One of the things that surprises people on coming to Valencia is the variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and the rest. Only yesterday a client commented that it was so refreshing to not come upon a Starbucks on every corner. I had to admit there are four or five but told her that one had closed down because nobody ever went there. Years ago I remember a friend’s daughter being so excited that a Starbucks was going to open in Valencia because… well she couldn’t explain why exactly… it was just it was something different. She wasn’t even a coffee drinker. But then again neither is anyone who goes into Starbucks regularly, they are generally drinkers of a noxious mix of milk and various sugars with some weak tasteless coffee mixed in there somewhere.
With bars, luckily we don’t have to put up with identikit Weatherspoons everywhere. You can find a plethora of craft beer places, wine bars, cocktail bars, the odd Irish bar and more greasy spoon auld bloke bars than you can shake a stick at. And terraces… Pavement cafes you can enjoy in the sun, winter, spring, summer and autumn. It’s refreshing.
It’s the same with clothes shops, Spain is the home of Zara and Inditex the vehicle that has made Amancio Ortega one of the richest people in the World. The main roads of every Spanish capital are the same with Zara, Springfield, Mango and a whole host of other household names congregating on one strip, many of them owned by Inditex and lining the pockets of Amancio.
However, step one street off the main street and you will perhaps find a Ferretería, a haberdashery and hardware shop, where there will be an old guy serving someone with their order of two screws and a few nails after chatting amiably for half an hour while you quietly fume in the background about how long this simple transaction can take and when he will get round to serving you.
Go into any “Barrio” in Valencia and you will struggle to find Zara, Springfield et al… What you do get is independently owned coffee shops and bars, vintage clothes stores, more greasy spoon bars serving fantastic slices of tortilla to accompany your beer which shouldn’t be Amstel or Cruzcampo (#JustSaying), a huge variety of home cooked food restaurants offering menus of the day from as little as 8 euros, a ridiculous number of bike hire shops, artist’s outlet shops and surprises around every corner. Obviously some areas of the city are more independent than others. Today we will look at a few areas of Valencia where you will find that independent vibe.
The Obvious One – Ruzafa
Everyone knows about Ruzafa right? Valencia’s bohemian capital is a haven of activity morning, noon and, in non-pandemic times, at night. It’s different and there is a reason which is really cool. Buildings in Valencia have a “Bajo” and that bajo is the ground floor property or properties under the flats. They have a different classification normally as “Comercial” rather than residential, it’s really difficult to get that classification changed. But one reason why the chains don’t move in is because these bajos are not big enough. Apartments in Ruzafa are around 70-90m2 and the bajos are often the same size. You cannot fit a Zara into a 70m2 space of course. Even if you manage to get both bajos that are usually in a building then 140m2 isn’t enough.
Blasco Ibañez – Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Blasco Ibañez is the long avenue that goes down from Viveros park towards the beach in the Cabanyal, (more of that later). Blasco Ibañez is wide and full of University faculties but just off Blasco Ibañez to the north is are areas called Algiros and La Bega Baixa, bordered by the Polytechnic University and to the South, Amistat and Aragón.
The two former areas are where the students gather to drink, sing and be merry and happy. Around the Plaza Xuquer you can find any number of great, cheap bars and cafes and spreading out you will find favourites like Tanto Monta, Arabic restaurants such as Balansiya and the Indian Shish Mahal and even the Bastard Coffee shop. Of course where there are students you will always find cheap places to eat. OK, there is a KFC and a Burger King but they can be safely ignored.
To the south near Valencia’s football ground you can find the Babel Cinema, Valencia’s art house cinema, Brazilian, Asturian, Galician and Japanese restaurants among others and a whole load of independently owned shops selling all sorts of stuff you never knew you needed or even existed. It’s the sort of place that’s nice to live in and like many places in Valencia it’s near to the riverbed for your daily exercise and green space.
Benimaclet lies inside the ring road between Valencia’s Viveros park and Alboraya. Known as the home of all of the students who go to the nearby University Campus on Avenida de los Naranjos, Benimaclet is another little village within the city with a defined central area of two floor houses and small shops surrounded by higher rise buildings and avenues. Easy access to the Valencian Huerta is an attractive aspect of Benimaclet but the small businesses in the Barrio tend to be young, trendy and happening. You can get all of your basics and more without moving out of the Barrio and you have easy access to the rest of the city via the metro, ringroad and bike lanes.
