We love living in the city but I must admit that, now and again, it is nice to escape the noise and the crowds and get back to nature. Fortunately, here in Valencia we can immerse ourselves among the trees, lakes, flora and fauna only a few blocks away in the Jardin del Turia.
The Jardin del Turia (Turia Garden) is a nine-kilometer linear green space that runs through the city. Affectionately referred to as “El Rio” by locals, the park was built on the former riverbed of the Turia river, which was diverted to the south of the city after a devastating flood in 1957. Separate paths designated for pedestrians, runners, or bikes pass through wooded areas and manicured gardens.
Throughout the park you will find fountains, sculptures, playgrounds, dog parks, skate parks, athletic fields and sport facilities of all kinds. Monuments and museums of the city line the edges of the riverbed and 18 bridges of historic or architectural significance span the park. Thanks to these bridges over the former river, the park is uninterrupted. It is possible to descend into the park and walk the length without needing to cross a street.Best of all (from our point of view) there are small cafes and bars distributed along the length to get a drink, lunch, or just a snack without ever leaving the park. You can count on the Spanish to make sure that food and drink are never far away. In most cases this is not gourmet fare – most often you will find tapas, beer, wine, and limited cocktails – but on occasion you will find more extensive menus that even include paella.
These cafes may or may not have posted business hours but as with most places we go in Spain, these hours of operation are more like guidelines and hence not always followed. Do not be surprised if you find a couple of them to be closed at any given time. Most of these cafes have toilets available, which is important to know on a long walk. I recommend bringing your own paper and hand sanitizer. This is good advice no matter where you go in Spain. Also important – be prepared to pay in cash as most of these bars do not accept credit cards.
The Jardin del Turia is a great respite from the city and can provide many different escapes, from walking and jogging to biking and skating, and even watching a game. Or our favorite – a food and wine crawl. Although I admit it would be quite a challenge to do the entire park in one go, it is nice to be able to tick off a few kilometers at a time. Who knows, with practice and hard work perhaps some day we can tackle the whole nine yards ☺
We’ve walked the park from end to end and noted almost a dozen bars and cafes. We will take you through the park from West to East (starting inland and heading downstream toward the Mediterranean).
1. Deleita Cafeteria at Cabecera Park
At the most western end of the park, the Jardin del Turia begins next to the Bioparc, a unique outdoor zoo where visitors are immersed in the habitat of a large collection of African animals. The Bioparc sits within the Parque de Cabecera (Cabecera Park). This section of the river bed was transformed into a wide open space with a lake and small streams. There is a cafe facing the lake called the Deleita Cafetería, with comfortable seats where you can grab a beer or glass of wine and a bite to eat (including paella) while watching people paddle around the lake on duck boats.
2. Chiringuito Polideportivo
This cafe sits next to the Estadi del Turia, a municipal athletic center with soccer stadium, athletic track, and weightlifting gym. The stadium is open everyday.The Chiringuito Polideportivo has shady tables next to a quiet rose garden on one side and tables in the sun on the other. They have a list of tapas including fried calamari, croquetas, patatas bravas, and tortilla de patata for €4.50 each. They even have a menu del dia with paella.
Continuing through this section of the park there are wide open spaces with courts for petanque (a French version of lawn bowling) and outdoor gyms if you need a quick workout.
3. La Masia de Los Jardineros
La Masia de Los Jardineros is not listed on Google Maps. A good landmark to find this cute little restaurant is the NH hotel on the north river bank. The covered terrace provides a shady spot for lunch and there is a small playground nearby for the kids. They have a menu del dia with paella or fideua, with salad and drink for €11. They are open 10AM – 8PM Tuesday through Sunday, closed Monday.
Continuing east, there is a nice dog park under the Pont de les Arts bridge if you have a canine buddy that needs some off-leash play time. We’ve seen several of these dog parks installed recently in the park.
4. Campo de Béisbol
A Dodgers baseball field in Valencia? This is actually the Municipal Field of Baseball and Softball and home of the local Astros baseball club of Valencia. In 2014, this facility was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers as the headquarters of the first professional baseball academy in Europe to be sponsored by a Major League team. Hence, the Dodgers sign. There is a cafeteria and sports bar inside the field that I suspect is only open during games. Maybe you’ll get lucky!
