Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Valencia, Spain

Fri Nov 4, 2011 12:21pm EDT
 
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By Chris Michaud

VALENCIA, Spain (Reuters) - Take Paris, add palm trees and a handful of fruit to the wine, swap a snaking, sunken park for the Seine and paella for steak frites, put the whole thing on the sea and you get something like Valencia.

With a youthful vibe driven in part by the University of Valencia, Spain's third-largest city bursts with cultural offerings, stunning architecture and a sometimes-jarring juxtaposition of the ancient and the contemporary -- everything from the Holy Grail to the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, designed by world-renowned local architect Santiago Calatrava.

Happily, Valencia remains off the tourist radar.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a 48-hour visit.

FRIDAY

7 p.m. - Choose a hotel in the city's compact, historic center, for both maximum convenience and aesthetic charms. After checking in, head to the Plaza de la Virgen for a pre-dinner aperitif of sangria or, better yet, Agua de Valencia, a local concoction of sparkling wine, orange juice, vodka and gin. Beware, this fire water's gentle taste belies its potency. Take in the jumble of locals, tourists, pigeons, and formally attired churchgoers attending a Baptism or wedding just a stone's throw away at the Basilica de la Virgen.

9 p.m. - While it's early for dinner by Spanish standards, you're a tourist so go ahead and head to La Carme for a bargain 19 euro (about $25 U.S.) three-course, fixed price menu. Choices might include hake in a rich white sauce, grilled pork, roast duck or specialty ribs, with perhaps a fig, pine nut and cheese salad or a creamy carrot soup starter, capped by the requisite creme caramel.

11 p.m. - Wander the narrow, cobbled back streets and wend your way back to the center, taking in the stunningly lit building and monument facades. Stop for a nightcap in the Plaza de la Reina. Or if your taste runs more in that direction, ice cream shops abound in the area, staying open past midnight.   Continued...

 
<p>A boat sails past buildings at the coast line of Cullera near Valencia March 27, 2009. REUTERS/Heino Kalis</p>