A Few Days In Valencia

The Spanish city of Valencia is famous for producing what are said to be the best oranges in the world, but there is so much more to this quaint Mediterranean expanse than simply an ability to quench thirsts with enviable aplomb.

Spain’s ‘big two’ of Madrid and Barcelona may be the destinations of choice in this country for the majority of holiday-makers looking for some Spanish culture, but Valencia gives both of these world-renowned, cosmopolitan giants a run for their money on almost every score.

The city, which is Spain’s third largest with a population of around 800,000, was originally founded by the Romans some 2,000 years ago.  Much of the beautiful Gothic architecture that you will see on display throughout the city centre was constructed back in the 15th century, an era that saw Valencia becoming one of the most prosperous cities in Europe.

If you take a leisurely walk north from the main train station (Estacion Del Norte), which is perfectly located for getting to all of the major attractions within the city, you will immediately be struck by the beauty of the buildings and their surrounding aesthetics.  Within a couple of minutes you will be in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the main square in the city, and it truly is a sight to behold.  To your left you have arguably the most impressive building of them all – the Ayuntamiento (City Hall) – which beautifully showcases the city’s symbol of the bat on its coat of arms.

Continuing north from the Plaza Del Ayuntamiento, you will quickly stumble upon two more impressive squares (Plaza De La Reina and Plaza Redonda), both of which boast similarly picturesque surroundings, combining the distinguished architecture with water fountains and little gardens.  At every corner there are tiny streets which soon dissolve into a thousand others if you decide to meander in their direction.  This is one of the charms of Valencia, especially in the evening when this whole area becomes a real hive of activity, but if you are looking to keep your bearings during your visit, then be warned that this is when it will become a real challenge!

Sticking to the main streets however, we should find ourselves very shortly in the Plaza De La Virgen, which is dominated by the city’s magnificent Cathedral.  The octagonal bell-tower is what really makes this building stand out in terms of its size, but even if you don’t fancy venturing up to those vertigo-inducing heights, it is most definitely recommended that you take a little trip inside the Cathedral.  Steeped in history as one would expect, it boasts what Valencian legend tells us is the original Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus Christ was said to have drunk from during The Last Supper.  If you take the audio tour (it costs around four Euros), the story of the grail and how it came to be in Valencia is told.  This, as well as interesting explanations of several of the other exhibits and constructions found within the Cathedral, make it very good value for money and an excellent way to spend an hour or two.

Not far from the Plaza De La Virgen is the area known as Barrio Del Carmen, which is one of the liveliest and most atmospheric parts of the city in the evening.  Historically one of the poorer areas of Valencia, Barrio Del Carmen was for many years left to crumble and decay, but a regeneration programme has helped to rehabilitate it into the network of bustling streets that it is today, and Valencia is all the richer for it.  If you’re looking for nightlife then this really is the place to come, and even if you simply want to sample some of the best food that the old town has to offer without necessarily staying out late, then it is also an area that you must visit.  There is just so much choice here that you cannot fail to find somewhere for a good meal, although every one of the locals does seem to have their own particular favourite Tapas or Paella bar, so finding a universally approved recommendation from them on this front can be almost as challenging as keeping your bearings here!

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