing the Cathedral on the way, we find the area filled with locals, observing and performing traditional dances.

Dancing in front of the Cathedral in Valencia, Spain.
Dancing in front of the Cathedral in Valencia, Spain.
Dancers in Valencia, Spain
Young dancers in their colorful finery.

Street scene in Valencia, Spain

pink scooter, valencia, Spain
Sunday ride on the pink scooter?

Valencia is a large city with over 800,000 inhabitants. In the historical center are a labyrinth of cobble stone streets, very walkable and visually engaging. Next to intact or restored buildings are ruins and vacant spots often walled off for future development or restoration. These blank walls are a canvas for a the city’s street artists.

Graffiti in Valencia, Spain

Valencia graffiti 1_new

Jay snaps this photo for me just before we learn that no photos are to be taken inside the En Transito exhibit at IVAM

Sculpture from the En Transito exhibit at IVAM.
Sculpture from the En Transito exhibit at IVAM.

You may also want to check out the New York Times, 36 Hours in Valencia, Spain, for more artistic and culinary innovations in this sunny city.