Valencia

Valencia


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Valencia is the third largest city in Spain and one of the country's liveliest. It is a sprawling place on the Mediterranean coast, some 310 km east of Madrid. It is home to numerous important trade companies that confirm the Valencia's position as one of the most dynamic cities in Spain. Valencia is also the place where Spain's most famous food, the paella has its roots and where Spain's national hero, El Cid fought against the Moors. Popular festivals in the city and in many surrounding villages still remind of this epoch.

Places of interest

The Old Town

The limits of Valencia's old town are easily recognized, as the tramway runs exactly there, where the old town-walls stood until they were demolished in 1865. Monuments in the old town date back as far as 1238, when Jaime I re-conquered Valencia from the Moors. The 13th century was also Valencia's most blooming epoch.

One of the most important buildings in the Old Town is Valencia's Catedral. It was originally build in early-Gothic style, but later additions were constructed in other styles. Its three portals are Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque for example. The building's main chapel, the Capilla Mayor, is in Baroque style, while two lateral chapels are Neoclassic.

The Cathedral's octagonal bell-tower, which is known as Micalet, or Miguelete is Valencia's main landmark. The 14th-century tower offers excellent views over the city. In the Capitulary you can see the Holy Chalice, of which Jesus Christ and the Apostles are said to have drunk during the Last Supper. The Cathedral also houses a museum, where you can see works of Goya, Jacomart, Cellini and Paggibonsi, as well as paintings of Valencian school of the 15th to 17th century.

Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, or in Valencia no Mare de Deu dels Desemparats. The church is consecrated to the patroness of the city. The nearby Almudín is a medieval granary that is nowadays used as a museum. Also in the vicinity is the Iglesia de San Esteban. According to legend, the daughters of the legendary Cid were married there. Other interesting buildings in the area around the Cathedral include the Palace of Almirantes de Aragón, the church of San Juan del Hospital and the Convento de Santo Domingo.

In the Old Town you will also find the Palacio de la Generalitat, which is the seat of the Valencian Government. It has Renaissance-style coffered and gold-beaten ceilings, as well as reminiscences of the Orient. The Salon de las Cortes (Parliament) contains large paintings by Zariñena. The Salón Dorado and Galería de Retratos de los Reyes de Valencia are also very interesting. The Palacio de la Generalidad is located at Plaza de Manises.

If you walk from that square through Calle de Los Caballeros, you get to the Torres de Quart (Quart Towers). The gateway was built by Pere Bofill in 1441 and originally provided access to the city from the west. In the vicinity is also the Plaza del Mercado, where one of Valencia's best known monuments, the old stock-exchange building of La Lonja, is located. La Lonja Silk Exchange is a splendid late-Gothic building that was constructed by Pere Compte in 1483. Its famous hall with helicoidally columns is now used for exhibitions. Of special interest is the ceiling of the Salon del Consulado, which was taken from the 15th century Casa de la Ciudad (Town Hall). Also on the square is the Mercado Central (Central Market), which is one of Europe's largest covered market places, with a total area of 8000 m².

At the side of the Mercado Central are the baroque Iglesia de los Santos Juanes, with important wall-paintings of Palomino and the bell-tower of Campanil de la Iglesia de Santa Catalina. From there you can walk through Calle Torno, to arrive at the rococo-style Palace of the Marquis de Dos Aguas. It boasts a very highly individual portal designed by Hipólito Rovira. The nearby Patriarca College, of 1603, is typical for the austere ambience of religious Renaissance buildings in Spain. Valencia's University and its extraordinary Law Court are of neoclassical style.

There are many more impressive buildings scattered all over the Old Town. The Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas boasts a marvelous facade, while the Museo de Bellas Artes is home to works from El Greco, Goya and Velázquez, among others. Modern art can be seen at the Instituto Valenciano Arte Moderno, which is located at Valencia's river-bed. It is one of the leading museums of modern arts in Spain.

The River

The Turia river once ran through Valencia, but after a catastrophic inundation in 1957 it was deviated around the city. The old river-bed is nowadays a huge park that is used for all kinds of sports and leisure-time activities. It is crossed by three old bridges (and numerous newer ones) that originally crossed the Turia River. The old bridges are the Puente del Real, Puente de la Trinidad and Puente de Serranos. The latter provides access to the Torres de Serranos (Serranos Towers). The towers were constructed by Pere Balaguer in the 14th century and combine the elegance of a triumphal arch with the solidity of fortifications. Originally they were part of the defensive walls of the city. Nowadays they contain the Maritime Museum. A monument of quite recent date is the bridge Nuevo Puente. It dates from 1995 and it has been nicknamed La Peineta, or 'side-comb', due to its form.

Barrio del Carmen

The district of Barrio del Carmen, represents Valencia's way of living like no other place in the city. If you haven't visited the Barrio del Carmen, you haven't really visited Valencia. In that district you will find countless small shops, café-theaters, bars, restaurants, flower-stands, etc. It is the center of everyday life and offers unique scenery for the visitor.

El Ensanche

El Ensanche is a modern part of Valencia. It is inhabited mainly by bourgeoisie and officials and gives a good impression of modern today's Valencia.

The Gardens

The lyrics of an old folk song include the words 'Valencia es la tierra de las flores...' (Valencia is the land of flowers). It is true, as the city's parks and gardens demonstrate in an impressive way. The Jardines de la Alameda and Jardines de Monforte are romantic parks of 18th century. The Jardines Real (Royal Gardens) include the Zoological Garden. They boast beautiful cultures of roses and large pine-woods, as well as the ruins of an old king's palace. Valencia's Botanical Garden shows a variety of exotic plants.

Beaches

There are several good beaches right in the heart of the city. Facilities for all kind of sports (golf, diving, cycling, tennis, etc.) are all available.

Accommodation and Food

Valencia has a very nice climate and thousands of tourists visit the city every year, especially during the summer months. Accommodation is widely available though and even in the peak tourist season, it is still fairly easy to find a room. There is a large amount of restaurants in town, many of which offer Spain's most famous food: paellas, which originate from Valencia. The city has a boiling nightlife and there are many bars and discotheques.

The best way to get around the city is by metro, although buses and trams are a good alternative. The city center is quite compact and can easily be explored on foot.


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