Valencia Travel Guide
“Valencia is the land of flowers, light and love”. So say the lyrics of the famous popular song that has been immortalised by countless renowned tenors ... and they would be right. Valencia is a land of passion and tradition that proudly defends its regional identity while possessing the warmth and liveliness that is true of all Spanish regions. Yet there is another side to Valencia these days: a fascinating and revolutionary one that promotes discovery and that has transformed it into a cosmopolitan, thriving city and a further example of the splendour of Spain.
The third largest city in Spain, Valencia is the administrative capital of the autonomous Comunitat Valenciana region, encompassing Valencia, Alicante and Castellón on the eastern Mediterranean coast of Spain. Located near the mouth of the river Turia and flanked by mountains, Valencia lies on the fertile area known as Spain’s “La Huerta” (vegetable garden), some 350 km east of Madrid and south of Barcelona. The province of Valencia boasts a bit of everything, from kilometres of sun-drenched beaches and rolling plains of orange groves to the impressive river canyons and pine forests of the mountains. The city of Valencia is equally versatile and indefinable. Genuinely Spanish and a proud upholder of its regional traditions, it also boasts one of the most futuristic landscapes in Europe and has become a modern city offering state-of-the-art exhibition centres, flamboyant festivals, an excellent nightlife, fabulous hotels, wonderful shopping opportunities, great beaches, a host of sights, superb ‘tapas’ and, naturally, the best ‘paella’ in the world.
Valencia’s festivals are a great source of pride to the Valencians and are usually exuberant and lavish affairs involving a ferocious amount of partying. The most renowned are the ‘Fallas’ of Valencia in March, which transform the city into 5 intense days of serious pyrotechnics, effigy-burning bonfires and an amazing amount of street dancing, drinking and eating. Other regional festivals are equally unique and lavish: the tomato pelting fight of neighbouring Buñol’s ‘Tomatina’ festival; the flower-blanketed streets of the Our Lady of the Forsaken processions; the colourful flower-filled July fair; the marzipan extravaganza and Moors and Christians re-enactment of the Lovers’ day / National Day in October are all examples of just how seriously the ‘Valencianos’ take their festivals.
Valencia’s rich historical heritage is reflected in the abundance of monuments, all stalwart reminders of the varied fates that have befallen the city. Romans ruins testify to Roman occupation and indeed, to the very origins of Valencia’s name (Valentia); the rich Moorish legacy is visible throughout the city; legendary Spanish hero, El Cid, left his indelible mark on the region; the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Silk Exchange reflects Valencia’s Golden Age prosperity; and Valencia cathedral is held to be the resting-place of the Holy Grail.
The other facet of Valencia is modern, contemporary and equally seductive. Two beautiful beaches lie a short distance from the city centre while the futuristic landscape of Valencian award-winning architect, Santiago Calatrava’s City Of Arts and Sciences, is attracting millions of visitors every year. A 10 km-long park on the dried-up river bed of the former Turia riverbed has made Valencia one of the greenest cities in Europe, the annual challenging street circuit of the Formula 1 Grand Prix is a major attraction and the city’s staging of the America’s Cup has transformed the port area into an exciting recreational area, boasting a sophisticated marina and yacht club.
Endless opportunities await visitors to this intriguing city of eastern Spain that has known how to combine the best of Spanish tradition with the ultimate in modern design and quality facilities.