When we chose to start our journey in Spain, we knew we wanted to be somewhere close to the Mediterranean in a warm city with lots of culture and great food. We didn’t choose Valencia out of a hat. We’d never been there before but we did our research and decided it seemed like the perfect place to spend a month.
When we announced our plan we were gifted Rick Steves “Spain” guidebook. I was excited as I scanned the contents page, eager to flip to the Valencia section — only to discover it didn’t exist! I began to second-guess our decision. We trusted Rick Steves guides last time we went to Europe and he’d been a pretty good resource. I respected his opinion on all things Europe. What was so bad about Valencia? Why hadn’t it made the cut?
Fast forward to just a few days after landing in Valencia. Jared and I are walking through the gardens in the old Turia riverbed when I declare “Rick Steves is crazy!” Valencia is one of the most interesting and beautiful cities we’ve ever visited. Not only is the weather consistently warm, so are the people. We made friends with the owner of a tiny coffee shop who helped us with our Spanish over espresso and our Airbnb host, Valero, couldn’t have been nicer. Valencia wrapped its arms around us and we immediately felt like we were home.
It’s one of those rare places that has big city amenities while maintaining a community feel. We spent our month living in the historic “Carmen” district. While it’s a great area with a fun vibe during the day, it really comes alive at night. Hundreds of people fill the streets (especially Calle Cavallers) heading out to dinner or a drinks.
I can’t believe just how wrong Rick Steves is to overlook this Spanish gem. I emailed his team asking why they skipped over Valencia and this is the response I got:
“We wish we could cover all the countries and special places that might interest travelers, but, for his books, Rick has chosen what he considers to be the best, most essential places in Europe for a first- or second-time visitor. “
While I understand this, I think leaving out Valencia is a huge disservice to travelers. I think it’s certainly one of the “best” and “most essential” places for first or second-time visitors. If you go to Spain, please do yourself a favor and don’t skip this city by the sea. And if you’re looking for things to do once you get there, I can help with that too: 10 Things You MUST Do in Valencia.