With almost a million inhabitants and over 300 sunny days a year, Valencia, the capital of the Turia River, has become one of the most sought-after destinations in Spain.
Over the years, the city has stood out from other European cities for its tourism innovation, having won four city awards. And now with Valencia becoming the host city for the 2026 Gay Games, its popularity is expected to rise even more.
Following years of development, Valencia is today, without a doubt, one of Spain’s most in-demand and popular destinations.
In the past few years, it has received some incredible accolades, including the European Green Capital Award 2024, World Design Capital 2022, European Capital of Smart Tourism 2022 and World Capital of Sustainable Food 2017.
Valencia is also set to become a household name for LGBTQ+ tourism, as it will host the Gay Games in 2026, arguably the world’s most significant LGBT sporting event (which I was once an ambassador for).
With over 15,000 participating athletes, several hundred thousand visitors, and yielding around €120 million, after the Gay Games, Valencia is sure to become even more in demand.
Often, there’s one important thing we LGBTQ+ folk tend to check before travelling: the laws and culture surrounding tolerance, discrimination, safety and equality. Fortunately, Valencia is one of the safest cities in Europe for LGBTQ+ people and the region has some of the most advanced anti-discrimination and equality protection laws.
There are long-standing LGBTQ+ activists in the region that work together with public administrations so that the community can live freely and feel safe.
It’s also worth mentioning that, for two consecutive years, the Expat Insider has chosen Valencia as the world’s best city to live in. The selection was based on surveys carried out by expats who moved to the Valencian capital to start a new life. As an expat here myself, I vouch for this too!
Valencia has good travel connections with the rest of the world: Valencia Airport (VLC) has more than 74 flight routes and 25 serving airlines. It is only 15 minutes from the city centre and is easily accessible by metro or taxi (the latter at an approximate cost of €13).
In the city centre you will find two beautiful train stations, the Valencia Nord station (for conventional trains) and the Valencia Joaquín Sorolla station (for high-speed trains). If your flight is to Madrid, you can get to Valencia in about 1.5 hours for approximately €20, depending on the company.
Valencia’s main bus station is situated by Turia Gardens, and serves a number of national and international destinations.
Valencia is one of the world’s oldest cities, boasting over 2000 years of history and, with that, an eclectic range of architecture. From the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, to the wonders of the historic centre of El Carmen, such as the Torres de Serranos or the Torres de Quart, there is so much to see.
A large part of the historic centre is protected (there’s even a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Lonja de la Seda), so you can expect plenty of breathtaking attractions as you wander around the city streets. And be sure not to miss the Central Market, one of the most beautiful markets in the world, selling fresh, locally-grown food produce.
If you’re a museum buff, check out the Ceramics Museum, a historical treasure also situated in the city centre.
And if the weather is nice, check out the Turia Gardens, an old riverbed that was transformed into a large green space, and is the largest linear park in Europe.
There are a wide variety of sports and cultural activities along the old river, including a large sports centre where two of the city’s main LGBTIQ+ clubs train, Samarucs and Dracs.
Valencia is also known as the running capital of Spain for its many jogging routes: here you can enjoy numerous trails and tracks of varying distances for your daily run.
If you’re planning a trip to Valencia, make time to try all the local delicacies and specialties: Valencian paella, arroz a banda, and fideuá, just to name a few. There are tons of excellent and exquisite restaurants to go to. Some of my favourites are: La Riuá, El Forcat, La Ferradura and, if you feel like a longer walk, El Palmar, about 7km away (this one is in an important rice cultivating area).
You should also try horchata, a typical local drink prepared with a type of root tuber called tiger nut; I can highly recommend the horchatería Santa Catalina in the historic centre.
And if you feel like something a little louder and wilder, you should get dinner at the legendary Turangalila restaurant, which hosts an extravagant and highly entertaining drag show.
Valencia has 19 kilometres of beach, and the whole area boasts an average temperature of 20°C, with a wide variety of seasonal, outdoor activities. It’s worth pointing out that these beaches, and indeed the whole capital city, have a huge LGBTQ+ presence: diversity is the essence of Valencia.
Valencia has three main natural beaches that are open to the public. The first, largest beach is Pinedo, which is mostly frequented by locals.
A little further on you’ll find El Saler, a beach that is a little quieter, with more couple vibes, for those who are after some calm away from the big summer crowds.
Towards the end of the stretch, but still inside the Albufera Natural Park, there is Devesa, a popular beach amongst tourists.
You can also stay around the city centre and visit some of the urban beaches like Malvarrosa or Patacona.
There are four LGBTIQ+ areas in the city, about a 15-minute walk from each other. One is Russafa, which offers a wide variety of bars like Comic, La Boba and El Gato Rancio, and Casa Pepe. There are also a great number of nightclubs here, such as Barberbirborbur, Piccadilly, Planet Lesbian, The Rampel, Flash, XL, Owen, and Latex, among others.
The historic centre has a whole host of old-timer cafés and bars in what was formerly considered the LGBTQ+ neighbourhood of the city. Despite their ever-changing surroundings, these cafés have continued to thrive. Among the best known and popular are the Café de las Horas (you must try their Valencian “water”, a typical cocktail of the city), the Trapezzio, Bubu and El Cafetín.
For those in search of a little extra fun around the Extramurs area, there are well known cruising bars NuncaDigoNo, Cross, the Homens sauna, and Olimpic, as well as two well-known after-party clubs, La Matina and Fetish.
Every Tuesday, the MUVIM museum hosts an entertaining, café theatre-style show called Colors al Cercle, where drag actress Liz Dust talks various LGBTIQ+ topics.
Pride is celebrated on the last weekend of June and, over the years, has become one of the most popular pride events in Spain. Organised by the Colectiu Lambda, it also provides different advisory services to the LGBTQ+ community.
But if there is something this city is famous for internationally, it’s Las Fallas: a 19-day party. Yep, you heard that right. 19 days of festivities which sees around a million people visit the city every day, bursting with vibrant displays of art, culture and fireworks.
And the capital also has two pioneering, internationally recognised animal conservation spaces that are well worth a visit: the Oceanogràfic and the Bioparc.
The city has a wide range of accommodation options. The most popular LGBTQ+ hotels, which come highly recommended by many friends who have come to the city are: hotel chain Ilunion Valencia which is Proud certified (promising a more inclusive LGBTQ+ experience), hotel chain SH Valencia Palace and, of course, the Meliá hotels, such as Valencia Oceanic Affiliated By Meliá and the Meliá Valencia.
Every year, the Club Esportiu LGBTQ+ Samarucs organises Spain’s largest multi-sports championship, Els Jocs Taronja, with thousands of athletes from the community coming to Valencia for a whole 3-day weekend of competitions, fun and entertainment!