The third largest city in Spain, Valencia is often overlooked for big brother Madrid and Barcelona. But this fast-talking city is full of spectacular sights, eats and events. Home of paella, Valencia, we promise, will feed you proper and surprise you around every corner. Here are the Top 3 Things to do in Valencia:
1. Visit the Ciutat Vella – The Old City of Valencia
As most of the people from the 1600’s, I first entered the old city of Valencia through the sumptuous Serrano Gates, locally named Torres de Serrans, or Torres de Serano.
I most easily lost my way between the narrow streets of the old city of Valencia, where the Spanish people from the 17th century used to carry on with their daily life. The small buildings, built in a fascinating architecture, hide around their corners extremely beautiful and relaxing little islands of green and water coming from fountains, and places to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere.
Spread throughout the Ciudad Vieja, you can encounter in your walks sumptuous Cathedrals, Towers, Museums and other buildings of historical importance.
The center of the Ciutat Vella is very well conserved too. Again, amazing architectural shapes and lines revealed before my eyes, and I got thirsty for more information that was hidden in all that beauty. The place is called Placa de la Verge, or Plaza de la Virgen, and it is a pretty big square with a fountain in the middle, the Fountain of Turia. You will learn more about river Turia further on in this lens. Surrounding the ancient fountain, you can find nice places where you can enjoy a drink, or a local specialty, while admiring the square, with the Valencia Cathedral, the Miguelete Towerand the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados.
2. The City of Arts and Sciences
THE CITY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES IS A SEVEN BUILDING COMPLEX – This is by far the most modern tourist destination one can find in the City of Valencia.
It can take days in order to see, enjoy, and find out all there is to know about it, and inside its futuristic walls. Its construction began in 1996, under the complex designs of Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela. The first finished building, L’Hemisferic, was opened in 1998, and in 2005 El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia was inaugurated.
3. Las Fallas – Local Valencian Holyday
If you are planning a trip to Valencia, you should do your best to come here in the middle of March, to be sure you can participate to the processions of the Fallesfestival, and enjoy the wonderful street decorations, made especially for this occasion.
This year was my first encounter with this event that I didn’t know about. It surely took me by surprise, as great noise could be heard from everywhere outside, usually starting from 2pm.
What’s it all about? Well, the Falles is traditional celebration of Saint Joseph, held every year in Valencia. It also symbolizes the coming of spring, and the story says that around this time of year carpenters used to make big fires in the streets of Valencia, using old bits of wood and old furniture kept for the recently finished winter.
Today however, people organize in groups and build some type of huge monuments, with puppets / ninots, called falles or fallas, which they burn around 19th of March, at midnight.
It’s an impressive show to participate to! Children and grownups are lighting firecrackers and noisemakers in the streets and parks, all day long, sometimes during the night too, for about a week. This procession is called La Mascletà. At the end of this fireworks and firecrackers week, when religious, historical, and cultural actions also take place in the streets and cultural centers, everybody participates to the final show, the final La Mascletà.
La Cremà is the last part of the Falles, when, in a traditional way, the children’s falla (falla infantil) is lit up at 10 pm, and the main ones around midnight. This unique show will leave you breathless! It’s an exhilarating fire, smoke, fireworks, firecrackers and noisemakers display, without a match in the world, heavily visited by international tourists.