The first stop during my four nights mini cruise was the beautiful city of Valencia in Spain. It is the third largest city in the country and the capital of the autonomous community of Valencia. Founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC, Valencia is these days the fifth busiest container port in whole Europe and attracts millions and millions of visitors every year. It is famous for its rich and diverse architectural styles such as the gorgeous historic downtown area (UNESCO World Heritage Site) or the futuristic City of Art and Sciences (which was the set for a Star Trek movie). Or maybe you have heard of the annual Tomato fight called La Tomatina which is held in the close town of Bunol?
It is one of these cities in Europe that everyone should have seen or at least plan to visit sometimes as its beauty and cultural diversity will cast its spell on you. The last time I have been here was about two years ago. I was glad to see that not much had changed! And this is meant in a positive way.
Most passengers left the ship right at 8am with their shore excursions, but I did not step on ground before noon. I really enjoy a deserted ship, so I took the chance and worked out in the almost empty gym that I shared with only two other people. They probably shared the same intentions as I did.
Getting into town is really easy in Valencia. Costa offered a shuttle bus from and back to the port and downtown for almost 13€ per person. What a rip off!!! Just a five minutes walk outside the cruise ship terminal lies the bus stop of Line 4. This will take you for 1,50€ oneway in about 30 minutes to Plaza de la Reina or Plaza del Ayuntamiento from where you can well explore all the sights of historic Valencia by feet. And it runs every 10 to 15 minutes, so no worries if you miss one.
It also does not really matter on which side of the street you enter the bus for downtown as it performs a loop. So even if you go into the wrong direction at first, you will definitely end up where you want to go to. And the same way back.
I got off at Plaza de la Reina. The old part of town is so astonishingly beautiful, it does not really matter where you start first. I just recommend to take a map with you which you can obtain right inside the cruise terminal from the Tourist office (located right hand side from the escalator as you disembark the ship).
This is a major transit hub for all public buses and the square is surrounded by uncountable bars and restaurants. There is a small outdoor market selling local souvenirs and pottery.
This is where the world-famous cathedral towers over the city´s skyline. The entrance in the majestic building is 6€ per person and the line was tremendous. That is why I decided to postpone a visit to the next time when in town. It surely is an impressive construction even from the outside!
Just around the corner lies the busy center square Plaza de la Virgen with a large fountain in the center and many cafés to enjoy the scenery from.
I enjoy to explore most cities by simply walking around without direction. Stopping wherever I feel like it and discovering cute little shops, restaurants or bars by chance. And Valencia is one of these cities that impress by lots of beautiful hidden alleyways and gorgeous architecture all around.
For authentic, handmade and original souvenirs from the area, make a halt at Simple. (c/cajeros 2b, valencia 46001) This cute little shop holds many artesian souvenirs all made in Spain and of good quality. Particularly the handmade pottery is a great gift and memory of Valencian craftmanship and culture.
For a little snack (and the astonishing construction) head to Mercat Central just a few minutes from there.
This amazing public market is located inside a historic building underneath a wonderful steel roof with a huge dome on top. This is where the locals buy most of their fresh daily groceries like meats, fish, fruits and vegetables and it is busy throughout the day.
Sample fresh Valencian oranges and do not leave without having tasted some of the Iberian air-dried ham and Manchego cheese. There also is a little stand called Retrogusto that serves the best coffee (including cold-brews) around. A great reason to stop for a cup and enjoy the hustle and bustle around.
Another place that I would recommend visiting is the ancient Silk Market placed inside an old castle right downtown. This UNESCO World Heritage listed building gives a great insight in how trade was done in the old days inside the old walls. It is quick to tour and the entrance is only 2€, so a real good deal and great for a few snapshots.
One of the true highlights to see is the old river basin called Jardins del Turia which had been transformed from a dried river bed into a public park. As it lies one level underneath the traffic roads, this is a favorite spot for the locals to take their lunch breaks or to simply relax in the shadow of the trees. If you wanted to, you could even walk it all the way to the end where it opens to the world-famous architectural monument City of Arts and Science. I did this last time and the walk took me around 1 1/2 hours which was quite strenuous underneath the hot Iberian sun.
So as I had visited the previous time I was in Valencia, I decided to stay downtown and just explore a little more those little side streets. If you like street art or graffiti, you will enjoy crisscrossing around Valencia. There are plenty of wall arts spread all over the place, some just simply smearing, others colorful spray paintings.
Time flew as I walked around and by 3:30pm, I jumped back on the bus at Plaza del Ayuntamiento. Accompanied by Andrea Boccelli´s „Time to say Good-Bye“ Costa Pacifica set sail at 6pm for Cagliari, Italy.
The warm Mediterranean sun slowly dived into the sea a few hours later and the people prepared for the first big party aboard, „La Notte Biancha“ (White Night).
Here are a few more snapshots from my city exploration! Enjoy!