Valencia is know as a quintessential Spanish city, which combines the best the country has to offer. It has the largest old city in Spain, it it the third largest city in Spain and mostly is is visually associated with the “City of Arts and sciences”. But what makes Valencia a special place in Spain is it’s everyday culture, it’s exciting markets and, for sure, it’s paella. Valencia is a place where paella was invented and firstly cooked! Checking the best markets in Valencia, browsing it’s streets and trying Paella is the best thing to do in Valencia! To make it work this time and try something new i decided to have someone local to show me around the city and show another perspective. In this article i will tel you about my experience of having a local top guide, that i have found at the Withlocals and tell you more about my “Valencia’s Best Markets & Paella Tour“.
I have booked my time with Danny, who was my local guide in Valencia, several weeks in advance to make sure i have it in my shedule. We have meet at midday of a beautiful may day at the subway station next to the main train station in Valencia. Danny was really nice and welcoming guy, who has spend few last years in the city and even wrote few books about it. The tour was completely private and was customised for our preferences, though i was open to any cool experiences. Still Danny knew that i was interested in cool and unique facts and was an architecture fan, so he made few stops along the way and tells us cool facts about the city, places and pointed to the architectural gems. For instance he made sure that we had a closer look to the North Railway Station, which is one of the architectural gems of the city (and surprisingly one of the top places to see in Valencia) and to the Post office, which is really a cool short stop if you are interested in architecture and photography.
We have started out tour with a short stop at the oldest and most famous truffle shop in the city Trufaz Martinez, where we have purchased a small box of chocolates to try a bit later. After it we went to the newly trendy neighborhood – Russafa, which was around 10 minutes away by foot from the train station. Along the way Danny has showed us few places to check later for the best sushi (and even sushi styled tapas), coffee (Check the place called Cafecito for good cakes and coffee) and showed us several significant historical spots in the area. What i loved about the neighbourhood is that it was far from being a touristy one. Apart form us there were no tourists there, but still the place feels real, full of life and beauty. Definitely a place to check if you want to see more than Top10 sights in Valencia.
The main reason for us to get to Russafa was to visit the Russafa market. This market is bit more local, but it had everything that you usually looking for to have a real meal at home. It is obviously great choice if you have an idea of cooking something at home (or at your place) while in Valencia. It is calm, but got everything. Here we have made our first coffee stop. Danny has told us about types of coffee in Spain and i have chosen my favourite cortado coffee (it’s kind of espresso with a bit of milk). We had it together with Pastel Boniato, local pastery, which got potato with the sugar inside of it, and that wonderful truffles that we have bought in shop few minutes earlier.
After it we have browsed a bit around the area and have made it to Mercado de Colón. This one was completely different market: it’s a beautiful restored and modernised Art deco building with several eateries inside. It wasn’t a market with a stalls, but more of a market where you go to have a meal and spend some time in a cosy and beautiful atmosphere. It was definitely one of the most beautiful stops along the way as the place was really gorgeous and it wasn’t of a kind that i have ever heard about or saw in guidebook.
Our fourth stop was famous Main market in Valencia, which usually tops the list of things to do in a city and tops it for a good reason. This Gaudi inspired market is still one of the best food places in the city (though, obviously, bit overpriced because of it’s popularity). Still it’s a place not to miss in Valencia as it is impressive, beautiful, busy and simply one of the most fascinating markets in Europe. Danny has recommended visiting it and trying mussels, which are particularly good. When we’ve been there it wasn’t the season for it, but still make sure to check main market in Valencia.
The Main market in Valencia is really busy and while browsing it i have noticed that there are several kinds of stalls inside: some are typical “tourist” spots, which are made to sell packed fruits, jamon and ready-to-eat meals. Others are more real stalls, which sells vegetables, meat and everything that is important in everyday life. Though in this kind of place it’s obvious, that those who came to the market for practical reasons are a bit frustrated about the number of tourists, but still it’s obvious that this market is still more than just tourist attraction.
I have asked my guide about the tips for a good paella and Danny confirmed my feelings that those pre-made paellas are usually not the best choice if you want to have good gourmet experience. They are nice, but still paella should be prepared by order and on it’s best when it is freshly made. So the best tip for the main market in Valencia is to try paella there only is case if you see that is was just made. When i was there i saw how freshly prepared paella is brough, so it’s real.
The best time for paella is between 1pm and 2 pm. It’s not a light dish and traditionally it is more fo lunch, than for dinner. If speaking about traditions, the most traditional time for it is sandy afternoon. This is the time where it is usually prepared at home for the family, so probably it could be a good time for the best time to have it if you are not ordering it.
Our last stop is probably the major part of the tour: we have made it to one of the restaurants in the heart of the old town to have a freshly made paella. It was around 2-30pm at that moment, which means we had a perfect paella time. Today we had famous paella Valenciana, which is original paella, made with Rabbit meat, chicken, rice, beans and green peas. There is no paella like this anywhere in Spain, so it’s definitely something you have to try in Valencia. Danny has made an order for us and made sure we got everything sorted and left us to enjoy food on our own. For sure, the place was good and i would love to get back to it for my next meal.
After finishing the tour i have realised that just for 3 hours we have done quite a lot and leaned a lot about Valencia: local market, hidden chocolate spot, spanish styled coffee, hipster neighbourhood, architecture, one of the major markets in Europe and trying paella in the city where it was born. Obviously, time really well spend! That’s probably the best advantage of having someone local to show you around in an organised way. Not only we had great time, avoided crowds and experienced something in a best way, but we also had some awesome opportunity to have a nice chat with our host, who was so kind to tell us about himself, share the knowledge and made sure we had great time in his city.
Withlocals connects travellers and locals in cities all over the world – directly and on-demand. Together they exchange culture and create unique and personal travel experiences – experiences worth sharing. Whenever you are in need of trustworthy personal guidance abroad, we make sure there is a local available to let you experience the city like a local. 100% private and at a fair price.
Next time when you plan your journey to one of the places around the world, consider checking Withlocals. This is a team of guys, who are really passionate about what they do! The team of the service try to find the best people around the world, who have their own charisma, willing to show you around and desire to share. So probably they have someone in one of your next destinations! Make sure to check and give it a try, the concept is great and guys are doing a great job to make it work!
Disclaimer: My “Valencia’s Best Markets & Paella Tour“ in Valencia was complimentary, but all opinions here are completely mine and i was really happy to work with the people, who are passionate about bringing great experiences!