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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.