Spain is the 4th biggest countries by geographical area in Europe with 506.000 km2. Due to the size there is so much to see and do in this vast and diverse country. One of this beautiful places is called Valencia, a large city on Spain’s eastern coast, located 320 km south-east from Spain’s capital Madrid.
Valencia has a mix of old and new buildings, giving it a real special feel of it’s own. From medieval castles and towers, to modernist and art decor architecture and plenty of beautiful places to eat and drink. It is the 3rd biggest city in Spain with nearly 800.000 inhabitants and is situated at the Mediterranean coast. The city has the largest inner city urban park in whole Europe, three beaches (Playa de las Arenas, Playa de Malvarrosa and Playa de la Patacona) and is packed full of culture and history, for example the holy grail. Historians worldwide believe La Catedral de Valencia is home to the last cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. The Holy Grail is made of agate stone and displayed in a decorative – gold and pearls – structure in the city’s imposing cathedral. Legend says the Holy Grail, which features in the cult novel The Da Vinci Code, possesses miraculous powers and crowds gather to pray in its presence.
1) La ciudad de las artes y las ciencias – The city of arts and sciences
The city of arts and sciences is a cultural and architectural building and park complex. It represents the modern town’s landmark and is located in the drained channel of the river Turia which is 280 km long, rises in Montes Universals and ends in Valencia. The complex was designed by the Spanish architectures Santiage Calatrava and Félix Candela and includes five buildings:
- L’Hemisferic (an IMAX cinema): The building has the shape of and eye that reflects 24.000 square meters lake. The cover of the cinema looks like the eye lips of the eye, and can be closed or opened. (ticket prices: 8.80 € adults, 6.85 € reduced, 4.70 € school groups, 6.40 € adult groups)
- Prince Felipe Museo de las Ciencias (science museum): The construction of the building reminds a whale skeleton. The museum is orientated to learning the sciences through experience and it is perfect to go with kids, because everything is graphically diplayed with huge texts and pics, experiments, button to touch and experience. The museum is open from Monday to Sunday from 8.00am till 00.30 am. (ticket prices: 8.00 € adultes, 6.20 € reduced, 4.30 € school groups, 5.80 € adult groups)
- Oceanographic (a giant marine par or aquarium): The Oceanografic is Europe’s biggest Aquarium and it invites you to travel around the planet’s main seas and oceans. More than 45,000 examples of 500 different marine species – amongst which can be found sharks, Beluga whales, walruses, sea lions, penguins and manta rays – inhabit nine underwater towers that, structured in two levels, represent the most emblematic ecosystems of the planet. The oceanographic park, created as a great leisure, training and research centre, is structured into ten great areas. (ticket prices: 27.90 € adults, 21.00 € reduced, 12.55 € school groups, 18.65 € adult groups)
- Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia: The spectacular building promotes the performing arts. It has an extension of 55.000 square meters and is one of the finest international venues for theatre, dance, opera and music concerts. Measuring over 70 meters in height, the Palau de les Arts is divided into four separate halls, all boasting the latest technological advances conceived to stage all kinds of opera, musical and theatrical performances. Here you find the program for 2015 and 2016. Perfomances start normally at 8pm, during Sundays and bank holidays at 7pm. The Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia is divided into the following rooms:
- Sala Principal: This concert hall, which seats 1,412, principally serves as an opera house, but it is also used for ballet and other performing arts.
- Auditorio: With a seating capacity of 1,490 people, this auditorium is equipped with advanced sound, cinema, and video installations.
- Aula Magistral: This space, which can seat up to 378 people, is especially designed for performances by small music ensembles and it is also used for recitals, conferences, and educational events.
- Teatre Martín i Soler: This theatre, located next to the Palau de les Arts, forms the south-west boundary of the complex. With a seating capacity of 400 people, the backstage installations and orchestra pit of this space are perfect for small and medium format opera performances.
- Agora (multi-functional space): The Agora in the City of Arts and Sciences is a versatile space that will allow the holding of varied events. A multi-functional setting has been planned for the staging of congresses, conventions, concerts, and performances; it can also be converted into an exhibition area. This building hosted successfully the Valencia Open 500 Tennis Tournament, one of the most important international sports meetings.
2) La Lonja – the world heritage
Constructed between 1482 and 1548, during Valencia’s “Golden Age”, La Lonja de la Seda (the Silk Exchange) is World Heritage-listed and described by UNESCO as “an exceptional example of a secular building in late Gothic style, which dramatically illustrates the power and wealth of one of the great Mediterranean mercantile cities”. Visitors can peruse the former trading hall, with its splendid spiral columns, and chill out in a courtyard sprinkled with orange trees.
3) The birthplace of Paella – taste the real one
Typical Valencian paella consists of white rice, green vegetables, meats that range from chicken and rabbit to snails or seafood, beans and seasoning. Many proud Valencianos say that these are the only required ingredients in a paella and therefore Valencia people proudly boasts it’s the birthplace of this iconic Spanish dish. While you can savour seafood paellas here, an authentic paella valenciana stays faithful to its peasant origins. It’s traditionally cooked on an open wooden fire with locally grown rice and only eaten at lunch. Valencians swear their mothers – and grandmothers – do the best paella, but many restaurants offer tasty version ‘menu del dias’ (fixed-price, three-course specials).
4) El Barrio del Carmen
Street art is one of the quirkiest features of El Carmen, the grittiest, but increasingly gentrified, chunk of Valencia’s historic centre. Springing south from the pretty Carmen church and plaza, a warren of alleys bulge with clothes and curio stores, tapas bars, bohemian cafes, jazz lounges and cosmopolitan restaurants.
