Ruzafa (or Russafa) is one of Valencia’s most famous neighborhoods, and probably its most hip (no offense, Carmen!) It occupies the southeast side of the city, in the district of L’Eixample. We’ve already written a little about the history of this historic and lively area, and here’s our guide to its top sights.
1. Start your tour at Ruzafa’s northern tip — the Plaza de Toros de Valencia. Regardless of your views on bullfighting, the arena is pretty awesome. Built in 1850, it was modeled on the Roman Colosseum and is one of the largest in Spain. Besides the corridas, the arena hosts concerts (Julio Iglesias on August 21st, WOO!) and political events. Make sure to check out the Museo Taurino while you’re there — it’s free and won’t take more than 30 minutes of your time.
2. After the museum, stroll down the Avenida del Reino de Valencia (Avenue of the Kingdom of Valencia), which demarcates the north-eastern boundary of Ruzafa. The street itself is currently under frantic construction, preparing for the new Metro line, but this won’t detract from your enjoyment of the boulevard’s wonderful buildings and facades.
3. If you’re not looking for the Convento Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles on C/ General Prim, you’re likely to walk right by it. Completely unassuming from the outside, this convent was originally run by an order of Clarissa nuns, but is today kept by Franciscans. It’s got a beautiful courtyard and interesting history… the convent sits on the site where King James I of Aragon installed his troops for his successful siege of the city. It was destroyed during the civil war and completely rebuilt. Don’t be shy about buzzing the doorbell and asking to see the grounds — that’s what we did!
4. A short distance from the convent is the Iglesia Parroquial de San Valero y San Vicente Mártir — more commonly known as the Cathedral of Ruzafa. This huge and extremely impressive church was constructed in the early 15th century and serves as the popular heart of the neighborhood. It, too, was destroyed during Spanish Civil War and rebuilt shortly thereafter.
5. Adjacent to the the Cathedral is the Ruzafa Market — a large and bustling foods market in the center of the neighborhood. It’s not quite as lovely as the Mercado Central, but there is just as much activity, less tourists and a greater sense of community. It’s a great place to finish your tour and grab some fresh fruit to snack on. The market was built in 1957 and the utilitarian, no-frills architecture perhaps reflects the spirit of the day.
Once you’re done with the market, you’ll have seen the guidebook highlights of Ruzafa, but not yet experienced the true charm of the neighborhood. Ruzafa is probably Valencia’s most multi-cultural area, and there is an abundance of excellent restaurants, bars and ethnic shops. The best way to enjoy Ruzafa is aimless wandering about — get your head out of the map and walk down the fun streets like C/ Ruzafa, Cadiz, Dr. Sumsi and Centelles. You’ll not have any problem finding great deals on tapas and cañas.