Traditionally and historically February is the coldest month here, so when it’s not beach weather and you want to do something, a great place to go and visit is Valencia – totally do-able for a day trip. I’d definitely recommend taking the coach rather than driving there yourself though.
If you are flexible about your dates, you can get a ticket for as little as €5.20 one-way – the tolls on the AP7 are €14 each way from Benidorm! You then have the stress of parking and obviously paying for that privilege. The coach journey from Benidorm bus station, on the top end of Avd Europa - a shortish walk or take the No3 or No11 bus, takes 1hr 45 mins and you end up slap bang in the centre. Last year a channel 5 documentary series – Spectacular Spain with Alex Polizzi saw the hotel critic explore Valencia on her journey along the Costa Blanca, so why not try it for yourself.
Probably the most popular tourist destination is the almost futuristic looking City of Arts and Sciences. Designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félx Candela, the sleek white complex comprises of a science museum, IMAX cinema and planetarium, opera house and the L’Oceanografic.
Currently, they also have all the small niñots on display here – part of the Fallas, before being transferred to their positions around the city and burnt on the night of the 19th. The public can even vote for their favoutite as part of a competition. Valencia is the home of the Fallas and definitely the best place to see them – you’ll be astounded at the size of them.However, we will also have 3 here in Benidorm which if you are here for the St Patrick's weekend, you will get to see.
For some culture a must-see is the cathedral, which was built between 13th and 15th centuries. It sits in the heart of the old town, in an area called El Carmen. The museum contains the Holy Grail – the chalice that Jesus supposedly drank from at the Last Supper.
The Central Market is a spectacular 1920s Art Nouveau building and by all accounts, the largest indoor market in Europe. The first thing you notice is the sheer scale of the place, the iron vaulted beams and domes, with some beautiful stained glass and mosaics that let the sunlight flood in – it’s worth going just to admire the architecture.
Inside there must be nearly 1,000 stalls selling some of the best food in Valencia – fresh fruit, vegetables, hams, cheeses, olives, bread, meat, fish – it’s a melting pot of colour and smell. The quality and diversity is amazing and most are locally produced. There are also cafes, bars and restaurants, where you can pick up a coffee or glass of something and a bite to eat. Head here in the morning – open from 7:30am- 2:30pm every day except Sunday.
When in Valencia you couldn’t not visit the famous Horchateria de Santa Catalina, which has been ‘in business’ for two centuries according to the sign above the front entrance. However, I’m not too sure about this very traditional Spanish drink, a little too sweet for my taste but you have to try it – and dip a farton in too, which are baked on the premises. Note, they only take hard cash – no debit or credit cards! Once you’ve filled up your tum, then a little more sight seeing.
The main train station – Estacio del Nord is another beautiful Art Nouveau building and the main ticket office attracts many tourists, as does the concourse. Next door, literally, is the bullring, which was built in the early 1850’s and standing the test of time well. To give you an idea of the size the stadium holds a capacity of around 12,000 people!
Whether you agree with it or not, during the Fallas – from 10 - 19 March, there will be events taking place there every day. There are plenty of shops if you fancy a little retail therapy and you will find an Apple Shop here, possibly the nearest to us in Benidorm as there isn’t one in Alicante.
Above is a random example of a €5 fare from Beniorm, enabling you to pop there for just over €10. Valencia is totally different to Benidorm – a great alternative and one I would certainly encourage you to visit for the day, especially when you have regular visitors who have been to Altea, Calpe, Guadalest etc and would like something different. And if you can get there and back for just over a tenner, what’s not to like?