Over Spring Break, I had the pleasure and the privilege of visiting two great cities in Spain, Valencia and Madrid. I traveled from Thursday night to the next Sunday morning, which was the perfect amount of time to experience the relaxing, seaside Valencia and the bustling capital of Madrid.
The beach bum- The beaches of Valencia are really beautiful, and a sight for sore eyes coming from the landlocked Czech Republic. It was a little windy when I went, but normally it’s a beautiful cool sweatshirt-on-the-beach experience. Valencia also has an amazing park that runs through the middle of the city like a green river, which is excellent for relaxing, sunbathing, picnicking, reading, painting, and photographing. People-watching and painting here were highlights of my time in this city.
The seafood lover- Because of the city’s location on the Mediterranean, the seafood in Valencia is phenomenal! I would highly recommend seafood paella, or arroz negro if you’re feeling adventurous- that’s rice cooked in squid ink. Just a heads-up, though: paella is a difficult and time-consuming dish to cook, so many restaurants require it be ordered by two people, and it can take up to an hour. If you’re travelling solo or just don’t have the time to spare, try finding a smaller, more touristy cafe for lunch; they have a lot of several-course specials that offer single servings.
The wino- Valencian wine is also really delicious. I’m not exactly a connoisseur, but the few, uh, bottles I had were really yummy. You should also know that the city is known for its sangria, which was also good if not a little sweet for my taste.
The urban planner who’s obsessed with Pantone’s instagram feed- This one is specific, but hear me out: Valencia is a magical and very thematic city. Most of the buildings are yellow and orange, absorbing and reflecting light in every direction. Even the open air seems soaked in light, which is helped of course by the ever-present smell of orange blossoms. From this amateur’s view, it’s a really well-designed and aesthetically purposeful city.
The wanderer- Because of all the great wine and the atmosphere of the city, Valencia is really a relaxing experience which requires no itinerary. Make sure to explore and take your time, and you’ll enjoy every minute of your time here.
Bring: A picnic/ beach blanket, a corkscrew, your Polaroid, a good book, a sweatshirt, sunscreen.
Must-do: The beach and the park, and I would recommend some wine-inspired walking, too.
Stay: Anywhere. The city is really well-connected by a Citibike-esque bike rental program that’s cheap and easy to use, and the streets are really bike-friendly. They even have an app so you can plan your trips like a local.
The student- So many of the attractions in Madrid are free to students, and those that aren’t are seriously reduced in price (think 2 euros or so per attraction). As long as you’re under 26, being a student in Madrid is a paradise!
The church admirer/ fearer- I am both, so I put both. Being raised Catholic has seriously influenced my travel through Europe; namely, I have found myself impulsively and without memory of travel inside many European cathedrals and churches. Madrid is full of them, and they are really worth seeing even if you aren’t religious.
The street artist- Madrid is a beautiful city for many reasons, but one of the coolest features it has is its casual occurrence of really good street art. Definitely make time for a stroll, or even plan to walk between attractions because you won’t want to miss this feature of the city.
The tapas lover- There are so many markets around Madrid that have great tapas. There’s really almost no reason to eat at a restaurant! Mercado de San Miguel and Mercado de San Ildefonso were two of my favorites. The first is pretty low-key, with many diverse offerings. The latter is a little more upscale, and is the oldest market in Madrid. It has more restaurant style options rather than just traditional tapas.
The rooftop dweller- One of the things I miss most about New York is going to some random mutual’s rooftop and enjoying the sights of the city- even if it seems there is almost nothing noteworthy to look at. There’s really something about being on a rooftop with friends on a warm evening. At Circulo Bellas Artes, or rather on top of it, there is plenty to look at and several comfy seating areas and bars. The view of the city is breathtaking and the cozy feel of the place will inspire reflection on your great trip.
Bring: Your student ID, your appetite, good walking shoes, some Real Madrid apparel, your knowledge of art history.
Must-do: El Retiro, El Museo Nacional del Prado, El Museo Nacional Centro de Reina Sofia, all the markets, El Barrio de la Latina y Las Lavapies, Circulo Bellas Artes
Stay: Somewhere near the city center. Madrid is pretty well connected when it comes to subways, but many of the attractions and some of the coolest neighborhoods are clustered fairly close to each other. Anywhere across the river is going to prove itself to be a burden.