Who knew 2020 would be a lost year for travel? Maybe this is what it meant when the books said, ‘Life is unpredictable’. Last year was an extraordinary year for me and I travelled to 16 countries but this year, I could only manage 3 trips before the lockdown in March. Well, health first! The ‘stay at home’ phase has been good but it has stretched way too much. Personally, I am not travelling anywhere and not even advising anyone. No doubt, we are all missing travel but as of now, taking a trip down the memory lane seems to be the safest bet to me. So join me on this virtual trip to Valencia in Spain. My travel calendar tells me that I was in historic center of Europe, during this time of the season, last year and I can’t help missing the good times. No trip to Valencia is complete without indulging in its oranges, paella, Sangria, Silk route history and cultural heritage. I even had a chance to attended the National day parade of the Christians and Moorish, which takes place on the 9th October every year. Let us see what happens this year. Spain literally serenaded me with everything gorgeous. Read to know how…
To most of us, Spain is about Madrid and Barcelona. Or Seville and Ibiza. Well, they all make exciting destinations but here, I dare to introduce Valencia to your itinerary. Infinitely Mediterranean at heart and uniquely contemporary in outlook, Valencia has a credible character and strategic position on the Spanish coast. To have a delicious start, we should know that Paella-the most popular Spanish dish has its homeland in Valencia. With respect to historical significance and centuries of intrigue, the city has been an enthusiastic participant in many economic transactions, upholding the silk route heritage to its soul. Recently, ‘The World Design Organization’ has selected this artistic city as the “World Capital of Design” in 2022.
During my trip last year, I had a chance to explore its interesting architectures and I returned super impressed. The city is packed with towering historical buildings and unique contemporary designs. From the Oceanographic to the City of Art and Sciences, every arch is selectively done, exhibiting the best combination of art, science and nature.
History at the heart of the city
Valencia piqued my interest with its imposing medieval buildings and unique contemporary designs. And thus, I began my quest at the city’s oldest quarters, the Del Carmen neighbourhood which used to be enclosed by two walls; Muslim and Christian city walls. While I was still gearing up to get lost in the labyrinth of the cobbled streets, the medieval gates of Serranos and Quart towers got that inquisitee twinkle in my eyes. Not far away, Valencia’s version of the Sistine Chapel – San Nicolas church – is enthralling. If you are fond of gardens, the lovely Turia Gardens is very close.
Well, you can’t be here without enough time in hand, said my guide. Of course, I nodded and strolled towards Plaza de la Virgen and the cathedral quarter, where some more culturally and architecturally valuable Valencian facades were waiting to impress me. From the Valencia Cathedral (Saint Mary’s Cathedral), the El Micalet, the Basilica of the Virgin to the Tribunal de las Aguas (UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage), there were no shortage of sights to stop at. The ‘Tribunal de las Aguas’ (Water Court), held on every Thursday is an age-old court system of sorting local issues (this institution has been dedicated to resolving conflicts that arise from the use of irrigation water among the farmers in an efficient and exemplary way.) and climbing up the tower of the cathedral to soak the vibes of the city is one of the top things to do while you are on a trip to Valencia.
Two other architectural jewels are Mercado Central and Lonja de la Seda. Inside a modernist façade, Mercado Central (Central Market) is a gorgeous gastronomic hotspot. Right across the road, gorgeous Gothic marvel and also a UNESCO world heritage site, Silk Exchange (Lonja de la Seda) glorifies the significance of Valencia as a member of the Silk Road (the vast network of trade between Asia and Europe.) The richness and history of the city owes to the legacy of silk.
Love for futuristic designs
Valencia overwhelmed me with its knack for modern structural designs and its taste for works of Santiago Calatrava, the famous Spanish architect. His most popular work, City of Arts and Science, has captivated the globe with its avant garde appeal. On the old Turia river bed, I was left gawking at the six picture-perfect creations, the Hemisfèric, the Umbracle, the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, the Oceanogràfic (only building not designed by Santiago Calatrava but by Felix Candela), the Reina Sofía Palace of the Arts and the Ágora. I had an amazing time at the Oceanographic, the largest aquarium in the world. The Hemispheric, the CAC panoramic view, Príncipe Felipe Science Museum were a delight to my senses.
National Day of the autonomous region
Whenever I think of Valencia, the first image that comes in my mind is that of the magnificent parade of the Christians and Moorish. I was right there, in the heart of the city, on the national day of their autonomous region. It felt like characters from history had come alive for the lavish gala. Intense excitement and patriotic cheer dominated the air. 9th of every October, is celebrated with the same fervour to commemorate the happenings of the year 1238, when King James I entered the city of Valencia and banished the Moors.
How do you do it like a local in Valencia?
The city has greats vibe that instantly makes you feel at ease. The day I arrived in Valencia, my first lunch was made of a classic Valencian Paella and in no time, I became a part of the legacy. For drinks, a fresh orange juice is a must in the city of oranges. Of course, Sangria in Spain is unmissable. On a hot day, a traditional Valencian horchata is a saviour. It is one of the healthiest drinks, made of chufas or tiger nuts. Before sleep, you must try the Agua de Valencia cocktail. To enjoy shopping and nightlife, do it like a pro at the neighbourhoods of El Carmen and Ruzafa. Having done all of this, I also checked out other vibrant streets like Colón, Poeta Querol, La Paz, Don Juan de Austria, Jorge Juan and Cirilo Amorós. A day on the Valencian beach is a must do.
I bet, Valencia is the perfect answer to your search for Vitamin sea, delish food and a taste of la vida Española (Spanish life).
- Valencia boasts of a long stretch of a sandy coastline, one that can be enjoyed all year round, thanks to the Mediterranean climate. Some of the best restaurants are located on the beach promenade.
- Las Fallas festival is not just a high-spirited event but the biggest and most important festival in Valencia. This outstanding festival has been declared as the Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
- One of the best things about Valencia is that it has an extensive public transport network and taxis, which travellers with reduced mobility can also avail. The city offers lots in its more than 30 museums and historical treasures, all equipped for people with reduced mobility.
- Silk Museum is the best place to soak up the meaning of the Art of Silk.
- Valencia is known to have the best summer oranges.
A slightly different version of the article was published in the inflight magazine of Air India in March 2020!