The magnificent Andalusian city of Valencia has so many landmarks, attractions, museums and other inspirational things to do and see, it’s almost impossible for first-time visitors to pack everything in to a single holiday. The premier sights below are just a few of the glories the city has to offer, and may help in planning an advance vacation itinerary.
In spite of the fascinating Old Quarter and the many other ancient sites, perhaps the most stunning archaeological attraction here is the avant-garde City of Arts and Science, a collection of post-modern structures straight out of a science-fiction movie, designed by famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
Set at the shoreline point of beautiful Turia Park on the bed of the now relocated Turia River, each individual structure’s cutting edge individual design is based on hemispheres and curves, with the astounding waterfront Opera House its most spectacular. Spain is a hub for futuristic architecture, with this development drawing huge numbers of visitors.
Valencia’s Old City, Barrio del Carmen, is another major visitor attraction, not only for its heritage buildings from Roman to Art Nouveau, but for the laid-back bohemian lifestyle evident in its bars, pubs, clubs, outdoor cafes and trendy boutiques. Wandering here is heaven for people-watchers, with residents mingling happily with multi-cultural visitors, refugees from the 1960s and all manner of alternative lifestyle fans. Many charming hotels in Valencia are located here.
Heritage buildings in Barrio del Carmen include the ancient Cathedral with its unusual Moorish octagonal tower and history of use as a Muslim mosque as well as a Christian place of worship. Another must-see is the UNESCO-listed Llonja – the ancient Silk Exchange which served as the heart of Valencia’s medieval trade. Across the street from Turia Park are the two tremendous city gates with their watch towers and the remnants of the massive medieval city walls
The 12th century Iglesia de San Juan del Hospital, founded by the crusader Knights Hospitallers, plays a crucial part in Valencia’s heritage and is now a Spanish National treasure. Almost beyond saving in 1996, the Vatican and the Spanish Catholic authorities took over, with its renovation now almost complete. Soaring arched walkways, peaceful chapels, soaring vaulted ceilings and warm creamy stonework are now as they were,
Valencia’s two ports are a microcosm of the history of the city, with the Old Port sleepy and atmospheric and the New Port, built for the Americas Cup, in port-modern Calatrava style. Somewhat removed from the main tourist trail, the Old Port is dominated by its clock tower and contains traditional shipyards constructed in the Venetian style. Close by is the Gothic Shipyard, now a modern art museum, a huge Midldle Ages complex and the port’s oldest surviving building. The New Port in all its space-age glory is the emblem of reawakened Valencia as a truly exciting international port city.
The National Museum of Ceramics celebrates the art of pottery, one of Valencia’s oldest industries, with its exhibits set in one of the city’s grandest old buildings, the 15th century Rococo Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas. Many of the rooms are in original style, forming a glorious backdrop to the masterpieces of the art of ceramics on display. Artefacts from prehistory through Islamic to Christian embrace all the city’s eras, and the highly glazed and coloured religious plaques are exquisite.
Two more museums are on the list; the Museum of Valencia History and the Museum of the Fallas. In the History Museum, the big picture rather than acres of artefacts is the focus, with interactive living costume dramas a unique feature covering the city’s complex multi-cultural history. The Fallas museum holds examples of the famed Fallas Sculptures from many previous years’ parades, as well as explaining the traditions and culture behind the 500-year old fiesta.
Lek Boonlert is an editor and content reviewer at DirectRooms and is responsible for all Valencia Hotels content.