The old city centre of Valencia is full of secrets and mysteries, let me take you for a walk through the streets of El Carmen.
For me, the city centre of Valencia starts at the Serrano Tower (Torres de Serranos) but it is actually all the area surronded by the old river bed, the Turia park.
The Serrano Tower is one of the two towers remaining in Valencia after the provincial governor ordered to pull it down in 1865. The Seranno Tower was one of the twelve gates that formed with the ancient wall a protection for the city. It is possible to go up the tower for only one euro, where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the whole city centre.
The most beautiful part of Valencia is undoubtedly the plaza della Virgen, an ancient picturesque square where stand many monuments such as the the Basilica de Nuestra Señora De Los Desamparados, the cathedral, and the Turia fountain.
The basilica was built in a Baroque style during the 17th century on the ruin of the roman part of the city and is dedicated to the saint patron of Valencia. The basilica is covered by a noticeable night-blue dome with frescos painted on the inside part. Before becoming the most famous religious monument in the city, it was the place where the most important events were held such as trials and political meetings.
The fountain that you can spot on the plaza della Virgen, just in the middle of the Cathedral and the Basilica, represents the Turia River. It shows Neptune surrounded by eight naked women that represent the smaller rivers irrigating the main one.
The Cathedral Santa Maria, the most famous monument of the city, was built on the ruin of a mosque in the 13th century and is said to host the Holy Grail. The Cathedral is mainly built in a Gothic style but its four doors display all a different style, from Romanesque to Baroque. Next to the Cathedral stands the famous Miguelete tower, the emblem of the city, that you can climb to see the Plaza della Reina from a higher view point.
Another interesting historic attraction in Valencia is the Lonja de la Seda, a 15th century mercantile exchange construction. This monument is the symbol of the commercial prosperity that Valencia witnessed during the 15th century.
In the course of the following centuries, this place was used as a market for silk as Valencia was one of the most important city in Europe for the commerce of silk. A week ago the museum was even opened only next to the central market, that displays many artefacts related to silk and describes the history of Valencia as a major city for the production of silk and the Royal Academy of Arts, which was fully dedicated to the art of silk.
And how to talk about Valencia’s main attractions without mentioning the Turia Park? The park is 9 kilometres wide and surrounds the city centre with green spaces, footpaths, fountains, and diverse kind of trees and flowers. It is the perfect place to job, to eat a picnic, or just to relax under the light of the sun. The park is crossed by 18 bridges that connect the outskirts of the city to the Carmen area. The garden is said to have been built over the ancient bed of the Turia River, that disappeared only a few years ago (1957) due to a flood.
Besides being a place full of fresh air in which to enjoy the Mediterranean immensity, the beauty of historical monumentsand the gastronomic enjoyment of typical Spanish dishes and drinks, Valencia is also a capital of fashion and trends.
The neighbourhood of El Carmen is one of the most famous shopping place in Valencia, full of streets with vintage shops, with their own signatures, with second-hand clothes and, of course, of leading national and international brands.
Plaza del Tossal, the Bolsería and Calle Quartare three of the most famous areas filled with shops in the neighbourhood of El Carmen. One of the most interesting shops for vintage lovers is Vintage Holy Spirit located in the High Street. This store has also created its own brand of shirts.
Soho del Carmen located at Street Rights 33, is another authentic vintage clothing store. When you go inside, it seems that you tele-transport to a neighbourhood in London. In addition to buying, it's a place where you can also sell your clothes or change by others. They have clothing from a variety of fashion brands like Versace, Carolina Herrera, Emporio Armani, Dolce Gabbana, Hugo Boss, Kenzo, Moschino or Christian Dior, plus lots of Levi's jeans.
The store situated at Alta Street have created their own brand Santo Spirito Vintage, which is proper hipster style offering very cool t-shirts and the hoodies, especially those with funny messages such as ”Where there is Paella, there is hope”.
For clothes other good options are stores like La Vespa Roja where you can find many imported clothes from USA 70's, 80's and 90's from brands like Levi's, Wrangler, Lee and Dickies, La Senora Henderson, SuKarma, Sister Birkinand many more.
