Russafa is basically the SoHo of Valencia. There are fashionable glasses and trainers, vintage clothes on the girls and smatterings of facial hair on the boys all to be found here in the third largest city in Spain. Russafa is known for the ancient monuments and modern architecture, the paella and oranges and, of course, the incredible fallas festival. Another thing Russafa has is hipsters. They’ve adopted it as their base of operations in Valencia. Russafa (in Catalan) or Ruzafa (in Spanish) was originally the country estate of a Moorish ruler and existed as an independent town until the 1870s. It can be found five minutes away from the Barrio del Carme.
Russafa has really undergone quite the transformation lately. Nowadays it’s filled with many chances to go shopping, enjoy fine dining, or just embrace the alternative culture of Spain. So much so that the people who originally wanted to restore El Carme are now escaping tourists in Russafa. What you’re left with is a broad mix of young creative people, older folks who’ve seen it all, african immigrants hanging out at the public telephone centres and Chinese market vendors. It all works together to create an amazing neighbourhood. The Spanish would call it “un buen rollo” or “a good scene”.
Russafa is still working class at its roots. It was still rundown until about fifteen years ago. Instead the nearby Barrio del Carmen brought in all the tourism and money. Things changed when people saw how much ground space there was thanks to the layout of the streets. This space was used for garages and supermarkets but much of it was just abandoned. Artists looking to get away from everything began to rent them out and what happened to Camden Town in the 60s happened here in the past decade as the area became the artsy alternative to the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
Ruzafa is a great mix of old and new without being in-your-face about it. During the week you can take a pleasure stroll along the streets and listen to the street vendors trying to sell their wares in the colourful market. Don’t forget to actually take a trip inside to buy some fruit as a snack to keep you going while you walk. Across from the market is the main church of the neighbourhood. It’s a beautiful Baroque building, put together in the 15th century, but still very restrained. It’s called the Iglesia de San Valero and many locals know it simply as the Cathedral of Russafa.
The bright colours of the Mercado de Ruzafa is where the barrio life congregates. If you wake up early enough you can see the market stallholders put out their wares including the fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, and the bread and pastries. There may not be anywhere to cook anything but it’s still a real treat to look at the produce. You can also buy some fruit, bread and ham. Or just take some baked pumpkin and have a picnic. If you can’t understand the queue in front of you then just call out “¿El último?” and the person stood at the current back of the line will signal for you to get in line. Don’t forget to signal the next person to call out after you!
Because Ruzafa was brought back to life through art, you can expect to find some art hanging from almost every bit of wallspace no matter the building you enter.