Valencia

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Valencia is an interesting city because of its mix of old and new architecture. A year or so ago I was tempted to consider a photography workshop in Valencias. Here is a city with medieval castles and towers to modernist and art deco architecture.

The central squares

The plazas or squares in Spain are often tree-lined, with gloriously cool shaded spots to escape the intense summer sun. They are normally ringed with various lanes, access points and obscure roads, leading out onto different courtyards, and in some cases, even more pretty plazas or squares. One of the most beautiful squares in Valencia is the Plaza de la Reina, or ‘Queen's Square’ in English, located in the old town.

Another, more quirky plaza just off the Plaza de la Reina, called the Plaza Redonda, which is a must-see because of its peculiar design. This little cosy square is circular and lined with quirky stalls or shops selling haberdashery, lace, aprons, bibs, crafts, souvenirs and even pet birds. Due to regeneration works by the city council it has become rather tourist focused, sadly resulting in losing some of its rustic charm. However, it is still a cool square to see, and it has a beautiful fountain dating from 1850 right in the middle.

 Valencia Cathedral and The Holy Grail

One of the cities' more controversial claims to fame is that it has what is supposed to be the Holy Grail, the actual cup that Jesus drank from at the last supper, although that claim is also upheld by several other places around the world. The cathedral is a lovely old place and well worth visiting. You can actually climb to the top of the Miguelete bell tower and admire great views of the city. Inside the cathedral, the Holy Grail is one of the must-see attractions for those of a religious following. Legend has it that the cup travelled from Rome centuries ago. However, when the Muslim rulers took over Spain, it was placed into hiding for centuries and only returned to the city in 1427 by the gloriously named King ‘Alfonso the Magnanimous’.

Valencia's Central Market

Not only is it a great modernist building to admire, it is also somewhere where visitors get a closer insight into the daily life of the Valencianos

The market itself is divided into sections, depending on the type of food available such as fish, a meat section, a fruit section and so on. There are some really interesting stalls here: some of the fruit and vegetables may look strange to visitors, and so may some of the traditional meat products which are still popular here but not in northern parts of Europe. 

Even if you get bored, there are loads of traditional shops, bars and cafes around the perimetre of the building. It is a really nice area to stroll around.

The beaches of Valencia

Luckily, the city of Valencia has many beaches along its coastline, several of which are unspoilt and undeveloped places.

The City of Arts and Sciences

The ‘City of Arts and Sciences’ in Valencia is widely recommended as a must-see for any first-time visitor to the city. The City of Arts contains 6 distinct zones or buildings.

The first one built, L'Hemisferic, was designed to look like a giant human eye. It offers, among other things, a 3D panoramic cinema, which is always popular with both locals and tourists.

Then we find El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe, or the Prince Philip Science museum. It has a programme of changing exhibits at various times of the year and you don't have to be a science fan to enjoy it. It's very educational for children too, with plenty of activities inside to keep them entertained.

The other part of the complex houses L'Umbracle, which is completely free and is a landscaped walk of plants native to the area and various artistic and thought-provoking sculptures.

The L'Oceanogràfic, is a small version of Sea World, so expect to pay to visit. It’s not cheap, but it is well worth it for sure. They do a dolphin display and it has the largest glass water tunnel in Europe to walk through, directly underneath the massive fish tank, with sharks swimming a few metres from your face!

El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía is the next part, which is an impressive looking opera house and theatre. 

The last and newest bit is L'Àgora, which is a covered exhibition space and sports arena with the shape of an ellipse.