Advice sought for travel to Spain
August 21, 2017 4:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm travelling to Spain (Barcelona/Valencia/Oliva) for the first time from Canada from Sep 5 thru Nov 29. Looking for advice for things to do on those dates as well as info on how best to handle getting a SIM card for an Android phone (Note 5). Specifics on the More Inside. Any advice appreciated!

I'll be in Barcelona from Sep 5 - 8, Valencia from Sep 8 - 10, and Oliva for the remainder of the trip (house sitting).

I'd love neighborhood advice for Barcelona and Valencia as I'll be AirBnB'ing. I already have a place for Oliva. Advice on getting from Barcelona to Valencia to Oliva would also be helpful.

And, what to do about phone SIM--hopefully advice for something I can get easily in Barcelona that will be good for the full trip. My Canadian provider does not have roaming options for Europe.

Thank you!
posted by dobbs to Travel & Transportation around Spain (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
For Valencia:

Barrio del Carmen is awesome-right in the old town and near a bunch of great bars.
Definitely go to the Mercado Central and buy some dried mango. Look at the fresh fish!
-La Lonja is a silk trade hall from the 1400s. Very cool, unique architecture, including big twisting columns and a starry ceiling.
-Plaza de la Reina and the cathedral are on every postcard! Definitely go look at the arm of St. Vincent Martir in the church.
-The train station is covered in beautiful carvings of oranges and birds. It's also near the bull ring.
-Fairly close to that is La Plaza de Ayuntamiento, where every Fallas they do the mascleta. (Fallas is a big statue-burning festival, "mascleta" is when they fire off big loud fireworks daily for ~a month to celebrate).
-Go walking in the park in the old riverbed of the Turia. Walk over Pont de les Flors to see some pretty flowers.
-Go to the beach and have paella! The traditional Valecian version is the one with rabbit and meat, but the seafood one is tasty.
-There is a good, clean metro system, but it does not run late (past 11, when a lot of spanish bars open). Buses are good too.
-The soccer stadium is outside the old city but very near a metro stop. It's very fun to watch a game.
-El Museo de Bella Artes is good. You should go see la Ciudad de las Artes y Sciencias but the aquarium was only fine (not worth the time IMO). I didn't go in the other buildings. If you speak Spanish, it's out of the way but El Museo de la Historia de Valencia is pretty darn cool. Small, but interesting. (Just checked their website- looks like they may have English translations now!)
-Horchata also originated in Valencia. So did "Agua de Valencia"-> orange juice + rum and champange and a bunch of other liquors. I liked that better than horchata!

There is a train from Barcelona -> Valencia that takes ~3 hours. You can take a bus for less and that takes more like 4.5. Valencia is full of people who speak Spanish and Catalan (call it Valenciano when you're there, this can be touchy) but not many people who speak English. Most things will be written in Spanish and Valenciano. People are pretty nice though and the ones who can speak English will help you out if they see you struggling.

Blanket warning for Spain: restaurants really do open late. Early is like 8pm. Prepare with snacks or a late lunch :)

Have fun!
posted by clarinet at 5:37 PM on August 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


I was in Spain in December for two weeks (in Barcelona/Valencia/Madrid and used an Orange pre-paid plan the whole time. I just researched an orange store that was near my hotel so I could walk over and get a SIM, which took maybe 5 minutes with my iPhone.

Looks like they have some sort of prepaid plan now for 20 euros for 7 gb and 80 minutes that you can just top up whenever you want at an orange store (I needed to do it once and they did for me in a minute or two).
posted by jourman2 at 5:41 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Does your flight have a stopover in Monteal? if so, don't buy any duty-free booze in the airport in spain, because it ends up being a major hassle when you are trying to make your connecting flight. This happened to me, and my parents who were flying a week later, and some other friends of theirs. not worth the trouble!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:34 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


+1 for Plaza de la Reina and the cathedral, i only had an hour while there and it was a wise choice. A must see.
posted by jenjen23 at 3:29 AM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


I can confirm that the Orange experience is pretty seamless - I was able to get it activated in the airport (the store sells you the card, you pop it in, punch a few numbers in and boom - you have a new number/data.) We topped data up once online. Could not have been easier.
posted by notorious medium at 6:59 AM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


In Valencia, try to find a place with freshly made horchata. The Latin American version of horchata is getting more famous lately in the USA, but Valencian horchata is made with chufa (tiger walnuts), not rice milk.

For transportation between Valencia and Oliva, ALSA is a bus company that covers that route.

Blanket warning for Spain: restaurants really do open late. Early is like 8pm. Prepare with snacks or a late lunch :)

Lunch hour is between 13:30 and 15:00, dinner from 21h onwards, and lunch is the heaviest meal of the day, but if you feel peckish just go to a bar and ask for a bocadillo or tapas or chocolate/café con churros.
posted by sukeban at 11:27 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


Thank you to everyone who answered so far.

I'm flying direct to Barcelona from Toronto so no plane advice sought. :) Thanks!
posted by dobbs at 6:16 AM on August 23, 2017


PM me if you have Barcelona specific questions, I live here.
posted by conifer at 12:24 PM on August 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm curious about the train from Barcelona to Valencia and the bus from Valencia to Oliva.

Are these things that I need to book in advance and worry about getting a ticket or are they plentiful enough that I can just show up at a station and purchase a ticket?

There seem to be multiple web sites selling tickets but I can't tell if they're all different trains or trainlines or if they're just different vendors all selling tickets for the same train.

If it's multiple trains/lines, is there a preferred one?

Could anyone clarify? Thanks.
posted by dobbs at 4:36 PM on August 24, 2017


There seem to be multiple web sites selling tickets but I can't tell if they're all different trains or trainlines or if they're just different vendors all selling tickets for the same train.

For nation-wide trains there's just Renfe, it's a state-owned company. There are plenty of bus companies, though.

Are these things that I need to book in advance and worry about getting a ticket or are they plentiful enough that I can just show up at a station and purchase a ticket?

At least for medium and long distance train tickets it's better to buy a few weeks in advance because the prices are cheaper. You can definitely buy commuter train tickets (in Barcelona they're the Rodalies, in Valencia CercanĂ­as, all are managed by Renfe) at the train station, and for buses I guess it depends on the route but it's generally better to buy in advance.

If it's multiple trains/lines, is there a preferred one?

The route between BCN and Valencia has no AVE yet, and is served by midrange train services like Euromed and Talgo (the fastest trains before AVE was built). Just pick a train that covers the route in 3-4 hours, not 5-6, those are regional lines that stop in every station.
posted by sukeban at 10:35 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


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