The traces of a Roman and Moorish past
For many, Valencia’s enviable perch on the Mediterranean Sea would be enough of a draw in itself. Spain’s third-largest city and one of the main ports of call on an MSC Mediterranean cruise, Valencia has finally shaken off its former slightly provincial reputation.
In the last decade and a half, the vast, iconic Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias cultural complex has been established, the state-of-the-art metro has continued to expand and dozens of hip new bars, restaurants and boutiques have injected new life into the historic centre. Valencia has also fully redeveloped its beach and port area, as is evident even from your cruise ship.
Nevertheless, despite its size and stylista cachet, Valencia retains an unpretentious if tangibly charged air. Valencia has long boasted some of the best nightlife in mainland Spain. The most atmospheric area of the city is undoubtedly the maze-like Barrio del Carmen (in Valenciano “de Carmé”), roughly north of the Mercado Central to the Río Turia, extending up to the Torres de Serranos and west to the Torres de Quart. This once-neglected quarter continues to undergo regeneration, as buildings are renovated and stylish cafés open up next to crumbling townhouses, all of which makes for an incredibly vibrant, alternative neighbourhood.
The oldest part of Valencia is almost entirely encircled by a great loop of the Río Turia, which is now a landscaped riverbed park. In 1956, after serious flooding damaged much of the old town, the river was diverted. The ancient stone bridges remain, but the riverbed now houses cycle ways, footpaths and football pitches, as well as the astonishing Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias, Europe’s largest cultural complex. <
The architecture itself is simply stunning: it’s well worth the effort getting here to take in the eye-catching buildings surrounded by huge, shallow pools.