48 hours in Valencia for Feria Habitat
What’s up everyone?
I just snoozed for about 1 hour and a half into my train ride from Valencia to Barcelona and after waking up dizzy without knowing what time is it and where am I, took out my laptop and decided to try and get some more work done – so here I am, writing about my recent trip to Valencia while the impressions are still fresh in my mind.
Guys, I honestly feel exhausted. My trip to Valencia was very short and filled with activities, cramming as much as possible in about 48hrs (one full day and 2 halves). Admittedly, I had a great time in this beautiful city and don’t regret any bit of this tiredness, I just wish I had planned everything better. Usually, I like to consider myself a good planner but I’m really bad at actually following through with my plans. Ergo.. does that make me a bad planner? I mean, I had all the main things I wanted to do nicely laid out in my agenda as always so I don’t forget anything, but life happens and, therefore, after throwing a quick glance at the list upon my arrival in the city, I let the dust settle on it until the moment of packing up for leaving. What happened in between… well, that’s what today’s story is all about.
A sweet re-encounter
We arrived in the early evening in Valencia, when the sun was still shining hot on the streets, despite the fact that it was about time it went to sleep, and headed directly to the hotel – we stayed at Malcom and Barret Hotel, a fairly new hotel in Valencia with a chic, modern look -, checked in and threw myself on the bed without even unpacking. The comfy mattress and soft blanket were already hugging me to sleep when the phone called with the reception letting us know they had 2 available bikes for rent. Off we went!
Quite close to the hotel (10 mins by bike) there’s the famous City of Arts and Science (I’m sure you’ve seen at least a few images of it) by Santiago Calatrava so that’s where we went first. I had already visited it two years ago, during a hot summer midday – so I was excited to see it from a different perspective: in the warm sunset light. Not that I’m a fan of Calatrava’s work in particular, but I have to admit his edifices are quite impressive and worth seeing them with your own eyes – the scale of the structure is especially remarkable.
So! We arrived just in time to witness the last sun rays sliding over the large white structures in a game of warm tints and reflections, all of this accompanied by jazz music from an event going on in one of the buildings – the music was spilling out beautifully and giving you the feeling you were part of a movie.
We ended up spending around an hour here, just biking around the buildings, listening to the sweet music and people-watching. It was already dark when we arrived back to the hotel, quickly changed and dedicated half an hour for taking advantage of the hotel’s gym facility (woke up the next day with the pleasant feeling of sore muscles, but that’s for another story).
The night ended up at the hotel’s restaurant with great food (on my quest to discover the best chipirones al andaluz and patatas bravas, I can happily say that Malcom & Barret’s restaurant did not disappoint at all! They were delicious!) and wine and then me crashing to sleep instantly, so I basically ditched all my plans for getting some work done that day. Anyone else having issues with working while traveling? If not, please tell me your secret!
Visiting Feria Habitat
Second day started early because when breakfast is on schedule I’m the first to get out of bed (and we also wanted to arrive early at Feria Habitat). That also didn’t happen because once we arrived in the historic centre we got distracted by the morning hustle and bustle going on in the Mercat Central, revisiting the chic old area and running into one of our favourite places (discovered on our previous trip): Trencat, a cute bistro with delicious chicken sandwiches.
We arrived at Feria Habitat venue in the afternoon, after a loooooong bus ride that felt like never ending (elder people starting fights on the ride included). And when we entered the venue…
…I was disappointed.
I was expecting something completely different: new, contemporary design, maybe something innovative and inspiring. Ok, I have to admit I am biased when saying this, because I was basically expecting everything to fit with my personal taste and design style – which was obviously impossible to happen because the stuff exposed had to appeal to all tastes and types of visitors. So I sled through never-ending rows of luxurious furniture, lighting and accessories, tons of details, gold, curves, glitter, mirrors, sometimes all in one.. it was too much for me personally. There were plenty of people that seemed really interested in what was happening and I realised I was definitely not the target audience for this fair.
