The birthplace of paella is behind only Madrid and Barcelona in population and has some of the best weather in Spain. With over 2.3 million people, metro Valencia is a major urban hub and welcomes a huge number of tourists every year.
The capital of Valencia province pre-dates the common era and has districts with narrow streets built by the Romans and Moors. Valencia’s Ciutat Vella is indeed a prominent tourist-centric quarter but by no means the city’s only gem. Distinct architecture, museums, festivals, restaurants and nightlife in the Barrio del Carmen are the hallmarks of the standout Spanish city on the Mediterranean Sea. Here are ten of the best must-see attractions in vibrant Valencia.
10. Baños del Almirante
The Baños del Almirante complex dates back to the early 14th century, some one hundred years after the expulsion of 50,000 Moors from Valencia. Yet the landmark is distinctly Arab in form and function and has been meticulously restored.
9. Museo de Bellas Artes
Valencia’s fine arts museum is one of the most important in Spain. Established at the turn of the 20th century, the museum’s prolific collection is housed in the historic El Colegio de San Pío V. The grand late 17th century landmark is also home to one of the oldest art schools in Spain.
As fine and ancient art has a notable home at the Museo de Bellas Artes, contemporary art has a world-class home in Valencia at IVAM. The Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno boasts a comprehensive and avant-garde collection of some of the late 20th century’s most influential artists.
7. Centro Cultural la Beneficencia
Just next door to IVAM is another major cultural institution in Valencia. The significant Centro Cultural la Beneficencia is actually three museums in one. The Instituto Alfonso el Magnánimo (literature, history, art, philosophy), Museo Valenciano de Etnología and Museo de Prehistoria de Valencia combine with IVAM to make Calle de Guillem de Castro one of the most important cultural thoroughfares in Spain. The city’s superb botanical garden and the best restaurants and bars of Barrio del Carmen are a short walk away.
6. Mercado de Colón
Catalan culture and architecture made notable impressions on Valencia throughout the 20th century. Stroll through the Mercado de Colón and you’re sure to glean a palpable sense of UNESCO World Heritage designers Gaudi and Montaner in the air.
5. Las Fallas
Valencia’s most infamous and popular festival is a colourful flourish of traditional folklore that whips the entire province up in a frenzy. Five days of papier-mâché parades, nocturnal revelry, food, drink, dance and song punctuate the massive March event.
4. Saint Mary of Valencia Cathedral
The see of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Valencia was built in the early 13th century after the exodus of the Moors from the city. Construction took place on the foundation of a grand mosque, which in turn was built on top of a Visigoth cathedral. Clearly, Saint Mary of Valencia Cathedral sits on venerable ground. The mostly Gothic masterpiece is a major symbol of the city.
3. Mercado Central
Valencia’s other Modernist, turn of the 20th century market is a marvel. The Mercado Central is not only must-see for all your comestible requirements but the quintessential place to be to mingle with locals.
2. Llotja de la Seda
The Silk Exchange, or Llotja de la Seda, is Valencia’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built from 1482 to 1548, the landmark’s late Gothic design is almost without peer.
1. Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
Valencia’s most conspicuous and must-see point of interest is without question, the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. The multi-purpose development took the architectural world by storm at the turn of the current century. The cultural complex features many remarkable attractions, with progressive facades that have already become iconic. Put the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía opera house, L’Oceanogràfic, L’Hemisfèric and the Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe at the very top of your Valencia list.
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