LOCAL LOWDOWNS

48 Hours in Valencia, Spain

The Spanish city of Valencia is a study in sensorial contrasts, offering haute fusion cuisine and traditional tapas; ornate gothic architecture alongside futuristic modern structures; laidback beach life juxtaposed by hi-tech high culture. Slower-paced than its big sisters of Barcelona and Madrid, just two days in Valencia is enough time to get a small taste of this city’s laidback charms.

FRIDAY

10am

Start your day with a mind-nourishing mix of art and culture at one of the five futuristic sites that comprise Santiago Calatrava’s Ciudad de las Artes y la Ciencias. Parked like spaceships along a 2km axis, the ‘City of Arts and Sciences’ offers an iMax cinema, an aquarium, an interactive science museum, an opera house, a performance space, and the largest Laser Quest centre in Europe (OK, I might’ve made that last one up). Buy a multi-venue pass and lose hours exploring inside, or simply take in these awe-inspiring structures in all their external glory.

1pm

When you’re all walked out, treat yourself to an affordable luxury lunch at renowned fusion restaurant Seu Xerea. For just €17, you can enjoy three courses of traditional Mediterranean dishes updated with imaginative Asian ingredients and techniques (think: sardines marinated in a tart Japanese escabeche, or vitello tonato with bonito mayonnaise).

3pm

After lunch, amble into the Old Town to take in an abundance of stunning ancient architecture – the intricate Cathedral, the Baroque-style Basilica, and the UNESCO-protected La Lonja de la Seda; a former silk merchant building, held up by slender spiral columns.

8pm

When the sun goes down, head to Boatella Tapas Bar to sip a cerveza and inhale generous servings of crunchy gambas fritas and perfectly tender calamares a la plancha. Its central location makes it somewhat of a tourist hub, but for every hiking boot-clad middle aged traveller, there’s a stylish young local chewing on chicharones alongside.

After dinner, bed down in the super-sleek Hospes Palau De La Mar, where you can kick back in the serene inner courtyard, make use of tranquil spa facilities, and generally revel in revel in five star luxury from just €115 a night.

SATURDAY

10am

Get your day off to an invigorating start with a walk around the Mercat Central. This historic food market offers 959 stalls, housed under a vast domed ceiling. The food is similarly impressive – rows upon rows of heaving fruit displays, cured octopus and tuna, and rows of hanging jamon.

12pm

The market doesn’t offer much in the way of sit-down dining, so head to one of the old town’s horchaterias for an early morning sugar boost instead. Wallpapered with intricate traditional tiling, many of these charming cafes have been in business since the late 19th century. Fuel up at the Horchateria de Santa Catalina with an ice-cold glass of milky horchata (made from crushed tiger nuts and, presumably, a lot of sugar), with a powdery farton pasty alongside for dunking.

2pm

Is it a sunny day? Probably – Valencia is bestowed with around 300 days of sunshine a year. Jump on a bus and head to Las Arenas beach to make the most of it, stopping for lunch at one of the restaurants along the promenade. They’re all a bit touristy but then you are a tourist after all; go all out with a vat of paella at the historic La Pepica (one of Ernest Hemingway’s favourite haunts, apparently). Choose from a wide array of saffron-hued variations - Valencians invented paella, so it’s fairly hard to go wrong.

5pm

After finishing up the carb fest, stumble onto the beach - thankfully just a few steps away - for an afternoon of sunbathing. If you feel the need to walk off all that rice, then wander up the shore towards the more upmarket neighbourhood of Malvarrosa, stopping at chic beachside cafe La Más Bonita for a fresh juice (or a huge slab of their homemade chocolate torta) before you turn back around.

7pm

Once you’ve taken an afternoon siesta in the sun, dust off the sand and start winding your way back through the streets of El Cabanyal. The old fishermen’s quarter is packed with rows of small, terraced homes, each tiled in a kaleidoscope of styles and hues (the Moors introduced ceramics to Valencia back way back in the 11th Century and they’ve been big on tiling ever since).

9pm

Round off your day with dinner at wood-panelled Casa Montaña; an intimate wine and tapas bar that has been in business since 1836. Dine on smoky fava beans, sweet cuttlefish stew with onions, crunchy kumato salad drenched in buttery olive oil, plus as many copas of the delicious €2 cava as you can handle. Salud.