The Port of Valencia lies 6km south-east of the city centre. It is the largest container port in Spain and has long been of major commercial importance for the Mediterranean region as a whole. However, for different reasons it became famous worldwide as the host venue for the prestigious America’s Cup sailing race. The 2003 even, held in Auckland, had been won by the Swiss challenger, Alinghi making it the first ever European winner in the event’s history.
As Switzerland is landlocked they chose Valencia as their home base when they defended the trophy in 2007 which resulted in a major redevelopment of the port area. Today’s legacy of the event is a state of the art marina together with an extensive sports and leisure complex centred around the ‘Veles e Vents’ building.
This leisure port is located at the far north of the harbour whereas your cruise ship will have to compete with a high volume of ferries to find a berth in the dock at the Estació Marítima which is a little further south. However, with over 450,000 cruise ship passengers now visiting Valencia every year plans are afoot to build a new dedicated cruise terminal.
Once you’ve made your way to the passenger terminal you’ll often find that your cruise line has provided official shuttle transfers to Plaça De L’Ayuntamient or Plaza de la Reina in the city centre. Otherwise you have the following options:
Public Bus: There’s a bus stop outside the cruise terminal at Avenida Ingeniero Manuel Soto where you can take Bus Number 4 to Plaça De L’Ayuntamient. The journey takes around 40 minutes.
Metro: Walking about 1km north from the terminal brings you to the Grau-Canyamelar metro station. Here you need to take a train on line number 5 (green) to Xátiva Station which is in the city centre, next to the Plaza de Toros. The journey takes around 35 minutes.
In order to make the most of the time you have available in Valencia you’d be best taking a taxi from the port directly to Plaza de la Reina in the historic centre. Taxis aren’t expensive, especially when shared with fellow passengers, and only take about 15 minutes.
Getting Around in Valencia
On Foot: Whilst the city of Valencia is the 3rd largest in Spain with a population of around 800,000, its historic centre where you’ll find most of the city’s tourist attractions is relatively small. On arrival from the port you’ll be able to see most of the sights of foot.
By Bike: A novel way to get around is by bicycle using Valencia’s bike sharing scheme known as Valenbisi which allows visitors to borrow bikes from hundreds of bike stations strategically located around the city.
Tourist Bus: There’s always a lot of mixed opinions with regard to the relative worth of hop-on, hop-off bus services in different port cities. In the case of Valencia I’d only recommend it if you can’t, or really don’t want to take a self-guided walking tour. The Valencia Tourist Bus runs along two routes described as ‘Historical Valencia’ and ‘Valencia Maritime’ with each one lasting approximately 90 minutes. This provides a basic overview of the city but is a very poor alternative to taking a walk around the main sights of the historic centre. These double-decker buses depart from Plaza de la Reina and include two crossover points where you can switch between the two routes.
Self-Guided Walking Tour
Some of the main tourist attractions that you should look out for whilst walking around the historic centre of Valencia are listed below. Alternatively, cruise ship passengers can form a small group and hire the services of a local guide who will take you on a walking tour of Valencia’s main sights.
Plaza de la Reina: To help get your bearings in the historic centre simply make your way to this lovely square where Valencia Cathedral is located. There are a number of tapas bars and cafés around such as La Taberna de la Reina (Plaza Reina, 1) where you refuel before your sightseeing.
Valencia Cathedral: Originally a Visigothic cathedral, the structure you see today stands on what became the site of a mosque under Moorish Spain. After the city was recaptured by the Christians in 1238 it was consecrated by the Bishop of Valencia. Future construction took place over several centuries which explains why so many architectural styles are present. For many visitors the highlight of the cathedral is ‘La Capilla del Santo Cáliz’ (Chapel of the Holy Grail) which is home to what is believed to be one of the Holy Chalices used at the Last Supper.
El Miguelete: Standing right next to the Cathedral is the 14th century Miguelete Bell Tower which is one of the city’s most recognisable buildings. Visitors with enough strength can walk up its 207 steps for outstanding views over the city and to the port in the distance.
