Unusual things to do in London

Unusual things to do in London

London is one of the coolest cities in the world, but it didn’t get that reputation because of its major tourist attractions, oh no! What makes London special is the sheer amount of things you can do off the beaten track, whether that involves eating, drinking or just keeping yourself busy. Here’s my pick of ways to spend a day out in London that you might not find in the guide books. I haven’t been paid to promote any of these places, I genuinely recommend them to people who fancy something a bit different.

Breakfast club for dinner
Forget that cheeky nando’s, you’re about to get a brand new favourite restaurant. Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not have it all day? At the Breakfast Club, you can. Tuck into American style pancakes or a good old full English in an old retro style canteen. It’s the keep it cheap, pile it high kind of plate, and it’s ohsogood.

Dinner at the Breakfast Club

Escape room
If getting locked in a room with your brains as the only means of escape sounds like fun to you, you’ll love an escape room. You’ve got an hour to solve brain teasers, find clues and open padlocks before you get locked in and branded a fool. We’ve now done both Sherlock Unlock games, but there are plenty of others out there. Let me know your favourites.

Escape Room

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium
Do you like cats? Do you like cafes? Do you like cats AND cafes? Well my friends, you’re in for a real treat at Lady Dinah’s. Not only do you get to drink the most delicious coffee and eat yummy cakes while you’re doing so, you get to do it in the company of felines! The cats at the cafe are free to wander and incredibly well looked after, it’s totally up to you how close you get to them. Just don’t be surprised if you get a happy kitty kneading your lap as you slurp those last dregs of coffee. Word of warning: it’s probably not a great place to be if you’re a mouse.

Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium

BBC studio tour
One of the UK’s greatest institutions, the BBC has opened its doors to the public to wander around and feel part of the show. You can spy on journalists playing solitaire from high above the news room, catch a glimpse of actual news readers actually reading the news and even take part in your very own radio drama. It makes a great day out for young and old alike.

BBC Studio Tour

Up at the O2
Most people only get to see it from the ground, (or from above if you’ve seen the opening to eastenders) but now those crazy cats at the O2 have let people walk all over it. Yes, you can now don a climbing suit and climbing shoes, strap yourself into a harness and scale that bad boy. On a clear day at Up at the O2 you can see up to 15 miles, and on a cloudy day you’re still treated to a pretty awesome view of the capital. And at only 52 metres high, it’s one that even the most vertigo-suffering people can enjoy. Just Don’t. Look. Down.

Up at the O2

Bounce
Alcohol only improves your ping pong skills. Don’t you know the Olympic table tennis teams all down a pint before they play?* That’s why Bounce is such a popular night time venue. The bar mixes delicious cocktails with hireable table tennis tables. It makes for a great night out and you’ll never feel more like an Olympic champion as you high five your mates for slamming that ping pong ball into their beer.
*This may not be factually accurate.

Bounce Ping Pong

Sky Garden
London is different to many capital cities in that there are plenty of green, open spaces. Perhaps the most interesting of these isn’t outside at all, but right at the top of the Walkie-Talkie. At 155m up, Sky Garden is certainly London’s highest garden, giving an awesome view of London from the balcony. It’s full of beautiful and interesting plants from all over the world, and there’s also plenty of refreshment opportunities if seeing all that tasty greenery has made you peckish. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance at skygarden.london.

Sky Garden

Treasure hunt
Another great way to explore the city is via treasure hunt. Clues are sent to your phone and you have to answer a question about the area you’re in before receiving the next clue. You can play in teams against the clock, but if you get really stuck, you can text the organisers for extra hints. The Cryptic Covent Caper hunt by Hidden City we did took us from Southbank through the West End to Covent Garden on a 2.5 hour treasure hunt. It taught me more about the city than I ever really cared to learn, but in a good way.

