Valencia for Foodies
I have a special treat for you today, a guest post from the lovely Alex Ryder of Gingey Bites. You have probably noticed my blog taking a little more of a travel focus lately, I am definitely feeling the wanderlust more these days. Today Alex is telling us about Valencia:
When I think about the European city breaks I’ve been on in my life, I always think fondly of a holiday spent in Valencia on the southeast coast of Spain.
Valencia is a place which encompasses the very modern and the very old. It has greenery, beaches and city scapes in equal measure. At it’s heart is what was once a grand medieval walled city which was guarded by 12 impressively fearsome gates. There are still two left and you can enter the old town through them.
I visited for a week with one of my best friends and we had just three things on our mind – sun, relaxation and great food. We weren’t disappointed. Spanish food culture varies by region and Valencia is known for its delicious and inventive rice dishes. In fact, it is here that the world famous dish paella first originated!
Here are my top foodie recommendations:
Visit the Mercat Central de Valencia:
I love to visit markets when I’m travelling. They are a great way to get a sense of a city and often give you an insight into what the locals eat. The Mercat Central de Valencia is a great example, not just because of its impressive architecture but also because it was a real working market full of locals doing their weekly shop!
Stop for a coffee or perhaps a quick lunch at the Ricard Camarena bar which is in the middle of the market. If you can get a seat, it’s a great spot to sit and people watch!
Eat Tapas in the Old Town:
Valencia is quite big and there are plenty of places to eat all over the city but I really loved going into the old town at night and eating tapas at the small family run restaurants restaurants there. Famous Valencian tapas dishes include brandada de bacalao (salted cod in a creamy white sauce), patatas bravas – with garlic dip rather than tomatoey sauce and pan con tomate (garlicky tomato pulp on toasted bread). We also found that a lot of menus offered stuffed squid and mussels.
Enjoy the nightlife:
During the summer, many of the bars and cafes in the old town put seats out on the street. We enjoyed a couple of leisurely evenings people watching as we sipped on something cold. As is often the case in Europe, the house wine at most places is cheap and tasty. Look out for local wine El Miracle Chardonnay/ Sauvignon Blanc it’s the perfect summer evening wine; crisp, green and very moreish!
Oh, and if you’re a gin lover, you’re in luck! Valencians love the stuff! We visited a couple of bars with a huge gin selection from all over the world.
Eat paella by the sea:
Jump on a tram in town and within 15 mins you’ll be at a beachfront promenade which runs along the La Malvarrossa and Las Arenas beaches. You’ll find plenty of beachfront restaurants to choose from and this is a great place to sample Valencia’s most famous dish – paella. If you want to combine history with lunch, head to La Pepica or La Marcelina, both restaurants have been open since the late 19th century and have welcomed many famous guests over their lifespans. We ate at La Pepica and were lucky to get a seat right at the front of the terrace because we arrived bang on 12pm when they opened. It’s said that Ernest Hemingway would often dine there, using the location as inspiration for his writing. It’s a time warp inside with lots of photographs to look at. Order the classic paella and enjoy as it’s served in the pan straight to your table. The dish is so simple and totally delicious too.
Head to a Horchateria
Horchata is a Valencian tradition. It’s a hot milky drink made of tiger nuts which you dip baked fartons nto. Kind of like hot chocolate and donuts! There are a few places around the city to try this traditional snack and it’s not too expensive if you want to try it. The oldest and arguably, the best, is Horchateria de Santa Catalina in the heart of the old town.
As we were there in the height of summer, although we visited, we chose to go with ice creams! They were delicious, really creamy, generous portions and plenty of flavours to choose from! Beware that you might have to queue but it’s worth it for that gorgeous tiled interior!
So that’s it: my top foodie recommendations for Valencia. Of course there is lots more to do aside from eating and drinking. Aside from the large beaches, the city itself has plenty of allure, from old town architecture to the modern quarter known as the City of Arts and Sciences and the huge aquarium. I really recommend it as a holiday destination and am looking forward to returning there myself soon!