One of the most beautiful cities in the whole of Spain; Valencia is also its most up-and-coming with an energy that sets it apart and a host of colourful festivals that will impress even the most experienced of travellers. While it might not be as famous as its sister cities of Madrid and Barcelona, Spain’s third-largest city Valencia more than holds its own when it comes to entertaining the many tourists that pass through its walls year on year. Best known for being the home of Spain’s most famous dish, Paella Valenciana, as well as the legendary El Cid, and the world famous Holy Grail – don’t question its authenticity, it is the real thing, honestly!
It’s also home to some of Spain’s most unique architecture with an old quarter complete with narrow streets and gothic buildings, a medieval fortification or two, museums, cathedrals, bars, cafes – we could go on. Valencia also has an ultra-modern side that boasts Spain’s second most visited tourist attraction; and no it’s not a mosque, or a cathedral, or even a palace. It is, however, the collection of some of Europe’s most mind-blowing architecture that makes up the City of Arts and Sciences – think organic-looking white spaceships and you’re on the right track. This ‘city’ not only houses a multi-functional arts and music centre, an interactive science museum, a planetarium and an IMAX theatre, but also Europe’s largest aquarium; truly a first of its kind in Europe and something that the locals are very proud of.
Head to the Fallas festival. Huge cartoon effigies of local and international celebrities loom large as the madness beneath them envelops the whole city. An experience you will never forget. 15 to 19 March. http://www.fallasfromvalencia.com
Stretched out over 10 hectares Bioparc transports us into the world of the African savanna. While the lions, elephants and rhinos are the stars, you should also make sure you check out the fantastic birds of prey show. www.bioparcvalencia.es
Some of Spain's very best wine-makers are just an hour from the city and many tour operators are on hand to help out if you don't fancy trying to make the return journey yourself. Try rutavino.com or valenciancellars.com for more info.
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