If Paris is your heart’s desire, Ruzafa is your destination. Russafa’s Parisian-style ambience serves up comparable culture, art and history … right here at home. It’s not only profoundly artsy. It’s chic. Vibrant. Cosmopolitan. Eclectic by day, and electric by night.
Most of all, it is Valencian!
This thriving-and-jiving urban barrio is located on the city’s southside, with easy access to the railway station. It admits to a troubling history—one that many prefer to forget—for just two decades ago, Ruzafa was the ‘wrong side of town’ with street drugs and petty crime.
But that was yesteryear! Today, what was derelict is now up-and-coming. What was unsafe is now inviting. And what was hopeless is now happening. Valencia’s revitalization efforts coincided with the influx of ‘creative types.’ Lured by spacious offerings at fairly reasonable rents, visionary artists and artisans laid the groundwork for an explosion of culture, colour and creativity that mark the new ‘Russafa’ (in Valenciano) and known as ‘Ruzafa’ in Spanish.
Progressive renovations transformed the barrio into a safe and welcoming region for relaxation, as well as recreation. Widened pavements facilitate terrace seating, while designated paths invite bikes. Modern conveniences update 19th-century buildings, while the community exudes days-gone-by charm. And as expected for an area this hip, entertainment options abound — whatever the day or time!
RUZAFA MARKET (http://mercatderussafa.com)
The barrio’s reputation hinges on its food, and Ruzafa doesn’t disappoint. With a colourful exterior, residents and restauranteurs frequent the distinctively designed Market, where 1,000+ vendor stalls abound with ‘real’ food: freshly-picked produce, locally sourced meats, fresh-caught seafoods and cheeses brimming with flavour. Local eggs and honey, halal and all-organic options—plus normally hard-to-find accompaniments—round out the market menu. On arrival, the sights and aromas engulf the senses to foodies’ and chefs’ delight! And when hunger rules, delightful eateries are conveniently located on site.
José Cámara, Director of Programmes for Euroace, often walks from his office to partake of the delights of Russafa. Following are a few of his faves, some French-inspired and others not.
Canalla Bistró (https://www.canallabistro.com/val/), like its Madrid counterpart, promises a ‘gastronomic trip around the world’. This eatery keeps its promise, while its funky, oversized art keeps your attention.
Dando Leña (https://restaurantedandolena.com/), another culinary gem, dishes up everything Mediterranean and Spanish. Tastiness is topped with extraordinary flair.
The utterly creative menu of El Rodamón (http://elrodamon.com/) serves a bit of Spanish and a bit of French, complemented with a fine wine collection in Gulliver’s Cellar.
The diverse menu of La Salita (https://www.facebook.com/La-Salita-103278881492248) satisfies the refined palate. Every dish, from iconic classics to revolutionary wonders, is garnished with elaborate distinctiveness.
LIGHT BITES and BEVERAGES
Ultramarinos Agustín Rico (https://www.facebook.com/ultramarinosagustinrico/) is the local hangout (always a good sign!). Its popularity stems from a corner-situated bar and delicious deli spread of cured meats and delectable pâtés.
A last-century bakery transformed into cosiness is La Más Bonita Ruzafa (https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Mas-Bonita-Ruzafa/1456002401319645). Take your choice of menu fare, but keep it light so there’s room for a homemade dessert! (Who can resist a slice of ‘Chocorgasm’?)
Speaking of lust, the baristas at Bluebell Coffee (http://bluebellcoffeeco.com/) brew passion in every cup. New roasts every week ensure only the finest and freshest, each and every sip. Coffee connoisseurs, this café is heaven-on-earth for you!
BARS & CLUBS
Xtra Lrge Playground (http://xlxtralrge.com/): Ideal for tardeo (afternoon-early evening outing), as well as late-night clubbing! 3 spaces + 3 dancefloors + indie/pop/rock/electronic/freestyle = Countless ways to enjoy (& countless people to enjoy it with!)
Play Club (https://www.facebook.com/playclubvlc/) self-proclaims as ‘the hipster’s choice’. Upstairs pulses to electronic sounds and way-cool lighting. Downstairs, live music early on is followed by late night’s bigtime hits, indie and rock.
Café Berlín (https://www.facebook.com/cafeberlinvalencia), retro with a Bohemian flair, is where fantastic cocktails are relished in a relaxed vibe.
Ubik Café (https://www.facebook.com/ubikcafe) blends good books and art with good wines and company. Enjoy locally brewed beers and tasty tapas, too.
Estudio Savage (http://estudiosavage.es) delivers handcrafted beauty through small-scale production. Select from their own limited-edition have-to-haves: artistic objects, custom-made clothing, distinctive handbags and other unexpected finds.
Lacontra Room (http://lacontraroom.com/) offers in-store and online offerings, whatever your pleasure! The same applies to their offerings, just about whatever your pleasure!
ImpreVisual Galeria (https://imprevisual.es/) presents contemporary art through exhibitions, presentations, workshops and gatherings that embrace artistic and cultural immersion.
After a night on the town, catch a few winks at a four-star property. Petit Palace Russafa (https://www.petitpalace.com/en/hotels/valencia-centre/ruzafa/) and Senator Parque Central Hotel (https://www.senatorparquecentralhotel.com/en/) cater to business and conference travellers. Tourists, backpackers and students may prefer the boutique hotels (along with their occasional discounted rates!). Their names aptly represent who and what they are: Soho Valencia (https://sohovalencia.com/), Russafa Youth Hostel (https://www.russafayouthhostel.com/) and City Garden Bed and Breakfast (https://citygardenbnb.com/en/home-en/)
Valencia Parque Central (https://valenciaparquecentral.es/) welcomes lovers’ strolls, workers’ escapes and children’s play, just like the parks in Paris. Take a break and take it all in!
By Lynn Kirk
Article copyright ’24/7 Valencia’