Postcards from Valencia: a photojournal
Think Barcelona minus the tourist crowds. Think palm trees, oranges and the hometown of paella. Valencia may be Spain’s third-largest city, but it is quite possibly one of the country’s best-kept secrets. An experience as refreshing as its signature horchata, that delicious summertime concoction made from chufa nuts, this city is still some way off the beaten track.
A good place to start is the charming old city (Ciutat Vella) with its understated cathedral. Look out for the distinctive alabaster windows inside, and climb the 207 steps up El Micalet for that panoramic view over the jumbled rooftops. After wandering the galleries of the Museum of Fine Arts San Pio V, a hidden jewel in its own right, descend the old river embankment into the Garden of the Turia, a beautiful sunken park stretching 7 km (4 mi) across the city.
Inspired by the old silk exchange, La Lonja, a certain Valencian by the name of Calatrava went on to become one of the world’s most sought-after architects. In recent years he has bestowed his hometown with the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences (Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències), a monumental complex featuring a brand-new opera house, science museum, and an eye-catching planetarium/IMAX cinema. At its eastern end sits L’Oceanogràfic, the largest aquarium in Europe and a proud creation of late architect Félix Candela.
Whether it’s going out for a copa in the historic Barrio del Carmen, or stretching out on an expansive beach under the Mediterranean sun, Valencia has a little something for everyone. And for the closet pyromaniac there’s always Las Fallas, the annual festival promising sheer madness, all-night parties and plenty of noise.
So how would you get here? Valencia’s airport is well-connected to the rest of Europe and Madrid is just 90 minutes away by high-speed rail. In the meantime I’ll be raising a glass of tinto de verano to three memorable trips, my dear Valencian friends and their beloved hometown. Here’s to my favourite city in all of Spain.