5) The fallas festival
The festival begins in March, marking the beginning of spring, and technically lasts for 5 days. Each neighborhood has Falla houses that compete by building their own “falla” (effigy), which is usually a political pun or gag. The houses compete in different leagues, and on the last night of this lively festival, known as ‘La Crema’ (burning night), all but one effigy are destroyed. The surviving falla is called a “ninot” (small falla), and is officially pardoned. On this night, the entire city is on fire– literally and figuratively– as revelers enjoy music, parties, food, drinks and dancing in the streets. This fiesta is definitely worth experiencing at least once in your life.
6) The golden sandy Mediteranean beaches of Malvarrosa
The beaches of Las Arenas and Malvarrosa along the Mediterranean cost are beautiful sandy beaches stretching as long as the eye can see. They are noticeably clean, like the whole city and in peak summer time the beach will never be overly crowded, leaving tourists and Spanish locals with enough space to enjoy the sea. The coastal promenade is relatively undeveloped with a modest number of delicious bars and restaurants scattered along the front.
7) La Tomatina in Bunol
La Tomatina is a food fight festival held on the last Wednesday of August each year in the town of Bunol 40 km direction west away from Valencia. The festival is supposed to be the ‘World’s Biggest Food Fight’ where more than one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets. The festival is in honor of the town’s patron saints, Luis Bertran and the Mare de Deu dels Desemparats (Mother of God of the Defenseless), a title of the Virgin Mary. This year La Tomatina is taking place on the 26th of August and starts at around 11am when many truck haul the bounty of tomatoes into the centre of the town at Plaza del Pueblo. Once the tomato throwing begins, the battle is generally every man for himself.
8) The Natural Park of the Albufera
The Natural Park of the Albufera just south of Valencia Region is a Mecca for bird watchers. Connected to the sea by two narrow canals, it is one of the largest lakes in the country, with a total area of 21,000 hectares, much of which is covered in thick reed beds.
9) Calpe – the beautiful village in Costa Blanca
At the heart of the Costa Blanca, within the region of Valencia lies the ancient fishing village of Calpe. Now transformed into a tourist magnet, the town sits in an ideal location, easily accessed by the A7 motorway and the N332 that runs from Valencia to Alicante; its approximately one hour drive from the airport at Alicante. Calpe has a wonderful mixture of old Valencian culture and modern tourist facilities. It is a great base from which to explore the local area or enjoy the many local beaches. Calpe alone has three of the most beautiful sandy beaches on the coast. Calpe is dominated by the towering rock of Ifach which reaches an impressive 332m, rising almost sheer above the sea and is a nature reserve. The summit of the rock is reached after a tough climb up a footpath, by means of a short tunnel through the upper part of the rock. Be warned the path above the tunnel has almost no safety features and is not recommended for anybody with a fear of heights, the very young, or the remotely unfit.
Only 20 kilometres from Valencia Region and easily accessible by bus or train (30 minutes), the coastal town of Sagunto is one of the most important historical locations of the entire region. Bronze Age and Iberian peoples settled here, drawn by the fertile lands and the natural fortress formed by a high crag which rears out of the plains. But Sagunto is most famous for its courageous resistance to the Carthaginian general Hannibal, who laid a siege to the fortress in 219 BC for 8 months. Rather than surrender, the citizens set fire to their city and perished in the flames. Today, the fortress and old Jewish quarter of the city of Sagunto are a popular tourist attraction, with one of the largest and most highly restored Roman theatres in existence in Spain set in a natural amphitheatre just above the town.
11) Xàtiva – the heritage of Spanish history
The city is situated 60 km away from the city Valencia and it is one of the most important cultural and historical cities in the region of Valencia. In 1150 the first paper on European ground was produced in Xàtiva by Moors. The city was founded by Iberian and Moors but in 1244 the city was conquered by Jaime I. of Aragon who created one of the most important archives in Europe. Xàtiva, especially the castle and the old town of the city, has many remains from each era of Spanish history, from the Iberians over Romains and Moors till the Gothic epoch. You can buy a train ticket for 6 € way and return (50 minutes one way) from the train station of Valencia to Xàtiva.
12) Utiel-Requena Region
Scarcely 40 miles inland from the city of Valencia, on the way to Madrid, you will find the Utiel-Requena Plateau. With a totally different climate to that of the coast, its cold, frosty winters and sunny, scorching summers make it the largest wine-producing area in the Valencia Region and one of the largest in Spain. A rural landscape of rolling hills and vineyards dotted with small towns and villages combines with mountainous, thickly wooded areas ideal for trekking or cycling. One of the most dramatic features of the area are the Hoces del Cabriel Gorges, where the Cabriel river runs swiftly among impressive stone walls and needles, an awe inspiring backdrop for sports such as canoeing or rafting. If you prefer walking around old towns and monuments, then Requena’s old town (the “Villa”) is the place to visit. Its winding streets flanked by old white houses, some impressive gothic churches and the “Cuevas del Vino”, a maze-like underground system of wine cellars with more than one mile of caves, will surprise you.
Should you prefer to focus on cuisine and wines, you will find a good array of restaurants in the area, together with some of the oldest wine cellars and wineries in Spain. Utiel-Requena is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) for wines with the area being renowned for the predominant use of the Bobal grape variety. Archaeological finds in ancient Iberian settlements, such as the one at Villares, show that viticulture and wine production in the area dates to at least the 7th century BC.
13) Montanejos – the hot springs
The Castellón town Montanejos is famous for its health contribution and it is situated 90 km north west from Valencia. The water has health properties and is highly recommended for cases of digestive and kidney-related illnesses. When you walk through the beautiful nature of Montanejos you can find crystal clear water spots with cliffs to jump off.