The City of Arts and Sciences or as it is known by its official Spanish name, Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciènces, is a true world of its own and is an astonishing example of the world’s most modern architecture. "The City”, for short, is Valencia’s bid to show the world its importance based on cultural tourism and dynamism. Made up of six areas in the now dry river bed of the River Turia in Valencia, "The City" comprises six eye-opening structures and they are: El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia – an opera house and performing arts centre; L’Hemisfèric – Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium; L’Umbracle – Walkway/Garden; El Museu de les Ciènces Príncipe Felipe – a science museum; L‘Oceanografic – an open-air aquarium or oceanographic park; El Ágora – a versatile space that holds various events.
Designed by two very forward thinkers, Santiago Calatrava and Féliz Candela, "The City" complex lies along an axis of two kilometres and is an endless capacity for entertaining and stimulating the minds of all who visit it. Within the buildings of this remarkable attraction are entire worlds for you to discover covering different aspects including science, technology, nature and art.
Inaugurated in 2005, El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia or Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts constitutes an avant-garde and modern space which has boosted Valencia’s status as one of the world’s most cultural cities. The Queen Sofia Palace of Arts has 14 floors above ground, as well as 3 floors below ground and is known as the tallest opera house in the world standing at 75 metres tall. Within the building are four auditoriums; the Sala Principal (Main Hall) – seats 1700 people and is used mainly for opera although can be converted for dance performances among other genres; the Auditorium- seats 1500 people and is a spectacular venue equipped with hi-tech sound and video systems ideal for music concerts and even political rallies; Aula Magistral – seats 400 people and is a space for chamber music performances and conferences; Martí i Soler Theatre – seats 400 people and is used for theatre productions and training centre. This innovative structure is surrounded by over 60,000 square metres of gardens, pathways and 11,000 square metres of water in which the Palace is reflected – simply stunning!
L’Hemisfèric is an Imax Cinema, Planetarium and Laserium. Completed in 1998, the building was the first of the City of Arts and Science’s spectacular buildings and is known for resembling a giant eye. The illusion of the eye is created by the 24,000 square metre glass-bottomed pool of water laid out in front L’Hemisfèric. The cover of the cinema looks like the eye lids of the eye which can be opened and closed. This is a particularly appealing attraction for adults as well as children even if it’s just to take some photos from the outside.
L’Umbracle, designed as an entrance to the City of Arts and Sciences, is a beautiful landscaped walkway filled with plant species indigenous to the region of Valencia which change colour with the changing of the seasons. It contains an outdoor art gallery known as The Walk of the Sculptures featuring pieces by contemporary artists. It is a total of 320 metres in length and 60 metres wide with 55 fixed white arches. L’Umbracle was inaugurated in 2000.
The Principe Felipe Science Museum is today a world reference point for interactive science and is one of Spain’s most visited attractions having already welcomed over 25 million people from all over the world since its opening in 2000. Filled with interactive exhibitions, fun modules and large-scale sculptures and reproductions of scientific milestones, this massively interesting museum’s objective is to bring science and technology to ordinary people and hopefully spark their interest and curiosity to the world of science. Its structure covers 42,000 square metres in area and is an extraordinary resemblance of the skeleton of a whale. For sure one of Valencia’s most unique landmarks.
L’Oceanografic is one of the main attractions in the city of Valencia and is the largest aquarium in Europe since it opened its doors in 2003. This superb structure, designed as a centre for leisure, education and research, is an open-air aquarium and oceanographic park that takes us on a journey through the planet’s main seas, oceans and ecosystems. It contains more than 45,000 examples of 500 different marine species which include sharks, beluga wales, sea lions, penguins and manta rays as well as owning gardens, underwater towers and a central lake. L’Oceanografic also hosts a dolphinarium, an auditorium and several gardens. L’Oceanografic is simply oozing in highlights, even having a meal in the park’s underwater restaurant is a unique experience – eating whilst surrounded by an immense aquarium…a divine moment you won’t be forgetting too soon!
