Eating vegan and staying sustainable is a breeze in Valencia. Here’s where to go, what to eat and what to see if you’re planning a greener getaway.
La Casa Viva Ruzafa
Carrer de Cadis, 76, 46004 Valencia
You’re on holiday, so ditch the calorie-counting and start your day with an indulgent breakfast at this homely veggie-vegan spot. The specialty is vegan waffles loaded with all manner of toppings, from apple sauce to vegan dulce de leche. On my visit, I choose apumpkin waffle with hazelnuts, strawberries, cinnamon and rice molasses, vegan whipped cream, and homemade Valencian orange marmalade (the city streets are rife with bitter orange trees that are perfect for marmalade). It does the job.
There are other toppings and waffle combos to choose from, plus further options if you’re not into dessert for breakfast – quite literally, as the restaurant also serves the waffles as desserts to its evening menu. These include simple dishes like charcoal toast with tomatoes and turmeric, or savoury buckwheat crêpes filled with ratatouille and vegan cheese for something more elaborate.
The vibe here is relaxed and cozy. Violins, vintage-style china, books, old photos and other bric-a-brac fills the space, and greenery drapes down from the ceiling. It all invites you to linger a while, making it the ideal place for a long, lazy breakfast.
Vaqueta Gastro Mercat
Carrer de Sant Ferran, 22, 46001 Valencia
Just steps away from cavernous, food-filled Art Noveau masterpiece Mercat Central (Valencia’s central market) makes this cool-but-casual venue a perfect lunch spot. Inside, wood and greenery give things an organic feel and there’s a full – and filling – vegan menu.
Take your pick from four starters (or try all four, like this writer did in the name of ‘research’), including a Valencian tomato carpaccio with hazelnut and pistachio vinaigrette, and charcoal-grilled calçots (a Catalonian green onion similar to a leek or spring onion) with roasted hazelnut romesco.
The main dish is a mix of seasonal vegetables with creamy samphire rice (essentially a variation on the regional dish, paella, believed to have been invented in Albufera, an area south of central Valencia known for its rice fields). It arrives steaming in a small vat, and is rich, powerfully savoury and warming. Dessert is a pineapple rum pavlova, using aquafaba – chickpea water – in the meringue instead of egg. It’s fluffy, zingy and delicious.
Mercado de Colón, Carrer de Jorge Juan, 19, 46004 Valencia
There are few better places to soak up Valencian flavors than at this sleek destination spot, owned by Michelin-starred chef Ricard Camarena and located in the depths of restaurant-lined Colón Market. Fruit and vegetables sourced from a network of local growers are put in the spotlight, meaning that eating vegan here is simple and superb. Just let the restaurant know in advance and they’ll prepare you something special, like the seven-course vegan tasting menu they present me with.
Some of the highlights on my visit include lightly fried artichokes with harissa and za’atar, a sweet and tangy roasted red pepper salad with raw portobello mushrooms, diced olives and croutons, and a dessert of roasted pineapple with coconut and mint. It’s fancy food, but without the fuss, allowing those big, regional flavors to shine through. Don’t skimp on the essentials, either – the bread (baked on site) and local wine are fantastic.
Route of the Monumental Trees
Not all of Valencia’s plants need to be eaten to be appreciated, as this popular activity proves. It’s one of many examples of the city’s commitment to ecotourism, shown to be a key pillar of Valencia’s tourism outlook in 2020, when the city became the first in the world to verify its tourism carbon footprint.
The Route of the Monumental Trees is a method of navigating Valencia via an array of unusual and ancient tree species. There are five ‘tree trails’, each with a different theme and each in a different area of the city, but all focusing on highlighting Valencia’s ample green spaces and parks.
Go global on the Around the World trail, a 30-minute route through the gloriously green Jardines del Real, past trees from India, Mexico and Australia, including ginkgo biloba, Indian bay leaf (similar to cinnamon) and date palms. The Witnesses to History route asks visitors to grab a hire bike and utilise Valencia’s network of cycle paths, revealing trees that helped have shaped the city’s history. Along the way you’ll learn where linden flower tea originates from and discover new uses for palm leaves.
All five trails are a great way to reconnect a little with nature in a sustainable and affordable way, while uncovering fascinating pockets of Valencia that most tourists miss out on.