Valencia Cruise Port

Port of Valencia: An Overview

Mediterranean cruise itineraries that include a stop at Valencia are well worth considering, as Spain's third largest city -- with its lush parks, elegant tree-lined avenues, modernist City of Arts and Sciences, and gorgeous medieval Old Town -- is stylish, imposing and not to be missed.

The bad news is that there's no way you can take in all that this fabulous city has to offer (including 34 museums and galleries) in just a day. The good news is that some of its greatest treasures lie within strolling distance of the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, which lies at the heart of the city.

And the even better news is that Valencia is very tuned in to tourists. You'll find plenty of tourist information centers dotted around town, and before you go you can book a wide range of 'Get About' cards, valid for 24 or 48 hours, or even longer if you need it. These offer unlimited use of public transport as well as discounted entry to museums and other attractions, so it's well worth getting one to make exploring easy.

Find a Valencia Hotel

Hanging Around

Valencia's cruise terminal has two Internet stations charging 1 euro per 15 minutes (about twice the rate you'll pay in town). The terminal's street level also has a well-stocked tourist information desk, as well as a café; offering a two-course meal with drink for around 12 euros, the latter is used more by ferry travellers than well-fed cruise passengers.

Oddly enough, there is no ATM in the terminal, but you will find a drink machine and telephones.

You'll also find plenty of shops selling cheap and cheerful beach gear, rings, watches, scarves and souvenirs (though again, prices are cheaper in town). For wine buffs, the tax-free outlet stocks a good range of local picks (from around 6 Euros a bottle), alongside the usual collection of makeup, toiletries and aftershaves.

Don't Miss

Plaza de la Vergin: A walk around Plaza de la Vergin and the cathedral quarter is a must. With vast plazas, fanciful fountains, a 2,000-year history and beautiful churches like the Basilica of the Virgin, this region lies right in the centre of Valencia and at the heart of its cultural life, rivalling Italy in architectural beauty. The city's oldest district, Barrio del Carmen -- which lies between the ancient Islamic and Christian city walls -- is particularly rewarding. Its labyrinthine cobbled streets, lined with medieval houses and guarded by two ancient towers, will make you feel like a time traveller.

Plaza del Mercado: Valencia's historic market is an easy walk from the cathedral and is well worth a visit. Architecture buffs will enjoy its colonnaded, two-tier market hall, which was built in 1914 and is a prime example of Modernist architecture. Foodies may be more interested in the vast array of goodies on its 400 or so stalls -- at least one of which specializes entirely in Spanish and international beers. The area around the market, rich in pretty plant stalls and cafes, is a good place to grab a coffee and watch the Valencian world go round. (Plaza del Mercado; 34 963 829 100; open Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., closed Sundays)

Plaza del Ayuntamiento: A triangular area enlivened by a spectacular central fountain and colorful flower stalls, Plaza del Ayuntamiento is the very heart of local life. It's home to some of Valencia's most eye-catching buildings, including the Estacion del Norte rail station, the Ayuntamiento de Valencia (town hall) and the Edificio de Correos (Central Post Office).

The City of Arts and Sciences: This vast, futuristic complex comprises a range of attractions, including an IMAX theater; Europe's largest aquarium, the Oceanografic; a science museum, and an avant-garde opera house. Like much of Valencia's parkland, it lies in what was formerly the bed of the Turia River. Entrance fees are complicated, as they depend on which attractions you want to visit. More information can be found at the city's reservations center. (34 902 100 031; open daily, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in high season)

Turia Gardens: Turia Gardens is a nearly six-mile stretch of the Turia river bed that runs right across Valencia. It has been transformed into beautiful parkland and now acts as a 'lung' for this bustling city -- and a haven for locals and visitors who like to get back to nature. If you want to get even closer to nature, the wild and beautiful Albufera Nature Reserve is a six-mile cab ride from downtown.

Bioparc: Valencia's 21st-century version of a zoo is designed to offers its inhabitants -- which include hippos, gorillas, leopards, lions, rhinos and meerkats -- as natural a habitat as possible by recreating the ecosystems of the Madagascan forests and equatorial Africa. (Avenida Pio Baroja 3; 34 902 250 340; open daily 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer, 6 p.m. in winter; entrance fee applies)

Getting Around

By Shuttle: Ships' shuttle buses leave from right outside the terminal and carry you the three miles into the center of town. On the way, you'll pass pretty parks, grand boulevards and a London Eye-style wheel, all of which will whet your appetite for exploring the city.

Most shuttles drop off at the Carrer del Salvador, almost opposite the Trinity Bridge. If you head left from the drop-off point and go left again, you'll find yourself in Plaza de la Virgen at the heart of Old Town, near the historic courthouse and cathedral. And if you keep walking, virtually in a straight line, you'll find Valencia's main shopping streets and, eventually, its central market.

By Taxi: For travellers in search of tours or going further afield, right outside the passenger terminal is a taxi stand offering reduced rates on return trips to local attractions (see Don't Miss). Offers include a round trip to the central Plaza de la Reina (15 E there, 12 back); L'Oceanografic (€9 out, €7 return) and the Bio Park (€21E/€18). About €30 an hour buys a tour for up to four passengers of the main sights, including Turia Gardens.

Beaches

Best for the Wealthy: Valencia's Juan Carlos 1 Royal Marina -- with its historic buildings and array of shops and restaurants -- is a magnet for the super-rich, and the eye-popping mega-yachts that arrive every summer are a sight to behold.

