Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, doesn’t fit easily into any tour of Spain (it’s over 200 miles from Barcelona and Madrid and 400 miles from the Costa del Sol). But if you’re able to visit, Valencia can be a truly Spanish experience. The real question is, “Can a complex change a city?” That’s what seems to be happening here. Like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the futuristic Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències has created a domino effect of improvements. The 2007 America’s Cup has also spurred development along the city’s waterfront.
The Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (City of Arts and Sciences) is a major tourist attraction. Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava (who designed, among other things, Milwaukee’s fabulous lakefront art museum) designed this innovative, sprawling complex, which includes:
•L'Hemisferic (Hemispheric Planetarium) shaped like a floating eyeball that even blinks.
•L’Oceanogràphic (Oceanographic Park).
•Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe (Prince Philip Science Museum).
•Palau de les Arts (Palace of the Arts).
There’s also an IMAX Theater, marine habitat, amphitheater, indoor theater and music hall. Info: 7 Ave. Autovía del Saler. Tel. 022100031. www.cac.es. Museum open daily 10am-7pm (Jul to mid-Sep until 9pm). Oceanographic Park open daily 10am-6pm (Jul and Aug until midnight). Hemispheric Planetarium daily shows every hour from 11am-7pm (additional show at 9pm on Fri and Sat). Admission: €31 (includes admission to Museum of Science, Hemispheric Planetarium and Oceanographic Park).
The Institut Valencia d’Art Modern (IVAM) is an art institute with a collection of 20th-century contemporary art and photography. Info: 118 Guillem de Castro. Tel. 963863000. www.ivam.es. Open Tue-Sun 10am-8pm. Admission: €2, free on Sun. The IVAM is also home to La Sucursal, one of the city’s best restaurants serving contemporary cuisine. Info: Tel. 963746655. Closed Sun. Reservations required. Expensive.
The Museo de Bellas Arts features Spanish artists, including works by Goya and Velàzquez. Info: Calle San Pío. Tel. 963870300. www.cult.gva.es/mbav. Open Tue-Sun 10am-8pm. Admission: Free.
Valencia’s Catedral is best known for its Capilla del Santo Cáliz (Chapel of the Holy Grail) that is home to what some believe is Christ’s cup at the Last Supper. The Cathedral is also home to one of St. Vincent’s arms (!) and a museum featuring Goya’s painting of St. Francis de Broja. Info: Plaza de la Reina. Tel. 963918127. Open daily 7:30am-1pm and 4pm-8:30pm. Admission: Free to cathedral. Museum: €2.
Travelers to Spain often return home with ceramics. At the Palacio de Marques de Dos Aguas you can see the grand ceramic collection housed in the Museo National de Ceramica. Info: 2 Poeta Querol. Tel. 963516392. Open Tue-Sat 10am-2pm and 4pm-8pm, Sun 10am-2pm. Closed Mon. Admission: €3.
Dining in Valencia is a pleasant surprise. The city is famous for its rice dishes, especially paella. Contemporary chefs have taken this old favorite and created imaginative cuisine. At Civera (near the Bellas Artes Museum) you’ll dine on Spanish and Mediterranean food, with an emphasis on seafood. Excellent lobster dishes. Info: 11 Calle Lerida. Tel. 963475917. Closed Mon and Aug. Moderate-Expensive.
At El Timonel, the nautical décor is appropriate for this restaurant specializing in seafood (they also have good meat dishes). It’s located just a few blocks from Valencia’s Plaza de Toros, the largest bullring in Spain. Info: 13 Félix Pizcueta. Tel. 963526300. Closed Mon. Moderate-Expensive.
For cheaper dining, try Los Patos, serving specialty duck dishes to pizza in a 20th-century townhouse in the central city. Good value. Info: 28 Calle del Mar. Tel. 963529323. Closed Mon. Moderate.
While in Valencia, make sure you try the delicious horchata, a milky drink made with crushed tiger nuts. It’s served everywhere. And head to the Barrio del Carmen located around the Plaza del Carmen for a few cañas (glasses of beer) at any of the funky bars here in Valencia’s oldest neighborhood.
For more on Valencia, check out Open Road's Best of Spain. Delta Airlines now has four nonstop flights per week from New York's JFK Airport to Valencia.