Valencia Showdown: Ruzafa or El Carmen?

Almost a decade ago, Kate Gilbert left her corporate career at the age of 45. She sold 95% of her possessions and bought an iconic Airstream aluminium camper van to hit the road and travel full time. Now living in Malaga, here she reflects upon the time she spent in Valencia. Did she prefer Ruzafa or El Carmen…

Valencia is top of our list right now as a potential home base for the next year or two. But it’s a city of a million people with a variety of neighbourhoods we could choose to live in. During this five-month stint in the city we have been test-driving two of the most popular barrios. 

Although there are lots of places in Valencia to live, we want to be within walking distance of the centre. Which rules out the beach neighbourhoods. And we prefer to be among a good choice of cafes and restaurants with an international flavour.  So while there are definitely other possibilities, we spent July in Ruzafa, August in El Carmen and September to November we were back in Ruzafa.  

So in our humble opinion, how do they compare?

Ruzafa (or Russafa in the Valencian language) is part of L’Eixample (meaning expansion) just outside the old city walls. It’s a hipster neighbourhood that was transformed in the last decade by incomers from pretty much everywhere. It’s multi-cultural, not in a New York or London way (but, then, few places are). That’s not to say there aren’t traditional neighbourhood spots. There are plenty. But it’s a mix of old and new, traditional and modern, Spanish, North African and a bit of everywhere else. 

At the centre of the neighbourhood is the Mercat de Russafa. A building that had the potential to be a hideous concrete monstrosity, until some clever person had the idea to paint it multiple colours. While I am not sure it can be described as beautiful, it is certainly a landmark and an iconic representation of mid-century design. The streets in Ruzafa are wide compared to El Carmen, and every street is filled with bars, restaurants, cafes and little shops. The buildings have beautiful colourful facades with characteristic wrought-iron balconies. As barrios go, it’s pretty good-looking.

Ruzafa or El Carmen

We spent the month of August in El Carmen (El Carme in Valenciano). We found it to be a little different to Ruzafa but no less enjoyable. El Carmen is one of six districts that comprise the old town or Ciutat Vella of Valencia that was contained within the former city walls. Here, the streets are much narrower and labyrinthine. We got lost many times. Finding cute little squares, and cafes and bars that we would never have found on the most direct route. The Old Town also has some of the best street art I have seen in any city. 

Mercat Central is on a whole different scale

I can see why a lot of expats, especially Americans, would choose this area. It’s the epitome of a charming, historic and quintessentially European neighbourhood. Lots of great restaurants and bars. In fact, it doesn’t get better than hanging out on a summer’s evening in Plaza Negrita with an Aperol Spritz. Sitting back, watching tourists and locals yakking about the day and life in general.

Also central to Ciutat Vella is a market, but the Mercat Central is on a whole different scale to the one in Ruzafa. It is gigantic and beautiful, and I mean really beautiful, not just in an iconic way. Just like the rest of the Old Town, it attracts a lot of tourists, and for us that was the main difference between El Carmen and Ruzafa. A lot more tourists. That’s not always a bad thing. I really don’t like the demonisation of tourism, we are all tourists at some point. But it does add a different feeling to the neighbourhood. I think Valencia on the whole is not dominated by tourism like we have experienced in other cities. Yes, Lisbon, I am talking about you again.

Ruzafa or El Carmen

So all in all, which did we prefer? 

A few things to consider…


We prefer the intimacy of the Mercat de Russafa, it’s not so overwhelming and there are no souvenir shops selling paella fridge magnets. Mercat Central is spectacular and had a better choice of many foods than we found in Ruzafa. But it’s not so far away and we can visit whenever we want. Ruzafa also has better supermercados, not just tiny, cramped stores like we found in El Carmen. 


We are more casual diners, our fine-dining days bring back too many traumatic memories of our previous corporate lives! We easily settle for beer and pintxos, wine by the glass or a simple menu del día.  Both neighbourhoods have great choices, we probably would give Ruzafa the edge for more variety and better value and less focus on attracting tourists.


