Port of Valencia
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.
Many of Valencia's must-see sites are within walking distance of the city center
Beware of fast-moving bikes and cars when crossing streets
You'll never get bored in this vibrant, dazzling city, which has dozens of museums and galleries
Find a Cruise to the Mediterranean
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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.
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 caf?; 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.
Good to Know
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.
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 (EUR9 out, EUR7 return) and the Bio Park (EUR21E/EUR18). About EUR30 an hour buys a tour for up to four passengers of the main sights, including Turia Gardens.
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.
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
Food and Drink
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 7:30 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.,)
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, EUR100+ 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 EUR5) 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.