Ships usually dock at the Cruise Terminal, but if the port is very busy – or your ship is too large – you may be docked in the Industrial Port, in which case a free shuttle will take you to the Terminal. From there, it’s about 4 km (2.5 miles) to the city center. Your ship may offer a shuttle into town from the port; if not, you can always hop a cab for the 15 minute ride for about €10. You can also catch a local bus to the city center. The #4 Bus leaves from the traffic island outside the Terminal, and stops in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (€1.50, cash, one-way – pay the driver).
There is also a hop-on/hop-off Valencia Bus Turistico, but it has three routes – one which takes you through the Port and out to the City of Arts and Sciences and the Aquarium; another which stops at the historical sites in the city center; and a third one which goes to the Albufero nature reserve. Check with the driver/ticket seller before you board this bus to be sure it’s the route you want. (€15, Seniors €10)
Valencia grew up along the Turia River, which more or less bisects the city today. In 1957, after a particularly bad flood, the city government decided to divert the river and turn the riverbed into a garden park. Stretching for 9 km through the city, the Turia Gardens now contain playgrounds and playing fields, museums, architectural monuments and cultural centers as well as fountains and gardens. Information on the cultural, leisure and natural opportunities the Gardens afford is available here: http://www.culturia.org/
At the eastern end of the Gardens is the City of Arts and Sciences (Av del Profesor Lopez Pinero, 7), a complex designed by famed architect Santiago Calatrava. The complex includes the Hemisfèric (IMAX cinema and digital projections), the Umbracle (a landscaped vantage point and parking garage), the Principe Felipe Science Museum (a center of interactive science), the Oceanogràfico (the largest aquarium in Europe), the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (an opera house) and the Agora (a covered plaza for performances and sporting events). Visit the website for information on the programs, hours and admission fees for the various venues: http://www.cac.es/
At the midpoint of the Gardens, at the Pont de la Trinitat, is the Museu de Belles Arts de Valencia (Calle San Pio V, 9). Located in the Palace of St. Pius V, this collection of paintings from the 14th to 18th centuries includes works by Velazquez, El Greco, Goya and Piranesi. There is also a separate gallery devoted to the works of 20th century Valencian painter Joaquin Sorolla. (Open Tues-Sun, 10AM-7PM; Mon, 11AM-5PM – Admission: Free)
At the far end of the Gardens is Bioparc Valencia (Av Pio Baroja, 3), a modern zoo in which the animals roam free. Visitors are kept from harm’s way by hidden barriers camouflaged as watering holes, rocks or trees, thereby maintaining the illusion of being immersed in the wild habitats of the animals. (Open Daily from 10AM-8PM – Admission: €23.80, Children €18, Seniors €17.50) For more information, see: http://www.bioparcvalencia.es/en/
Without a doubt, the oldest part of the Old City is the Barrio del Carmen, the compact area behind the Cathedral that extends from the Calle de Caballeros to the Turia riverbed. This area holds the last of Valencia’s 12 medieval city gates – the Torres de Serranos and the Torres de Quarte. The iconic Torres de Serranos (Plaça dels Furs) date to the late 14th century, and form the largest Gothic gateway in Europe. The Torres de Quart (Guillem de Castro, 89) is a little newer (15th century) and smaller, and still bears the scars of Napoleon’s 1808 artillery bombardment. Both towers offer panoramic views of Valencia. (Both Open Tues-Sat, 10AM-2PM and 4:30PM-8:30PM; Sun & Holidays 10AM-3PM; Closed Mondays – Admission €2, Free on Sundays)
Another outstanding attraction is the former Convento del Carmen, which now houses the Centro Cultural El Carmen (Calle Museo, 2). Built in 1281 and rehabilitated in 1989, the Convent now provides space for fine arts exhibits and live performances. Highlights of the building include the Gothic and Renaissance cloisters, the chapter house, the refectory, and the remnants of an Arab house uncovered during renovations. The Center also houses the headquarters of the Institution Joaquin Sorolla, which is devoted to research and study of the painter, one of Valencia’s native sons. If time permits, follow the Ruta Sorolla to see places linked to the artist’s life and works. http://www.institucionsorolla.gva.es/es/publicaciones-e-investigacion/ruta-sorolla.html (Cultural Center open Tues-Sun, 10AM-8PM, Closed Mondays – Free)
Inside the Palace of the Marquis de Malferit is the L’Iber Museo de Los Soldaditos de Plomo (Calle Caballeros 20-22). This museum is devoted to toy soldiers and other historical miniatures; its collection has over one million pieces, of which some 85,000 are on display. Exhibitions depict various eras in time as well as different civilizations, both ancient and modern, and include dioramas of both famous battles and every-day life. A truly unique experience. (Open Wed-Sun, 11AM-2PM and 4PM-7PM – Admission €5)
The Cathedral sits between two large plazas – the Plaça de la Virgin (also called the Plaça de la Seu) on the north and the Plaça de la Reina on the south. The first one is named for the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, which is dedicated to Valencia’s patron, the Virgin of the Helpless. Los Desamparados was built between 1652 and 1667 and attached to the Cathedral by means of a Renaissance archway.