Treasure Hunt, London

Themed afternoon teas
Though they are quintessentially British, afternoon teas are getting a little bit boring. I mean, there’s only so many cucumber sandwiches, scones and macaroons you can eat before going a little loopy (and a lot fat). That’s why themed afternoon teas are a huge trend now, and you can try loads of different styles – American at Bubba Gump, Mad Hatters tea party at Sanderson or, my favourite, Charlie and the Chesterfield. Start with a bright pink fizzy pop, eat always-ending gobstoppers and rip open your Wonka bar to search for your golden ticket. There’s even a creepy Willy Wonka wandering around waiting on you. It will take you right back to your childhood dreams!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea

Improv comedy
Go to Spain to watch flamenco, Argentina to watch tango, but what do you come to London to see? Please not Morris dancing! Us Brits aren’t known for our great entertainment, but one thing we do have is a great sense of humour. So why not go to an improv comedy show? We were lucky enough to see Whose Line Is It Anyway? as it hit the West End in 2015 and 2016 and it was genuinely the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s a great way to spend an evening in London if you’ve got one spare. Other improv comedy shows are available.

Improv comedy

Bottomless brunch
Another trend to recently hit the London foodie scene is the bottomless brunch, where you can eat as many croissants and drink as much prosecco as you want… for breakfast. I guess they’re a bit like an upmarket Man vs. Food challenge, except you don’t get your photo on the wall at the end of it. Some can be quite expensive (they have to make their money somehow!) but if you go on an empty stomach and make the most of it, they can be pretty good value. I’ve tried the one at the Roundhouse, which you can read about in more detail here.

Bottomless brunch

Dinerama
I’m a bit worried at how much of this list involves food, but a girl’s gotta eat! Dinerama is a street food market in trendy Shoreditch (though there are others dotted around the city) where you can try some of the best of London eats all under one roof (except there is no roof). Whether you fancy lobster mac and cheese, pizza, burger, or even just a delicious cocktail, Dinerama has got you covered (except there is no roof… Oh wait I’ve already said that).

Dinerama

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How do you feel about non-traditional tourist sites? Do you tend to stick to guide books? What are your favourite things to do in London?

Home from home: the importance of good accommodation

Good accommodation

Picture the scene. You’ve just rocked up to your accommodation after an 18 hour journey. Your bags feel heavier than ever, you’ve not slept for nearly 30 hours, your armpits stink, you’re sweating profusely, you can’t feel your feet, your hair is greasy, your head hurts and you’ve got the worst halitosis imaginable. Now- where would you rather be?

  • Option A – a hostel bedroom you’re sharing with 13 people you’ve never met, where you now have to make your own bed before you can rest your head. The rocky mattress and pillow will dig into your back all night, you won’t get much sleep and those cockroaches are likely to get far too cosy next to you. Oh, and the water’s not working so it’s chewing gum and a shower in a can for you, mate.
  • Option B – a clean, comfortable hotel with air conditioning, running water and free wifi so you can tell your friends you’ve arrived. You’ll sleep like a baby in the cotton wool like mattress, be able to wash off the journey in a shower as big as your garden back home, and then even grab a beer from the mini bar to celebrate.

I’m obviously giving you best and worst case scenarios here, but I, without a doubt, would choose Option B every time.

I’ve stayed in my fair share of grotty places. A dirty, $18 multi-share hostel in a dodgy Manhattan neighbourhood. A campsite at Yosemite where we were warned about the black bears stealing our food, and trained to punch them on the nose if they got too close. A hotel on the very edge of Cuba where we had no running water and I was eaten alive by fleas every night.

Sure, these accommodations enabled me to experience some of the most fascinating places on the planet, but I’m pretty sure I’d have still managed that if I had have slept in a cosy room and soft pillows instead.

I am probably most definitely a hotel snob. I like my creature comforts, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Travellers talk at length about the worst places they’ve ever stayed and then always finish with ‘but that’s part of travel – it wouldn’t have been the same otherwise’. But, if anything, a luxurious hotel enhances your experience of travel.

Hotel Parque Central, Havana

The best hotel I’ve ever stayed in strangely comes from a country not known for its hotels. Cuba. The Parque Central in Havana is pretty damn special. Right in the heart of the city, even the standard rooms are massive, and there are enough facilities to make it a home from home. Or, in our case, even better than home. It was the perfect end to a trip where I was crying out for a proper shower and air con to soothe my poor flea bitten legs. As soon as I stepped foot in that hotel, I felt safe, content, happy and finally on holiday. Plus, they give you champagne at breakfast. A.maz.ing. It turned what could have been a disastrous trip into something incredible, and I truly believe I have the hotel to thank for that.