Apart from vintage shops in El Carmen you can explore Spanish typical specialized stores. For example fan store, where you can see the old man how he draws your unique fan, or store specialized only on hats where you can find as much types of different hats as you can imagine, or store with work uniforms. If you are interested in antiques Love, retro and fun and Studio Vintage have very interesting furniture.
If you prefer going to a shopping mall or to buy at international chain shops you can walk around 15 minutes to the nearby shopping centre of Valencia, in the area between Calle Colón and Calle La Pazor go to El Corte Ingles.
Shopping is one of the many reasons why we recommend staying in the neighbourhood of El Carmen.
After exploring all the awesome sightseeing, street art, and having little shopping you reach the point when your stomach screams ''I am starving! Tengo hambre! Comida, porfavor !'' and here I come to help you! As I am a passionate foodie and like to try unfamiliar dishes, local cuisine meals and sweet treats, I will reveal the best places in the beautiful Carmen neighbourhood.
Obviously, you can find hundreds of places in the old town to fulfil our expectations, starting a little snack and finishing with three courses meal. To be able to choose the right place always follow one very simple rule ''Do the same as locals do!'' It means that if a place is really crowded, you hear loud and passionate Spanish people, and you have to wait in a queue for a table whenit means you find a perfect place!
So let me be your guide and present the best places to taste traditional paella, try various tapas,pinchos, and most importantly have heavenly tasting ice cream. The place number one which I would highly recommend is called CASA LA PEPA There you can feel the spirit of Spain by trying different paella (version of Valencia with chicken and rabbit, with seafood or dare to try the black paella with squid ink), home-made tapas and enjoying local vine.
Also, they have an amazing offer for groups, according to your wish they can prepare huge paella for 50 people. It is worth to mention what you not have to struggle talking in Spanish because the staff speaks English, is very friendly and always advice and suggest what to order. So, just contacts us for a discount card to eat at CASA LA PEPA and enjoy traditional food.
It is definitely important to visit famous Central Market (Mercad Central) located near the Metropolitan Cathedral–Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia. There you will find stands of fruit and veggies, dried fruits and nuts, fresh meat and fish, cheese. Also you can refresh ourselves by tasting traditional nutty drink called Horchata with fluffy pastries Fartons. My favourite thing in this market are chilly fruit smoothes and the fruit salad served in mini plastic cups.
Next to the market you can also find many places to buy traditional churros con chocolate *which taste divine.
By accident I have noticed cosy place called *Sagardi there you can try many different pinchos (small snacks on bread) only for 1,99 each and have a glass of tinto de verano.
Lastly and most importantly you have to find a place to eat /ice-cream. There are many heladerías (ice-cream shops) in Carmen neighbourhood and all of them are amazingly good.
I hope you have enjoyed my quickfood tour and I hope you will fall in love with Spanish cuisine.
My favorite thing in El Carmen is the abundance of street art. These are not only some random graffiti with a person’s name, who drew it, or some offensive slogans and obscenities. No. This is art in its truest sense.
Beautiful graffiti sketches and scenes appear almost everywhere on walls, doors, windows, garbage bins, shops and in many unexpected places. Whenever you go, you could bump into something picturesque and obscure.
Even the owners of many shops and bars paint some graffiti on their doors in solidarity with the artistic and bohemian influence of the district.
You can’t just walked passed Carmen without noticing and absorbing its vibes. Even the garbage bin seemed somewhat artistic to me as some of them were painted as well. Walking along the narrow streets I was always twisting my neck in all possible directions trying not to miss every single one of them.
Have you ever been to Berlin? If so, then probably you also went to the most famous for its street art district Kreuzberg. So I can say that El Carmen is not in any way concedes to the most hipster city in Europe. Moreover, graffiti artworks are wonderfully blended with the ancient Valencian architecture.
There are many reasons to visit beautiful old town of Carmen. You can see many monuments, enjoy shopping in unique vintage stores, have food tasting of delicious Spanish cuisine, admire street art, or simply enjoy getting lost in narrow streets with spectacular graffiti on walls. Erasmus students love this neighbourhood and we can help you to find accommodation in this wonderful part of Valencia. So, you can enjoy the atmosphere of old city centre every day. Just feel free and contact us * or visit our Facebook Page for more information*.