Click here to read my about my time in Valencia’s Old City.
February 9, 2020: The New City
Having explored the beautiful old city, it was time to explore Valencia’s main attraction: the City of Arts and Sciences. But to get there, I decided to walk.
From the old city, I headed north through the monumental Torres de Serranos gate and walked to the edge of a big ravine. This ravine used to be the mighty Turia river. After years of flooding and destruction, the city of Valencia moved the river in 1957 around the city. In its place, the river was replaced with…a beautiful park!
With running paths, fields aplenty, a park that resembles Gulliver being captured by the Lilliputians, the Jardin del Turia is nothing short of spectacular!
After an hour of jogging through the park, I reached it, the City of Arts and Sciences. I felt like Dorothy reaching the Emerald City!
The spectacular City of Arts and Sciences was designed by starchitect and Valencia native Santiago Calatrava. Calatrava is also know for the Occulus (World Trade Center train Station) in New York City, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Turning Torso in Malmo and countless bridges. But the City of Arts and Sciences is his biggest and most impressive project.
The term city is appropriate for this project- it is HUMONGOUS. The facility has four main attractions: the Opera House, IMAX, Science Museum and Aquarium. I was set on seeing all four… and I had all day. Everything except the Opera House can be purchased for a single ticket of about 37 Euros ($40). The Opera House tour is separate and costs 9 Euros.
I started with the Opera House. My guided tour started at 11 and lasted one hour. We first went into the main concert hall, which seats about 1,400 people. The room was made of porcelain-like tiles- very unexpected because tile usually reflects sound.
We then headed to the 11th floor where there was another auditorium that seats 1,400! A unique feature of this auditorium is that the roof can retract to let in natural light.
Next, we went down to the bottom floor which had practice rooms and the staff cafeteria. Because this was Sunday when workers are off, we also got to visit the room where the opera sets are assembled. The system has three different full stages that can be raised up into the main concert hall. Very impressive.
The tour ended just in time to run over to the Hemisferic- the half-spherical IMAX/planetarium. I watched a documentary on volcanos!
After a quick lunch, I headed to the Oceanografic, Europe’s largest aquarium! Most of the exhibits were underground and included every fish you would want to see plus belugas, sharks, jellyfish, and penguins! Aboveground, there was a famed dolphin show (which I didn’t get to see), giant tortoises, crocodiles, birds, and seals. The place was so large, it felt like a full-on zoo.
Finally, I headed to the science museum- by far the largest building in the complex. It was built to resemble the skeleton of a whale. The top two floors contained a very extensive science museum. Luckily, the exhibits were in multiple languages including English- so I was able to understand everything.
The bottom floor had a special exhibit on ninots. These are dolls made for the Fallas festival in March. On the last night of the festival, all the dolls except one will be burned.
The ninots were far more impressive than expected.
It was now 4:30. I had spent 6 ½ hours at the City of Arts and Sciences.
I took a long gorgeous walk back to the Old City and got onto the train back to Barcelona.
Valencia is really a spectacular city. I think my favorite part of the city is that is has so many sides. Many cities in Europe have an old historic district or a nice beach. But Valencia combines that with modern culture, civic pride, and a unique identity. I think Valencia is an amazing city for a weekend trip. And if you can visit during Fallas, I’ve heard that’s quite the party.