City Focus Valencia
Citylens VALENCIA IT may only be Spain’s third-largest city, but the Mediterranean port of Valencia has big ambitions. After successfully hosting the America’s Cup in 2007, an iconic event that saw swathes of the old port district given an impressive makeover, the city this month stages its first Formula One Grand Prix on 22–24 August. Throw in its sweeping sandy beaches, famously raucous nightlife and a collage of architectural styles – from ornate gothic, through to ultra-modern glass and steel creations – and it is clear that the town is no longer content to play second fiddle. Just check out the architecturally stunning City of Arts and Sciences. Built along a dried-out riverbed, it’s a futuristic, alien-like mini-city, filled with scientific and artistic activities galore. It’s truly incredible.
Citydays VALENCIA See striking architecture, old and new, and take in Valencia’s culinary creations IN a city whose story stretches back two millennia, the best place to start is at the oldest part of town, the CENTRO HISTORICO. Its hub is BARRIO DEL CARMEN, a maze of winding stone streets lined with all sorts of characterful bars, cafés and restaurants, as well as a flurry of tourist attractions.
Valencia these days is renowned for its funky, avant-garde architecture, but some of its most impressive structures are more old world than new. For instance, the cathedral’s elaborate, gothic façade casts an unmistakable presence over the palmfringed PLAZA DE LA REINA. And if you have a head for heights, then climb up the MICALET tower for sweeping views over the city.
Afterwards, make a lowerlevel exploration via tour bus or horse and carriage from the square. Check out the BULLRING (one of Spain’s most famous, or notorious, depending on your views) and LA LONJA, arguably the most beautiful building in Valencia. Originally a silk market, it now features on Unesco’s World Heritage List.
If you are feeling peckish, Valencia is famous for its tapas bars, and many of the best are in the BARRIO. For old-school tapas make a beeline for EL MOLINÓN. Go for the gorgeous tuna in red peppers, and the chorizo in cider, as you enjoy a bottle of Asturian cider poured theatrically from a height in front of you.
THE CITY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES complex could not be any more different to the CENTRO HISTORICO. Inventive city planners have turned an old riverbed into an ultra-modern arts, cultural and entertainment oasis. Visit the hands-on SCIENCE MUSEUM and L’OCEANOGRÀFIC, the world’s largest oceanarium, and home to everything from slick tropical fish and smooth dolphins, through to circling sharks and roaring walruses. The Mediterranean has always been crucial to this port city, so head to the revamped seafront area that hosted last year’s America’s Cup. There’s the uniquely designed building, the EDIFICIO VELES E VENTS, along with a trendy leisure and entertainment area that is the event’s legacy. To sample the city’s famous culinary creation, paella, head to ARRIBAR, where it comes served up by black-clad waiters in stylish surrounds. The lobster paella and a glass of rosé is an extravagant treat.
Heading north from the America’s Cup Port brings you to MALVARROSA, the city’s most popular beach, eating up a large swathe of Valencia’s 7km beachfront. Here you can rent a sunlounger or indulge in some beach volleyball posing. Perhaps the best restaurant is LA PEPICA. This old-world paella haunt oozes romance, and Ernest Hemingway was so inspired during his visit here that he penned some of his famous prose. You may feel as inspired after a day out in one of Europe’s most dynamic cities.