36 Hours in Valencia, Spain

It’s been several years since Valencia unveiled the last major structure in a complex of headline-grabbing architectural landmarks — among them a futuristic aquarium, opera house and science museum — collectively known as the City of Arts and Sciences. But don’t think that Spain’s third-largest city has been idling since then. Flashes of innovation have continued to transform every corner of this perpetually sunny metropolis, from creative restaurants reinterpreting culinary traditions to daring street artists animating historic lanes. Influences now range from Moorish to modern, yet some things in Valencia, like a perfect pan of paella,remain thankfully unchanged.

Friday
1. Renewable Energy, 4 p.m.
El Carmen may be the barrio best known for its vibrant street life, but a new urban experiment is turning a pocket of the historic center into the liveliest place in town. Opened in 2013, the Mercado de Tapineria is essentially a permanent pop-up, with three retail spaces on two adjacent plazas that are completely overhauled each week. Browse the current incarnations of these so-called “Ephemeral Stores,”which have previously stocked everything from tailored turtleneck dresses by theValencian label Uke to industrial light fixtures and costume jewelry from a local antiques dealer. Adding to the market’s energy are two restaurants and regular events on the plazas, including live music, art installations and public picnics.

2. Evening Aperitif, 7 p.m.
With dinner still hours away, spend the early evening in the company of an aperitif. For a local craft beer, try Tyris on Tap, a laid-back bar that opened last year with taps pouring their own creative microbrews, like the Valencian-style IPA, or VIPA. To while away the hours more glamorously, visit Café de las Horas where the scarlet drapes, trompe l’oeil walls, candelabra and chandeliers make the bar feel like a Victorian boudoir that happens to serve top-shelf gin-and-tonics like a saffron-infused gin with Nordic Mist tonic, saffron strands and an orange slice (10 euros, or $11.35).

3. Sweet Carolina, 9 p.m.
For a glimpse at how the esteemed and eminently dapper Spanish chef Quique Dacosta is redefining modern Valencian cuisine, book a table at his stylish tapas restaurant Vuelve Carolina. This gorgeous space — blond-wood paneling, double-height ceiling, long wooden bar, smooth wood tables — fills with fashionable Valencianos dining on delightful plates like the foie “cubalibre,” made with a rich rum-and-cola sauce inspired by the cocktail. Other innovative dishes include the potato soufflé filled with liquid egg yolk and the bright sashimi of butterfish with ponzu, yuzu and citrus. Dinner for two, about 75 euros.

4. Jazz Joint, 11:30 p.m.
Listen for the reverberations of Valencia’s buzzing live-music scene along the winding lanes in the Carmen district. If you don’t stumble upon a tune that resonates, swing by the reliable Jimmy Glass Jazz Bar, whose unassuming entrance gives little hint to the musical talent that performs inside. The narrow, intimate space means the crowd tucks tightly around the sliver of a stage where local music students, jazz pianists and touring trios jam late into the night.

Saturday

5. Feel the Burn, 10:30 a.m.
The cherished annual Fallas festival — for which Valencianos spend weeks constructing elaborate papier-mâché monuments and satirical figurines that are promptly set aflame during the celebration — happened back in March. But you can still learn about the fiery fiesta at the Museo Fallero (2 euros). One of the festival’s cartoonish ninots, as the baroque figurines are called, is traditionally saved from the flames and moved to the museum, which displays ninots dating back to 1934. Equally fascinating is the collection of vintage posters advertising the festival that illustrate evolving artistic trends across the decades.

6. Shop Spain, 1 p.m.
It’s immediately clear why “Hecho en España” is the slogan at the boutique Simple: the labyrinthine shop is jam-packed with diverse artisanal goods made throughout the country. Looking for a wardrobe upgrade? Consider the espadrille sandals or the soft scarves of merino wool from Grazalema. Hungry? How about sardine-shaped chocolate bars? Home in need of new décor? Weigh the merits of dried lavender bouquets and PETA-friendly taxidermy in the form of bull heads made of wicker.

7. Lunch Counter, 2 p.m.
A walk through Valencia’s Mercado Central, one of Europe’s largest and oldest food markets, is guaranteed to elicit hunger pangs. When that happens, join the line at Central Bar, a terracotta-tiled tapas bar sandwiched between vendors. Run by the star chef Ricard Camarena, this efficient, bustling spot serves a menu built on products from the surrounding market, from fried artichokes in season to plump boquerones (anchovies) with passion-fruit ceviche. Always on the menu is the classic tortilla bocadillo — a wedge of warm potato-and-onion omelet inside a crusty Parisian-quality baguette — which is as spectacular as it is simple. Lunch for two, about 25 euros.

