Valencia Travel Guide
Introduction to Valencia
Long known as a merchant city that had plied its trade off products like lamp oil and silk, the Valencia of today has embraced the future, as evidenced by the flashy City of Arts and Sciences complex.
While it may not be the most engaging place when it comes to how it struggles to mesh with the Mediterranean (those looking to stay on the beach will find themselves a long cab ride from the historical centre), its cultural and modern attractions will win you over nonetheless.
Cultural Experiences in Valencia
The first cultural attraction that you should see in this Spanish city is Valencia Cathedral, which is home to one of the purported homes of the Holy Grail that was used by Jesus at The Last Supper.
In addition to housing this alleged Christian relic, this church is interesting enough on its own, as it was converted from a mosque that used to be a Visigothic Cathedral prior to the rise of the Moors.
Boasting no less than five different architectural styles due to its constant renovations and additions over the centuries, simply strolling through this sacred place is a joy, but do take care to admire some of the paintings found within, as they date back to the 15th century.
Situated on the Mediterranean Sea, Valencia has had a long history of being a merchant city. The Llotja de la Seda, or Silk Exchange, was ground zero for trading of products that included much more than just the delicate cloth that was the number one import that passed through its halls.
These days, the hustle and bustle that reigned on its floors has been replaced by the clicking of cameras and the idle chatter of foreign tourists, but the carved pillars, chandeliers, and stone gargoyle still make this UNESCO World Heritage Site well worth visiting.
In centuries past, Valencia used to be surrounded by a very robust city wall. While the vast majority of this fortification was removed after they became ineffective versus advancing technology, one gate, the Torres de Serranos, was preserved, as it served an important purpose as a prison, starting in the late 16th century.
Its photogenic ramparts make for an excellent photo opp, both out in front, and from its highest reaches. It is also a focal point for public events, so keep your eyes open to see if anything is going on while you are there.
Other Attractions in Valencia
While Valencia has its fair share of cultural attractions, it is its modern offerings that has put it on the map in recent years.
The ambitious and beautiful City of Arts and Sciences is a must for visitors to the area; once you see a picture of this complex on the web, or see it with your own eyes on arrival, you will understand why.
Built as the cornerstone development after the re-development of the old, dried up course of the River Turia, this glass and steel dominated development contains seven different attractions under its roof:
- L’Hemisfèric is a planetarium/laserium and an IMAX cinema
- El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe is a 40,000 square metre interactive science museum
- L’Umbracle is an indoor botanical garden with sculptures mixed in with a varied collection of flowers and trees
- L’Oceanogràfic is an aquarium that is the largest of its kind in Europe, with environments running the gamut from tropical to polar
- El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia is an opera house and performing arts space
- El Pont de l’Assut de l’Or is a suspension bridge that is high up in the complex that is the highest point in Valencia at 125 meters above the ground
- L’Àgora is a plaza that is frequently used for sporting events and concerts
In short, not not leave town without spending a half day here.
Those that wish to experience the oldest continuously operating food market in Europe need only check out Mercado Central.
Here, you can sample produce, cheese, meat, seafood and prepared food at over 900 stalls, or you can simply stand back and watch the residents of Valencia get the ingredients that they need to prepare their dinner that night.
Finally, those that have the stomach to witness a long running (but brutal) aspect of Spanish culture should buy a ticket to a bullfight at Plaza de Toros de Valencia. Built to house over 10,000 spectators, you’ll be able to witness the drama, beauty and violence that mark one of Spain’s most notorious entries in the history of sport.