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What’s the best accommodation you’ve ever stayed in? Do you prefer hotels over hostels over campsites? Why?

Living in the Lap of Luxury

Wood Norton, Evesham

I like to think that I’m not very picky. Give me cotton sheets over silk, custard over creme brûlée, or cava over champagne and I’ll be just as happy. And, until last weekend, I would have chosen a trip abroad over a staycation in a heartbeat. Yet, last weekend changed all of that.

It was only my staycation in the Cotswolds that made me realise that I hadn’t yet witnessed true luxury. In fact, last weekend was very special indeed. Tim and I treated ourselves to a luxury location, a luxury place to rest our heads, a luxury car, and I honestly don’t think we’ve ever eaten better in our lives… Let me tell you more.

Luxury area

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is an area of outstanding natural beauty, spanning 6 counties in the west of England. It is known for its rolling hills, quaint little villages and farmland, and visitors flock in their millions to visit it every year. It’s also home to magnificent country hotels, private mansions and .. We certainly felt like we were in the right place for our luxury weekend away!

Our hotel was set in the outskirts of Evesham, a small market town to the north of the Cotswolds, but we didn’t actually visit the town itself.  The view out across the hills from our hotel window was treat enough, and we had our fair share of pretty market towns, with visits planned to Bourton-on-the-Water, Moreton-in-Marsh and Stow-in-the-Wold. Side note: I have no idea why so many towns around here have long, hyphenated names, but there’s something quite luxurious about it, isn’t there? They’re even trying to make Staines sound a bit more upmarket by changing its name to Staines-upon-Thames, but unfortunately it just doesn’t have the same ring to it!

Bourton on the Water

Bourton-on-the-Water is certainly my pick of the bunch. Characterised by its small, shallow stream running through it and little footbridges helping you cross, it’s one of the cutest and quaintest little towns I’ve ever been to. And there’s a surprising amount to do there! Get lost in the Dragonfly Maze, meet bright pink flamingos at Birdland, feel like a giant at the model village, and see hundreds of vintage cars in the Motor Museum (also home to kid’s favourite, Brum!)

Bourton on the Water motor museum

See what else there is to do at Cotswolds.com

Luxury accommodation

The Wood Norton, Evesham

The Wood Norton is a luxury hotel set in a 19th century building that used to belong to exiled French Royalty – so it certainly has some stories to tell! There’s a variety of rooms, from standard rooms in a separate annex, to upgraded rooms and suites in the main hall. They’re all comfortable, clean and stylish with huge beds that you can just sink into. Guests can also take advantage of the bar, restaurant, gym and, my favourite, games room where we played pool until the wee hours.

Wood Norton room

The inside is beautiful, but the grounds are even better. In front of the hotel is a sweeping lawn overlooking some of the best of the Cotswolds’ scenery. To the side is a beautifully laid out garden designed by English Heritage full of rosebushes and other British classics.

The only downside of the place was the wedding that took place on Saturday night. Though they had their own private area, the guests overran the main bar as their dance floor was rolled out, yet we were the ones that felt like we were gatecrashing. I can only imagine how the poor bride felt when we rocked up in chinos and day dresses!

None of this would have been possible without Secret Escapes, where we found an incredible deal. Two night stay in an upgraded room, full English breakfast, 5 course dinner on the first night, a jug of Pimms and 25% off Afternoon Tea, all for under £250!

Check out the latest deals on secretescapes.com. I certainly will!

Luxury transport

BMW i8

Probably our favourite part of the trip, and the most luxury of them all, was our transport. I was lucky enough to win a BMW i8 super car for the weekend, thanks to a last minute raffle ticket at a charity quiz night. It’s my favourite win ever, followed a close second by a year’s supply of cheese!

We felt like rock stars in that car, our bright blue hybrid turning heads at traffic lights and becoming the subject of photos in car parks. And it was an absolute dream to drive – so comfortable, light, fast… I’ve fallen totally in love.

