Things to Do in Valencia - page 2
Dating back to Roman times, the Spanish coastal city of Valencia has also been occupied by Visigoths, Muslims, and eventually the Catholics. You can still see vestiges of those earlier days in the city’s ciutat vella, or old town, where its web of streets still very much recall the past.
Noteworthy sites dot the old-world neighborhoods within this historic quarter. There’s the Lonja de la Seda, where former trade took place, and the Baños Árabes del Almirante, hamman-style baths that date back to the 14th century. A trip to the city’s oldest district, El Carmen, will give wanderers a glimpse into earlier times as well as the present, given that it’s filled with an eclectic crowd and covered in colorful street art.
Other sites pepper this part of town too, including the massive Mercat Central, a market that is home to hundreds of stands selling produce, meat, poultry, pastries and more. Then, there are the main city squares: Plaza de la Reina and, of course, Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the site of city hall and the fire-filled Fallas Festival’s biggest celebrations.
And while the center’s medieval wall has long come down, you can still check out two of its former gates, the Torres de Quart and Torres de Serrano, which acted as passageways to the west and north, respectively. There’s also another smaller gate, the Portal de Valldigna, which was part of an earlier Muslim wall, and served as an entrance to the Jewish and Moorish quarter.
Several hundreds of years ago, the city of Valencia – and much of the Iberian Peninsula, really – was under Muslim control. While most remnants of those times have long faded, you can still catch a glimpse of them at the 14th-century Admiral’s Baths (Baños Arabes del Almirante), the only ones of their kind left in the seaside city.
Although these particular baños were actually constructed just after Valencia came under Catholic rule, they remain very representative of Mudéjar architecture, and of hammam baths found elsewhere in Spain and the world. Indeed, they are composed of common hammam features, including rooms of cold, warm and hot temperatures (the latter being sauna-like). Meanwhile, you’ll see other typically Arabic bath-style details such as the horseshoe-shaped arches and the geometric skylights.
The Admiral’s Baths weren’t only used hundreds of years ago, either, but actually remained in use until the 20th century, when they changed hands various times before becoming public property. Now well restored, they provide a pretty and peaceful look into the city and country’s curious past.
Cities and regions across Spain have their own patron saints. In Valencia, one of those saints is none other than San Vicente Ferrer, who was born in this very city in the 14th century. It should come as no surprise, then, that his former “home” is a sacred spot for Catholics, and especially for Valencians.
It’s not exactly his home, though, but rather the site of his home. Instead, what you will find in this place is a chapel, much of which was actually constructed in the 20th century. Apart from the intimately sized interior, the tiny church is also home to the hallowed water well after which its street is named, as well as a colorful entryway decorated with tiles depicting the saint’s different miracles.
Given that this is a patron saint of both the city of Valencia and the larger community, this site is considered a holy destination for many locals, and even more so during the San Vincente Ferrer Festivity. That’s when a handful of important events take place, including a flower offering, a procession through town, and the enactment of different miracles at 14 altars throughout the city.
A trip to the library has surely never been as interesting as it will be on a visit to the National Library of Valencia. That’s because this biblioteca is also known as the Monastery of San Miguel de los Reyes, a complex erected in the 16th century, and which -- with just one glimpse at the structure -- is far more than just a place for archiving books and documents.
Built by the Duke of Calabria, the once-monastery sits on the site of a former abbey, and before that even a mosque. And what a complex it is, complete with a two-towered Renaissance façade, beyond which you will find a proper church, and two courtyards; one surrounded by arcaded galleries, the other unfinished and gallery-less. The exterior alone is a commanding site, reminiscent of El Escorial Monastery near Madrid.
Until the late 1800s, the building continued as a monastery, but then became a prison, and finally the library you see today. And while it is called a library, it’s not the kind where you can go peruse and even borrow books, but instead a place where important documents are archived, and therefore meant only for researchers.
The busiest container port in the Mediterranean and one of Spain's most popular cruise liner destinations, the Valencia Cruise Port serves as the gateway to Valencia—both city and region. Ships dock just 3 miles (4 kilometers) from downtown, and the port also hosts ferries bound for the Balearics.
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