I love Spanish cities, and had never been to Valencia yet, so it was a great pleasure to discover it. It's a beautiful city, lively, big and diverse.
We stayed at a nice hotel near the Estació del Nord, a beautiful building from 1917, right next to the Plaza de Bous (bullfighting arena). It's right in the transition between the Eixample - the modern city, full of big ornate apartment buildings, sometimes veering a little too much on the wedding cake architecture - and the Old Town, with its many big and small squares, churches and cafés.
The Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the Plaza de la Reina and the Plaza de la Vierge are all big squares lined by beautiful buildings - the Post Office, the City Hall, the Cathedral, the Generalitat - and with lively café terraces and Christmas markets. But the small squares are even lovelier, with so many shops and small restaurants.
With its Baroque and Gothic façades, the Cathedral is an impressive building, and it houses no less than the Holy Grail. We climbed the more than 200 steps of the spiral staircase of the Michelet tower to enjoy sweeping views over the city.
The Central Market is a bustling food market, with its vegetables, fruits, hams and fish stalls. Literally across the street, the Lonja de la Seda is a Gothic cathedral of commerce, with an impressive hall with tall columns, rooms with amazing painted ceilings and bawdy sculptures in the porticoes.
The museum of Fine Arts and the Ceramic museum are very interesting, as are the St Vincent's crypt and the Admiral baths. Then there is the old Carmen, and the gardens del Turia, a green belt encircling the Old Town where a river used to run.
Then there are other neighborhoods, like the Benimaclet, with its feeling of quiet village crossed with bohemian quarter, and the Cabanyal, the old fishermen's neighborhood near the sea.
The City of Arts and Sciences is definitely worth a visit. I like the Calatrava buildings, the Science Museum is extremely interesting and the Oceonagraphic has very interesting and beautiful specimens - just don't pay attention to the awful cardboard "rocks". And I had my first experience of Imax with a NASA documentary on the Hemispheric.
And the gastronomy? Valencia is the paella home par excellence,and we dutifully ate 5 excellent paellas on the five days we were there. But there are also the esgarraet, pumpkin pudding and lots of tasty tapas.
All in all, Valencia is a beautiful city, well worth a visit.