Why not rent your own for a weekend? It’s something I think everyone should do, just once in their lifetimes.

Luxury food

Wood Norton dinner

Warning: This will make you very hungry.

The Wood Norton’s Fleur de Lys restaurant is renowned for its five course tasting menu that we were lucky enough to try. My meal of pea amuse bouche, tomato starter, quince sorbet, fish main and passion fruit souffle dessert was incredible. Everything was delicious and oh-so-beautifully decorated. If the saying is true that you eat with your eyes, I was full before even opening my mouth.

With five courses to eat, I was petrified that I would have to be removed by a stretcher, but what they don’t tell you is that the courses aren’t very big. In fact, I even ordered cheese to finish.

The next morning, I ate a vegetarian Full English Breakfast with yoghurt and pastries, and filled up on lunch at Bourton-on-the-Water. For dinner, I ordered pasta with a side of pasta at the hotel bar (yes that is most definitely double carbing). My final breakfast was scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.

I haven’t eaten since.

Wood Norton dinner

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All in all, I would thoroughly recommend a trip to The Cotswolds. It’s a beautiful and interesting place that’s well worth a visit. But if you do go, do it in style. I’ve certainly gotten a taste for the high life and I think I’ll struggle to go back to normal.

Yet, this trip gave me more than just a taste of luxury – it reminded me that you don’t have to go abroad to have a great trip. In fact, I’m already planning another UK trip and I can’t wait to take it.

Have you ever been to the Cotswolds? Do you find that a little luxury helps or hinders a trip?

My Big Fat American Road Trip

My Big Fat American Road Trip: Route 66

Way back in 2009, I landed in Los Angeles ready for an adventure. I was nervous, but with 3 USA stamps already in my passport, the country felt strangely familiar. In fact, I had even visited Los Angeles before, but this time, there was one key difference. I was on my own…

…Well, kind of. I was going to be staying with friends and then heading out on a Trek America tour of the West, but that was as solo as my travel was going to get with my parents’ permission.

The itinerary would take me through California, Arizona and Nevada. They say you never forget your first time, so I was determined to make this (almost) solo trip one worth remembering. Here’s what I got up to on my month long adventure:

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

You might be surprised to read this, but I genuinely think Las Vegas was the highlight of my trip. I was definitely in the right demographic – aged 21 so I could drink, aged 21 so I didn’t care how much. Granted, I spent the whole of day 2 immobilised by a hangover, but the night before was worth it.

  • See a show
    The theatres in Vegas are the perfect place to shelter from the heat and soothe that headache. Las Vegas gets more than its fair share of unique performers, but I was more taken by a West End classic – The Lion King. But if that doesn’t take your fancy, why not try Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group or a riqsue cabaret? There’s bound to be something you like!

Bellagio fountain

  • Bellagio fountain show
    Ever since watching Ocean’s 11 (the remake of course – big Brad Pitt fan here!), I wanted to visit the Bellagio, and it did not disappoint. The fountains at the end of the movie are even more moving when you see them in person, and with the water movements set to “Time to Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli, I couldn’t hold back the emotion. The lights, the music, the water… everything was perfect… except I was hungry so my next visit was to…
  • Bellagio buffet
    Wow, wow, wow. I have never seen so much food in one place, all delicately arranged, all tastefully designed. My biggest regret in life was that I had a hangover and paid $40 to eat just one slice of pizza before feeling too sick to continue. And so my recommendation to you, dear readers, is this. If you go to the Bellagio buffet, for the love of god do it on an empty stomach and well before you’ve had too much to drink.

Paris Hotel, Las Vegas

  • Walk the strip and wander through hotels
    My favourite thing to do in Vegas was just wander aimlessly. The heat of the city can make this impossible to do but, lucky for you, this city doesn’t sleep! So that jet lag is no excuse – get your “I can’t sleep because it’s 10am where I’m from” butt outside and wander the strip. My top picks are the Venetian – where you can have a ride in a replica gondola down a replica Venice Canal; New York New York – where you can ride a rollercoaster that whizzes past the Statue of Liberty’s face; and Caesar’s Palace where you can ride a spiral escalator! It’s worth it just for that. Go on, get exploring.
  • Gamble!
    Except don’t gamble, because I can’t be seen to encourage that kind of thing around here.

