Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
A great example of Valencia’s diverse architectural styles is the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, or the City of the Arts and Sciences. The truth is that I actually stumbled across the place accidentally, while wandering about lost in Valencia.
Built on the Old Turia River, the complex is massive and offers many attractions including the Science Museum, the Oceangrafico Aquarium and the Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts. Since I was heading toward the Mercat neighborhood (which was nowhere near this complex, hence why am lost) in old Valencia, I didn’t really explore the place that much. But if you’re willing to spend money on the tickets, go for it! I on the other hand am a budget traveler. 🙂
The Mercat neighborhood represents the heart of old Valencia. The labyrinthine historic center is alive with cafes, street musicians, historic monuments, and (I was lucky!) parades. Since I wasted time being lost, a lot of the monuments were closed by the time I got to the neighborhood. But I was still able to absorb and capture some amazing architectural beauty.
My first point of interest was one of the oldest food markets in Europe, Mercado Central. The place is open from early morning through early afternoon, and is adorned with mosaic tilework originating from Valencian designs. Despite looking forlorn and desolate now, I am sure the market would have been bustling just hours ago.
Lonja de la Seda
Just around the corner from Mercado Central lies one of Valencia’s prime attractions. The Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange) is a fine tribute to the late Gothic style of Valencia, and as a result has been marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I had a lot of fun walking around the building and checking out the crouching gargoyles. They have all sorts of expressions!
Iglesia de los Santos Juanes
Right across from the Lonja de la Seda lies the church Iglesia de los Santos Juanes. Listed as a National Artistic Historical Monument, this Valencian church’s facade is largely a reflection of Baroque elements with a hint of its Gothic past. Of particular interest is the clock tower, which is flanked by the two Santos Juanes and the vane known as the “bird of San Juan”.
Also known as the Seu Catedral, the Valencia Cathedral is famous for its claim of owning the Holy Grail. As is the case with a lot of churches in Spain, the Valencia Cathedral was built on the site of a former Moorish mosque (which in turn had been raised over the Visigothic cathedral). The exterior facade is marked by the famous gothic Miguelete bell tower, which appears on many postcards depicting Valencia. Its 207 steps to the top for a small fee.
The Valencia Cathedral also exhibits Romanesque, Neoclassical and Baroque architectural styles. The high vaulted ceilings with their criss-crossing beams in the nave of the cathedral, the gorgeous “Door of the Irons” and the Holy Chalice Chapel.
Santa Catalina Tower
One of the oldest churches in Valencia, Santa Catalina is a Gothic church from the Middle Ages. But I came here to check out the church’s iconic bell tower. With its hexagonal structure topped by a niche and small dome, the Santa Catalina Tower is a delightful example of Baroque architecture. It makes for the perfect photograph for the keen artist.