You are a well-traveled artist and traveling more often is climbing to the top ranks of your bucket list this year.
You’ve found nothing quite compares to an adventure abroad to get your creative juices flowing. And a beautiful place where you can you can stretch a dollar sounds like the perfect start.
Your preferred adventures include getting to know a city by wandering local galleries on foot, winding down over local dishes and washing it all down with local wine, beer or whatever local adult beverage you might discover along the way.
You love finding off-beat places mixed in with sophistication while you revive your spirit overseas. You need to let loose, restore your inner bohemian, walk in the sun and get inspired.
You envision strolling through city cafes or walking along beaches that artists before you captured by the stroke of their brush or with their written words via a poem or an encapsulating novel.
You’ve already got Spain on the brain for this years overseas inspiration.
You love the relaxed lifestyle of Spain. A place where you often hear the words “No pasa nada” (meaning don’t worry about it) or “Tranquilo” (meaning relax) by the locals living an envy-worthy life of leisure.
You are an avid Spain lover, but looking for a worthy alternative to the great city of Barcelona with beach access to the Mediterranean Sea.
Well, you’re in luck, because I have an excellent alternative for you: Valencia.
As a bohemian artist looking to depart from conventionality both in life and in art, visiting Valencia is an absolute MUST.
Valencia: A Must Visit Place for Artists Looking for Inspiration
With improved transit systems throughout the city; getting in and out of Valencia is easier than ever before. It’s a short hour and forty minutes (by train) from Spain’s capital Madrid and less than four hours (by train) from the city of Barcelona on the eastern coast of Spain.
Haven’t heard much about Valencia?
It’s not your fault.
Valencia is the media underdog to Spain’s larger glamour cities. Solely for a reason, it’s the lesser known alternative to them. But just like any true underdog tale, it’s the one that you’ll be rooting for the second you discover all it has to offer.
Prepare for inspiration in the sun. This often overlooked Mediterranean gem boasts long hours of sunshine daily (approx. 7 hours a day).
Surrounded by outskirts of rice farmers, orange growers, wineries and produce. It’s where Paella was invented and equally famous for its ceramics, porcelain tiles, and oranges.
It’s the wildly original city that completely transformed their flooded riverbed into Spain’s largest urban park creating one of Valencia’s unique assets called Turia Park (meaning river park).
Somehow even with all these surprises, Valencia remains a fair-priced city, loaded with culture and unscathed by an invasion of tourists. This dreamy miracle continues despite being given fresh modernity and new allure after millions of dollars worth of architectural investment.
Valencia has influenced countless Spanish writers and poets throughout history. Its beaches have inspired artists including Impressionist Joaquín Sorolla and novelist Vicente Blasco Ibáñez.
All further adding to the magnetism of this Mediterranean surprise and wonderfully kept secret that you should waste no more time discovering called Valencia.
Breathtaking Architecture That Will Make You Swoon
You’ve swooned over the curvaceous architecture of Barcelona’s esteemed Antoni Gaudi, but Valencia’s equally cherished Calatrava will introduce you to some crazy futuristic curves that will expand your mind in a whole new way.
A stroll through Valencia will leave you buzzing with inspiration to return home wholly refreshed, inspirited and ready to create your own works of art.
1. Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts & Sciences)
The Cuidad de las Artes y Ciencias is like nothing you’ve ever seen before, and it’s no surprise that it is considered one of the 12 Treasures of Spain. Here you’ll discover the tallest opera house in the world with a terrace cafe, Europe’s largest aquarium containing a submarine-style restaurant, 3D cinema, a science museum and a vast open garden that turns into a club on summer nights.
2. Mercado Central (Central Market)
The Mercado Central is one of the largest and most breathtaking Markets in Europe where inside you’ll also discover a Michelin star chef behind the bites at Central Bar.
Here you’ll explore the colorful market abundant with fresh produce, spices & specialty ingredients to create regional dishes, enjoy wine tastings or sample an afternoon vermut decked out with an olive and a Valencian orange slice.
3. Mercado de Colon (Colon Market)
Foodie and architecture junkies can continue to the Mercado de Colon. A European Gastro Market. The perfect spot for a bite to eat or a glass of vino on the terrace in the sun at any time of day. On the lower level, you’ll find a terrific little pub for a beer and a hip nightclub for an evening cocktail.
4. Estacio del Nord (North Station)
There is another modernist jewel that is a must see located in the heart of the city that was declared a monument. The Estació del Nord is the perfect place to roam and marvel at the dazzling elements of Valencian culture displayed on the building facade. Don’t forget to peruse the jaw-dropping interior at the ticket counter.
5. Valencia Cathedral
Here you can view the Holy Grail, marvel at the architecture and enjoy the stunning paintings by Goya along with other vital artists once commissioned by the pope.
Then climb the 207 stairs to the top of the El Miguelete (meaning little Michael) bell tower for sweeping city views of Valencia’s vibrant Historic District.
Spend the afternoon roaming the historic district while you are there.
Valencia is home to the first modern art center ever formed in Spain and to an equally important collection of fine arts from ancient Valencia teachers at one of the first fine art museums of painting in Spain.