Grand Canyon

Oh yes… Perhaps USA’s most visited natural wonder, the Grand Canyon is somewhere that photos seriously don’t do justice to. You have to go. Now! Here’s my pick of the bunch of things to do while you’re there:

Grand Canyon sunrise

  • Get there in time for sunrise
    Our TrekAmerica guide did something amazing. She got us all out of bed at 4:30am and tied blindfolds around our heads as she guided us to the edge. No – this wasn’t some kind of ritualistic ceremony, but a fantastic way to help us appreciate the shock and awe of seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. As soon as our blindfolds were released, we saw it. And it was amazing.

Grand Canyon helicopter

  • Helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon
    I cannot recommend this enough. Back then, I considered it a once in a lifetime experience, and that still rings true. I haven’t been on another helicopter since, partly because I don’t think any others would even come close, but mostly because they’re bloody expensive. Still – that feeling of seeing the Grand Canyon after watching the earth disappear beneath you is something I’ll never forget.

Los Angeles

I’ll be honest – Los Angeles is probably one of the only cities that I wouldn’t make the effort to go back to. I found it grubby, overcrowded and, quite frankly, not very interesting. But, there are some gems to see if you know where to look.

Walk of Fame

  • Walk of Fame, ending up at Mann’s Chinese Theatre
    Like most of my adventures in Los Angeles, you could take or leave it. It’s fun trying to find your favourite star, or the celebrity with the same sized hands as you but, beyond that, the Walk of Fame isn’t that entertaining. However, I did enjoy a guided tour of Mann’s Chinese Theatre (the home of the Academy Awards), where we got to sit in the front row as if we were Oscars nominees. Though be warned – it’s much smaller than they make it look on TV, so you’ll never see the Oscars in the same light again.

Saddle Ranch, Los Angeles

  • Saddle Ranch restaurant, Sunset Strip
    Forgive me. It’s nearly dinner time and I’m hungry, so I couldn’t not mention food, right? And the Saddle Ranch on Sunset Strip is definitely worth a visit. I can’t remember what the food was actually like, or even how the service was, but what I do remember is the experience. I had such a great time talking to the cowgirl waitresses, soaking up the Western atmosphere and having a go on the Bucking Bronco. Yes – they have one dead centre in the restaurant for all to see… I’d recommend having a go before you eat. We tucked into barbecue classics, and by finishing with smores in the back yard, you couldn’t get much more American than that.

Hollywood Sign

  • Hollywood sign (from a distance!)
    You see it on TV and in all the magazines, but is it really that special seeing it up close? No – I don’t think so. I hiked a bit of the mountain to see a massive H, but the real magic is being able to read “Hollywood” in its entirety, and for that you need to be at a distance. The sign isn’t ready for its close up just yet.

Universal Studios

  • Universal Studios
    Yes, it’s tacky and probably way overpriced these days but it’s so much fun. And if you’re a blockbuster movie fan like me, you’ll love it. You can come face to face with Jaws, float down a dinosaur infested river and meet Homer Simpson all in the same place. It’s somewhere I think you should go at least once in your life, and to prove it, I’ve been twice.

San Francisco

Despite the fog, it’s a pretty wonderful city – probably my favourite in the USA actually. It’s got a very different feeling to it than most other cities: it’s quite laid back, eclectic and dare I say it ‘alternative’. I felt more comfortable here than anywhere else, and I can definitely see myself going back.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

  • Golden Gate Bridge
    You can’t not, can you? Perhaps one of the most recognisable attractions in the USA, it’s worth taking your time on this one. I walked across it, drove across it, went on a boat under it, all in order to find its best angle. But, truth be told, it’s pretty epic no matter where you look at it from. I’ve never been so excited to see a bridge before, and I think you’ll be surprised by how excited you get too.

Alcatraz, San Francisco

  • Alcatraz
    I love places with stories, and Alcatraz definitely has a few to tell. That’s obvious from the etchings of despair in the walls, the riotous bullet holes in the floor, and the bent cell bars from failed escape attempts. Despite being abandoned for nearly 40 years, the prison on Alcatraz Island still feels used – as if you’ll turn a corner and stumble across Al Capone in his cell. That’s the beauty of the museum – they’ve left it as close to real as possible, with only a few exhibits and information signs to aid your imagination.

