Valencia is often overlooked by visitors who flock to Madrid and Barcelona or the beach resorts. The America's Cup and Formula 1 race events helped raise the profile of Spain's third largest city, but it remains an undiscovered gem to many foreign travelers. For anyone weary of fighting the crowds, this is definitely a plus.
Named for Roman emperor Valens, the city was founded in 137 BC. Visigoths, Moors, Christian reconquistas, and civil war each left their mark on local history, imparting a distinct culture and language. A thoroughly modern Valencia coexists alongside cherished antiquities and traditions.
Much of this history is colorfully reenacted in the many annual festivals held in every town and village in the region. The brightly costumed rituals and processions that go on for days are almost always accompanied by deafening fireworks displays called mascletas. Fallas is the biggest of the fiestas, an annual Valencia-wide festival held each year, from early to mid-March. The final week features giant-figured constructions in every neighborhood, daily pyrotechnics, processions with period costumes and marching bands. Bonfires, known as la cremà that consumes the figures on the last night, get so big that fireman hose down the surrounding buildings.
El Carmen (or Carme) is at the heart of the old city, filled with buildings dating to Roman and Moorish times and bounded by Torres de Quart and Torres de Serrans (remnants of the city walls) to the west and north. Mercat Central (the central marketplace) is to the south, Plaça de la Verge (Virgin Square) and Plaça de la Reina (Queen’s Square) are to the east with the Cathedral between them. Here at the center of the Roman city, the temple of Diana once stood. The old district is a warren of narrow twisting streets, glorious medieval architecture, and grand palaces and courtyard gardens you'd scarcely know were there until glimpsed through an open door. It's hardly a surprise this picturesque area and nearby streets contain so many of Valencia's gay restaurants, cafes and clubs. Ruzafa (Russafa) has another smaller gay district, beyond North Station and the Bull Ring.
Valencia Airport has a few arrivals direct from North America, but the best deals arrive at Madrid, Barcelona, London, Paris or Zurich, with connections from those cities. Most European and Mediterranean airports have air connections here. Check the low-cost carriers such as Easyjet, Ryan, and Vueling, for cheap special rates to scores of European cities, if you book ahead and travel light.
The modern Metro rapid transit/subway trip takes 30 minutes into downtown for 2 euros - but you pay another euro for the rechargeable fare card. Hang onto that - it's needed to exit at your destination station and saves you a euro on your next, or return trip. Taxi cabs, found just outside the arrivals terminal, charge around 20 euros to city center.
Car rentals are available at the airport, but parking is difficult in town and impatient and aggressive local drivers are irritated by outsiders who go slow to read street names. Day trips to surrounding areas are less stressful, and short-term visitors may use a home country driver's licence. Reserve in advance online, especially in season, to guarantee a car, and for best rates (local companies often beat the big guys for price).
RENFE at North Station rail has regular and high speed AVE connections to Madrid, and regular service to northern cities like Barcelona, with connections to the rest of Europe. Regular speed one-way trips cost between 35 and 65 euros, depending on time of day and seat class.
Buses and Coaches arrive at and depart from the Central Bus Station just north of the Turia. Among the bus companies here ALSA will get you to and from Barcelona and towns to the north, or Alicante and points south; Avanza connects with Madrid - in each case for as little as 25 to 35 euros.
Metro subway trains, trams, EMT buses, or short taxi hops will get you to most places easily enough in Valencia. Most of the old city can be covered on foot and many streets are pedestrian-only. During Fallas much of the center is closed to traffic for a week or more. Save the electronic ticket from the airport, it can be recharged. Plastic smart cards, either bus-only or combining bus and Metro, can be bought or recharged at tobacco stores or news kiosks - ten trips for about half the normal price, with a one-time initial charge for the card. They allow you to jump on and off buses for up to 60 minutes in any direction for just one fare. Bus drivers accept cash for single trips, without the transfer option. For more information on city and regional public transport, in Valencian, Spanish and English, see EMT.
