There’s something special about a city that’s turned their river into a park, a city that’s invested millions in an architecturally-unique arts and science center, a city that’s home to Spain’s first contemporary art museum. But, I think, for valencianos, this isn’t surprising. This is a city with a long history for creativity.
It’s where paella was invented, where iconic architect Santiago Calatrava was born, where each spring, the city lights ablaze hundreds of large, exorbitant statues. Forget about Spain’s other big cities, Valencia is one of the most creative hotspots in Spain. There’s a history of creativity—of specialness—in the city. That spirt lives on in Valencia today, mostly in the Ruzafa neighborhood. Ruzafa’s working-class history and its location outside the historic city center makes it an edgy alternative to the other parts of Valencia.
To really explore Valencia’s creative side, check out these top cool places in Ruzafa…
Shopping in Ruzafa
Like any authentic hipster neighborhood, Ruzafa is home to a number of cool shops and independent stores. You’ll find quite a few fashion shops—from vintage to local designer goods—but also furniture and design shops in-between the clothing stores and endless amount of bars and clubs.
- Madame Mim – A second-hand, vintage shop, it’s like a museum for weirdness. That’s probably why they proudly label themselves as a “freak shop.” Remember those Fortune Teller Miracle Fish from your childhood? You’ll find it here at Madame Mim’s, right next to the checkout—amongst a million other equally weird-but-cool thigns. I don’t think I’ve seen any shop more eclectic. Super cool!
- Gnomo – If ever there was a place that could safely be called a “hipster shop,” it’s Gnomo. One of those “lifestyle” shops, Gnomo sells a carefully curated selection of random design objects from coffee mugs to jewelry. You’ll also find art prints from some of Valencia’s most contemporary street artists and a series of t-shirts promoting the Ruzafa neighborhood.
- Paranoid_the shop – Another vintage shop in Ruzafa, you’ll find a lot of cool t-shirts available here—with the usual mix of other weird items typical of thrift stores. There’s a kind-of skater theme to the shop, so you’ll find a cool mix of things.
- Kauf vintage – Looking for a bit more high-end shopping? Kauf vintage is a vintage fashion shop with an impressive collection of cool hipster clothes. With a sociable and friendly staff, it’s a great little shop that even hosts the occasional DJ or party. Check out their collection of jean jackets and other trend items—also available from their online shop.
Eating and Drinking in Ruzafa
- Microteatre Valencia – Less of a restaurant or a bar, this place is actually a theater where you watch short 20-minute performances. You’ll find other similar micro-theaters throughout Spain, and of course Valencia’s version of the super-hip trend is located in Ruzafa, just steps away from the retro-chic Ruzafa market hall.
- Ubik Café – A longtime favorite in Ruzafa, this famous bookshop and café hosts a number of different events, often literary-related. It’s also a cozy café in winter or summer, with beers on tap and books on the shelves.
- La Bella de Cadiz – Like so many of the world’s coolest bars and cafés, the venues often double-up as more than just waht they seem. La Bella de Cadiz is no different. From the outside, it might look like a vintage shop with its’ mismatched tables and lampshades in the doorway, but step inside and you’ll find a bar tucked away on the right. In-between the candlelit tables, there’s item-after-item—things you’d likely find in your grandma’s home. Besides the classic cocktails on offer, you’ll find pricetags on most of the furniture.
- La Boba y el Gato Rancio – One of Ruzafa’s few gay bars, this place proudly sports a rainbow flag outdoors. Inside, you’ll find your hipster gay Spanish men serving cocktails alongside small treats and snacks—and the local pub dog, Lola. There’s a small terrace in the back, but the real attraction is the art on the walls—a nude photography exhibition was on during my visit.
- Canalla Bistro – This rather fancy restaurant, by local celebrity chef Ricard Camarena, will transport you back to New York City with its chill atmosphere and super-cool vibe. The Canalla Bistro menu, like everything else in Ruzafa, is a bit of a mish-mash, but that’s it’s charm. You’ll find a great tasting menu (at a great bargain price) and a fusion of Asian and Spanish food. The Thai red curry with Iberian pork is exceptionally good, as is the steamed pork bun.