There is an undoubtedly vibrant art scene in Valencia with a rich history of nationally recognized artists from here. The public museums and galleries contain work by Valencia-born artists dating back to the 15th centuries through the present-day. Get ready to be inspired. This list will get you started, but the city has countless cultural offerings to explore while you are here.
#6. Museu de la Seda (Silk Museum)
Here you’ll find a renovated 15th-century building that mixes the Gothic and Baroque styles where the ceiling painted by José Vergara and the 18th-century ceramic floor will take your breath away. Enjoy a terrace lunch in the all season courtyard restaurant called Espai Seda where you can enjoy Mediterranean cuisine or find an interesting gift made of seda (silk) in their gift shop.
#7. Museu Nacional de Ceràmica (National Ceramics Museum)
There are no words to describe the creativity sculpted into the exterior of this magnificent structure by painter and engraver Hipólito Rovira and Valencian sculptor Ignacio Vergara. Absolutely marvel at their genus from the outside or head into the interior for a stunning collection of ceramics and ceilings painted by ceiling paintings made by artists such as Plácido Frances y Pascual, José Felipe Parra and José Brel Guiralt in the 19th century.
#8. Centre del Carme Cultura Contemporania (El Carmen Contemporary Culture Center)
Here you’ll find a real gem of Valencia. A renovated convent turned museum exhibiting regional contemporary art. Linger in the lobby a moment. The art books are always inspiring to review and sold at a ridiculously low rate. The interior is a stunning contrast to the surrounding contemporary art. There is also a tiny standing only cafe where you can enjoy wine, beer or coffee as you enter the first courtyard. Meander here till 9pm, and it’s always free of charge!
Oh, and hang out with local artists across the way at Café Museu situated next to a famously quirky facade (a painted hole in the wall) to house cats. You can score a lunch portion of paella for around 5 Euros at Café Museu on Sundays.
#9. Museu de Belles Arts de València (Museum of Fine Arts Valencia)
One of the first museums of painting in Spain. Here you’ll find works from the Romanic period through the Renaissance. It’s been said that Spanish daily Mediterranean life has been best captured by the Valencian impressionist Joaquín Sorolla and you can view his former work as a society painter in an extensive permanent collection here at the fine art museum.
#10. Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (IVAM, Valencian Institute of Modern Art)
Spain’s very first center for Modern Art and by far the biggest name in Valencia. This impressive permanent collection (of over 11,000 pieces) will have you coming back again and again. It’s always curated in unique ways alongside exciting temporary exhibitions throughout the year focusing on different areas in the development of contemporary art.
#11. Museo Fallero (Fallas Museum)
View the artworks that were saved by proxy voting from being set ablaze in Valencia’s famous March festival called Las Fallas. A genuinely unique annual event where huge art structures created with care all year long are erected onto the streets of Valencia turning the city into a giant walking gallery. The artworks are then set on fire during one grand night of liberating spirits and celebrating life followed by dancing in the streets till the wee hours. If you can’t make the actual event in March, this is a must-see museum while you are visiting Valencia.
Urban Neighborhoods To Meander
Valencia is a highly walkable city. For those that love a good long stroll, it can be walked from one side to the next. Each neighborhood has its own magnificent mini-culture. Here are three that should be on your radar during your visit to soak up the most you can of the urban art scene in Valencia.
#12. Arsty Historic District
Valencia’s never dull historic district is known as El Carmen, is also a beautiful antithesis. Antique architecture is living in harmony with street art-covered walls and city buildings.
Mingle in and out of gorgeous galleries, museums, and cafes. Enjoy the outdoor street art as you pass through the narrow alleyways from one to the next.
#13. Hipster Ruzafa
It’s the cool kids’ neighborhood where you’ll find a revitalized cutting edge vibe, vintage shops, quirky bohemian cafes, artists, galleries and a happening nightlife. While you are there, don’t miss The Sporting Club where you may view artists at work in a gallery studio setting, see exhibitions or live performances in dance, poetry, music or theater hours are 10:30AM–1:30PM and 5:30–9PM.
Spend your days at the beach, historic neighborhood or here in Ruzafa, but make sure to leave a free night to come to explore Ruzafa too. It takes on completely different energy at night.
#14. Bohemian Beniclamet
A quirky neighborhood with its own vibe. Home to many University students, you’ll find artists, musicians, and eclectic nightlife here too. While you are here make sure to visit the Friday Street Market where you’ll find anything from ski pants to summer dresses depending on the time of year. Put Kaf Cafe on your radar. It doubles as a library and an art gallery. At night it hosts music events that can sell out so follow them on Facebook and see what’s happening or just stop by and enjoy.
Beaches To Explore
Valencia’s city beaches have it all. Here you’ll find adorable beach bars alongside sprawling boardwalks, tile designs spanning back one-hundred-fifty years, street art, and the house museum of one of Valencia’s famous writers. Stroll from one beach to the next. Eat in the sun at one of the many beachside restaurants where countless famous artists have soaked up the Mediterranean lifestyle throughout history.
