ROL Cruise recommends...
1. Indulge your foodie side at Mercado Central
Historic, eclectic and buzzing: Valencia’s Mercado Central is set in a beautiful Art Nouveau building and is filled to the brim with colourful stalls selling fresh produce to tourists and locals alike. Weave your way past juice stands and tapas bars to grab a typical Valencian snack of ‘horchata’, a sweet milk made from tiger nut, along with a ‘farton’, a small pastry which is delicious when dipped in the drink! For a more substantial meal, dine on a plateful of paella with rabbit and chicken – Valencia’s signature dish.
2. Wander the City of Arts and Sciences
Santiago Calatrava, an architect who hails from Valencia, is responsible for creating the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. Opened in 1998, his sprawling modern entertainment complex includes an IMAX cinema, a landscaped vantage point called the Umbracle, an interactive Science Museum, the largest aquarium in Europe and an arts museum. Set aside an afternoon to look around both the ins and outs of the complex – it’s built into the dried up bed of the Turia River, which has been converted into a sunken park filled with football fields, an athletics track, a boating lake, cycle paths and hiking trails.
3. Learn about Valencia’s papier maché puppet history
Las Fallas is the festival of fire which takes place each March and harks back to an old tradition where the city carpenters would burn their spare wood before the day of their patron Saint Joseph. Nowadays each neighbourhood builds puppets from papier maché which, despite taking a full year to create, are burned in the city square after a week of festival celebrations. The Las Fallas museum stores over eighty of the puppets on display for their avid visitors.
4. Explore the Medieval District
It’s surprisingly easy to revisit Valencia’s medieval past as a crucial Spanish port. Start with the thirteenth century Cathedral of Our Lady, which claims to have held the mythical Holy Grail behind its walls for half a century, before climbing the two hundred steps of the Miguelete bell tower next door to catch a glimpse of Valencia from above. Nearby is the UNESCO protected Silk Exchange covered in Gothic carvings, built in the 1600s to symbolise the city’s power and wealth. Don’t forget your camera!