The café and restaurant-lined Plaça de la Reina, on the southern side of the Cathedral, is the heart of the Old City. There is a Tourist Information Office here (Pl. de la Reina, 19) where you can purchase a Valencia Tourist Card, tickets for the City of Arts and Sciences and the Biopark, and tickets for the Bus Turistico. The Tourist Office also offers guided walking and bus tours. (Open Mon-Sat, 9:00AM-7:00PM; Sun and Holidays, 10:00AM-2:00PM)
Valencia Cathedral is said to hold the Holy Grail, so if you’ve ever wanted to see it, now’s your chance! The Cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries on the site of an ancient Visigothic cathedral that had been converted for use as a mosque. During the centuries of building and renovations that followed, various Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque elements were incorporated in the design. The Cathedral has wi-fi, so you can access all sorts of information about it while inside. For more information on the Cathedral, including photo tours and information on the Grail, visit: http://www.catedraldevalencia.es/en/index.php. (Cathedral open Apr-Oct: Mon-Sat, 10AM-6:30PM; Sun, 2-6:30PM; Nov-Mar: Mon-Sat, 10AM-5:30pm, Closed to visits on Sunday – Admission to Cathedral: €5, to El Miguelete bell tower: €2)
If you have the good fortune to visit Valencia on a Thursday, you can witness a ritual that dates back to the city’s Moorish past. At midday, the Tribunal de las Aguas – the oldest surviving legal body in Europe – gathers at the Cathedral’s Apostles Door in the Plaça de la Virgin. Instituted in 960 by Caliph Abd al-Rahman III, the eight men of the Tribunal gather to settle disputes over irrigation and water rights in the surrounding countryside.
Pass under the archway between Los Desamparados and the Cathedral to get to the L’Almoina Archaeological Center. Like the nearby Crypt of St. Vincent, this Museum showcases Valencia’s past, from Roman times through the Christian Reconquest. Situated where the Roman Decuminus Maximus and Cardo Maximus met, the ruins – including the entrance to the Roman Forum, the apse of a Visigothic cathedral, and the baths of the Moorish Alcazar – are visible beneath the Museum’s vertigo-inducing glass floors. (Open Tues-Sat, 10AM-2PM and 4:30-8:30PM; Sun & Holidays, 10AM-5PM; Closed Mondays – Admission: €2, Free on weekends)
The Crypt of the Prison of St. Vincent the Martyr (Plaça del Arzobispo, 3) marks the spot of the saint’s torture and death in 304. The 6th century Visigothic chapel erected there became part of the palace baths in Moorish times; another chapel was built there after Jaume I took Valencia from the Moors in 1238. It is recommended that you book the 25-minute audiovisual guide at the City Museum opposite the Crypt if you want to get a more complete idea of how the site looked over time. (Crypt open Tues-Sat, 9:30AM-2PM and 5:30-8PM, Sun & Holidays, 9:30AM-2PM, Closed Mondays – Admission: €2)
The Church of Santa Caterina and its Baroque bell tower stand just off the southwest corner of Plaça de la Reina, and mark the entrance to the Market Quarter. Santa Caterina is one of the oldest churches in Valencia, built by Jaume I on the site of a former mosque. (Church Open Mon-Sun, 10AM-1PM and 7-8PM) Just south of the church is the 19th century Mercado Municipal Plaza Redonda (“Round Square”), a circular open-air market selling lace, ribbons and sewing notions as well as ceramics and souvenirs; on Sundays, the Placa becomes an “Extraordinary Market” selling collectibles of all kinds, including stamps, coins, music, books, trading cards, etc. (Open Mon-Sat, 10AM-8PM; Sun & Holidays, 8AM-2PM). There is a second, much larger market in this quarter – the 1920s Mercado Central (Placa del Mercat, 6). Extending over 8,000 square meters, this market sells everything comestible, from soup to nuts (Market open Mon-Sat, 7:30AM-2:30PM).
