El Cabanyal

On a warm and sunny Sunday we decided it was time to figure out the Valencian bus system and head to the El Cabanyal area of the city, about 20 minutes from the core. There we explored the beautiful Platja del Cabanyal beach and the historic fisherman’s quarter tucked in behind it.

Marina Area

After we got off the bus, it was a short walk to the marina area, which is a nicely maintained mix of boardwalks, repurposed warehouse buildings, yachts, and even a ferris wheel.

Shipping Cranes

Only in the distance was there a glimpse of what appeared to be a working area of the port, with cranes for loading and unloading ships.

The road from the marina to the beach was lined with palms, with separate lanes for cars, bikes and pedestrians.

The El Cabanyal beach is only the first of several along a stretch of sand that goes for several kilometers. The beach is surprisingly wide. Behind it, there’s a long pedestrian road lined with restaurants, hotels and shops.

I was astonished at how busy it was in January, having foolishly thought that Spaniards would wait until summer to enjoy their beaches. Nope. Nobody was swimming, but crowds of people were doing what we were there to do: wandering and eating.

Along the way we passed this guy, who (presumably) had built this rather impressive sandcastle. I put a euro coin on his collection plate so we could take a few photos of it.

Castle made of sand

After that, we cut down into the sand itself and headed for the water.

Playground in the sand
Excited Canadian shadows

The part of the Mediterranean off the coast of Valencia is technically known as the Balearic Sea. 185km off the shore is the island of Ibiza. Many miles further are the shores of Algeria.

I decided to take off my boots and roll up my pants and take a walk in the surf. The water was not exactly warm, but it was tolerable for a short stroll. The sand on the beach is beautiful and soft, and the the sun felt much hotter than the 16C on the thermometer — I wished I’d worn a lighter coat!


Josie did notice quite a few small chunks of plastic mixed in with the seashells in the sand. The last time I was on a beach I’d not heard of “microplastics” but now they are hard to miss. There were also many small fuzzy round balls in the sand, we’re not sure if they are some sort of sea urchin or a plant or something else entirely.

Unidentified Fuzzy Object

With my feet brushed clean and rebooted, we headed back to civilization. The “strip” behind the beach was very commercial, filled with touristy restaurants, fast food joints and the same chain stores we recognized from the city centre.

We decided to skip that scene and head back into the El Cabanyal barrio to find lunch instead. El Cabanyal is in a somewhat shabby state, with much of it left in limbo for many years over a proposed massive redevelopment project that has yet to break ground. It’s a controversial idea that would see the neighbourhood connected to the Valencia city center by a new boulevard that would demolish many historic small buildings.

The architecture of El Cabanyal is distinct from the rest of Valencia, with small low buildings and houses decorated with intricate and colourful tiles. In some ways it reminded us of Lisbon, Portugal.

Approaching Plaça del Rosari

We found our first choice of tapas bar jammed to overflowing with locals enjoying their Sunday, so we continued on to the Mercado del Grao area. Though the market itself isn’t open on Sundays, there were a number of tapas bars doing booming business across the street.

The tapas scene

We lucked out with a table just inside the open window of La FABrica, a trendy spot with Mexican-ish food that wouldn’t be out of place in Toronto or NYC. But regardless of the restaurant type or decor, the Spanish carry on, enthusiastically snacking, drinking, chatting and smoking (outside only, thankfully) as if on a mission.

Inside looking out
“Fabrica” means “factory”

We enjoyed “spicy” patatas bravas that were very tasty but not spicy at all (no food we’ve ever encountered in Spain has been remotely spicy to us). And, of course, some delicious ham croquetas. We also split an enormous BBQ pork sandwich. With two bottles of beer and two sparkling waters the bill came to €20, or about $30 CAD.

Random palms
Random music with flags