Continue along the park and to your right you will see the Torres de Serranos, one of the original entrances into the walled city, as you pass under the beautiful Pont de Serrans bridge.A little further ahead, you will see the blue tiled dome of the Museo de Bellas Artes on the left. This is your landmark to find the underpass that cuts under the highway and into the Jardines del Real (Viveros).
5. Kiosko Bar at Jardines del Real
The Jardines del Real (also called Viveros Gardens) is a historic garden dating back to Muslim rule in Valencia. It is filled with sculptures, monuments, botanical specimens, and the ruins of the Royal Palace. There are wild parrots living in the trees and a small exotic bird aviary as well. The Museo de Ciencies Naturals resides inside the garden in a building that used to be a grand restaurant.
There is now a Kiosko Bar in front of the museum. You will see these municipal kiosko bars located throughout Valencia. There are two in the Jardines de Turia (we’ll get to them later) where the exact same menu is served. The food offered in these Kiosko Bars is pretty basic tapas but you can get a reasonable plate of jamon and a glass of wine in a beautiful setting. I love that the city actually cares that we are able to eat and drink in public spaces.
6. Cafe at Soccer Field
Next to the Pont de L’Exposicio, there is a small bar next to the soccer field. They serve bocadillos (sandwiches) and beverages. The sign says they are open daily, Monday – Friday 3:00 to 8:00 and 7:00AM to 7:00PM. If you are into football (European style), and are lucky enough to catch a match underway (almost always on the weekend), this is a great place to hang out, have a beverage and a snack, and take in the sport. There will be a lot of locals on hand to cheer on the teams.
7. Bar bajo el puente de Calatrava
Tucked in the trees next to the Pont de L’Exposicio, also called the Puente Calatrava, is another municipal kiosko bar. This is a pleasant spot to relax and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings under some beautiful shade trees. (See number 5 above for menu details.)
Continue along the park passing under the Puente de las Flores, a bridge covered year round with blooming flowers (27,000 flower pots!) and you enter a beautiful section of the park. The 16th century Puente del Mar has been closed to traffic since the 30’s and is now a pedestrian bridge over a serene water feature surrounded by palms.
8. Jardines de Palau Restaurante
The Jardines de Palau restaurant is located to the right under the Palau De La Musica. They have a beautiful and secluded terrace at the edge of the park where we would love to have lunch. Unfortunately, we have been there three times with the intention of eating, only to find them closed for special events or holidays. We’ll keep trying! Their posted hours are here on their Facebook page. They should be open for breakfast and lunch daily and dinner Thursday through Saturday evenings. If we are ever fortunate enough to catch them open, we will provide you more details on the food service.
9. Cafeteria Gulliver
This section of the park is bustling with activity for families – with or without kids. It is named for the Parque Gulliver, just north of the cafeteria. In this unique playground, a giant figure of Gulliver lies tied to the ground while children climb and slide around his body, much like the tiny people that captured him in Jonathan Swift’s classic book “Gullivers Travels”.
The Cafeteria Gulliver serves up your basic kid-friendly tapas. We recently enjoyed some fried calamari, patatas bravas, and a couple of glasses of vino blanco under the blossoming trees. They also have really good ice cream. I guess you could say this place is great for all kids, big and small! There is a mini-golf course just next door and a skatepark nearby.
10. Terraza El Mirador
The Terraza El Mirador is another municipal kiosko bar with a prime spot. It sits across from the lovely Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia Opera house. The menus are the same as the other kiosko bars in the park. (see number 5 above for menu details.) There are a couple of high tables tucked under some large trees just on the edge of a water feature. Sitting there in the shade with a glass of vino blanco, next to the water, musing over the contemporary opera house, makes for a inspiring delight.
11. Contrapunto Les Arts
The far end of the park brings us to the beginning of the Ciutat De Les Arts y Les Ciencies (City of Arts and Sciences). The first building that you come to is the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia Opera House. Contrapunto Les Arts is tucked under the front of the opera house on the ground level terrace.What a spectacular location! In nice weather, the terrace is the perfect spot for some small plates and wine to enjoy the scenery. Unlike the other bars in the park, this is a fine dining restaurant. Here you can expect creative Mediterranean fusion cuisine like this Rollito Bonito, thinly sliced avocado filled with raw bonito and Japanese spices. The smoked butterfish sashimi with truffle was also deeply flavored and luxurious. A glass of local Utiel-Requena vino blanco was the perfect companion. A great end to a great day.
Okay, now go take a hike!