May 2, 2017

words + photos by Laura Iancu of Travelers Universe

My favorite places in Valencia

Valencia is an open, cheerful and cosmopolitan city where it is very easy to have a great time. It offers a great combination of urban culture, sunny days, fantastic beaches, and plenty of cool things to do. 

There are so many attractions in this city that making a list of best places is difficult. So instead, I am going to talk about my favorite places in Valencia. 

For the purpose of this article, I took my new HERO5 Black for a spin and used it as my main camera. I love photography, but carrying a heavy DSLR all the time can get old very fast. So I wanted to see if a tiny GoPro can also do the job.

1. The Serranos Towers (above)

The Torres de Serranos are one of the best-preserved monuments of the city and an icon of Valencia. These two imposing pentagonal cubes are close to Torres de Quart, the last two gates left standing out of the twelve protecting the ancient walled city of Valencia. You can climb to the highest spot to enjoy a spectacular panorama. Their awe-inspiring enormity and the elegance of the Gothic style are truly worth your time. 

GoPro Tip: Change up the default mode

The Hero5's one-touch capture mode is brilliant. When the camera's asleep, press the shutter button and not only will the camera be turned on, it will also automatically start recording. But for the purpose of my test I was not interested in video. Well, it turns out that you can change the default launch mode to whatever you like, you just need to know where to look.

Find the 'Preferences' tab by swiping down on the screen. Here you'll need to find the 'Default Mode' option and give it a press to reselect your standard capture mode of choice. You can change it to stills as your default launch mode. Of course, there are other options like timelapse, or burst photos, loop shots or the video with photo mode.

2. Valencia's Central Market

Whilst the prospect of wandering around a food market is not everyone's first choice of what to do whilst on holiday, the historic Central Market of Valencia is quite unique and well worth a visit. It is one of the oldest running food markets in Europe, although the building itself was constructed in the beginning of the XX century, in genuine Valencian style, with lots of colors, ceramics, and mosaics.  

Not only is it a great modernist building to admire, it is also somewhere where visitors get a closer insight into the daily life of the locals. 

The market itself is divided into sections, such as fish, meat, and fruit. There are some really interesting stalls here and you may find traditional meat products which are still popular here but not in northern parts of Europe. 

GoPro Tip: Choose your light

Probably you have heard all about catching the blue hour or the golden hour when shooting. However, when we are on holiday, we sometimes like to sleep late, or we simply cannot be in every place at a certain time of the day. We also have limited days to shoot our pics. On top of that, we love to be out during the day when it is warm and sunny. 

The GoPro handles harsh, really sunny midday light pretty well. So don't shy away from taking pics during bright sunny days. However, try shooting in RAW so you can lighten up the shadows and tame down the bright spots while editing. Hero5 Black also has a WDR setting to help balance things out.    

3. Plaza de la Virgen 

Plaza de la Virgen is seen by many as the ultimate impression of the traditional Valencia of the past centuries. Plaza de la Virgin used to be the main square of Valencia, right from the Roman origins.

It is still a very active place, with most of the city traditional events taking place here. 

The Plaza breathes with history, hosting three buildings of huge importance to the Valencians: the Cathedral (with the Gothic portal of the Apostles, where the Water Court meets every Thursday), the Basilica de Virgen de Los Desamparados (one of the first Baroque buildings in Spain and constructed in traditional Spanish style with a blue tiled dome), the Palau de la Generalitat (the seat of the Valencian government). 

It's a great place to hang out, with plenty of places to eat and try a good Valencian paella.

GoPro Tip: Tweak the field of view

GoPro footage has a distinct look thanks in large to its super-wide angle lens. While this is great for fitting everything in your shot, especially when you are taking pics of landscapes, but it can also distort buildings and people close to the camera. The best thing about shooting with the HERO5 Black is that it has a number of field of view shooting options. It lets you get closer to your subject. For this, you can switch to the Linear option. 

4. The old Turia riverbed

The old Turia riverbed is another jewel of Valencia that shouldn't be missed.

At one time, a wide river cut the city in two in the same way as the Danube separates Budapest or the Thames separates London.

The Turia River, which starts way up in the surrounding mountains, ran in the middle of the city and out towards the sea, but in the mid 50's during a big storm, the river flooded the center of Valencia.

Later a plan was created during the massive clean-up to divert the river from its present course and so it was re-routed outside the city to ensure that this kind of flooding never happened again. The upside is that this project created a beautiful park right in the center of the city.

GoPro Tip: Get close. The GoPro has a wide field of view which makes things look small. Getting close helps your subject stand out. Take a number of photos, each time getting closer to your subject. This will help you get a feel for how close you need to be. Things remain in focus as close as 12 inches. So don't be afraid to get close and fill the frame.    

5. The City of Arts and Sciences

The City of Arts and Sciences is a huge futuristic educational complex designed by the famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, as a present to his home city. Calatrava's vision is that of the space age, inspired by the sea.

The City of Arts contains 6 distinct buildings:

  • L'Hemisferic was designed to look like a giant human eye. It offers, among other things, a 3D panoramic cinema.
  • The Prince Philip Science Museum has a program of changing exhibits at various times of the year and you don't have to be a science fan to enjoy it. 
  • L'Umbracle, which is completely free and is a landscaped walk of plants native to the area and various artistic and thought-provoking sculptures.
  • L'Oceanogràfic offers dolphin shows and the largest glass water tunnel in Europe.
  • El Palau de Les Arts Reina Sofía is an impressive looking opera house and theater. 
  • L'Àgora is a covered exhibition space and sports arena with the shape of an ellipse. 

GoPro Tip: Save battery

By now, I have walked a lot of hours taking pics with my GoPro, so I have to keep an eye at my battery levels. There are a couple of things you can do to extend the life of the camera's battery.

You swipe down to Preferences and look for the 'Auto Off' option. Change how long your camera will idle along unused before automatically turning off to save power. You can change it from 15 minutes to 5 mins.

Here you can also turn GPS off, reduce screen brightness and even reduce the time the screen stays on. 


About the Author
Laura Iancu is a full-time travel blogger passionate about photography. She has a background in psychology, a knack for packing light and a soft spot for cats. For more inspiration, you can read her article 32 things to do in Valencia.