Inaugrated in 2009, thus one of the newest constructions of the City of Arts and Sciences complex, El Àgora or simply Àgora, is a multifunctional covered space with a capacity for up to 6075 people. The roof of Àgora can be opened or closed to let in or block out the sun. Contrary to the colours of the other buildings in the complex, the Àgora is coated in a reflective blue surface, rather than being all white, and is reflected in the shallow water pool surrounding the building. This beautiful venue has also been the host for the Valencia Tennis Open ATP 500 as well as Valencia Fashion Week.
The Valencia Bioparc is Valencia’s most modern zoo and hosts some 4000 animals with 250 African, South East Asian and tropical species. The enormous 10-hectare Bioparc zoo, located in Parque de Cabecera, provides its animals with a natural habitat complete with rivers, ponds, streams and rocks which separate visitors from animals instead of the habitual railings and caves that are far from natural. Valencia Bioparc is a must-see attraction for all, be it for families or just adults. It is an ideal place for a day of entertainment.
The Valencia Cathedral, official named Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia, is a distinctive building believed to hold many religious treasures including the Cup of the Holy Grail used during the Last Supper as defended by Christian historians from all over the world. You will also find many historical relics during your visit including remains of Saints. Built during the 13th and 15th centuries, the Cathedral consequently has a range of styles covering the early Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-classical periods although the predominant style is that of Gothic. The Cathedral offers excellent views over Valencia from its bell tower, the Torre del Miguelet, that can be appreciated once getting to the top of a staircase which although long, is worth every step. Full of history, the Valencia Cathedral takes care of its visitors by providing them with an audio-guide so that you can discover all you need to know about the Cathedral and what it holds. The Valencia Cathedral is a 100% worth-while attraction.
The Llotja de la Seda translated as the Silk Exchange, originating from the historical use of the building, is described as a masterpiece of Gothic architecture in Valencia. Built between 1482 and 1533, this inspiring building illustrates the power and wealth of this city which was once a powerful merchantile city during the 15th and 16 centuries. In 1996, the Llotja de la Seda was considered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site stating that the site is of outstanding universal value as it is a wholly exceptional example of a secular building in late Gothic style, which dramatically illustrates the power and wealth of one of the great Mediterranean mercantile cities. Making up the ensemble that is Llotja de la Seda are four grand areas – Sala de Contratación; the Tower, the Consulado and the large garden. Although there is not much to actually do here, the Llotja de la Seda is an attraction that has plenty to feed the eyes and your cultural knowledge and is a definite jewel in the centre of the city of Valencia.
The Museo de Belles Arts de Valencia or Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia is the second largest and second most important art museum in Spain which you can easily spend several hours in. Situated in the baroque-styled St. Pius V Palace built during the 17th and 18th centuries, this captivatingly beautiful museum and attraction houses some 2000 works dating back to the 14th and 17th centuries and also features extraordinary sculptures, interesting contemporary art and significant archaeological findings from as far back as the Iberian epoch. The Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia proudly exhibits art from renowned painters such as El Greco, Velázquez, Murillo, Goya, Gonzalo Pérez, Mateu and the Renaissance master Pinturicchio. Apart from the paintings, there are other things to appreciate in the Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia such as the stunning ceiling in the entryway and an inner courtyard (cloisters).
The Torres Serranos or Serranos Towers in English is one of the oldest iconic monuments of Valencia. Built in the 14th century by master stonemason, Pere Balaguer, the two pentagonal towers make up one of the twelve gateways that were found along Valencia’s old medieval city wall and were once used to defend one of the busiest access points to ‘Old Valencia’. The Serranos Towers were also once used as prison cells and served as a triumphal arch on many festive and important occasions. From the top of the two towers is a spectacular must-see view over the River Turia as well as the surrounding area of Valencia. Night time views from the top of the towers are also a must when the city is all lit up. Make your way through the gates of the Serranos Towers and enter the Ciutat Vella – the old city of Valencia which is Valencia’s historical, cultural and political centre. A gigantic maze of narrow winding streets, the old Valencia city is an absolute galore of charismatic small buildings of different lines, shapes and colour; amazing architecture, squares, fountains, restaurants and bars. The atmosphere in ‘Old Valencia’ is upbeat day or night so it doesn’t really matter what time you visit. Main attractions of the Ciutat Vella are the Valencia Cathedral, the Central Market, the Serranos Towers, Plaza del Ayuntamiento, Llotja de la Seda, Plaza del la Almoina and Plaza Redonda.