Valencia is a great place to cycle. It’s pretty flat, the roads are relatively quiet (especially the back streets), there’s a network of segregated cycle paths and pedestrians seem happy enough to share the pavements with cyclists. Plus, you can hire a bike for around £6 a day.
We hired bikes on our second full day in the city. This was so we could cycle down to L’Oceanografic (oceanarium), which is part of the City of Arts and Sciences complex near the port.
Cycling was probably the most convenient way of getting to the oceanarium because it was a bit too far to walk in the 35C heat and it’s quite a way from the nearest Metro station. (The bus was another option, but I struggle with buses in unfamiliar cities because I’ve never quite sure where to get off!)
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The best thing about the journey by bike to the oceanarium from the old town that it’s traffic free once you’ve picked up one of the two cycle paths than run the length of the Jardin del Turia – the park on the dried-out bed of the Turia river, which was diverted south of the city between 1964 and 1973.
Like with London’s “Boris Bike” scheme, you can hire cycles from stands in the street in Valencia. However, this seems to be more geared to locals as it requires you set up an account and pay a set fee in addition to paying for the time you’re using a bike. A better option is to hire a bike from one of the tens of bike hire shops that are dotted around town, some of which can deliver bikes to hotels and pick them up afterwards.
We hired ours from a shop called “The Easy Way” near the Central Market, leaving a driving licence for security, rather than a cash deposit. The five-speed hybrid bikes we hired wouldn’t win you the Tour of Spain, but they were perfectly adequate for our needs. Each had a basket for stowing away our rucksack and water bottles, plus a strong lock and basic front and rear lights for cycling after dark. The cost was €9 per cycle for 24 hours use. Helmets were available, too.
After the shop assistant gave us quick demo on how to lock up the bikes securely – the back wheels are a particular target for thieves apparently – we headed north-east, in the general direction of the Torres de Serranos – one of 12 gates of the medieval city walls. With no particular route in mind, we groped our way through the narrow streets that skirt the cathedral, stopping at the beautiful fountains in the Plaza de la Virgin for a photo before continuing past the police station and onto the cobbled Carrer dels Serrans, which leads out past the towers of the city gates.
When we reached the former river, we took one of many access slopes that take you down from road level into the park and decided to go north for a bit of an explore before we made our way to our destination at the southern end of the park. As you’d expect for a park on a dried-out riverbed, the Jardin del Turia is a rare experience. Many bridges still cross the “river”, and, because it sits a few metres below ground level, the park feels remarkably calm despite it snaking through some of the busiest parts of the city.
It goes without saying that the park is completely flat so it’s great for cycling and running. There’s also space for other facilities and attractions – we passed football pitches, an athletics track, ornamental ponds, play areas, a small rugby stadium, a baseball ground and various cafes.
After a short jaunt north, we turned back and took the cycle path on the opposite side of the park to cycle the three miles or so down to the City of Arts and Sciences. The cycle and pedestrian paths are segregated and there’s plenty of opportunity to cycle two-abreast if you give way to people coming the opposite way. Because of the bridges and the many trees in the park, it was quite shady. This, coupled with the breeze we generated when we picked up some speed, made it a pleasant ride despite it being the hottest part of the day.
Soon, the modern buildings of the City of Arts and Sciences came into view. We cycled along the concrete ponds that surround the main part of the complex and picked up a road at the end of the park for a short while to get to the entrance to the oceanarium. We had no issues finding a space on the many cycle stands to lock our bikes up.
We then spent a few hours looking through the 10 areas of the oceanarium, culminating with watching an impressive dolphin show at the end of the afternoon (although I’m still not sure what I think about keeping dolphins in captivity). After that, we unlocked our bikes and made our way back through the park and then back through the streets of the old town to drop them off at the hire shop. We still had more than 12 hours left to enjoy our bikes – and the shop assistant almost pleaded with us to bring them back tomorrow – but we decided to drop them off anyway.
Then we wearily made our way back to the hotel for a siesta before some evening tapas.
What impressed me most about cycling in Valencia was how tolerant motorists, pedestrians and cyclists are to each other. Everyone seemed to give way, and pedestrians didn’t seem at all bothered by people cycling on the pavement or through the squares, probably because cyclists were careful not to cycle to fast or too close to walkers. In all, it’s a great place to get on your bike!
Info: The Easy Way has two shops. One is at C/ Mantas, 3, 46001, Valencia (near the Central Market) and the other is at C/ Corregería, 4, 46001, Valencia (near the north train station). L ‘Oceanografic is at C/ Eduardo Primo Yúfera, 1, 46013, Valencia. Entry is €27.90 for adults.