Guide to photographing Valencia (using the Fuji X-T1)
Many people have asked me why I still write on my blog about trips, about food, about experiences I lived during my holidays when most of the world is in quarantine and the only place where you can travel to is the grocery store, at the corner of the street. And my answer is simple. Lengthy but simple. I was born in Eastern Europe, in Romania. Up until the fall of communism, the biggest dream most of us had was to take a trip to Bulgaria, a neighbour country. Not many people dared to dream about Spain, Italy, Thailand, Morocco and even a simple mention of New York or the USA could grant you a visit from the police. Then, the communism fell, and suddenly we were flooded with new things.
We were finally able to buy things, to go out at night, to visit our friends and joke about anything without fearing repercussions. And with all this freedom came something else. People flooded the borders running away. Turkey, USA, Canada, Italy, Germany, etc. Some went to build a future, some went to steal and try to con people and some went to visit things they only heard about in the books or seen in the movies. To many western readers, the virus pandemic might be a novelty, might be a trial. To sit inside, isolated. But not for many of us. In a way that was our life before December 1989.
You went to work, you got home, you got one or two hours of TV each day (mostly political communist party news and maybe an approved movie) then you went to bed. No going out at nights, no partying, no clubs, no internet, no nothing. This pandemic brought all those memories back, and more. Empty stores, people fighting for food, rising prices, it is all back. But we have seen the light. For thirty years we were allowed to dream, to make plans, to go outside, to book trips, to see things our grandparents and parents never even heard of. From seeing my mother’s teary eyes after the fall of communism and she brought home butter, to helping her book a ticket today for a holiday tomorrow, we have come a long way.
So, in no way I can stop dreaming of the places I have seen and in no way will I stop dreaming of the day when I will set foot in a new place and start a new adventure. What I plan to do is, until all is safe, to write about the places I have seen with my eyes and through the viewfinders of my beloved Fuji cameras. And my first stop is: Valencia, Spain. I spent two and a half days in Valencia, and half a day in Cuenca, and while you could do the same I wanted to write this article for people who are only able to spend one day in this place.
I will detail many things in here, and also write things for those of you who are passionate about photography. And I will do that because it is a bit different taking pictures in Valencia, especially at night, then it is in other cities. It may be my limited photographic expertise, since I only started taking this seriously about 14~15 months ago, so don’t let this influence you, especially if you been shooting for a long time.
So what I will do here is take you through a full day in Valencia and pack this thing with pictures, pointers, info and more, so you can get the best information possible. On this trip I have brought with me my old Fuji X-T1 and the kit lens, and as an amateur, I must say I was satisfied with the results I got.
Before starting just take one thing into consideration. Get yourself a good accommodation. From Valencia airport, you can take metro 3 or 5 directly into the city, and I strongly recommend a hotel/Airbnb close to Xativa metro station. This is what I did and trust me, if you only have one day in Valencia you want to be close to the old town. While Valencia has a good metro/tram/bus network it makes no sense to ride for twenty minutes just to be there. So that rules out accommodations near The City of Sciences or Malva Rosa beach.
Second, you need to ask yourself if, by having one day only to spend in Valencia, is it worth doing some things. I, for once, ruled out visiting the inside of the City of Sciences.
I decided I have seen already too many museums and Oceanariums (Barcelona and Bangkok come to mind), so I only wanted to scroll and take my time walking in that area between buildings. So, without keeping it long let’s start this.
If you love photography and you are willing to work harder for some good photos I would suggest starting your day at Malva Rosa beach.
My reason is simple. The city of Sciences, the end of your route, has a schedule and if you want to go there and visit, you’ll have to wait for some time before the end of the golden hour and the start of visiting hours. Now I know that many people say that sunset at Malva Rosa is a must, but it can really mess your schedule up, being 30 minutes away from the city center.
Personally, even though I visited Malva Rosa twice, I would advise you to skip it. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I really don’t think it has anything special that can set it apart from the other hundreds or so beaches I have seen in my life.
What you need to know is that monuments, churches, important sights open between 10 and 11 am. Now, depending on your style, if you are a landscape/nature photographer start at Malva Rosa, but if you love shooting people and buildings, start at Plaza del Ayuntamiento. That’s the place you’ll reach anyway after going to Malva Rosa.
And here comes your little dilemma. Wake up early, spend 30 minutes on metro and tram to reach Malva Rosa then take the road back and start exploring the city, or just get into Valencia’s empty streets early in the morning and shoot some great pictures? That’s for you to decide.
A simple photo tour could go from Plaza del Ayuntamiento to Mercat Central, Lonja de la Seda, Santa Catalina with a climb to the tower, the Cathedral and El Miguelete, Plaza de la Virgen, Parroquia de San Nicolas, Portal de la Valldigna, The House of Cats, Torres de Serranos, Moorish Baths, Plaza del Reina.
The evening is reserved for The City of Sciences and one last look in Plaza del Virgen. Trust me, it really is lovely at night. One quick tip for you. If you want to photograph the golden hour at The City of Science, make your way back to Plaza del Virgen after, and at 8:30 make your way to Viewpoint. Enjoy an Aqua de Valencia while shooting Plaza del Ayuntamiento from above. Down below I will detail my itinerary and explain why I think this is the best route.
If you ever been to Barcelona I am sure you visited Boqueria, the world-renowned market. I personally enjoy La Boqueria more, but Mercat Central is great also and offers some really nice photo opportunities.
La Lonja de la Seda
3 reasons. The courtyard while catching some of the building, the main chamber filled with amazing columns and the glass windows. Trust me when I say this. Those windows with good lightning are a match made in heaven for your photos. The entrance is just 2 Euro and trust me, it is well worth it to see this place.