Yosemite

One for you nature lovers, Yosemite National Park does not disappoint. I still look back at the photos and sigh at how beautiful it all is. Those waterfalls… that greenery… the wildlife… It’s a bit of a trek from the major cities in California, but trust me, it’s worth the journey.

Yosemite National Park Camping

  • Camping in the park
    Remember that I was young and so could sleep on the roughest of terrains – but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. My group had so much fun sitting around the campfire making s’mores and drinking Coors Light (I’m sorry – I didn’t understand beer back then!) You can get a surprisingly comfortable night’s sleep if you have the right equipment and are prepared to hide from the…

Wild bear in Yosemite

  • Wild bears!
    We were lucky enough to see a bear just metres from us… actually let me rephrase that. We were lucky enough not to get eaten by a bear just metres from us. I vividly remember the “safety briefing” we were treated to upon arrival, which said “If a bear attacks you, make yourself as big as possible, scream and shout and punch it on the nose. Whatever you do, don’t run.” Thankfully we didn’t need to follow the advice, as we were behind trees when we spotted this beautiful brown bear in a clearing. It was a sight I’ll never forget.

Hiking Yosemite

  • Hiking
    The only way to truly see the beauty of the National Park is on foot. Yosemite is known for its waterfalls, and hiking up from the bottom to the top of a waterfall is really special. Some of the sections are troublesome and a bit scary if you’re not steady on your feet, but there are plenty of warning signs and barriers to keep you safe. Remember – this is America – could you imagine the law suit?!

Route 66

I’ll be honest – a lot of Route 66 is dull. But it’s still pretty cool to be able to say I’ve driven some of it. When we weren’t staring at the open road, we were complaining about the person upfront’s music choices, carefully avoiding the donkeys that roam free or admiring the incredible scenery. Keep your eyes peeled – you never know what you might miss.

Donkeys on Route 66

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Can you remember your first solo travel experience? Where did you go and what did you do? Do you have any more tips to share on west coast USA?

Ultimate City Guide: Valencia, Spain

City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia

Valencia is, without a doubt, my favourite city in the world. I’ve been there twice in as many years and I can see myself doing the same for a long time to come yet. Travellers rarely visit the same place twice, due to their innate need to tick as many places off their list as possible, and I used to agree with them; until I went to Valencia.

Spain’s third largest city behind Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia is one of those places that really does have it all: beautiful weather, delicious food, incredible scenery and a list of things to do as long as the Túria River Gardens (9km if you’re interested!). It’s that combination that has made it impossible for me to stay away. As soon as I step off the plane at Valencia airport, you can’t wipe the smile off my face until it’s time to leave. The place just feels so much like home, and I am totally completely and utterly head over heels in love with it. So much so that my husband is getting jealous.

If that’s not enough to get you searching SkyScanner for flights, here’s my ultimate Valencia city guide to whet your appetite even more.

Where to stay

There’s a huge variety of places to stay in Valencia, and somewhere to suit every budget. I think the best areas to stay in are the Old Town or Eixample as you’re close to everything and the streets are incredibly safe at night. Here are my top picks for a great night’s sleep:

  • Private apartment (Airbnb) – On my most recent trip, I stayed in the most fantastic apartment. It was comfortable, perfectly located within walking distance of all the major sights, and – better than gold dust – it had air conditioning! It was also incredibly reasonably priced, so I’d definitely recommend checking out Airbnb first before even thinking about a hotel.
  • Hotel – Set in a bustling area of the Old Town, the Vincci Lys is a bit of alright. It’s luxuriously decorated, the rooms are super comfy and the breakfast buffet is delicious. It’s a bit more expensive than other hotels in the area, but you can’t always put a price on perfection. Well, you can, and it’s worth it.

