Guide to the City of Valencia
Valencia is a fascinating city where ancient buildings offer a tantalizing taste of centuries past and some of Spain’s most futuristic architecture draws admirers from all over the world.
It’s a city steeped in history and fiercely protective of its Valencian culture, language and traditions. It claims to be the home of the holy chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper and it’s the place where Spain’s most famous warrior, El Cid, ousted the Moorish invaders more than 1,000 years ago.
Valencia is also a cosmopolitan place with its eye firmly on the future. The development of its breathtaking City of Arts and Science has put the city firmly on the world map as one of Europe’s leading cultural tourism destinations.
This is Spain’s largest city and the capital of the autonomous region of Valencia, which incorporates some of the country’s most popular coastal resorts. But until the advent of it’s much talked about arts and science millennium project, the city remained relatively untouched by tourism. Apart from a few student backpackers and culture buffs, the vast majority of foreign visitors never took the time to discover Valencia’s myriad of attractions.
There was a brief flurry of world interest in the city when Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren revived the legendary tales of El Cid in the Hollywood blockbuster in 1961.
World attention has returned to Valencia once again – both as the home of some of Europe’s most exciting avant-garde architecture and as the host for the 2007 Americas Cup.
It is also the birthplace of paella and the home to one of one of Europe’s biggest and most extraordinary festivals – the famous Fallas fiesta which takes place each year from March 12th-19th.
It’s a major cultural centre, attracting world-class performers to its Reina Sofia Opera House and Palau de la Musica concert hall and also boasts a thriving gay scene and vibrant year-round nightlife.
For kids there’s one of the most imaginative play parks in Europe – the delightful Gulliver Park in the dry bed of the Turia River where a huge model of the famous Jonathan Swift character provides endless hours of entertainment for visiting ‘Lilliputians’.
Valencia’s many historic sites of interest include its 15th-century silk market, one of the most beautiful bullrings in Spain and the impressive Gothic cathedral where Christianity’s greatest treasure, the Holy Grail, is said to have been housed since 1437.
Every Thursday, under the cathedral’s Door of the Apostles, you can see Europe’s oldest law court sorting out disputes amongst local farmers over rights to water from the River Turia. The ‘Tribunal de las Aguas’ has sat in judgment each week at midday since the middle of the tenth century.