Even if you don’t enjoy visiting churches, here for just 2 Euro you can climb the tower and snap some great pictures of Plaza Redonda down bellow. Yes, you can visit that place too and snap a picture with Santa Catalina’s tower but it is not mandatory. Climb the tower and enjoy the great views from there.
Now, this is my reasoning and why I think this will work better for you and your photos.
Just finished climbing up a tower and now another one? Priced 2 or three Euros this is a must too. It is taller than Santa Catalina and offer different views. From here you can snap some good pictures from Plaza del Virgen before going down there yourself. All in all, I strongly urge you to visit the tower and the Cathedral of course.
Inside the Cathedral is the Holy Grail, and even many will argue on that aspect, I am not a historian and for me was just another bonus while visiting Valencia. A small tip for you: If you visit Valencia during the week you should know that on every Thursday at 12:00 near the Cathedral the water Council gathers and this is a thing that deserves to be seen.
I deeply regret missing it, even though I was 150 meters away. I missed it by a few minutes. Due to the fact that I did not know about this before seeing the setting near the Cathedral and started searching on the internet for it. A second small tip: While Plaza de la Virgen is beautiful during the day if I had to choose I would pick the option of seeing it at night.
This is one place where the public illumination serves the place right and the pictures taken here will look amazing.
Next stop, Parroquia de San Nicolas
While you might miss the building because of its small entrance, you will be impressed for sure by the interiors. This place has an amazing inside and I urge you to see it. I don’t usually take pictures in churches so you’ll have to look for pictures on the internet to form an idea. Entrance is 6 Euro and I think this is the most expensive ticket I paid in Valencia.
Small bonus again: Make your way to the Portal de la Valldigna after the Parroquia de San Nicolas. Not only is an important yet overlooked destination, but it can also really provide you with a great photo opportunity.
This historic landmark marked the separation of the Arab and Christian neighbourhoods and I think that if you’re into history you will appreciate this place.
And another small bonus: WHOA. I’m feeling like I am giving you much for your time spent reading the article. Head over to the House of Cats.
Now I know what you’re thinking. A house for cats? That’s not important. Well, putting aside your photo opportunity I must stress that this is a renowned sight on all Valencia hidden path suggestions. There is only a small walk between places so even if you don’t like it you won’t spend too much time getting there.
Torres de Serranos
Just a short walk from the House of Cats this is another short climb. Pay two Euro to gain access and enjoy the view. The photo opportunities here are great ranging from pictures of the two streets splitting near the arch, photographing the perfectly symmetrical stairs, people climbing the stairs, the flag above the tower and the perfect sky or waiting for an airplane (and there are many) to fly over the arch for a great photo.
One more bonus for you: Moorish Baths entrance. Even if you don’t want to enter this place, your girlfriend will love having her picture taken by that beautiful door.
I went alone so I can only help you with a picture of the door. No girl included. This place too is off the beaten routes, but people who are active on Instagram know this for a great photo opportunity.
Plaza de la Reina
Even though you visited this place earlier before going to the Cathedral, you can rest here now, and enjoy a truly great horchata. One more tip for you if time allows wonder the streets just a little bit and admire the exterior of the Museo de Ceramica. It is amazing. Really amazing. I didn’t enter the place but the outside is just fabulous.
It is time now to head on to the City of Sciences. If you’re pressed on time grab a cab or an Uber and catch the sunset there.
I think this is one of Valencia’s most known places, if not the most known, and is high on everybody’s list when visiting this city. Now comes the hard part. After finishing taking pictures at the City of Sciences you can go inside and visit some parts of the complex, or you can go for something else back in Valencia’s center.
If you’re pressed on time get a cab to Plaza del Ayuntamiento and climb the Viewpoint. Its last elevator climbs at 21:00 and from up there is a view that you will love. All this while drinking a glass of wine, a beer or, my favourite, Agua de Valencia.
If you’re not pressed on time go see the Plaza de la Virgen first, then end the day in style with a glass while watching Valencia’s most important Plaza. This here is my idea for spending a day in Valencia. Now depending on your style, fitness level, routine, etc. you could leave things out or even add more. Nonetheless, I think that this route is great and offers you the best of Valencia while being able to take amazing photos. To be honest I did not have many expectations regarding photography in Valencia but I was pleasantly surprised.
Being January and visiting during the week, it had so few tourists that I was able to take many clear pictures with no people in it. Or with just a few. A big difference from Barcelona which is crowded day and night, winter or summer. By all means if you can spend two days in Valencia, do it, but if one day is all you got then the route above is perfect. Another great point is that entrance fees are low with Paroquia de San Nicolas being the most expensive at about 6 euros. This way you can see all that Valencia has to offer without breaking the bank.
Being a complete article on Valencia it would be hard not to mention that the city can be a great hub for visiting other places. I for one opted for Cuenca, which is an amazing place that really deserves a visit if only for the hanging houses.
One good tip comes to mind here: with the exception of Malva Rosa and the City of Sciences which are further away, the rest of sights are very close to one another so you will not need transportation. However if you plan to use the Valencian transport keep the original card and recharge it. When you purchase the first card you will pay one Euro extra for it. Instead of paying one extra euro for each new trip/card, you take you can just recharge the original card with 1/2/3/4 or more trips as you need.
So, we came to an end. I am sure that one day I will return to Valencia. It is one of those places that once you visit, you never forget. And in times like these, a memory of Valencia is all I need to make me smile.
“My name is Stefan Panaitescu, I am 38 years old and I am from Bucharest, Romania.
I work in sustainability and corporate social responsibility and I love my job.
I am an avid traveler and in my spare time I run a travel blog and I try to get out as much as I can and shoot with my Fuji cameras.”