Valencia is inexpensive compared to many cities of its size, but if you are looking for a budget barrio, neither of these places are likely to be top of your list. I would say we have found short-term accommodation to be comparable but eating out and groceries, probably better value in Ruzafa. 


Valencia is small, walkable and has excellent public transport. I don’t think it really matters that much where you live as you can be pretty much anywhere else within 30 minutes. Both El Carmen and Ruzafa are about 15 minutes to the main shopping area of the city. Our place in El Carmen was closer to the park, the Turia Gardens, a key area for lots of happenings in Valencia. Depending on where you are in Ruzafa,  you can be over a mile from the park. 

“Both El Carmen and Ruzafa are about 15 minutes to the main shopping area of the city.”

– Kate gilbert

We are pretty noise-tolerant and are probably not good advisers if you are noise-sensitive. Actually, if you don’t like noise I simply don’t recommend living in a Spanish city, period. Ruzafa has a reputation for being noisy because there are bars and nightclubs open late, but we found El Carmen to be noisier.

The two main sources of noise were church bells and, believe it or not, parrots. Yep, those little buggers make a racket. In the narrow streets of El Carmen these noises get amplified, but honestly for us, the noise was all part of the fun. Oh, and I forgot about garbage trucks in both places. The price for living in a clean city is that trucks empty the trash and recycling bins every night. They are very noisy and it is always in the early hours so for me earplugs when sleeping with the window open are a bonus. 

So, overall our conclusion is that we prefer Ruzafa and the other areas in L’Eixample. Yes, it’s full of expats like us, but it has fewer tourists and we just like the multi-cultural vibe here. We would not rule out living in El Carmen if the perfect flat came along but if we come back next year, L’Eixample will be our goal. The beauty of this city is how easy it is to get around so we can spend time in our favourite part of town and still enjoy everything that Ciutat Vella has to offer on a regular basis. You really can enjoy it all!

Story by Kate Gilbert | To buy Kate’s book ‘Happy Camper: How I Quit My Corporate Job and Sold Everything to Travel Full-Time’, visit Amazon

43 thoughts on “Valencia Showdown: Ruzafa or El Carmen?

  1. You’re so awesome! I do not think I’ve read through anything like this before. So wonderful to discover someone with genuine thoughts on this subject. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is something that’s needed on the web, someone with some originality.

  2. Having read this I believed it was really enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this information together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

  3. Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this blog. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s difficult to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and visual appearance. I must say you’ve done a very good job with this. Also, the blog loads extremely fast for me on Chrome. Superb Blog!

  4. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all folks you really recognise what you’re talking approximately! Bookmarked. Kindly also consult with my site =). We can have a link trade contract between us!

  5. The very crux of your writing while sounding reasonable in the beginning, did not work properly with me after some time. Someplace within the paragraphs you actually managed to make me a believer unfortunately only for a while. I however have a problem with your jumps in assumptions and you would do well to fill in those breaks. If you can accomplish that, I will certainly end up being impressed.

  6. I am really loving the theme/design of your web site. Do you ever run into any browser compatibility problems? A small number of my blog audience have complained about my website not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome. Do you have any recommendations to help fix this problem?

  7. In my opinion that a home foreclosure can have a major effect on the debtor’s life. Foreclosures can have a 8 to ten years negative influence on a borrower’s credit report. A borrower who have applied for home financing or any loans for that matter, knows that a worse credit rating can be, the more challenging it is to obtain a decent mortgage. In addition, it might affect a new borrower’s ability to find a decent place to let or hire, if that turns into the alternative real estate solution. Good blog post.

  8. I believe that avoiding ready-made foods would be the first step in order to lose weight. They will taste very good, but highly processed foods have very little vitamins and minerals, making you try to eat more in order to have enough energy to get through the day. Should you be constantly feeding on these foods, transferring to whole grains and other complex carbohydrates will assist you to have more power while having less. Good blog post.

  9. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your weblog. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility problems? A number of my blog readers have complained about my website not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Opera. Do you have any suggestions to help fix this issue?

  10. You’re so awesome! I don’t believe I have read a single thing like that before. So great to find someone with some original thoughts on this topic. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website is something that is needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!

