Valencia may sound like a lot less striking if confronted to other Spanish towns, but it has its distinctive character.
Its closeness to the sea is immediately felt in the warm welcome offered by its inhabitants and its cooking. Moreover, Valencia has two different souls: the ancient one and the modern one.
Plaza de la Reina is the pulsating heart of this town, a large square crowded by tourists where you can find excellent ice-cream parlours. There is also the Cathedral here, and an old legend says it is where the Holy Graal has been guarded for centuries. The three entrance doors are all in different styles, from Baroque to Gothic and Romanic. From the top of the Miguelete – the Cathedral’s main tower – the visitors can enjoy a wonderful sight of the whole city centre.
From the Cathedral you can walk to Plaza de la Virgen, where another church, the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, is located. This church is one of Spain’s earliest Baroque buildings and it holds a famous Virgin Mary statue. Every year, during a celebration called Las Fallas, the Valencian women arrive to the church dressed in the traditional fashion and offer flowers to the Holy Mary whose statue is exhibited in Plaza de la Virgen.
From Plaza Santa Catalina branch off Calle de Mar and Calle de la Paz, two parallel market streets which arrive to the monumental gate known as Puerta del Mar.
The Mercado Centrale is another unmissable attraction in Valencia. Looking at its colourful windows from outside it seems to be in front of another cathedral, but inside you can find anything from fruit and vegetables to meat and fish. It hosts over 900 stalls and it is always full of life. The very centre of the town’s life.
The Lonja de la Seda was the principal market for silk products and it is located right in front of the Mercado Centrale. It is a magnificent Gothic building which became UNESCO World Heritage in 1996. It gives a feeling of how powerful Valencia has been in the past. Gold decorations, wrought-iron chandeliers and geometric figures on the floor continuously refer to its glorious past. Today the Lonja is a cultural centre and hosts conferences and exhibitions.
The City of Arts and Sciences, centre of the modern town, is a huge compound built by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and one of the most important modern architectures. Beside its astonishing beauty, it is worth to consider the oceanographic section for the impressive collection of sea animals, as seals, sharks and walruses, and the dolphinarium where some great daily shows are held.