Valencia, Spain - Guide
Valencia - General Information
Valencia, like Bilbao, is one of
Spain’s great urban regeneration success stories, gradually but assuredly emerging from the shadows of
Valencia City Hall
Barcelona and Madrid. For many years the nation’s third largest city was primarily a sleepy fishing port, though it always boasted a perfect location midway along the Mediterranean coast. Today its palm-lined boulevards, baroque bell towers and endless golden beaches have been complemented and enhanced by spectacular new architecture, the latest designer restaurants and a vibrant nightlife.
It divides into three main areas: the Old City, the New City and the Port. The Old City is set about 4 kilometres back from the sea and is still the heart of Valencia, with its churches, cathedrals, tiled domes and souk-like maze of narrow streets (a legacy of the fact that Valencia was capital of an Arab kingdom for 2000 years.)
The New City links the Old City with the sea. Its residential architecture is, admittedly, quite uninspiring, but it boasts some remarkable attractions. In particular, the extensive landscaped gardens that line the former riverbed of the diverted Riu Turia, culminate at the stunning Ciutat de les Artes I les Ciènces. This sleek, stunning complex contains Europe’s largest aquarium, L’Oceanogràfic, as well as a high tech science museum and the daring new Palau de les Arts.
The Ciutat de les Artes I les Ciènces leads on to the huge, industrial port. It is still pretty functional in appearance, but there are advanced plans to build a stunning new marina for the America’s Cup, which Valencia will be hosting in 2007. North of here sweeps the golden beaches of Malvarrosa, lined with gardens and incomparable seafood restaurants.
Eating & Drinking
Valencianos tend to eat a quick breakfast of coffee and a pastry while hurrying to work between 07.30 and 08.00. Many will have a bocadillo – a kind of sandwich – with a beer or coffee at around 11.00. A late lunch is taken at around 14.00. Dinner is rarely eaten before 21.00 or 22.00, though some may have tapas to keep them going earlier in the evening.
Valencia is most famously the home of paella. There are many different varieties, made with meat, seafood or vegetables, but most are flavoured with garlic and saffron and cooked in a large flat pan, with a thin crust, called ‘soccarat’ on the rice. Local variations on paella include fideua, where the rice is replaced by short noodles,
arroz negro, where squid ink is added to the sauce to make the
Seafood, of course, plays a large part in the diet of Valencianos. Particularly tasty are Denia prawns, reputed to be amongst the finest in the world. Most of the best seafood restaurants can be found near the beach. They tend to grill their fish over charcoal, in a style called a la parilla.
The city’s most famous drink is horchata, a sweet, creamy, surprisingly refreshing concoction made from tiger nuts. However, Valencia is gaining an increasing reputation for its wines: reds made from Grenache grapes produced in the region around Utiel-Requena and dry whites from Alto-Turia.
Another Valencian speciality you must try is turron. Eaten mainly at Christmas, but sol in the shops all year round, it is a nougat-like confection made from ground almonds and honey and is absolutely delicious.