As we neared the end of our two-week Spain vacation, we made one final stop before returning to Barcelona: Valencia, Spain. In many ways, the ambiance and bustling energy of these two cities are very similar, but Valencia feels welcoming and familiar in a way that not many cities do. Maybe this characteristic is just a side effect of the city’s rich culinary culture as the birthplace of Spanish paella. Nothing is quite as inviting as delicious food and kind people willing to share it with you, which is exactly what our experience in Valencia was all about!
Valencia One Day Itinerary
If you only have enough time to spend one day in Valencia, Spain, don’t worry! This Valencia One Day Itinerary squeezes the best of Valencia (especially its food) into 24 hours of pure bliss. Some of the best things to see in Valencia in one day, also happen to be where you can find the best food in Valencia, Spain – the markets! So we’ll start our Valencia 1 day itinerary there:
The Central Market of Valencia – Morning
Of course, every Valencia itinerary must include a visit to the city’s largest and most popular market- the Central Market of Valencia (Mercado Central de Valencia). This antiquated building is home to dozens of stalls serving up scrumptious Spanish delicacies. With tempting options like refreshing fruit cups and warm baked goods, this market is the perfect place to start off your one day in Valencia. The eye-catching stained-glass windows and domed ceiling are great reasons to visit, too.
If you only have 1 day in Valencia, the Central Market Valencia is a must-see so make sure you arrive on time. The Mercado Central Valencia is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Next on our Valencia Spain itinerary was one of the most anticipated activities of our trip- a paella cooking class that began at the local market, where we would purchase ingredients (including a special bean found only in authentic Valencian paellas). As soon as we walked into the Ruzafa Market with our guide and the rest of the group, we were mesmerized. It felt like we had stepped into the heart of the community. Local patrons browsed the plump, colorful arrays of produce, the rows of fresh meat and cheese, and the shiny, slippery seafood section. We met and bought ingredients from vendors whose families had been working in this market for generations. But mixed with the mesmerizing was also a bit of horror. I saw things that I’ve never seen back home, like the small, dog-like animal in the fresh meats sections that I later learned was a skinned rabbit (RIP Thumper) and the glassy, bulging eyes of the fish that stared at us as we made our seafood purchases. Our visit to Ruzafa Valencia felt like an authentic glimpse into Spanish culture. It’s definitely a list topper of what to see in Valencia, Spain in one day!
Know Before You Go: The Ruzafa Market Valencia is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. However, My First Paella offers two cooking classes a day, the early one from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (with free Market Tour) and the later one from 5:30 p.m. – 8:20 p.m. (without free Market Tour). I would highly recommend the earlier one, especially if you won’t have the time to visit any other markets in Valencia.
Our next stop was the studio kitchen where we would be cooking our very own paella! After adorning some aprons and nibbling on some delicious appetizers (the best indication of how the main course will taste 😉 ), we began prepping and cooking our paella. Here is the process step-by-step:
Towards the end of the cooking process, our hostess brought out a star anise-infused liquor and poured everyone a shot while she explained to us that, in Valencia, cooking a paella is an all-day affair and this is how people like to celebrate when the cooking is done. It wasn’t the most delicious thing I tried that day, but I could appreciate the tradition.
Finally, it was time to eat the paella! After cooking and getting to know each other all morning, our group sat down around the long table, chatting like old friends. No matter that we represented four different continents and spoke at least three different languages. We had bonded over food and now we could enjoy it together. Taking that first bite, I realized I was possibly eating the best paella in Valencia, Spain! The rice was perfectly cooked and soaked with flavor. The beans were bright and crispy, and the meat was juicy and tender. *sigh* It was an amazing meal.
There are plenty of great suggestions of where to eat paella in Valencia, but from my experience, the best thing to do in Valencia, Spain is to help cook one yourself! A cooking class keeps the whole family engaged and makes it super easy to meet other travelers. My First Paella cooking class was an excellent way to enjoy Valencia, and I loved how the small group sizes made it feel like a fun, intimate dinner party. Thank you to Marta and Inma for making us feel at home in your kitchen!
L’Alquimista – Evening
This Italian restaurant is the best way to end your Valencia one day trip! It had a wonderfully rustic and laid-back appeal, and simple, yet delicious dishes. I guess you can really never go wrong when your main ingredients are cheese and pasta!
Bonus: 2 Days in Valencia, Spain
If you have more than 24 hours in Valencia, Spain, here are a few more fun things to do in Valencia!
L’Oceanogràfic (Valencia Aquarium)
Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (Valencia Arts and Sciences Park)
Playa de la Malvarrosa
Valencia’s heartwarming comfort food and friendly locals made this city feel like a dream. I will always treasure the culture and customs represented in their beautiful cuisine.
All photos edited by Caitlyn Cuello