Most Reputable: Nearby, you'll find Valencia's city beaches El Cabanyal, Las Arenas and La Malvarrosa. These are sandy and Blue Flag quality (meaning they have been assessed for water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety by the international Federation for Environmental Education). Overlooking the beaches is the cafe- and restaurant-lined Maritime Promenade, a good spot for sampling fresh seafood paella while enjoying the seaside buzz.

Most Secluded: Prefer to get away from it all? El Saler, which lies about six miles outside of the city, has a wilder beauty. It's surrounded by sand dunes and thick vegetation, as are beaches of the Albufera Nature Park.

Lunching

It should really be illegal to visit Valencia and not tuck into a plate of paella, as the saffron-flavored rice -- along with fresh-caught seafood -- is a staple of the local diet. Locals are endlessly inventive in using it to create fabulously tasty dishes in their distinctively large, flat paella pans.

Which restaurants serve the best paella? You could start a civil war asking this question in Valencia, as everyone seems to have a favorite spot. But here are a few top foodie recommendations.

La Pepica: La Pepica on La Malvarrosa Beach started out as a beach shack, and made such an impression on the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Ava Gardner, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith that it's still going strong 50 years on (and building an empire in other Spanish cities). (Paso de Neptune 2-8, Playa de la Malvarrosa; 34 963 710 366; open daily for lunch, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Monday to Saturday for dinner, 8:30 p.m. to midnight)

Bodega Casa Montana: This restaurant uses top quality, locally sourced food and offers a vast wine cellar. Tucked away near El Cabanyal Beach, it's informal, fun and very popular, so book ahead. (Calle Jose Benlliure 69; 00 34 963 672314; open daily, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 11.30 p.m., closed Sunday evenings)

Submarino: Submarino restaurant in L'Oceanografic offers guests the chance to eat surrounded by vast and well-stocked aquaria -- good choice if you love watching marine life or are lunching with kids. But beware of feeling guilty if you're spotted tucking into Nemo by one of his relatives. (Carrer Eduardo Primo Yufera; 34 961 975 565; open daily for lunch, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and dinner Saturday and Sunday only, 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.,)

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships dock at one of the many berths available at Valencia Passenger Terminal, which also accommodates ferries. Be prepared for quite a long walk from your ship to the terminal building, along a series of rather sea salt-rusted walkways. But once you're there, you'll find the terminal is smart and access to the city is easy via shuttle bus.

Watch Out For

Cyclists and Segway riders have scant regard for pedestrians. Dubrovnik-style, pale marbled pavements in the Old Town are lovely to look at but slippery when wet, so wear good shoes with non-slip soles. Also beware of temptation. The Spanish have a very sweet tooth, so candy, ice cream and pastry shops abound.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Spain's currency is the euro. For the latest exchange rate, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com).

There are plenty of banks with ATMs in Old Town, especially around the Old Courthouse in Plaza de San Lorenzo, and along nearby Carrer del Muo del Santa Anna, a broad street lined with shops and banks.

Language

Valencia is a working city and the majority of its inhabitants speak Spanish (the official language). Some locals speak Valenciano, a dialect of Catalan, and some know at least a smattering of English. Useful Spanish phrases to know before you go include:

Hola ... Hello
Me llamo ... My name is...
Estoy de vacaciones ... I'm here on holiday
Hay __ par' aqui? ... Is there __ around here?
Un supermercado ... a supermarket
Una farmacia ... a pharmacy
Cuanto cuesta? ... How much?
Donde esta le mejor playa? ... Where is the best beach?
Por Favor ... Please
Gracias ... Thank you
De nada ... You're welcome
Adios ... Goodbye

Best Souvenir

There's plenty to choose from here. Lovers of kitsch (and kids) will have a heyday snapping up junior flamenco outfits, Spanish dolls and elaborate fans for a handful of euros. At the upper end of the price scale, €100+ will buy a beautifully hand-embroidered shawl or a solid silver hair comb. Leather shoes and belts are more affordable good buys.

For foodies, pick up a paella pan (from €5) or hoof around the market (see Don't Miss) to purchase local goodies like blocks of artisan chocolate and tins of smoked paprika. A handful of pirulettas (huge, multicolored lollipops in individual designs)would look great in a kitchen jar but be warned: They're better for your decor than your teeth.

Best Cocktail

Try a glass of chilled Agua de Valencia, a delicious concoction made from orange liqueur and sparkling cava wine. It comes in a smart orange bottle with a black top, and makes a good take-home present, too.

For More Information

On the Web: Valencia Tourism
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Europe
The Independent Traveler: Europe Travel Guide
 

--By Maria Harding, Cruise Critic contributor

  • Unhappy ship!
    Bethx
    We boarded the Preziosa for a one week cruise starting in Valencia with stops at Marseilles, Genoa, Citivecchia, Palermo and Valletta. The embarkation procedure was much better than most. People are getting on and off the ship at every port so ... Read more
  • Impressive 1st MSC Cruise
    Pegopolly
    We chose this cruise because we wanted to try something different, having previously cruised (very happily) with RCL .Also ,being able to embark in Valencia was very attractive to us as we live a hour from the port. We booked the Yacht Club for ... Read more
  • Lovely ship but depressing crew
    John.urie
    Staying in Spain with our son and daughter we decided to have a Mediterranean adventure. The boarding at Valencia was chaotic and should have warned us as to what was ahead. The ship itself was as could be expected but as my wife was using a ... Read more
  • Excellent First Experience
    monellar
    Recently returned from our first ever cruise on MSC Preziosa and very happy to report a pretty good experience made even better by good weather and a flat calm sea. The ship itself is impressive but with a feeling of always being lost. The ... Read more
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