Valencia lies roughly midway between Barcelona and Granada, on Spain's Mediterranean coast. To the north of the city are the small-scale beach resorts of the Costa del Azahar; to the south, beyond the nature reserve (and paella paradise) of La Albufera, are the hedonist havens of the Costa Brava.
The city's historic center (better known as Old Town) is defined by a ring of heavily trafficked avenues that follow the course of Medieval-era former walls. Inside is a tight web of lanes, where several of the city's best museums are located (including the Modern Art Museum), along with markets, hotels, restaurants, and horchaterías. Just outside the central ring, to the southeast, lies the19th-century shopping and restaurant district of L'Eixample.
Between Old Town and the city's coast (with its beaches, port, and America's Cup marina) are about two miles' worth of modern suburbs linked by straight-as-an-arrow Avenida del Puerto. But the best way to reach the port, unless you're in a hurry, is to get away from the traffic by walking (or cycling) along the former route of the river, now the verdant Jardínes del Turia. Two thirds of the way along, you'll find Sergio Calatrava's iconic City of Arts and Sciences.
WHEN TO GO
Valencia is a year-round destination, with an average of 300 sunny days a year, but the midsummer heat can sizzle: Average July and August temperatures are around 80° F. Autumn and spring are the best times to visit.
HOW TO GET THERE
Though there are no direct flights from the U.S. to Valencia, several American carriers, including Delta and United, fly to Barcelona or Madrid, from which you can connect to Valencia. The Spanish carrier Iberia also does this, and connects with other, smaller Spanish cities, as well (800-772-4642; www.iberia.com).
Valencia airport is about nine miles southwest of the city (www.spanish-airport-guide.com/valencia-airport.html). A taxi from there to the city center should cost between $20 and $27. Cercanías (local) trains run between the airport and the main train station in Valencia every half-hour during the day. The cost of a one-way ticket is 1€ (about $1.15). For more information on routes, check out the Spanish-only Web site for the train service provider, Renfe: www.renfe.es/cercanias/valencia/index.html. The extension of Valencia's efficient Metro system to the airport was also inaugurated in April 2007; for information about routes and rates, check out www.metrovalencia.com.
Renfe runs trains from Madrid and Barcelona to the Estación del Norte station in Calle Jativa, just south of Old Town. Fast Alaris trains to Madrid leave several times daily and take three and a half hours; daily Euromed trains reach Barcelona in just under three hours (www.renfe.es).
Bus, metro and tram maps and timetables are available from tourist information offices; you can also see them online at www.emtvalencia.es and www.metrovalencia.com. Another good way to get around is to rent a bicycle: try Orange Bikes (8 Calle Santa Teresa, Old Town; 34-96-391-7551; www.orangebikes.net) or Do You Bike (21 Avenida Puerto, East; 34-96-315-5551; www.doyoubike.com).
Main tourist office:
Plaza de la Reina, Old Town
Tel: 34 96 315 3931
Other tourist offices:
Airport Arrivals Terminal
West Valencia 46940
Tel: 34 96 153 0229
Estación del Norte train station
South Valencia 46007
Tel: 34 96 352 8573
Port America's Cup Marina
Tel: 34 96 355 7108