The sparkling Spanish city of Valencia gives you art, history, sandy beaches and – according to the locals – the genuine holy grail.
Top Valencia Attractions
The Old Town – Ciutat Vella
Valencia doesn’t know how to grow old gracefully. Its old town trembles with nightlife opposite the cathedral in Plaza la Reina, where cerveza (beer), wine and tapas continue beyond the night and into the next morning.
By day, this area brushes up into something more respectable. Its cathedral claims to be the home of the holy grail, and the Mercado Central (Central Market) trades jamones (hanging cured ham), bacalao (salted cod) and broad-based pans for DIY paella beneath an extravagant multicoloured dome.
Jardín del Túria – Walk Along A Riverbed
When the Túria River flooded for the umpteenth time in 1957, Valencia decided it had had enough. They diverted the river to flow away from the city centre and converted the former riverbed into cool gardens lined with palm trees, sculptures and skating parks.
Thus the Túria Gardens snake from the Ciutat Vella to the iconic Ciutat de Les Arts I de les Ciències (City of Arts & Sciences), offering visitors the unusual experience of walking through a riverbed, away from street level smoke and traffic.
City of Arts & Sciences – Modern Masterpiece
This dazzling new complex dominates Valencia’s skyline – as well as its brochures – and with good reason. It’s stunning, rising out of the palms trees with a brilliant, stretching, shining white before arcing back down again.
The Hemisfèric provides the most famous view – hosting a planetarium and an IMAX theatre beneath its gigantic “blinking eye.”
However beyond that, between fountains and rippled water, a science museum and an aquarium hug the horizon like whale skeletons. Building continues – around buckminsterfullerene balls and flamingo lakes – so expect plenty of surprises over the next few years.
Tickets are not that cheap, however. Standard (August 2009) prices are 7.50 euros for each of the science and art museums and a hefty 23.90 for Europe’s largest aquarium. You can walk around the outside of the buildings for free, however.
With soft sand, clear water and sunshine for most of the year, Valencia can add its coastline to its repertoire of attractions. It seems unfair, but it can.
The walk through the Túria gardens between the old town and the City of Arts and Sciences takes a leisurely two hours. The metro is clean, cheap and easy to use – consult their map here.
If you’re driving, several metro stations in the suburbs offer free parking. To save money on accommodation, stay slightly out of town and use the metro to travel around. Business hotels cluster around Beniferri (4 stops from the old city centre) and they often offer cheap weekend deals.