Famous for its oranges, Valencia is located roughly in the middle of Spain’s Mediterranean coast. I wasn’t attracted to Valencia for any reason in particular. I came for the tomato fight in the nearby town of Bunol. However, Valencia surprised me. I loved this city—famous in its own right for delicious seafood, paella, history, and a good soccer team.

Given all the festivities going on around La Tomatina, it was hard to devote a lot of time to exploring the city, and I certainly didn’t get as much in as I would have liked. There were a few good museums and churches that were left unseen until my next eventual visit. That said, I did manage to squeeze in a few attractions.

As I’ve said in previous posts, one of the things I like about Europe is the free walking tours. You learn a bit of history, you get your bearings around the city, and, well, it’s free. It shouldn’t be any surprise then that I took a free walking tour in Valencia. Valencia, it turns out, has quite a long history. It was started as a retirement community, so to speak, for Roman soldiers. Later it was conquered by the Moors, then the Spanish, then the Moors, and finally the Spanish again.

All that has lead to some great and eclectic architecture. What I really enjoyed about Valencia were the wide, clean streets, the ancient, winding streets of the Barrio del Carmen, and the typical Spanish-style buildings with their large doors, balconies, and windows.

What I found the most enjoyable during my time in Valencia (besides the tomatoes) was the food. The food here broke my budget. Coming back to Spain has reminded me of one of the reasons why I liked it so much—the whole tapas culture.

Everywhere I went, restaurants had people relaxing outside on tables nibbling tapas, drinking, chatting, and relaxing in the hot sun. It looked like fun, so I joined frequently. It broke my budget (and maybe the buttons on my shirt), but it was too much to resist.

The best (and most expensive meal) I had was down by the beach. Let me just first say that the beach in Valencia isn’t that impressive. It’s a typical city beach with a bit of trash and lots of cigarette butts. Valencia has a big port, so while the water is refreshing, I wouldn’t say it’s the cleanest in the world. The beach is good for a quick trip to cool off from the sun, but overall, I left unimpressed.

However, the area has a lot of restaurants on the promenade, the most famous of which is called La Papita. A number of us from the hostel went there and had what could only be the best paella ever. We got three different types—seafood, squid ink (arroz negro), and one with noodles, which was my favorite, and, apparently, original to the area.

Moreover, the calamari I got was some of the softest I’ve ever eaten. It melted in my mouth in sheer goodness. If you’re ever in Valencia and enjoy good seafood, this restaurant must be on your list of places to go.

During my short time in Valencia, not much about it wowed me the way other cities in Spain have. But nothing really disappointed me either. If I were on a limited schedule in Spain, other places like Madrid, Barcelona, or Granada might get more of my attention, but if I had some extra time, Valencia would be worth making a trip to.