In Spain, every big city and town, and most small ones too, have a week’s festival. When you live in Madrid it is well worth seeing at least one festival as it really helps you understand and appreciate Spanish life. These festivals are incredibly important to the local communities and it shows in the time, preparation and overall pride. Some of the most famous Spanish festivals are San Fermina (the running of the bulls in Pamplona), Semana Santa (Holy week) in Sevilla and Tomatina (the street party where everyone throws tomatoes at each other).
I booked the first weekend of the festival (which happens in March every year), so that we could see all the Fallas (statues that have been built mainly from wood and papier mache) being paraded around, not the last where they burn all these statues that have been decorating the streets around town. It really depends what your aims are for when to go. The last weekend gets super busy and can be painfully slow moving around but it must be amazing to see all these statues go up in flames.
Valencia is the pyro technic capital of the world and after a weekend there, my eardrums know it! Apart from the cherry bombs and firecrackers being thrown around, there is a huge fireworks display in the main square during Las Fallas – from 1st – 19th March, at 2pm (yes, well before it gets dark). The main seems to be to make as much noise as possible and I felt just like I was in the middle of a war zone.
The old city is beautiful and everything you want, small cobbled streets, a gorgeous old cathedral with far too many steps but a wonderful view when you get to the top, sunny plazas lines with cafes, and much more. It is so easy to while a day away wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere of the town. My favourite was Plaza de la Virgen, with no cars and stunning old buildings, it is the prefect place to sit and have Valencia’s freshly squeezed orange juice. If it’s later in the day, try the Agua de Valencia – orange juice but with the additions of vodka, gin and cava to make their version of a bucks fizz.
I really enjoyed the the modernist central market which is art deco style and one of the largest food markets I know. It is next to La Lonja, an amazingly well-preserved XII gothic building. All the fresh food is beautiful surrounds were a contrast to the numerous market stalls selling one of Spain’s favourite food: Churros (fried dough similar to a doughnut).
To the north and east of the city there is a park, Jardines del Turia, which has been made out of an old riverbed. It gives a welcome peace from the hustle of the town (elaborated because of the festival of course). South east of this park is a complex called Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencas, which is mande up of several buildings mainly designed by local architect Santiago Calatrava and include an Hemisferic (Imax cinema), a science museum, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (which reminds me of Sydney Opera House) and an Oceanografic (aquariam which is pretty good but not the best I have seen).
Sunday lunchtimes/afternoons are best spent mixing with the locals in La Malvarrosa district (on the beachfront). There are plenty of good restaurants and it’s easy to see the popular places with good food. Here you have to try a traditional Valencian paella. All this can be worked off with a walk along the beach.
Stay: We stayed at Blue moon apartments which were central, clean, spacious and cheap at 80eur/night for a two bedroom. It is well worth staying in the old town. A taxi to the beach costs around 10euros.
La Sucursal: Calle de Guillem de Castro, 118, +34 96 374 66 65. Wonderful for a romantic or upmarket dinner
El Enopata: Plaza del Arzobispo 5,+ 34 96 325 91 50. Close to the Cathedral and old town. Pricey if you ask for wine by the glass (although the wines are formidable) but very good prices on wines by the bottle.
ARC (arrop): Calle Almirante 14, +34 963 925 566. Apparently ‘mid blowing’. It closes on Sun