Why Valencia Is the Unassuming Front-Runner in Spain’s Wellness Scene

Stocksy/Michela Ravasio

Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, boasts wide Mediterranean beaches, a laid-back vibe, and more than 300 sunshine-filled days each year. Sound good? It gets better: The "City of Joy," as it's known, is increasingly becoming a hotbed for the wellness crowd, too. 

According to Dany van der Veen and Thijs Rietveld, co-owners of the Valencia Mindfulness Retreat, a B&B in the heart of the city's historical district, qualified yoga teachers and massage therapists were hard to find when they arrived in the city 10 years ago. That's no longer the case. Most significant for the health-conscious crowd? There are now 20 vegetarian restaurants compared to two, for example, and every neighborhood has a diverse range of yoga studios, they say.

The city itself is focused on health and the outdoors, as well. In the middle of the metropolis is Turia Gardens, a massive urban park built over a former river that ran through the city and has since been diverted. The lush green space is beloved by residents and marveled at by tourists. There are palm and orange trees, rose gardens, ball fields, and much more. Valencia is also home to an enviable network of bike paths, as well as spectacular mountains and natural swimming holes just under an hour away.

The sense of community here is strong, too—show your face enough times and the locals may even remember your name.

The sense of community here is strong, too—show your face enough times and the locals may even remember your name.

More than six million people visited Valencia between January and September last year, and that number is only expected to grow as word spreads. In response, experiences healthy travelers crave—from fitness to organic food to specialty coffee and beer—are popping up everywhere. 

Keep reading for some healthy recs for what to do next time you find yourself in Valencia.

Valencia, Spain wellness travel guide
Stocksy/Mauro Grigollo

Stay. Sleep. Recharge.

Valencia Mindfulness Retreat: Opened by van der Veen and Rietveld a couple of years ago right in the heart of the city, guests can enjoy a yoga class on-site or in the park; both private and communal Hatha, Ashtanga, and Power yoga classes are available. van der Veen and Rietveld also offer a guided meditation every day between 8 and 9 p.m. that's free for all guests. 

Caro Hotel: This 26-room boutique hotel is housed in a former palace (yes, seriously), right in the heart of Valencia’s old town. Book the Wall Room, which features a preserved small section of the original 12th century city structure.

Valencia, Spain wellness travel guide
Stocksy/Marti Sans

Taste. Savor. Refuel.

Make time for the markets: The produce and food markets in Valencia are not to be missed. The Mercado Central, with more than 25,000-square-feet and two floors to explore, is one of the largest in Europe. The nouveau architecture itself is stunning, and the stalls offer an amazingly wide range of fresh produce, coffees, deli goods, and much more.

In the nearby hipster neighborhood of Ruzafa, the multi-colored, Mediterranean, brutalist-style market building dates back to 1957 and is also full of incredible food stalls. Don't miss the speciality coffee by Alfredo at Coffee Time Artisan Roasters, the organic produce stalls, the Mexican stand run by a delightful Spanish/Mexican couple, and the Japanese one with products imported from directly from the Asian island. There are also organic food stores on almost every corner; the best is L’hortet.

Restaurant suggestions run the gamut: For avocado toast and healthy salads, head to Bluebell; for vegetarian and vegan options try Mood Food and Biorestaurant KI; for Japanese visit Nozomi, and for Mediterranean-style healthy food hit up La Mas Bonita, which is situated in a Formentera-style house on the beach. A must-visit in Ruzafa is the century-old sourdough bakery Horno San Bartolomé. Jesús Machí’s sourdough bread is the real deal and fermented for 18 to 20 hours.

And last of all, you can’t visit Valencia and not try its most famous dish: paella. To experience a truly authentic version, travel 30 minutes south to the little town of El Palmar, right by the Albufera Natural Park, where you'll be surrounded by rice paddy fields. In this sleepy corner of Valencia, you'll find some of the best versions of the Spanish national dish.


Yoga class
Photo: Stocksy/Cara Dolan

Sweat. Meditate. Repeat.

In the centre of the city there are two very good Bikram Yoga studios: Bikram La Finca Roja and Bikram Yoga Valencia. Yoga Flow in Ruzafa is also recommended—take owner Angela’s very challenging Vinayasa class or Sue’s Hatha Vinyasa flow.

If you feel like a little drive, head south to the wetlands of Albufera National Park for a relaxing boat ride or hike, or head north to Ontinyent—the source of the Clariano River—where you can visit Els Pous Clars (the clear pools), a stunning spot filled with limestone rocks and natural swimming holes. In the Bolbaite area southeast of Valencia, there is another beautiful natural bathing spot to be found by the Sellent River crossing.

And just one hour south of the city is the small pueblo town of Chulilla, a beautiful place in a valley surrounded by mountains. The large limestone canyon, with more than 800 rock climbing routes, is located at the source of the Turia River. The best time to visit is in the fall, when wild pomegranates and figs are in season—and ripe for the picking. 

Craving more? Check out this must-visit destination for some high-vibe travels. Or, book your spot at our first-ever Well+Good Retreat in Palm Springs this March. Email experiences@www.wellandgood.com to get on board.

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