Valencia is a brilliant choice for a family break in the springtime or any time of year for that matter. When you’re craving some sunshine but it’s not quite warm enough for the pool or beach, it is a perfect city to visit. Travelling in April, the weather was around 20˚C throughout our stay.
The old town is a great place to stay in order to experience the real life and soul of the city. The central market is a fun experience for all the family with delicious fresh fruit juices and pastries making the perfect mid-morning snack. The stunning modernist architecture with its ceramics and colourful glasswork will impress the adults. Valencia Cathedral is a stunning building nestled between two beautiful squares: Plaza de la Reina and the Plaza de la Virgen. It has a unique style with various architectural influences, from the Romanesque to the baroque. If the children are up for a challenge, climb the cathedral’s impressive bell tower and take in the magnificent panoramic views of the city all the way to the sea. Restaurants do tend to open late as the Spanish dine much later than us Brits, but there are some that open earlier and all of them were very accommodating offering children’s portions.
Valencia boasts the Jardin del Turía which provides a delightful green space stretching 9kms through the city. Built on the former riverbed of the Turía, it offers the ideal retreat from the noise and traffic and is a hive of activity with locals. With children, it makes walking a whole lot more fun. Gulliver’s Park is on route to the City of Arts and Sciences and children can climb onto the fingers, hair and legs of a giant, 70m figure and slide down them. Certainly not your usual kid’s playground. There are numerous places to stop for an ice cream and hiring a bike to fit the whole family on is another fun way to spend an hour.
Once you reach the final stretch of Jardin del Turía, you are met with the futuristic wonder that is the City of Arts and Sciences. Located in the southernmost building, the Oceanogràfic aquarium has to be the best I have visited in Europe with a spacious setting and plenty of outdoor areas ideal for warm, sunny days when you don’t want to be cooped up inside for too long. The complex is divided into different climate zones and also features a dolphin show which is always a favourite with the children. Combined tickets which include entrance to the Hemisfèric and Science Museum can also be purchased. The Hemisphèric is an amazing digital 3D cinema with a 900 metre concave screen which impresses spectators with its educational films centred around nature. Films aimed at younger audiences are shown on a daily basis. The ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’ projection is sure to be a hit with older children. The science museum is also worth a visit and offers plenty of interactive exhibits to keep children entertained. For younger children, there is also the Kiddies corner designed for children from the age of 3 to 8 years old. They can play and experiment on the senses, the water, the animals and construct a house.
The Bioparc is another attraction not to be missed. After visiting many zoos in Europe, this has got to be one of the best. It concentrates solely on the African continent and its animals and landscapes. As you wander, you are taken from the equatorial forest, Madagascar and large wetlands to the savannah. Habitats are recreated to give a real picture of how the animals coexist in the wild. The design is what makes it stand out from your typical zoo. The landscape and enclosures have been created to give an illusion that the animals are roaming free with no obvious fences. Sitting in the café overlooking the giraffes, you could be mistaken for being on safari.
If the children are desperate to put their toes in the water and have some time to play on the beach, it is around 30 minutes by bus to Malvarrosa Beach. There are play areas and volleyball nets dotted along the beach and lots of lively seafood and tapas restaurants along the seafront for a delicious lunch. With Valencia being the home of Paella, this is a great place to sample a fresh, authentic Paella and hopefully most children will enjoy it too.
Spain as a whole is a family oriented country and they welcome you with open arms. Rather than feeling like your children should be tucked up in bed, the city comes alive with families enjoying an evening stroll. Enjoying a tasty crepe in a little cafe with views of the luminated cathedral and the warm air of summer on it’s way was delightful.