Alboraya has two beaches and an adorable interior pueblo to explore. The rural farmlands in this pueblo have inspired native-born Valencian novelist Vicente Blasco Ibáñez to write novels, and it’s also the place where his celebrated literature made the world daydream about the Mediterranean lifestyle in Valencia.
Take your journal and sketch or write beachside in this dreamy little corner of Valencia.
It’s home to a nutty vegan drink made of chufa nut called Horchata (legend says it was drunk by the Pharaohs), walk along farmhouses in the interior part of the village where the drink is harvested. Rent a bicycle or take a long walk (about 45 minutes on foot from the sea) and explore both rural and modernist architecture in the interior of this tiny village. Feast on one of the many local dishes specializing in rice and make sure to order yourself a horchata at one of the small Horchaterías.
Or come and experience its natural park with golden sand on the beaches.
#16. Port Saplaya
Alboraya has two main beaches. Head to Alboraya’s first beach regarded as Valencia’s “Little Venice” named Port Saplaya, where you’ll find bright apartments and restaurants alongside a dock setting.
#17. Patacona Beach
Patacona Beach (Alboraya’s second beach) is home to adorable chiringuito beach bars serving tapas and food in the summer where the music and mixed drinks will take your mind of any care you might have in the world (Enjoy these beach bars from May — October).
You’ll also find an all season boulevard lined with picturesque restaurants each containing inspiring courtyards and beachside terraces.
#18. La Malvarrosa Beach
Down the promenade from here as your leaving Alboraya Beach, you’ll find La Malvarrosa Beach which is lined by a seaside promenade full of restaurants as you head towards Cabanyal Beach. La Malvarrosa has been a historically famous favorite summer spot for wealthy Spanish families. All of these beaches have inspired many artists including Impressionist Joaquín Sorolla. Visit the summer house of the renowned writer Vicente Blasco Ibáñez which has been converted into a museum while you are here.
#19. El Cabanyal Beach
Next door to here you will find a grittier “up and coming” beach paired with a bohemian fisherman village called Cabanyal Beach. Here along the boardwalk, you’ll find summer beach stands to buy beach hats, jewelry and flowy, colorful summer dresses along with places offering henna and hair braiding.
As you enter the interior of this bohemian fisherman village you feel almost a South American vibe and will find one gastronomic experience after the next at a multitude of unassuming hidden restaurants and cafes. Walking through this magically gritty square kilometer (.39 square miles) you will find over five-hundred fifty protected buildings most adorned in tiles spanning a range of one-hundred fifty years. There are more than two-hundred different tile designs here. This entire village was once marked for complete demolition, but it continues to grow and thrive as its own art and gastronomic community by the sea.
From here head back in the direction of the port where the wealthy families of Spain came to take wave baths in the late nineteenth century. Enjoy a beachside Paella at La Pepica where Hemingway along with tons of famous writers and writers have dined.
All of this and more at a fraction of the cost compared to one of Spain’s most beloved cities making Valencia an artistic destination worth taking note of!
If you are not already booking your airfare, there is one more substantial artistic event worth mentioning.
#20. Las Fallas
Valencia is home to many unique festivals and parades. One of the most world famous is Las Fallas where particular Valencian artists create extraordinary sculptures that are set ablaze in March to release past energies and welcome new experiences to come. The city fills with over three-hundred-fifty gigantic statues that are burned to the ground on the same evening in March while Valencian’s delight in the unique experience, laugh, cry and dance the night away with DJ’s in the streets.
If you can’t make the Fallas experience in March just head to The Fallas Museum where the best works from the March event have been voted into the museum. Fallas works are all bizarrely surreal. Even the great Salvador Dali designed a Fallas sculpture back in 1954.
The Falleros symbolically throw everything they consider to be lavish into the bonfire to make a new start and renew the spirit.
Regenerating the mind and soul has been the objective of this pagan ritual since ancient times. Isn’t it your right to do the same in modern times?
Don’t Waste Another Minute Not Experiencing Valencia
Did I mention Valencia has free art museums every Sunday or that the Carmen Cultural Center is always open gratis for creative viewing?
Jump from one museum to another (where you can expect free entry on Sunday or as low as two euros to enter any other day of the week) to view breathtaking works of art in every form, walk the historical district full of tapering alleyways, cobbled streets, and squares that draw you in to inspect every square inch. Discover everything from Gothic style facades to Modern triumphs in Art Nouveau.
This city is a place where there are no schedules for the street musicians who often come and go. Just find a seat in the sun and wait for the next show to begin.
Stroll from the stunning 15th-century National Ceramics Museum to the Modernist Central Market and then to Valencia’s Gothic-Style Silk Exchange with no real plan or care in the world, and without having spent a dime!
So, what are you waiting for?
The secret is officially out. Share this with all of your bohemian artist friends that need a recharge in Spain.
Come to Valencia to revive your soul, burn your demons with the pagans, connect with a culture so in tune with being present and living a life of artful leisure and walk where many classic artists have created inspired magic that’s presence is still felt in the city today.
You could be the next legend to have been inspired by this ethereal city in history books to come. Don’t wait. Just do it. You won’t be disappointed.