How to get around

Valencia is an incredibly easy city to get around. Most of the sights are in the Old Town, which is a neat and compact diamond in the centre of the city. Beyond it, Valencia’s residential neighbourhoods, beach town and remaining sights are all within easy reach, thanks to the wide variety of transport available:

  • Walk – In my opinion, the best way to get around Valencia is on foot. How else could you get lost in all the back streets? You can walk across the Old Town in less than half an hour, but with something beautiful on every corner, the city deserves a bit of a linger.
  • Bike – Valencia is incredibly bike friendly. You can rent a bike from numerous points across the city with Valenbisi, and with cycle lanes all over, it’s a safe, affordable and healthy way to travel beyond the Old Town.
  • Metro – Definitely the fastest way to get about, a single journey will cost max. €4.90 (including a reusable ticket) but there are deals to be had if you buy multi trip tickets from kiosks. All the trains and stations are clean, and the best part? It has air conditioning! Just be careful because you can’t get everywhere with the metro, but you can get close.
  • Bus/tram – Best for the places you can’t get to by metro, buses and trams are a great alternative. You can get closer to the action, and with a single costing only €1.50, it won’t break the bank either. The only downside is that it can take a long time to get somewhere, the buses tend to be busy and really hot.

What to do

It would be easy to come to Valencia and do nothing – there’s something incredibly relaxing about that climate and the laid back way of life. But there’s so much to do and see in the area that it would be a sin not to make the most of the opportunities available:

  • School – Not a traditional holiday past time, but one of the best things I’ve ever done, why not spend a week at school? The International House school Españole offers intensive Spanish lessons in the heart of Valencia. You could spend your mornings learning this beautiful language (much more fun that it sounds) and the afternoons exploring the city, relaxing or partying with your new Spanish speaking friends. Seriously, think about it.
    Espanole school, Valencia
  • Turia Gardens – The Turia Garden is my absolute favourite spot in the city. Filling the gap left behind by the rerouted Turia River following disastrous floods, the garden is full of walking paths, palm trees, delightfully smelling plants and flowing water features. It’s a wonderfully serene area, and the trees offer some welcome shade from the stifling power of the sun. It runs to the north and east of the Old Town, and a leisurely walk through it to the south will find you at the City of Arts & Sciences.
    River Turia Gardens, Valencia
  • City of Arts & Sciences – Being a bit of a cultural hotspot, Valencia is full of museums, none more appealing than those at the City of Arts & Sciences. This is home to the largest aquarium in Europe, a fascinating science museum and a spectacular Opera House. They are all housed in real feats of modern architecture that would look more at home on a movie set than in an ancient Spanish city, but it works. The City of Arts & Sciences is one of the most visited attractions in Valencia, and it’s easy to see why. Even if you don’t go in the museums, you have to at least see them.
    City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia
  • Cathedral – For those with more traditional tastes, the spectacular Cathedral should be on your list of things to do. Built in a Gothic style in the 13th century, it’s absolutely beautiful both inside and out. If you’re brave enough (and have enough water with you – it’s hot!), take the steps of the Miguelete tower all the way to the top. The views are stunning and definitely worth the climb. Just remember to hold your ears as the bell starts to chime – it’s deafening!
    Valencia Cathedral
  • Flamenco show – Being Spain, there are flamenco shows popping up all over the city. Some shows are free at restaurants, but the best one I came across was Cafe del Duende – just 5 minutes’ walk outside the Old Town in Carmen. For €10, you are treated to a 1 hour flamenco show and two drinks on the house. The performers are super talented and will completely shake the stereotypical vision of flamenco you have in your head. Give it a go.
    Flamenco at Cafe del Duende, Valencia
  • Beach – The Malvarossa beach is a 1km stretch of beautiful white sand just begging for your footprints. But if sunbathing isn’t your thing (I’ll be honest, it’s not mine either) you can take advantage of the water sports, walking along the promenade or eating and drinking at any one of the restaurants and bars on the seafront.
    La Malvarossa beach, Valencia
  • Shopping at Central Market – The Central Market is a beautiful art nouveau style building, filled to the brim with traditional food stalls, souvenir shops and places to eat. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, you could spend hours just browsing the stalls and soaking up the atmosphere as the locals bustle around you.
    Valencia Central Market

