Valencia See And Do
Tel: 34 96 391 8127
Construction of Valencia's cathedral began in 1262, but the building remained unfinished until the main portal was erected during the Baroque era. Echoes of the mosque that originally stood on this site can be seen today in the cathedral's octagonal Gothic micalet, or bell tower, where a 155-foot climb leads to a fantastic city panorama. The devout and the doubting-yet-curious tend to flock here for one primary reason: a side chapel containing an ancient agate cup that for over 500 years has been heralded as the bona fide Holy Grail.
Avenida Autopista del Saler
Tel: 902 100 031
Valencia's most celebrated modern cultural export—architect-engineer Santiago Calatrava—made his mark on his hometown with this ambitious, 86-acre "arts and science city" complex, which rises near the seaward end of the Jardínes del Turia. Four of the five main parts of the sprawling site were designed by Calatrava, who many see as the space-age heir to Gaudí, the Príncipe Felipe hands-on science museum; the Hemisfèric, a combined planetarium, laser show, and IMAX cinema that resembles a blinking eye; the Umbracle, a long greenhouse that's open at both ends; and the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, a concert hall and opera house, half Darth Vader helmet and half ocean liner, that was the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place in autumn of 2006. The other attraction—and the most successful of all—is L'Oceanogràfic, the largest marine park in Europe, which was designed by the late Félix Candela. With ten thematic underwater habitats, a dolphinarium, and a gourmet restaurant surrounded on all sides by the glass walls of a giant aquarium, this is a great family draw. There's a bewildering range of combined and reduced-fee entrance tickets; check the Web site for details.
Calle San Pío V 9
Tel: 96 393 20 46
Occupying a recently restored 17th-century building on the north bank of the Turia River, this fine arts museum is one of the most important in Spain. Strong collections of 14th- and 15th-century Valencian primitives, as well as Goya portraits, hang here, along with a Bosch triptych of the Passion, a Velázquez self-portrait, and works by El Greco, Ribera, Murillo, and Van Dyck. Representing the 20th century are local lads like Joaquín Sorolla and Antonio Muñoz Degrain.
Tel: 96 352 5478
The annual week-long Fallas festival, which culminates on March 19, is one of the most popular draws in Valencia. A fire festival with obscure pagan origins, Fallas centers on ninots—hundreds of towerlike tableaux vivants made out of wood, papier-mâché, wax, and other nontoxic materials—many with satirical themes and featuring politicians or celebrities in scandalous poses. Built by skilled local artisans, the ninots are placed at key points around the city in the week leading up to St. Joseph's Day. As evening falls on March 19, these displays are stuffed with fireworks and then, on the stroke of midnight, torched in huge pyres (this fire-orgy climax is known as La Cremà). A single ninot—judged by a committee to be that year's best—is saved from destruction, and ends up in the Museo Fallero (4 Plaza Monteolivete; 34-96-352-5478; www.fallas.com).
118 Calle Guillem de Castro 118
Tel: 34 96 386 3000
The Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (IVAM) displays temporary exhibits along with the core permanent collection, highlights of which include the iron Cubist/Surrealist sculptures of Julio González and a significant body of work by local Modernist painter Ignacio Pinazo. The photography collection includes some impressive works by native son Gabriel Cualladó.
After a devastating flood in 1957, city authorities decided to divert the Turia River south of the city. The original riverbed, which traces a curving course around the historic center, was turned into a 4.5-mile-long park. Valencianos come here to walk, jog, cycle, or just picnic under the acacia, maple, and orange trees. Along the way there are playgrounds; sports fields for soccer, rugby, baseball, and pétanque; and several overpass bridges. The most notable bridges are the Puente Serranos, which dates back to 1518, and Santiago Calatrava's contemporary Puente de la Exposicion, nicknamed La Peineta because of its resemblance to the iconic hair comb traditionally worn by Spanish women. Kids will love the huge Gulliver play area—a reclining giant whose body is covered with slides and climbing frames. The city's small but charming zoo is, as of spring 2007, moving from its home in the Jardínes to the Parque Cabecera—the most recently landscaped part of the former riverbed, west of the center. To be renamed the Valencia Bioparc, the new zoo will be one of the biggest in Europe; opening is scheduled for fall 2007 (www.zoovalencia.com).
Plaza del Mercado
Tel: 34 96 352 5478
Built between 1482 and 1498, this commodity exchange and silk market, now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the architectural wonders of Valencia. The elaborate Gothic tracery of the lofty ceiling is supported by tall stone columns that look like sticks of barley sugar. On the other side of a courtyard planted with orange trees, stairs lead up to the main hall of the Consolat del Mar, with its glorious ceiling of painted wood panels (hundreds of them) portraying scenes and characters from the Bible and classical mythology.
2 Calle del Poeta Queról
Tel: 34 96 351 6392
The National Ceramics Museum is housed behind the elaborate marble facade of the 18th-century Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas. Valencia's history as an epicenter of Spanish ceramics goes back to the Middle Ages, when the region's Arab rulers introduced new lead-glazing techniques. Today, the architectural use of ceramic tiles and plates can be admired on balconies, floors, and vintage shop-fronts around town. Most of the museum exhibits hail from the region's main centers of ceramic production, like Manises and Paterna; they trace the development of pottery from prehistory and the ancient Greek and Roman eras up to the 20th century, represented by works of Mariano Benlliure and Picasso.
Tel: 34 96 354 2460
When Swiss team Alinghi announced that Valencia had won the bid to host their 2007 America's Cup defense, there were citywide celebrations. But the new state-of-the-art marina built to house the team bases and the Cup headquarters has an important function beyond the race itself, which took place from June 23 to July 7, 2007. American architect David Chipperfield's Velas y Ventas pavilion, with its clean, intersecting white lines, will remain as a clubhouse and leisure center for the new 700-berth yacht marina, and the historic warehouses that surround the harbor are destined to host restaurants, bars, and shops open to visitors.