At least until I arrived in the last section of the venue, entitled “diseño” on the map, which was exactly what I was here for! Contemporary design! Beautifully crafted furniture and lighting, with clean lines and attention to details, pleasant colours, textures and fabrics, most of them inspired by the nordic simplicity, almost minimalistic in some cases. Two brands stuck with me in particular through their beautiful simplicity in shapes, textures and colours used: Ondarreta, from Basque Country and Inclass, from Alicante, but I put my eyes on more brands that I can’t wait to learn more about!
We spent only in this area as much time as in the others together, taking turns and returning a few times to admire certain furniture pieces twice. Which raised some questions that I still haven’t answered completely: Why was this area so small? Was it because the majority of customers in general don’t appreciate this style in particular? Or was it because there weren’t as many creators interested in taking part in this fair?
Bottom line? If I were to be completely objective, it wasn’t really worth it for me (as an interior designer hoping to see in person the current tendencies in Spanish furniture), to attend this fair. Sure, I discovered a few awesome brands, but as much as I loved the contemporary design section, it was too little to be worth taking all the trouble to get there from a different country. In my case it turned out ok after all, as I only had to take a train from Barcelona and back and it was very affordable speaking in time and money. Had I had to come from a more distant place, complicate my life with longer, more expensive flights, connections, all the time wasted on transportation, I would have left with a bitter feeling and it would have been harder for me to see the positive side of the trip.
Back in the city
When we finally arrived back in the city, we headed directly to check your recommendations for paella places! I had my hopes high up that this time we’ll be lucky to enjoy a good paella. Only to realise that everything (well, all the good places at least) was closed until 8pm. It was 6pm.
And we were starving so bad (you know when you become hangry?) that we ended up crashing in 100 Montaditos – not very proud of it, but I used to eat at their joints from time to time when I was living in Sevilla so I knew what I was getting myself into. And despite the place looking as if a rhinoceros army passed through, the little sandwiches were actually as good as I remembered them #sorrynotsorry.
Hangriness solved, we returned to the hotel to get some work done (blog articles won’t write themselves, neither photos will magically retouch on their own) and then enjoy a glass of wine (or two) at the bar downstairs. The surprise of the evening was a flamenco show going on right there and then, which brought me back lovely memories of my time spent in Andalucía. I have to admit I went to sleep a bit nostalgic that night.
Sad to leave the hotel (I really grew fond of loving the hotel life in the past months of traveling – can’t deny the sweet feeling of being pampered from time to time and having easy access to all sorts of facilities), we spent the last half day in Valencia by admiring the cute streets of the historic center, before heading to the train station and… well, arriving to the moment of the beginning of this article 🙂
So, what to do if you have only one day in Valencia?
From my current and previous experience, the main points I’d recommend you:
- spend a couple of hours in the historic center, simply by walking around and admiring the chic streets and beautiful architecture. Keep an eye out for the cool graffiti art – there’s plenty of it!
- climb to the top of Torres de Serranos for great views of Valencia’s old quarters (we did this on our first visit, but it’s doable to include it in your walk around the centre)
- visit City of Arts and Sciences – you can either walk all the way from the centre via Turia Park (former river), or, even better, bike through it!
As for where to eat the best paella, I still have to find the best places myself…
How to get to Valencia from Barcelona
Out of all the possible options we decided upon taking the train. There are various options that run daily, prices are very affordable and the length of the trip depends on the train you choose. We picked one that took 3 hours – short enough to not make me go nuts and long enough to give me the possibility to get some work done in the meanwhile (like the present article or the one I previously wrote about Cadaqués). You can also buy the tickets online in advance from Renfe’s website.
* My stay at Hotel Malcom and Barret was complimentary and any mentions in the article accurately reflect my own personal experience.
Have you been to Valencia? What’s your favourite thing to do here? Comment below!