HORCHATA, a delectable drink dating back to its Islamic era, between the 8th and 13th century, made its beginning here. It is also the home of beautiful Lladro porcelain. A cauldron of cultural blends, Valencia has experienced footfalls of the Romans, the Byzantines as well as the Moorish kings. Little surprise then that the city has umpteen influences on its art, culture and cuisine. Founded by Romans, the city dates back to 138 BC. It was the Moors who, along with Islamic culture, introduced Valencia to silk, oranges, olives and ceramics.
Since there is no better way to see the city than on foot, it is better to walk around the cobbled lanes of the historical city. The city is known for its two landmarks — the La Lonja, now a Unesco World Heritage Site and the ancient cathedral having the Holy Chalice. As with most European cities, the Old Quarter, with its quaint lanes and shops, is an interesting place to explore.
During the 15th century, Valencia witnessed unprecedented prosperity giving rise to architectural splendors like the`A0La Lonja, El Miguelete,`A0the Government Palace and`A0Torres de Quart. Valencia City’s ancient walls were razed during the 19th century to allow for the city’s expansion. Mercifully, a few of the architectural glories like the Torres de Quart and Torres de Serranos were preserved.
The La Lonja, once a bustling silk exchange, is an impressive Gothic structure with vaulted roofs, flamboyantly ornamented windows. It has massive pillars and a beautiful garden laden with orange trees. It even has its own chapel, courtroom and cells where prayers were held, judgments passed and the errant and bankrupt traders imprisoned. The exchange operated on strict codes of honesty and integrity — a proclamation of the ethics are inscribed on the walls.
The cathedral having the famous the Holy Chalice is called Cathedral de Santa Mar`EDa de Valencia. It lies in Plaza de la Reina. Constructed through the 13th and 14th century, it is a blend of Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles.
Interestingly, the three doors that lead inside the cathedral are also built in three different and distinct styles. There is the Romanesque`A0Puerto de Palau, the Puerto de los Apostol`E8s`A0built in Gothic style and the Baroque styled`A0Puerto de Hierros.
A museum inside the cathedral houses the Holy Chalice, which is believed to be used by Christ during the Last Supper.
If you can climb up the 207 steps of the tower El Micalet — the lofty Bell Tower, you can be rewarded with a breathtaking view of Valencia.
Outside the Apostles Gate, a water tribunal is held each Thursday at noon, just like it was held in the medieval times.
The El Tribunal de las Aguas, as this tribunal is called, is conducted by eight representatives of Valenica’s irrigational canals. Farmers can`A0approach the tribunal with their water-related quarrels as they did hundreds of years ago. Dressed in traditional attire, the court representatives and the farmers carry out mock proceedings of the court, which has the power to punish the errant farmer by cutting off water supply to his farm."
The famous Turia Gardens are another breath-taking sight. The Turia River has a history of flooding the Old Quarters. In 1957, the floods killed many people after which the river was re-routed. The old riverbed evoked many unpleasant memories till it was turned into a beautiful garden in the nineties. The entire expanse of about seven km is now a boulevard of flowers, fountains and tiny ponds that connect the Old Quarters with the newer parts of the city.
Lying close by is the famous City of Arts and Sciences that has preserved the beautiful galactic vision of famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The Exposition Bridge shaped like a ladies hair-comb leads to the stunning structures in the complex. The place is a stunning amalgam of glass, water, greenery and spaces. The Opera, with its unique design, invites concert lovers by the droves while the Museum of Fine Arts`A0that has paintings by masters like Van Dyck, Vel`E1squez and Goya, attracts the art lovers.
With thousands of flora and fauna species housed within the complex, L’Oceanografic is the largest marine park in Europe.
Divided into different ecosystems like the African Savannah, Equatorial Africa, and Madagascar, the Bioparc hosts a horde of animals like rhinos, hippos, elephants, giraffes, zebra et al. A dolphin show is also held.
A tapas pub-crawl, accompanied by glass-full of sangria, is the best way to bid adieu to Valencia.