Founded by the Romans in the year 138 BC, under Visigoth control in 476 AD, and rebuilt under Moorish rule in 714 AD; Valencia has an incredibly long and tumultuous history. There are few places where this history is more visible than in the Barrio del Carmen, located in the historic centre of Valencia. The area is named after the Carmen Calzado convent and church. The centre appears to be “guarded” by impressive and formidable towers called the Serranos Towers. These gothic towers were originally constructed in the 14th Century to guard the city; however, do not let that mislead you. It only takes a short time exploring the barrio for you to realize just how welcoming and fun the historic centre is, for visitors and locals alike.
The Moorish influence is felt when navigating through the narrow, winding streets and looking at the historic Moorish walls. There are many historical buildings that have since been re-purposed to cafes, bars, and shops. The old-timey feel is still there but the feeling of life that pulsates throughout the historic streets and buildings at all hours is highly evident. This is an area that is rich in culture; walking through the streets you will see vibrant street art, shops owned by local artisans, and several avant-garde museums. You can easily spend days here without ever feeling the need to leave this hip neighbourhood. It is full of life at all hours of the day and the already lively streets become even more spirited after the sun sets.
FOOD/DRINK: Restaurante ‘Yuso’ is an authentic Valencian restaurant in the centre where you can choose from a wide array of tasty tapas or rice dishes including steaming helpings of paella. We ordered the ‘Paella de Verduras’, a lovely rice dish option for vegetarian customers or anyone who just needs their veggies! This restaurant has two locations; the Plaza del Carmen branch and the original Yuso restaurant on Calle de la Cruz. The Plaza del Carmen branch offers a pre-fixed lunch, which differs each weekday. The original branch on Calle de la Cruz is only open at weekends. We went to the Plaza del Carmen branch for lunch and were pleased to be surrounded by rooms filled with cheerful families and satisfied customers.
Addresses: Calle de la Cruz, 4 / Plaza del Carmen, 6 46003 València
Hours: Monday – Saturday : 13:30h-16:30h, 20:30h-24:00h, Sunday: 13:30h-16:30h
Another significant reason to hop over to Barrio del Carmen is their many options of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. The first vegetarian restaurant opened in Valencia in 1980 as Restaurante ‘La Lluna’, and is located in the historic Barrio del Carmen. Today, they continue their succession of interesting and special dishes that would be hard to find anywhere else around the city, due to their originality and freshness. Restaurante La Lluna is inspired by Oriental, African, and Latin influences for food and flavour. Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, you will find yourself satisfied with their range of options including hot and cold dishes, appetizers, and entrées. For lunch, Monday through Friday, they have a Menú del Día with dishes that change on a daily basis so you can be sure they are new and atypical! This menu starts at just 8.50€.
RESTAURANTE LA LLUNA
Address: Calle San Ramon, 23, 46003 València
Hours: Monday through Saturday: 9:00-16:00, 20:30-23:20, Closed Sundays
Additionally, ‘Almalibre Açaí House’ is a small chain restaurant and we are lucky to have one in Valencia. They have four locations, three in Spain and one location in Miami, Florida. Almalibre is open from 11:00h to 23:00h and serves what you are looking for whether it be breakfast, dinner, or a quick bite (or drink!). Their centre of interest here is on the açaí bowls, a Brazilian fruit that is considered one of the healthiest with its antioxidants, proteins, omegas and fibres. You can be sure what you eat and drink here is clean and healthy from the açaí bowls to the grain bowls. Their menu features a solid line-up of fresh smoothies and drinks, while also giving you the fun option of create-your-own açaí bowls and vegan burgers. But that’s not all. We recommend the mix-dip with three different kinds of fresh hummus and their large grain bowls. Here, this agape, natural space gives off organic island vibes and makes you happy to eat healthy!
ALMALIBRE AÇAÍ HOUSE
Address: Calle de Roteros, 16, 46003 València
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday: 11:00-23:00, Closed Mondays
When you pass by ‘Café Sant Jaume’, it is clear it must belong in the historic district of Valencia. You are greeted by a comforting feeling of history and tradition when faced with the interior of the cafe, what started as a pharmacy over 100 years ago. Today, you will see a wall that is filled with liquor bottles and cheerful waiting staff. The pharmacy was bought and transformed into one of the first legendary café bar meeting points in the heady 1980s ‘Barrio del Carmen’ party period. This Café is loved by locals, tourists, and even celebrities for its laidback and friendly atmosphere. Much of the seating is outdoors; surrounded by small, pedestrian-filled sidewalks in the middle of the district. Go for a quick coffee or stay a while with pitchers of ‘Agua de Valencia ‘or Sangria big enough to split for eight people – so bring a friend (or seven)!
CAFÉ SANT JAUME
Address: Calle Caballeros, 51, 46001 València
Hours: Every day 10:30am – 01:30am
NIGHTLIFE: Surrounded by disco lights and dancing individuals, ‘RADIO CITY’ brings some life to the night in the historic district El Carmen. Every night of the week is a different theme focused on a specific music genre including reggae nights and, every Tuesday, they have live flamenco music. This bar consists of two rooms, a lounge in the front with a disco room in the back. Anyone is bound to love this crowd; it is an international mix with a balance of all ages.
Address: Calle de Santa Teresa, 19, 46001 València
Hours: Every day 22:00h to 04:00h
CULTURE: ‘IVAM’ is a modern art museum located on Calle Guillem de Castro. Once inside, you are greeted with vaulted ceilings and a sleek, modern interior. The art exhibited on each of the floors is organized by exhibitions and galleries related to specific themes. Some exhibitions are permanent installations while there are also temporary exhibitions. Each exhibit contains messages that are powerful and captivating. The museum offers an impressive collection of tens of thousands of modern and contemporary pieces; celebrating artists from all over the world with works that take form in many different mediums. There are paintings, sculptures, video installations, photographs, and much more. Every piece tells a unique story through fearless experimentalism and artistry. The avant-garde pieces seem to transport the viewer into the counterculture of the time in which it was created; the emotions and underlying messages are brought to life. Admission is just 6€ and free on Fridays from 19:00h-21:00h, Saturdays from 15:00h-19:00h, and all day Sunday.
Address: Calle Guillem de Castro, 118, 46003 València
Hours: 10:00h-19:00h, Friday: 10:00h-21:00h, Closed Monday
Article by Nathalie Feingold & Quincy Walter
Article copyright 24/7 Valencia