UPDATED with some further ideas from The Crazy Tourist.
I’m really excited to be writing this post as it gives me the opportunity to say lots of nice things about our lovely trip to Valencia!
Having been to Spain many times (my family live in the Canary Islands and we have friends and family in Marbella and Madrid) I thought I knew what to expect of Valencia before we arrived.
I was right in some ways; the sunshine, the amazing food and the warm people were all spot on. However, Valencia presented something else that I wasn’t expecting – it’s such a vibrant, warm and child friendly city, the river bed park that now snakes through the city has become the focus of family driven fun and buzzes until well after our usual UK bedtime!
Valencia is a real Spanish city – of course there is a tourist market but it is far more understated than in other parts of Spain.
Valencia is everything you hope it will be, and more!
Here is our top 3 things to do in Valencia with children:
- I’m not in the least surprised that the Bioparc topped my families list – we had the most amazing day out. I completely understand why some people have mixed views regarding zoos but the Bioparc is, I think, one of the very best examples and a truly unique experience. 10 hectares within the city of Valencia feels miles away from civilisation but is so easy to get to – the enclosures are extremely large and well kept. The focus is on Africa which gave us the chance to see Elephants, Giraffes, Rhinos, Lemurs, Gorillas and, my girls favourite…Meerkats!
The food was expensive – we did however eat overlooking the small river that separates the restaurant from the giraffe enclosure, the girls were mesmerised! Days out with a 7 and 2 year old can be a little hit and miss – this was an absolute hit and we escaped with minimal wallet damage from the gift shop!
- Jardines de Turia – the old river bed of the Turia that snakes through the City centre and has been transformed into an amazing city park. There are playgrounds, fountains, beautifully maintained gardens, walks and cycle paths.
We went down on a Saturday morning and it felt like the whole city was there either taking part in an exercise class, yoga, cycling or setting up for a long day of picnics and playing. The park feels so alive. Very near our hotel was possibly the most impressive park I’ve been too – the girls were overjoyed. A very modernist structure of a man lying down had been moulded to create walkways and huge slides – sounds bizarre, and it kinda was but also amazing!
Language is no barrier to children who just want to climb things and play, it was lovely to see my eldest laughing and enjoying herself. It was also big enough for the mums and dads too…!
The river bed is also home to the amazing City Arts And Sciences.
A unique modern series of complexes house the Oceanográfico (Europe’s largest aquarium!), a science museum, cinema and various cultural displays and installations. It is a vast area, we could have spent our entire holiday exploring the park and the City of Arts and Sciences. It is such a beautiful, interesting and relaxing space for the whole family.
- Malvarrosa Beach – One of the best things about Valencia, for us, was the mix of city and beach. The proximity between my Starbucks and the sand was a happy one and reminded us very much of our trip to San Francisco. Malvarrosa beach is easy to reach by foot, car (free parking) or tram. A clean, vast beach complete with all the family friendly facilities you would expect in Spain – think great play areas all along the promenade, free volleyball, changing facilities and restaurants.
What was missing? tacky gift shops and arcade type money drains. This was about real Spanish life, people flocked to the beach after work/school to relax and play. Families dominated the scene at the weekends spilling out of restaurants or unpacking vast picnics on the sand. It was nice to be one of those families, the girls were in heaven as they made sandcastles, played football and volleyball (not so much the two year old!) and enjoyed the play areas.
Being abroad, on a beach, meant no WiFi. No checking our phones, refreshing email or my eldest wanting to play iPhone games – something of a novelty these days and it felt great!
Valencia turned out to be a wonderful holiday for all the family. For some cosmic reason our youngest finally started sleeping in post 5am so we even came back feeling rested despite doing so much!
It is also worth mentioning that we found Valencia to be very good value for money. We rented a house through holidaylettings.com which worked out at around £350 for nine nights, we then stayed at the Holiday Inn directly opposite the Jardines de Turia in a suite (separate children’s bedroom) for three nights totalling £150. There’s a good number of property/hotel’s available for this price range and there was really no need to spend more.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Valencia as a family holiday destination – I think we might be back for a grown-up city break too as we spotted some amazing Champagne/Tapas bars…!
If you’re planning a longer trip to Valencia or you’re looking for even more ways to explore this amazing city I highly recommend you check out this post – 15 Best things to do in Valencia by The Crazy Tourist. In fact you should check out the entire site as it’s packed with some fab travel guides.