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Valencia is often overshadowed by the more popular Barcelona. This is unjustified, although both cities have their own strengths. For Valencia that is a perfect mix of modern and historical. Valencia's cityscape is very diverse: Gothic architecture, Art Nouveau, an ultramodern arts and sciences complex, and beautiful parks and gardens. The surrounding area is Spain's fruit barn and definitely also worth a visit.
The ultramodern Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) is one of Valencia's main attractions. It is built in the Turia Gardens that were laid out after the Turia River was rerouted. Part of the City is formed by the really fun science museum Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe, which resembles the skeleton of a whale from the outside. In addition, the complex houses an IMAX theater and Europe's largest aquarium. In the aquarium's restaurant you can have a bite to eat while the fish are swimming around you. Especially during the summer, many festivities are organized in the Turia Gardens, such as musical performances, open-air theater and much more.
Medieval Valencia was enclosed by a defensive wall. Unfortunately, not much of it is left. Only the Torres de Quart and the Torres de Serranos are still standing.
Art Nouveau lovers should visit the Eixample neighborhood! It is kind of an open-air museum of this art movement. Almost all buildings surrounding the Plaza de Ayuntamiento are worth a look, but pay special attention to the post office, the city hall, and Alameda Station.
La Seu is Valencia's cathedral in a strange mixture of architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance. It is not so much the exterior that draws people to this church, but more the Holy Grail inside: The stone cup that Jesus used during the Last Supper, at least that is how the story goes.
The former Silk Exchange, La Lonja de la Seda, is a nice example of late Gothic architecture. Trade is no longer practiced here, but it is across the street at the Mercado Central, a huge covered market.
Barrio del Carmen is Valencia's oldest neighborhood with narrow, winding streets and intimate squares and terraces. More and more modern artists settle in this neighborhood and here you can also get a really good meal for a reasonable price. Do you want to eat real paella? Do so for lunch, because most paella restaurants are closed in the evening, as for Spaniards this is the time for tapas.
Valencia's marina, which was built for the America's Cup in 2007, has been converted into an entertainment area. It is the domain of the more trendy bars, cafés and discotheques.
Valencia is situated in particularly beautiful and fertile surroundings with many fruit orchards and natural parks. Actually, the entire mountain range near Valencia is one large natural park. Southwest of the city lies an impressive landscape with rocks, rivers and caves with prehistoric paintings.
In the surroundings you can also visit historic towns:
Valencia is located near the Mediterranean and has its own city beaches. They are quite busy, just like the Costa Blanca south of Valencia. People who prefer some peace and quiet, should visit the beaches north of the city, the Costa del Azahar.
In Valencia's northern suburbs you'll find the ateliers and workshops where the world-famous Lladró statues are made. Here you can see how these statues are made and in the museum you can learn how the designs changed over the years.
Do you fancy something completely different? Then go to Buñol, 40 kilometers west of Valencia at the end of August. Here, every year, tens of thousands of people gather at the Plaza del Pueblo to throw tomatoes at each other during the Tomatina Festival.
In Valencia's center it is extremely difficult to find free parking space out on the streets. Fortunately, there are many underground garages, where it is also safer to park your rental car. By Spanish standards, rates are rather steep though. You can also park your car at one of the ten subway stations that have a parking lot and use public transportation to continue your journey.
Valencia Airport is located 8 kilometers west of the city. You can easily reach the airport via the A3 freeway (Madrid-Valencia). The exit to the airport is clearly signposted.