What and where to eat

Beyond the sights, eating is one of my absolute favourite things to do on holiday. It can help you explore the city, give you a delicious insight into its culture, and, of course, fill your belly with amazing tasting food. What’s not to love? Valencia has more than its fair share of great things and places to eat, and here’s my pick of the bunch:

  • Tapas at the tapas bars across the city – Tapas is Spanish food at its best – small, bitesize portions of deliciousness that you can share around a table in a cosy tapas bar. There are three main types of tapas – the traditional sharing plates, montaditos (bruschetta-like tasty morsels on small pieces of bread that come free with your drink) and pinchos (exactly the same as montaditos, just with a different sized stick to denote their price). My favourite restaurants in the city were Mi Cub in Colón Market, Pico Fino in Plaza de la Reina, Mythos VLC in Eixample and Taberna Antonio Manuel on Calle de la Pau (oh my god – the fried cheese!!!). But without a doubt, the best way to experiment is on a tapas tour like the one we went on with Tours in Valencia. Being shown around the best places in the city by a local is something definitely worth doing.
    Pinchos in Valencia
  • Paella at La Pepica – Valencia is home to the paella, so you’d have to be mad not to try it there. There are lots of different types of paella, but one of the most traditional and best can be found at La Pepica on the beach front. All the paellas are cooked from scratch, but the food is fantastic and definitely worth the wait.
    Paella at La Pepica, Valencia
  • Horchata and fartons at Horchateria Santa Catalina – I’ll admit it. I still giggle every time I hear or say or see the word farton. But the Spanish didn’t invent them to make you laugh, they invented them to make you hungry. They’re delightfully sweet, light dough sticks, traditionally served with horchata – a creamy drink made from tigernuts. Both were first created in Valencia, and you definitely have to try them together when you’re in the area.
    Horchateria de Santa Catalina, Valencia

What to drink

There’s nothing quite like a good glass of something cold in the warm Spanish evenings (heck – mornings too, you’re on holiday), and Valencia has a lot to offer:

  • Wine – Of course, Spain is famed for its delicious wine, and if you like the stuff, you’re in for a treat in Valencia. And the best thing about it? I’m yet to have a wine induced hangover, so it must be good.
  • Beer – Weirdly enough, the beers that are most widely available in Valencia are originally from the Netherlands. But if Heineken and Amstel aren’t to your taste, why not give Cruzcampo or Estrella a go, or even try Valencia’s very own Turia?
  • Sangria – No list of Spanish drinks would be complete without a mention of Sangria, and it’s pretty much sold everywhere. Now, I’m not a big fan of it as I think it’s made in bars by the bucketload with cheap ingredients.
  • Agua de Valencia – A much better alternative to Sangria is Agua de Valencia – literally Valencian water – and it’s incredibly tasty and dangerous in equal measure. It is made in a jug with a whole bottle of cava, double shots each of gin and vodka and one cup of orange juice. The best stuff we tried came from Cafe de las Horas in the heart of the city, next to Plaza del Virgen. The bar is ornately decorated with chandeliers, oil paintings and classical sculptures, but you can’t beat a table outside on the street. Even just a glass of their stuff will have you slurring your words and hiccuping home, but it’s ohsoworthit.
    Agua de Valencia at Cafe de las Horas, Valencia

When to go 

Valencia, just like any other Spanish city, can get blisteringly hot. But, thanks to the siesta culture, air conditioned buildings and shady city centre, it can be comfortable to visit throughout the year. Here are my recommendations on when to visit:

  • May-June – To avoid the crowds and serious sweat pools around your armpits, try booking in May or June. The weather is still beautiful (when is it not?) but it’s the shoulder season and you could find a decent rate at accommodation.
  • March – The city is famous for its Las Falles festival, which sees the burning of pretty much anything Valencians can get their hands on in the month of March. It’s an awesome sight that I’m yet to witness yet, but I will do one day. If you want to see it too, be sure to book far in advance as prices are steep and availability is low.

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I hope that has got you dreaming of a Valencian trip away. Of course, there’s only so much you can fit into one blog post, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask! Just pop them in the comments below and I’ll be happy to help.

Have you ever been to Valencia? What are your top tips for enjoying the city?