Bicycles may be rented from Valenbisi for a few minutes, or by the hour or the day, from street stands all over town with a swipe of a card (see website for purchase). They're free for the first 30 minutes, so on arrival return it to one of many stands, then take another when moving on, or returning. For longer trips your credit card will be charged.
Taxis may be hailed in the street, most have meters. Figure from 6 to 12 euros for most hops around the center. Traffic jams are rare except in case of accidents.
Street signs here are often in Valencian (similar to Catalan in Barcelona or Sitges) rather than Castillian Spanish - as the community restores the local language to preeminence. Don't be confused to see both Plaça or Plaza, Avinguda or Avenida, or Sant Pere with or instead of San Pedro - they're the same. For less confusion we use Valencian names you'll see in the streets, but many businesses still use Spanish.
What to do
Besides Fallas, the Nou d'Octubre (October 9) festivities, and celebrations for Three Kings Day are good times to see the pageantry of Valencia. A lively recent addition to the region's annual festival schedule takes place in Bunyol, a 40-minute train ride away. La Tomatina now attracts 40,000 mostly college-age foreign visitors in August for one of the world's biggest food fights: an hour-long tomato-throwing, T-shirt-ripping melee with tons of ripe fruit -- preceded and followed by international partying in the bars, the streets, and the parks. A quieter recent celebration took the form of an art exhibition of works by native son Joaquín Sorrolla y Bastida, whose paintings vividly depict traditional Valencian life (see New York's Hispanic Society of America and Museo Sorrolla, Madrid). For info on other regional celebrations and day trips to surrounding towns, mountains and beaches, click the links at the bottom of this page.
For locals two of the most popular pastimes are following the local Valencia CF football (soccer) team, or going to the colloseum-style Plaza de Toros (els bous al carrer in Valenican) next to North Station. Traditional spectacles of color, costumes, ritual and music, the bull-fights take place during just three periods each year, during religious holiday festivals. As with football, bull-fights are covered on local TV for the curious who want to avoid crowds (and blood), and the commentaries and interviews help in understanding what's going on.
Currency and Money
Spain’s official currency is the euro. Since the switch-over the once familiar change booths have mostly disappeared except at the airport. Banks will usually change dollars, but most close by 2pm, (open weekdays only). There are ATMs everywhere, so use your debit card for cash with better exchange rates. Check with your home bank before leaving to be sure credit card transactions go smoothly, and to save the ATM charges if your bank has a Valenician network partner. Also, unless you tell your bank you want otherwise, there is a daily cash limit. Having a credit card with a chip (and pin number) can help when buying tickets in machines, and most places check passport ID as they take your card in stores or restaurants.
Media & Resources
Lambda Valencia also publishes a print and online gay magazine, Full Lambda, in Valencian, and Gay Valencia in both Valencian and Castilian, is another website with gay scene info. This is Valencia-24/7 has more general information in English, on tourist sites, restaurants and nightlife, also with a gay/lesbian section, plus insights into the lives of foreign expats in Valencia. In VLC is another free English-language magazine, with articles and tips on life and what to do in the Communidad - but their gay listings are very outdated.
Kanda Books (c/ Tapineria 18), is a new and second-hand bookstore with English and other language books, guides, and helpful staff, just down an alley from Pl de la Reina.
For the official city tourist website, see Valencia.es, in eight languages.
For local accommodations, plus locations and website links to the businesses listed below, see our map & listings tab. For rural escapes to mountain village retreats around Valencia, see "experiences" listed at the events & pics tab.
Going out - cafes & bars
Spain famously runs on different time from elsewhere in Europe. Businesses usually close at 2 pm and may not reopen for two or three hours, as people head home or go to the cafes. In the heat of summer this is sensible. After reopening the stores stay open until 8 or 9pm, so dinner between 9pm and midnight is the norm. Families with small children, who in other countries would have long been in bed, spend relaxed evenings together around outdoor tables late into the night. As afternoon cafes close around midnight some nightclubs aren't yet rolling up the steel shutters.
