During the Easter break my family decided to take a trip to Valencia. Having spent a long weekend in Valencia and feeling satisfied I have seen a large extent of the city I thought I would share my itinerary of our exploration of the city’s rich interior: spanish tradition and history alongside stunning 22nd century architecture of Santiago Calatrva’s ‘ciutat de las Artes i les ciencias’, all of which bind together to create a city of perfection.
There are several ways one can gain their bearings of Spain’s 3rd largest city. For €15 we took an open-top bus tour, basking in the Mediterranean delicacy that is the Easter Climate- light breezes but clear skies, a trip which lasted approximately 2 hours as we were toured around (British headphones included) the city. A tour such as this I would really recommend, especially if your time in the city is short like mine as it helped us with an idea of what we wanted to accomplish from our visit.
Walking (as a city with an abundance of visitors one is given plenty of direction) to the city’s old quarter, the ‘Plaza de la Reine’, where the city’s Cathedral is located, you will be greeted by one of the prettiest areas of Valencia. I am sure, as we found ourselves, you will want to go exploring through the streets to look at the stunning black-balconette houses which somehow have bright purple borgonvelia weaving in and out of them; however, it is very easy to get lost and engulfed into the Valencia housing maze, so be sure to keep your bearings.
Inside the Cathedral is a stunning interior. If visiting on a strict budget, you can stand at a bay for free and and admire the inside from a blocked-off viewing space. My family and myself decided to pay the worthwhile €2 and climb the huge flight of stairs (not recommended for those scared of heights) of the Miquelet Bell Tower. The top of the Miquelet treats you to stunning panoramic views whilst towering above all buildings. From this tower you can see all Valencia’s landmarks: the America’s cup arena, the City of Arts and Sciences, the huge beaches- just to name a few. The colours are breathtaking and the birds eye view is certainly not to be taken for granted before you delve into the city streets. As you descend the tower and exit the cathedral you will be near to the city’s most famous area for Chocolate con Churros (a sort of stringed doughnut with dipping chocolate), highly recommended to feast yourselves on.
The City of Arts and Sciences, a ‘city within a city’, was created by the famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrva as a present to his home city. The complex resembles animal skeletons and is futuristic as a preconception of 22nd century architecture. One can either enjoy this complex for free or venture into one of the 5 elements all bound together with stunning mosaic pathways, crystal water and gardens: The Hemisferic (IMAX cinema and digital projections), The Umbracle (landscapes vantage point), The Principe Felipe Science Museum (of interactive science), Oceanográfico (largest aquarium in Europe with over 500 species) and Palace de les Arts Reine Sofía (opera house).
Valencia, dissimilar to any city, doesn’t sleep. Like all cities there is a huge population of restaurants throughout the city; however, why not spend that money on seeing an opera at the Arts Reine Sofía or at the open air theatre/concert space in the main city park in the old Turia riverbed? A trend throughout Spain has been the use of public space being engulfed for physical recreation. This trend is evident throughout the city’s main park with tennis courts and football and volleyball pitches- all open to the public.
In Valencia they have the equivalent of London’s ‘Boris Bikes’ and there are also many competitively priced rent-a-bicycle suppliers. My family took a morning cycle track and traversed through the old Turia riverbed, now called the ‘Lungs of Valencia’ (a jewel not to be missed), a route which encompasses most of the city without cars being an obstruction. The Lungs consist of enticing gardens with water features throughout. In true European style there are cafe’s littered throughout the park- the cycle is certainly no endurance course but one to take time over and on which to make several stops. With it being impossible to get lost due to the city’s efficient mapping, we took our cycle route right the way to the America’s cup arena (the oldest trophy in sport) and to Valencia’s beaches where we had lunch along the lively city seafront.
With more people each summer embarking on Interrailing trips and flight companies competing for the cheapest flights throughout Europe, I would seriously recommend paying Valencia Spain’s ‘hidden gem’ a visit! There are so many activities I have been told also to recommend, including the city’s Bioparc zoo; a ‘wild’ zoo committed to sustainability and conservation, and the city’s fantastic shopping, often raved about in travel guides.