If you are visiting Valencia for the first time or you’ve heard about this great city, the first thing that will catch your attention is the incredible light that reaches every corner, the great weather that lasts all year long, or perhaps the friendly nature of its people. All this is true, as is the fact that together with Barcelona, these two cities are the most important on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, and, within the last few years, Valencia has grown tremendously.
But perhaps what might surprise you even more is its incredible diversity. Moving from one area of the city to another means being surrounded by completely different urban landscapes; so much so that you might even think you’re in a different city altogether.
The Center A good point to start a sightseeing trip through the city is without a doubt the historic center of town. The Ayuntamiento (Town council) and Correos(Main Post Office) buildings stand out as some impressive sites worth visiting. If you head to the Plaza de la Reina, this large square introduces you into an older part of town with turn-of-the-century buildings and, just beyond that, the historic Old Quarter and the Barrio del Carmen neighborhood.
Some of the buildings in this area date from the period of Arab domination of the city and others incorporate the old walls of the city into their structure. The palaces in this part have been restored and turned into luxury restaurants or official government buildings. A walk along the narrow, cobble-stoned streets will give you a flavor for the past, contrasting with the modernity that the many bars, cafés, and clubs that this area boasts.
University Area The new Town Council was built in this area as was theCalatrava bridge. The latter is an example of the innovative architecture found in Valencia. It joins the two shores of the Turia riverbed, which has now been turned into a fantastic garden and recreational area running through the entire city. This area is almost like a triangle of modernity between Alameda-Blasco Ibánez-Avenida de Aragón streets where you’ll also find a good part of the university campus in the city.
It is also where you’ll find modern glass skyscrapers, some of the best restaurants, pubs, and night clubs in the city, together with the best parks and gardens, such as the Jardines del Real o ‘Viveros’, Jardines de Monforte, or the Alameda. It is here in front of the river Turia that you will find the Palau de la Música, with its huge glass dome and main venue in the city for concerts and all sorts of cultural events.
Cánovas Classicism, harmony, good taste, luxury shops, and restaurants, are what you will find in the turn-of-the-century buildings-lined streets of the Cánovas area. This is the traditional residential area for the Valencian bourgeoisie, and nowadays home to some of the best clubs and most chic, most elegant restaurants in the city. Bordering on the old quarter, you’ll find Colón Street, which has some of the most elegant boutiques and shops in the city, and, of course, the Corte Inglés department store.
The Beaches We cannot end without talking about the most characteristic feature of this city, which gives it color and life: the Mediterranean. This inseparable part of the Castilian culture is very easily reached, and, if you choose to use the route that takes you by the Avenida del Puerto, your efforts will be rewarded. This last avenue is lined with traditional restaurants, some of which boast the honor of having been visited by Hemingway on one of his visits to Valencia. Other more recently-opened restaurants display unique, modern Valencian designs- a city with a reputation for great creators.
The city’s coast consists of three beaches: Las Arenas, la Malvarrosa and Alboraya, in addition to the Cabañal neighborhood, where the city’s fishermen once lived. If you are fit enough, try to walk along all three in just one morning. If not, just enjoy the landscape and the sea breeze while sipping on a refreshing drink in any of the open-air terraces facing the sea.
This is Valencia in very general terms, but if you decide to get to know it on your own, you will discover lots of details, beautiful plazas, and charming neighborhoods that will undeniably entice you to return to this beautiful city by the sea.
“Valencia District Guide” by www.travelchannel.com