These many terrazas have outdoor tables that bars and restaurants spread around the neighborhood plazas and along sidewalks. One of the great pleasures of Spanish social life, they provide tourists with gathering places in the small squares and narrow streets of El Carmen, and many stay open all afternoon. Outside downtown tourist areas a beer or copa de vino usually costs only $1.75 or so. Placa de la Verge, one of the grandest and most popular, has an impressive atmosphere but the cuisine here is mostly middling. Grab a coffee, ice cream, beer, or an Orxata (Horchata) in summer; or thick hot chocolate in winter - then venture deeper into Carmen for better food in back streets.
33 Lounge (Sant Dionis 8), gay-favored restaurant and 1950's-style jazz, bossa, music and cocktail lounge next to Pekado, eight kinds of paellas, good place to sample local food specialities.
Cafe de la Seu (Del Santo Caliz, 7), near cathedral, from 7pm daily for before dinner cocktails, or for crowd arriving in force around 11pm. Pedestrian street tables, young, informal and friendly customers and staff, pleasant and central meeting place before heading to nearby discos.
El Soho Terrace (Calle Cádiz 70), Russafa bar, Mediterranean cuisine restaurant with American touches, world music or jazz/house.
Glamour (Turia, 28), new weekend drag showbar in Carmen, near Torres de Quart, mostly guys.
Pekado (Plaça Vicente Iborra 9) means sin or at least peccadillo. Food, named for various vices, served by charming and hunky staff. After dinner, weekend cabaret shows and drag performances.
Q Art (Guillem de Castro 80) cafe, bar, 9am to 4am, at Torres de Quart, casual atmosphere, amusingly kitchy decor, cute/and friendly bar staff, shows most nights. Breakfast at one end of your day, then wrap with dancing or a show or strippers after midnight.
Som Com Som (Cadis 75), mixed bar in Ruzafa, women predominate.
Trapezzio Cafe (Plaça Music Lopez Chavarri, 2), center of Carmen, open 9am weekdays, (5pm weekends), terrace seating on plaza. Open throughout afternoons, into the evening; great first stop to peruse gay magazines and maps over coffee, drinks, and/or tapas.
Turangalila (Maestro Rodrigo 13), dinner/showbars, meals daily except Sunday, drag espectaculos Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Two more drag showbar restaurants welcome all: Son de Lluna (Lerida 14) in the Zaidía district; and Bien Divina (San Vicente Mártir, 388) in Jesús.
Dietrich (Barcelona 65, Museros), dinner and cabaret show bar, moved to a location north of Valenicia, with drag, live flamenco, belly dancers, Vegas/Soul Music song and dance numbers.
Going out - gay friendly cafes
Several cafes within a few blocs of Carmen's Plaça de Tossal comfortably include gay folk among their customers, especially after midnight on weekends when these streets begin to teem.
Among these is Cafe Sant Jaume (Caballeros 51, at Sant Jaume), carved wood ceilings, student, gay, artist cafe, pleasant outdoor seating beneath expansive trees, good views of all who pass by.
Ca Revolta (Santa Teressa 8; Carevolta.org), very Valencian cafe/bar and community center between Plaça del Tossal and el Mercat, live music, theater, film screenings, photography and art exhibits; poetry readings, and dance performances.
El Carmen Miranda (En Plom 9), eclectic food & cocktails, mojitos and caipirinhas, tempura, lasagna, carpaccios, confit, salads, dessert specialties.
El Dorita (Placa Sant Miquel, Sant Dion's 1), outdoor tables, bistro and tapas fare, inexpensive beer and wine.
El Principito (Plaça Vicent Iborra 5), relaxed quiet afternoon and evening bar/hangout, from 11:30am; pool table, windows open to the square.