Down by the Marina and Beach in Valencia we have the old favourite the Cabanyal. We have written about the Cabanyal many times before because everybody seems to like it or hate it, we are in the former group of course. Now the Cabanyal is changing, the European and national money being pumped into the area is starting to bear fruit and become more visible.
On streets such as Calle Barraca where the pavements have been widened and cafes and bike shops are starting to pop up like mushrooms, Calle Reina the main shopping street of the area and the zone around the excellent Cabanyal market you can find any number of independent shops selling a huge variety of small things you might need for daily life. You get your food from the market and the rest of your day to day needs in all of the shops surrounding it.
Cafes and bars offering jazz evenings, poetry readings, English language exchanges, courses and more and a mixture of traditional restaurants allied to new fusion style places offering everything from paellas to sea food to kebabs and samosas at all price ranges, you will never go short of options in the Cabanyal.
And don’t forget, there is a bit of a nice beach there too on your doorstep.
The Abastos area is found to the west of the centre of Valencia just a ten minute walk over the Gran Via Fernando el Católico and into a totally different feel. The market is surrounded by cafes, bars and restaurants offering all different types of food and drink.
The buildings in Abastos are a mix of more modern and classical facades. It is a totally residential area and has sort of been ignored by the Airbnb crowd too. There are some larger shops as the Bajos of these large residential buildings have more space but the major fashion brands and the aforementioned Starbucks haven’t discovered the area yet, it’s mostly mattress and furniture sellers, larger Chinese Bazaars and homewares. Down the back streets you will find the bric a brac shops, independent places selling esoteric goods and more.
The area around Calle Juan Llorens is the place where the students meet to eat and drink, full of bars and restaurants and noise. If you want peace and quiet you don’t buy in Juan Llorens.
The Old Town
The Carmen, El Seu and even out as far as La Roqueta is where to look for the largest concentration of independent shops. From comic shops and roleplay games to revivalist record shops, vintage clothes, rock bars, diners, the ubiquitous estate agents and more. The Carmen is a warren of twisting streets around the cathedral where there is no room for delivery vans, large stocks and the other accoutrements of large retail. Therefore you find small, friendly, often hippy shops and lots of different things that you may not find in the more traditional retail stores.
This is all based around the fantastic central market, surely one of the best food markets in the world. And yes, it is a real food market that the people in Valencia use and go to every single day. You can find tourists there of course but business goes on as usual each and every day (Except Sundays and only until 2pm).
Long May This Continue
Valencia has a vibrancy and a different feel in each “Barrio” thanks to this independent spirit. It’s true that times have been hard for many of these independents during the pandemic but there is a constant evolution as people open up new businesses, try new concepts in restaurants and bars and bring new things to market. Why don’t you get to know Valencia more by just strolling round the different barrios? The people there will look forward to seeing you.
You want more?…
Golden Visa Property of the Week
We call this one the spiral staircase house. Can you guess why? Tastefully designed villa in an urbanization of Ribarroja del Turia, very close to the town of La Eliana. Outside, there is a swimming pool with Roman steps and a beautiful garden with automatic irrigation. The house is mainly distributed on one floor, but there is also an attic area and a basement.
The main floor consists of a living-dining room with an integrated kitchenette leading to a relaxing terrace, 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, 1 guest toilet and 1 study. The living space is dominated by a beautiful stainless steel and wood spiral staircase which leads up to the attic. This is a very bright open space thanks to a glazed skylight. There is also one bedroom with a full bathroom here.
In the basement you will find an excellent leisure area, with a games room, a kitchen with dining room and a gym, and a couple of TVs for multi-screening sports (Olympics coming up soon). You could happily live here, never come upstairs. The garage accommodates two cars with an automatic door. It also has a storage area.
Some other features of the house include large windows, double insulating glass, blinds and mosquito nets, underfloor heating and radiator heating, air conditioning, built-in wardrobes with sliding doors and white lacquered interior carpentry. It has exterior lighting.
Don’t miss out on our previous articles. Let’s remind you of some here. Just click on the images for more Valencia Property goodness.