Spain’s third-largest city has long been overshadowed by Barcelona, despite sharing similar characteristics: miles of velvety sand beaches along the country’s east coast, a vibrant cultural scene and a rich gastronomic tradition (Valencia is considered the birthplace of paella). But Valencia, which was named the European Commission’s “green capital” for 2024 — an award that recognizes cities for their environmental efforts — stands apart for travelers seeking more sustainably minded, less crowded destinations. The city has been revitalizing its historic center with leafier, pedestrian-only spaces, most recently with Plaza de la Reina, its lively public square, and is on track to be climate-neutral by 2030.
Valencia’s cultural landscape has also received a major boost with the Hortensia Herrero Art Center. Opened in November in the restored Valeriola Palace, the space houses the Spanish billionaire Hortensia Herrero’s private contemporary-art collection and includes more than 100 works by artists like Anish Kapoor, Andreas Gursky and Mat Collishaw.
— Vivian Song