Epoca (Ensendra 9), Torres de Quart tranquil cafe for bocadillos, tapas, snacks, beer and other cold and hot beverages, plus free wi-fi.
Ginger Loft (Vitoria 4), international-style cafe/lounge, Asian and Mediterranean food served tapas-style, lunch and dinner, local wines, gin specialties, cocktails include summer fresh fruit Caipiroskas.
La Claca (Carrer de San Vicente Martir, 3), 30 years meeting place for Valencia's bohemian vanguard and international crowd, just off Plaça de la Reina. Cervantes published Don Quixote from this building, centuries ago. Live music, flamenco and cafe-theater shows Wednesdays through Sundays.
La Lola (subida del Toledano 8) Mediterranean and "nueva cocina española" platos and tapas, DJs, live jazz and flamenco nights.
La Utileana (Pl Picadero de Dos Aguas, 3), good, inepensive, basic traditional Valencian food and wine, beer; daily and seasonal specials, outdoor seating on C/ San Andres at rear entrance. Near Ajuntament. Arrive by 2pm or wait in line.
Neboa Restaurant (Plaça Vicent Iborra 4), Mediterranean cuisine, chef's daily specials from the marketplace.
Valencians preference has long been for traditional local fare (paella, tapas, pochuga, seafood, and ham) with the occasional shawarma, pizza, Chinese, or American fast food. Recently things have been changing with more international and Vegetarian restaurants popping up, mostly downtown.
Al-Balansíya (Paseo de las Facultades, 3), Arab/Moroccan restaurant, hummus, baba ganoush, chicken tayin, lunch, dinner.
Atmosphére (Moro Zeit 6), home-cooked international fare at French Institute off Tossal Square. Morning coffee and croissants from 8am; daily menu from Thai wok to Mexican fajitas, quiches, rich desserts and cakes, bright interior patio. French-language cinema each Wednesday.
Cafe de Paris (Cabelleros 30), inexpensive Franco-Valencian entrees and tapas, good wine, charming French & Spanish-speaking gay waiters.
Herbolario Navarro (San Vicente Mártir, 63), healthy cafe/take-out empanadas, soups, juices, teas; attached to large natural foods store, nut butters, seeds, kifir/yogurt, tofu, seitan, fresh/bottled juices, fruits and veggies, whole grains and baked goods; herbs, oils and supplements of all kinds - since 1771.
Kimpira Gourmet Bio Restaurant (Convento San Francisco, 5), gourmet vegetarian/vegan organic food and wines, daily specials, set lunch at 13 euros.
Kokura (Pere i Borrega 10), big variety of Japanese Makisushi, rice and noodles, yakitoris, kushiagues, temporas, soups, beer and wine.
La Luna (San Ramon 23), inexpensive, tasty Spanish and International vegetarian-only fare in Carmen; daily specials, set lunch at 10 euros, soups, fresh juices.
La Pappardella (Bordadores 5), pasta, piadine and other Italian fare near the Seu, lunch and dinner, popular with Italians who live here.
La Strada (Quart 17), reasonably-priced Italian restaurant just off Tossal, comfortable ambience, tasty food in small portions.
Mimmo Cantina (Dr Sanchis Bergon 24), Italian chef, home-cooked traditional recipes, Italian-style bar with light lunches, large terrace, by the Turia.
Sheran Fweets (Av del Port 109), home-style Indian/Pakistani food, good quality at low prices, meat or vegetarian meals, set lunch at 8 euros.
Taj Mahal (Dr Manuel Candela 20), full range of traditional Indian meals, meat and vegetarian, full bar; also South and East Asian grocery store with prepared and bulk foods, spices, fruits and vegetables (two doors down).
Taqueria El Burrito (de Dalt 12), inexpensive Cali-Mexican take-out nook off Tossal Square, meat and veggie burritos, tacos, quesadillas, sides, fresh fruit juices, Mexican beers. Comes mildly seasoned unless you ask for "picante." A tiny, next door nooks has Chilean empañadas to-go.