Across the street from the Market is the Lonja de la Seda (Calle de la Lonja, 2), Valencia’s sole UNESCO World Heritage site. La Lonja, considered by many to be the best example of secular Gothic architecture in Spain, dates to 1482. The building’s exterior is embellished with Gothic elements such as battlements, a tower, and gargoyles; inside, the main Trading Hall (Sala de Contractacio) is a soaring Gothic space with a vaulted ceiling held up by graceful, twisting columns. Opening off the Hall is an enclosed Orange Garden and, opposite that, the Baroque Pavilion of the Consulate, seat of the first merchant tribunal formed in Spain. This room and the one above it are furnished in period style. A free 30-minute guided tour (Spanish only) is available. (Open Tues-Sat, 10AM-2PM and 4:30PM-8:30PM; Sun & Holidays, 10AM-3PM; Closed Mondays – Admission: Free)
The beautiful Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) graces the plaza of the same name. This imposing neoclassical building is the seat of city government and houses the Municipal Historical Museum in four ground floor rooms. Also of interest to sightseers are the marble Grand Staircase, the Crystal Ballroom, and the semi-circular Plenary Hall (Open Mon-Fri, 8AM-3PM). Another notable building on this plaza is the Palau de los Correos (Post Office). Built in 1915 in an eclectic style, the building is distinguished by a beautiful elliptical glass dome and unusual spiral staircases. (Open Mon-Fri, 8:30AM-8:30PM; Sat, 9:30AM-1PM) This Plaza also has a Tourist Information Office, opposite the Post Office. (Open Mon-Sat, 9AM-7PM; Sun & Holidays, 10AM-2PM)
Valencia is renowned for ceramics, and it’s only fitting that it should have a world-class museum devoted to the subject. The National Ceramics Museum is located behind the fantastic Baroque doorway of the Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas (Calle del Poeta Querol, 2). The interior of the Palace has been restored and furnished with many pieces original to the home as well as dazzling displays of ceramics. Among the highlights of the collection are several carriages and sedan chairs, a typical Valencian kitchen (covered in ceramics, top to bottom), and a top floor gallery showcasing centuries of pottery, including some interesting Moorish pieces. (Open Tues-Sat, 10AM-2PM and 4PM-8PM; Sun, 10AM-2PM, Closed Mondays – Admission: €3)
Like Barcelona, Valencia also has a 19th century city extension known as El Eixample, and like the one in Barcelona, it is renowned for some of the Moderniste buildings found there. This area, just south of the Ciutat Vella, hosts some of Valencia’s most popular shops and department stores.
Built between 1906 and 1917, the interior of the Estacion del Norte (Calle Xativa, 24) makes use of classic Moderniste materials, such as glass, ceramics, mosaics, wood and wrought iron. The façade of the station is decorated with depictions of typical elements of the Valencian countryside, such as orange blossoms, rural houses and women in typical dress. As the city’s main transportation hub, the Estacion del Norte offers connections to the Metro lines 3 and 5 as well as the city bus network.
Next to the station is the Plaza de Toros (Calle Xativa, 28), built in 1861 in the style of an ancient Roman arena. If bull-fighting is not your thing (Valencia has only three short bull-fighting seasons – Las Fallas in March, Feria de Valencia in July, and Feria de Octubre in October) but you’re interested in seeing the arena, access is via the Museo Taurino (Pasaje Doctor Serra, 10). This museum, founded in 1929, is one of the oldest dedicated to bullfighting; its collection is the largest of its kind in Spain, and holds important objects from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. (Open Tues-Sun, 10AM-8PM, Closed Mondays – Admission: Free)
Opened in 1916, the Colon Market (Calle de Cirilo Amoros, 63) is another cast iron and glass wonder, considered one of the most representational examples of Moderniste architecture in Valencia – it’s even been designated a National Monument. The brick façade is decorated with mosaics depicting Valencian country life and ceramic representations of some of the items for sale inside, such as fruits, vegetables, and animal products. The building was restored in 2003: the market stalls have been moved to a subterranean level, while the ground floor now holds high-end shops, restaurants and cafes. (Open Daily, 7AM-1:30AM)
As mentioned, Valencia has long been known for ceramics and pottery. On the western outskirts of the city, a few kilometers beyond the Biopark, are the towns of Manises and Paterna. The fame of Manises’ distinctive blue-and-white ceramics and azulejos (tiles) dates from the Middle Ages, when they were in demand at all the major kingdoms of Europe. Across the river is Paterna, which, like Manises, is packed with shops offering prices far below those in the center of Valencia.
To the north of Valencia, in the town of Tavernes Blanques, is the Lladro Museum (Calle de Alboraya, 0). If you are among the many who collect Lladro, this is a must-see. The Museum’s porcelain collection spans the years from the company’s founding (1953) through the present, and showcases many of Lladro’s most significant pieces. Free, guided tours of the factory are available in English, Spanish, French and Italian, and last about 1 ½ hours. TOURS MUST BE BOOKED IN ADVANCE. You can find the Request Form on the “Visit Us” page of the company’s website, along with information on the Museum’s hours of operation: http://museo.lladro.com/sitio-museolladro-ENG/