  11. Holy cow! I’m in awe of the author’s writing skills and capability to convey complex concepts in a straightforward and precise manner. This article is a real treasure that earns all the accolades it can get. Thank you so much, author, for sharing your knowledge and providing us with such a priceless treasure. I’m truly thankful!

  12. Thanks for the post. My partner and i have constantly observed that the majority of people are desperate to lose weight because they wish to appear slim along with attractive. Nevertheless, they do not generally realize that there are other benefits so that you can losing weight in addition. Doctors state that over weight people suffer from a variety of disorders that can be directly attributed to their own excess weight. The good news is that people who’re overweight in addition to suffering from various diseases can reduce the severity of their illnesses by means of losing weight. It is easy to see a progressive but noted improvement in health as soon as even a negligible amount of losing weight is reached.

  13. My brother recommended I might like this blog. He was entirely right. This post actually made my day. You can not imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  14. Someone essentially lend a hand to make critically articles I might state. This is the very first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I amazed with the analysis you made to create this particular post extraordinary. Fantastic process!

  15. Excellent website. Plenty of useful info here. I am sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thanks for your effort!

  16. My brother recommended I might like this blog. He was entirely right. This post truly made my day. You can not imagine just how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  17. obviously like your web site however you need to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I in finding it very bothersome to inform the truth on the other hand I will surely come again again.

  18. Hey There. I discovered your weblog using msn. That is a really neatly written article. I?ll be sure to bookmark it and return to learn extra of your helpful information. Thank you for the post. I?ll certainly return.

  19. Thanks for your article on this weblog. From my very own experience, many times softening upward a photograph may well provide the wedding photographer with a little an artsy flare. More often than not however, that soft blur isn’t what exactly you had at heart and can usually spoil a normally good picture, especially if you anticipate enlarging it.

  20. It’s the best time to make some plans for the long run and it is time to be happy. I have learn this put up and if I may I desire to counsel you few fascinating things or advice. Maybe you can write next articles regarding this article. I wish to learn more issues approximately it!

  21. you’re really a good webmaster. The site loading speed is incredible. It seems that you’re doing any unique trick. Also, The contents are masterpiece. you have done a great job on this topic!

  22. Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed! Extremely useful information specially the last part 🙂 I care for such information a lot. I was looking for this particular information for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

  23. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn’t disappoint me as much as this particular one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read, but I truly thought you’d have something helpful to say. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something you could possibly fix if you weren’t too busy seeking attention.

  24. certainly like your web-site but you have to check the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very troublesome to tell the truth nevertheless I?ll surely come back again.

  25. Howdy! I know this is kinda off topic however , I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a blog post or vice-versa? My site goes over a lot of the same topics as yours and I feel we could greatly benefit from each other. If you’re interested feel free to send me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Fantastic blog by the way!

  26. You’re so awesome! I don’t suppose I have read through a single thing like that before. So wonderful to discover another person with a few genuine thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This web site is one thing that is required on the internet, someone with some originality.

  27. One other thing I would like to mention is that as opposed to trying to match all your online degree classes on days of the week that you end work (considering that people are exhausted when they return home), try to arrange most of your lessons on the saturdays and sundays and only a few courses on weekdays, even if it means a little time away from your saturdays. This is fantastic because on the saturdays and sundays, you will be more rested plus concentrated in school work. Thanks alot : ) for the different guidelines I have realized from your blog site.

  28. Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your post seem to be running off the screen in Firefox. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The layout look great though! Hope you get the problem solved soon. Thanks

  29. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so much, However I am having issues with your RSS. I don’t understand why I am unable to join it. Is there anybody having similar RSS problems? Anybody who knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!

  30. Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thanks, However I am encountering problems with your RSS. I don’t know why I can’t join it. Is there anybody getting identical RSS problems? Anyone that knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

  31. Thanks for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Glance complicated to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?

  32. I just couldn’t depart your web site before suggesting that I really enjoyed the standard info a person provide for your visitors? Is going to be back often to check up on new posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get our latest news & Offers
Verified by MonsterInsights