Llotja de la Seda (Plaza del Mercado): Just a few minutes’ walk from the cathedral to the south-west, this Gothic masterpiece was built between 1482 and 1533 and served as the city’s Silk Exchange. Its magnificent trading hall (Sala de Contratación) provides evidence of how important Valencia must have been as a centre of commerce in the Mediterranean region during the 15th and 16th centuries. It is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Mercat Central Passengers who enjoy visiting markets during a day in port are in for a real treat in Valencia. Located directly across the street from the Silk Exchange is the ‘Mercat Central de Valencia’ which opened its doors in 1928 replacing the former ‘Mercat Nou’ which wasn’t large enough for its purpose. This beautiful, modernist structure serves as a fresh food market for the people of Valencia but also welcomes so many visitors that it is considered one of the city’s top attractions. In total there are 959 stalls on two levels together with a number of bars scattered around where you can enjoy a few tapas in the company of fellow shoppers and market traders. Many stalls start to shut up shop around 1.30pm so don’t leave it too late for your visit.
Museu de Belles Arts (Carrer de Sant Pius): Housed in the beautiful Palace of Saint Pius V, this is Valencia’s premier art gallery which wouldn’t be out of place amongst better known venues in Madrid and Barcelona. It is recognised as one of the country’s best Fine Arts museums where representatives of the Valencia School are well represented. Works by one such local artist, Joaquín Sorolla, are particularly impressive. In addition there are paintings by other famous artists including Velázquez, Goya, Murillo and El Greco. Surprisingly there is no admission fee.
Fallero Museum (Plaza Monteolivete, 4) In March every year the city of Valencia explodes into action as the annual Fallas Festival takes place attracting visitors from all over the globe. As well as fireworks and partying, the fiesta involves the burning of large papier-mâché figures (known as ‘ninots’) which often characterise local political figures or sportspeople. Most of these figures are burnt during ‘Las Fallas’ but a few are saved thanks to a vote by local people. The ‘winners’ are then displayed in this museum where survivors going as far back as 1934 are on display.
Museo Nacional de Cerámica (Carrer del Poeta Querol, 2): The city of Valencia has long been associated with the ceramics industry and is home to Lladró pottery which stands proudly on living room shelves around the world. This museum is housed in a 15th century palace and chronicles the evolution of the industry in Spain. If you’re not particularly interested in this subject it’s still worth seeing the beautiful baroque-style façade at the entrance to the building. On the other hand, Lladró fans could hop in a taxi and pay a visit to the Lladró Factory and Museum (Carretera de Alboraya) which is about 7km north-east of the city centre.
Plaza de Toros: Those passengers who took the Metro from near the port to Xátiva Station will come out right next to the bullring on arrival in the city. This historic bullfighting arena saw its first bullfight in 1859 and currently has a capacity for 10,500 spectators. It hosts events in March during the ‘Feria de Fallas’ and in July during the ‘Feria de Julio’. Entrance is via the small bullfighting museum (Museo Taurino).
Plaça De L’Ayuntamient: The Town Hall Square with its beautiful fountains is one of the city’s most important landmarks and a key node of transport. Your transfer from the port may well drop you off here. The terraces of the surrounding cafés provide a perfect place for visitors to soak up the atmosphere of the city and admire the architecture of the typical buildings which surround the square. The Plaza del Ayuntamiento is the scene of the burning of the final ‘ninot’ on the last night of the Fallas festival.
City of Arts and Sciences: Last but note least, you really must visit the ‘Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias’ on your way back to the ship. If you’re travelling under your own steam (not in a tour group) you’d be best taking a taxi from the historic centre to this modern attraction which only opened in 2005 and attracts over 4 million annual visitors. It is an enormous complex which includes ‘L’Oceanogràfic’ which is one of Europe’s best aquariums and L’Hemisfèric which is home to a planetarium amongst other things.
For more information take a look at the Official Website of the City of Arts and Sciences. From this site you can take a taxi back to the port in just a few minutes. If you’d prefer to spend your day in port at the City of Arts and Science rather than discovering historic Valencia you can simply take bus number 95 to get there from the bus stop near the cruise terminal. Better still, jump in a taxi and you’ll be there in less than 10 minutes.