Well well well, What a fantastic city break Valencia is! Even more so if you don’t like running this place is steeped in history and culture with it’s old town and charming streets yet only a couple of minutes from the beach. And if you do like running then great, because both the 10k and the Maraton Valencia (Valencia Marathon) were absolutely exceptional and by the far the best supported races I have ever been involved with.
About 3 months ago I decided that I was going to enter another marathon, that would make it my 5th in the last 18 months and I was eager to knock some time off my personal best to put me in a good position to go under the 3 hour mark which I have planned for next year. If you couple that with the perfect chance to take my mum away for her birthday (and enter her into the 10k) and the fact it’s another new city to explore – the trip was booked and it was time to begin the countdown to an action packed weekend.
There was only one flight in and out of the U.K for the whole weekend we had planned and with RyanAir cancelling everything in sight recently I wondered if our trip would be postponed altogether. Fortunately this was not the case and a £40 return ticket meant that getting up at 3am to travel to Manchester for the flight was a little more bearable. If you are flexible with destinations you would like to travel – and if you’re like me you will travel literally anywhere you haven’t been before – then forgetting about the running, you should be able to pick up a cheap flight pretty much anywhere in Europe at any time of the year. In fact it’s sometimes cheaper to fly to travel to the continent than what it would cost you in fuel in a U.K break. So keep your eyes peeled for cheap deals and don’t be afraid to try somewhere you hand’t previously thought of going. This is the second time I’ve been to Spain in the last couple of months and at the beginning of this year I had absolutely 0 intentions of going there, and often when I had thought about going to somewhere like South America I have ended up in Africa or Asia because the deals are simply too good to miss.
Make sure you look out for the incredible Cantabrian mountain range on your flight. Incredible!
So, Valencia, here is my travel guide and recommendations based on my 3 nights there.
Attractions/Sights to see
- Hop on hop off bus was one of the better ones I’ve done in the world. 17 euros for 24 hours or 19 euros for 48 hours is quite a bit cheaper than most other cities and actually gives you two different bus routes to take in. Route A takes in more of the old town and route B takes you down towards the coast line where you can hop off at the beach for lunch like we did. Essentially you’re getting 48 hours of transport and two full tours for 19 euros which I think is pretty good going.
- All through the city runs the old river basin which is now an huge long stretch of parkland filled with bike hire, cafes, water fountains, happy couples sat under trees and dog walkers roaming the paths. There is loads of stuff here to do for all the family whether you like to exercise or simply soak up the sun with a coffee and cake and watch the world go by.
- The old central market is housed in such a beautiful building and you can pretty much buy any local produce you like here. It opens early and closes around 3:30pm. The olives, fruit and pastries were a favourite of ours but be warned, if you are squeamish then you may not like the rabbit or pigs trotters on every meat sellers stall!
- A crazy amount of unique, interesting and very old buildings that are drenched in history and almost all are either free to enter or cost 1-2 euros to go in. Head to the cathedral for one of the best painted ceilings you will ever see in the world.
- The bull fighting arena. Now, I must say, I could not be more against bull fighting. BUT – it is a part of Spanish history and this stadium has stood since 1850 and is an icon of the city for the locals. Unfortunately they still hold the bull fighting events 3x a year but if you go in with the mindset of respecting (yet not necessarily) agreeing with what happens here then you can go in to simply appreciate the architecture. There is also a small museum here.
- Borris bikes (probably not called that here but you’ll no doubt know them from London) will get you most places in the city and there is an abundance of comprehensive cycle tracks everywhere.
- Head down to the beautiful beach to soak up the sun in one of the many cafe’s on the coastline and visit the grand prix circuit should you wish.
Where to stay
We stayed in the centre of the old town right next to the central market in a beautiful apartment that you can see by clicking here.
It cost £500 for 3 nights, slept 5 people, had 2 bathrooms and was in a brilliant location to explore the town on foot or easily get on to public transport links.
Food and drink
- Supermarket within 5 minutes walking distance of the apartment and central market
Our apartment was very close to an abundance of bars and restaurants but be warned they are not all cheap to sit outside and soak up the sun! One bar on a main square cost us 17 euros just for 3 beers. You’ll be charged a fraction more for sitting outside than in but it’s worth it if the weathers warm enough.
- Didn’t quite rate Valencia as good as Bilbao for tapas, but the paella was very good everywhere you went and all places dished out decent sized portions.
- Spanish people can’t pull a pint to save their life.
- The best deal – Pretty much everywhere you go will do a set menu that runs most of the day. We usually had a 3 course meal AND bread AND a coffee or beer for 10-15 euros. You may pay that for one meal if you don’t ask for the set menu so it’s well worth doing as the portions and quality are exactly the same.
- Overall food and drink costs about the same as U.K prices. More expensive for drinks but cheaper for food if you get the set menu so not bad at all really.
The Valencia Marathon
I don’t know if it’s possible to speak any more highly of a race?
- Incredible atmosphere. Everything you want when it get’s tough whether you’re running 10k or the marathon. Hundreds of thousands of people line the street every single step of the way. Banging drums, blasting music, slapping you on the back, handing out water and food to keep you going and every single person is very very loud!
- The race begins at 8:30am so be prepared for an early start and for it to get hot later in the race (was 24 degrees half way around the marathon and I could feel it!). Make sure you’ve trained your nutrition strategy just as much as your running!
- VERY flat and fast course. You’ll struggle to find an “easier” marathon and 10k course in Europe!
- Unreal finish line – 200m of running on a pontoon over water inside what feels like a gladiatorial stadium!
- Jam packed gift bags before and after the race, t-shirts, medal, food and goodies galore
- Brilliant race expo and free paella party the day before the race
- Check out The Running Community if you want to join us to race there next year!
Reasonably priced, incredible marathon, beautiful city and a bucket load of things to see and do (most of which are free) make this an affordable, diverse and welcoming city for any age or interest! A city soaked in history, beautiful architecture, friendly people and the best marathon we’ve been a part of – Valencia we will see you next year!
If you have travelled here (perhaps you also ran one of the races!?) then I’d love to hear your thoughts!