8. Wall Wizards, 5 p.m.
The most impressive art in the city is arguably the sophisticated street art splashed across many surfaces in Carmen. To tour this outdoor gallery, start near Plaza del Tossal, where a Biblically-sized snake-bearded Moses resides, and a little farther north, snails pull a Brobdingnagian horse. Then walk to Calle de los Jardines to see a flowery scene with kawaii (cute) characters and a masked Mexican wrestler riding a carp below a fluttering hummingbird. On Calle del Museo, look for No.9, where a miniature house for cats — with an entryway used by resident felines — is detailed down to the window dressings. From there, head south on Calle del Pintor Fillol to pass more distinctively sunny handiwork from the artist Julieta XLF,David de Limón’s skinny ninjas and, most appropriately, a rabbit and a chicken battling above a paella pan.

9. Conserve the Sea, 9 p.m.
Canned supermarket tuna bears little resemblance to the high-quality tinned seafood available in Spain. Good thing, because tins make up the majority of the menu at La Conservera, an adorable tapas place in the gentrifying Ruzafa district. With its long marble counter, hanging scale and illuminated “Pescadería” sign, the casual space could be confused with a fishmonger’s shop. And the stacks of colorful tins arrayed along the front wall are not just décor, they’re also the tasty provisions: plump preserved mussels, smoked trout in olive oil, spicy tomato-topped mackerel. Paired with a basket of crusty bread and cold cervezas, dinner for two is about 20 euros.

10. Ruzafa Romp, 11:30 p.m.
The southern barrio of Ruzafa has quickly morphed from a working-class and immigrant neighborhood into a prime night-life district. Along the main drag, Calle del Literato Azorín, join the sociable Valencianos gathered at popular spots like Ubik Café, a bookshop/bar where you can sip a house vermouth amid stacks of well-thumbed novels. Later visit the nearby Olhöps Craft Beer House, a new beer bar with pale-wood benches and canary-yellow shelving that wouldn’t be out of place in Scandinavia. Try one of the rare Spanish craft beers on tap, like the excellent strawberry-infused saison from Navarra’s Naparbier brewery.

Sunday

11. Dueling Chufas, 11 a.m.
Spanish horchata, or orxata in the local vernacular, is a refreshing beverage that has little in common — beyond the beige hue — with Mexico’s milky cinnamon-and-rice version. Made from water, sugar and the tubers called chufas (tiger nuts), this native Valencian drink has a subtle flavor akin to almond milk. To conduct a taste test, head to Mercado Colón, an elegant former food market with a gorgeous Spanish-Modernist facade, a soaring iron-and-glass roof and Gaudí-esquemosaics. The restored market hall houses several cafes, including Casa de l’Orxata,which serves a bracing, sugar-free version of the drink. Compare that with the traditional preparation at Horchatería Daniel, an artisanal producer based in Alboraia, the chufa-farming area just north of the city.

12. Palmar Paella, 2:30 p.m.
Valencia is known for its paella, but to get to the bottom of the city’s most famous dish, ride bus No.25 about 15 miles south to the village of El Palmar, around which the revered rice actually grows. Little more than a handful of sleepy streets and low-slung houses, this tiny town is packed with endearingly dated restaurants specializing in paella that locals swear beats any arroz in the city center. One solid choice is Restaurante Bon Aire, a bi-level space that fills with boisterous groups enjoying long Sunday lunches centered on enormous shared pans of paella Valenciana, made with chicken, rabbit, duck and snails (lunch, 40 euros for two). Afterward, visit one of the riparian outfits touting “paseos en barca” for a relaxing boat ride (about 5 euros) into the wetlands of Albufera National Park, and spend the postprandial hour peacefully floating amid tall grasses and wading birds.
Lodging

In an ideal location near the Mercado Central, the Vincci Mercat (Calle de la Linterna, 31; vinccimercat.com; from 132 euros) is a boutique hotel that opened last year with 68 spacious, comfortable rooms and a small rooftop pool.

Near the city’s grand cathedral, the 26-room Caro Hotel (Calle del Almirante, 14; carohotel.com; from 190 euros) occupies a 19th-century palace with notable architectural details from Gothic arches to an original Roman mosaic. Elegant, minimalist interiors by Francesc Rifé are heavy on polished marble and modern furnishings.

Published: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/06/22/travel/what-to-do-36-hours-valencia-spain.html?_r=0

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