Guest post by Joe Johnson.
Valencia is Spain’s third largest city behind Madrid and Barcelona and far from being the ‘poor cousin, Valencia is fast becoming a more and more popular destination for city breaks as well as becoming a more globally recognised centre for culture, music and sport. Valencia is located on Spain’s East Coast and is important for trade in the country as it hosts a major shipping port, the city also has its own airport making it easily accessible from abroad.
Located on the Costa del Azahar –or Orange Blossom coast – Valencia is surrounded by some of Spain’s finest beaches and attracts many tourists from nearby holiday resorts for day trips. A little further south down the coast are some of the country’s most popular resorts in Benidorm, Torrevieja and Alicante all on the Costa Blanca.
History and Culture
Valencia is a vibrant, burgeoning city for the arts, it is also steeped in history, making it a fascinating place simply to wonder round and take everything in. The city has a wealth of architectural heritage, with buildings including;
- The Cathedral
- The City of Arts and Sciences
- The Migulete
- The Lonha de ka Seda
There’s plenty here to satisfy even the most hardened culture vulture and it’s not just the exterior of the buildings you’ll want to marvel at, Valencia is full of insightful museums including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute of Modern Art Valencia. Indeed the city’s groundings in art is evident in the fact that The City of Arts and Sciences has become an iconic symbol of the city, the stunning combination of dome-like and angular white structures sit in a shallow, tranquil pool of water, an absolute must-visit.
Paella is Spain’s national dish, and Valencia it’s birthplace. This hearty meal is rice-based and can include any number of ingredients from chicken, chorizo sausage, prawns, muscles and other seafood, olives, peppers, plus spices like saffron all cooked together in a large shallow pan. Paella is often cooked fresh in Spanish restaurants.
In fact the local obsession with this dish comes from the fact that the region is a prominent rice producer and boasts several other less well-known rice dishes including arroz empredrado (rice, white beans, fish). Of course the other famous Valencia export is oranges, wonderfully sweet, these are produced mainly for orange juice production.
Natives and tourists in Valencia are spoiled for choice when it comes to sport with several annual world class events staged in the city as well as more traditional, local pastimes. Valencia are one of Spain’s premier football teams and one of the most likely to challenge the ‘big two’; Barcelona and Real Madrid. They play at the impressive 55,000 seater Mestalla stadium.
The city also hosts a Formula 1 race on the streets surrounding the port and has hosted rounds of the Americas cup sailing event, also operating out of the port. Of course Spaniards here also like to indulge in the national sport, Bull Fighting, Valencia’s bullring can be found in the city cenetre and always creates an infectious atmosphere!
In keeping with the flamboyant, artistic feel of the city, Valencia plays host to numerous festivals throughout the year, the biggest and most popular is without doubt ‘Las Fallas’, in a slightly odd ritual, models of major landmarks are carried through the streets before burned. Locals celebrate with fireworks, bonfires, food and drink.
Although not the original city that came up with concept, Valencia (like many Spanish towns and cities) hosts a festival called Tomatina de Bunol where 30,000 locals will throw tomatoes at each other, coating themselves and the streets in red sludge. Being a centre for Valencia has it’s fair share of film festivals, the most important being in October and August.