Note on tipping: unless at an international establishment, where staff are accustomed to American ways, leave a bit less than at home. Reckon on 10% of bill, to split the difference.
Going out - men-only & sex clubs
B&B Botanic Bear (Botànic 7) local ursine favorite bar, well connected to the world-wide woof, lots of events throughout the year.
Club Fetish (San Vicente 386), men's after-hours sex/fetish club in Jesús neighborhood, Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays from 6:30am.
Cross (Juan de Mena 7), exuberant sex club near Torres de Quart, visitors and locals, weekly men-only "fiestas sin ropa" gay naked sex parties, weekend shows. Some parties open to all genders and orientations.
Dakota Bar (Placa Margarita Vall Daura 1, near Pl La Reina), country-western-them men's pub, bear and leather crowd usually arrives around 11pm. Exeptionally welcoming guys, popular Thursdays 2-for-1 happy hours from 9:30 opening time.
Hòmens Sexbar (Alacant, 11), men's playspace near the bull ring, daily from 3pm-3:30am. Cabins, glory holes, slings, dark room, maze, naked nights, erotic strippers.
Nuncadigono (del Turia 22), early (from 3pm-4am Wed-Sun) cruise bar near Torres de Quart, leather and fetish guys. Underwear, naked nights, 100-percent chico territory cabins, maze, slings, showers, darkroom sex and steamy videos to set the mood.
Going out - Dancing
Discos hereabouts open late and don't really get going until around 3am. Look for flyers around for discounts on cover charges.
47 Social Club (Quart 47), small dance club, mixed crowd, Inditrónica, Electro Pop, 80's/90's, New Rave and Disco music, comfortable chill-out zone. Open midnight to 3am, Wednesdays through Saturdays.
ADN Pub (Angel Custodi 10) medium-size club in Carmen; mixed, sociable, energetic all-ages-genders-orientations crowd dances wherever and with whomever they want, and dresses as they please. Check for special bear nights.
Deseo 54 Disco (Pepita 2) biggest gay dance club in town, just beyond the Turia, two floors Thursdays through Saturdays from 1am, constantly changing concept parties and DJs. Mainly guys, sometimes men-only dark-room events. Dress to impress weekends, Thursday younger more casual crowd, Sundays midnight "tea-dance."
Growl (Gran Vía Germanías, 31), new House and Progressive dance club, playroom and pub in Russafa, mostly men, 21+ only.
Javalon (Dr Montoro & Avda. Constitución 29), Thursday through Saturday gay nightclub, 1:30am until dawn, 2 dance floors/areas.
La 3 (Padre Porta, 2) mostly straight but hip mixed crowd, Indie-Electronic, Dubstep, Grime, Hip Hop dance club, periodic gay party nights.
On hot summer nights many people head for the long wide beach that entends northward from the harbor, easily accessible by metro during the day, but requiring a taxi by 2 am when the throng arrives. It's a young and seemingly "straight" crowd that spills out of seasonal dance clubs here, onto the sand. But defining lines blur easily here as the weekend partying extends into dawn-time hours.
For some guys saunas are the main attraction, and Valencia has three.
Magnus Termas (Avingda del Port 27), Pases Group, spa, steam and dry saunas, large pool, Jacuzzis, video lounge, dark room, maze, cruise spaces and cabins, voyeur zone.
Olimpic (Vivons 15) also Pases Group, steam and dry saunas, Jacuzzis, cruising area, dark room, cabins, maze and video lounge.
Thermas Romeo (Pintor Gisbert 5), independent bathhouse, dry sauna, steam, bar, cabins, video lounge, and professional massage. Also see Sex Romeo above.
Under heading "relax" (or "sex" at its least complicated) there are a number of shops for gay men in Valencia. The most popular of these erotic bookstores is Spartacus Erotic Gay Shop (Flassanders 8, near Central Market), cabins, dark room, porn videos, magazines and accessories.
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