Thursday 23 May, 2013

CST Personal Travel Option: Valencia

Hello Travelers! We hope this summer has been treating you well and that you are (or will be) having some amazing experiences abroad! Should you ever find yourself on one of our EF College Study Tours in Spain, we wanted to share with you some great things you can do if you decide to travel ahead to your tour destination before your group or stay behind once the tour ends. This will be the first in a series of posts about exciting things to see and do should you want to squeeze in some more travel outside of the tour itinerary. 

Located on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Barcelona and Madrid and is definitely a must-see. Over the centuries, Valencia has undergone a number of transformations. Founded as a Roman Colony in 138 BCE, Valencia has since been home to invading Visigoths, Muslim dynasties, Christian conquests, and Bourbon rulers. Fast forward to the mid-nineties and Valencia had been transformed from a primarily industrial center to a bustling tourism hot-spot rich in history and culture.

Valencia Map

Valencia is known for its architectural history, so when you visit be sure to check out the winding streets of Barrio del Carmen, which contain buildings from Roman and Arabic periods, as well as some fantastic restaurants and pubs! Nearby you will find the Valencia Cathedral, also known as Saint Mary’s Cathedral, a Roman Catholic Church consecrated in the 13th century and built atop the ruins of an ancient Visigothic cathedral-turned-mosque. Apart from its stunning Gothic architecture, the cathedral is also said to house a chalice that many Christian historians believe to be the true Holy Grail, or at least the most likely candidate for it. The chalice dates from the 1st century and has belonged to the cathedral since 1436.

Valencia

Architecture in Valencia

Valencia

Valencia Cathedral

Travel over to the newer districts of Valencia and you will feel that the short drive to get there transported you to another era. Along with its rich history, Valencia boasts stunning modern attractions, such as the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, also known as the City of Arts and Sciences. The City opened in 1998 and contains an IMAX cinema, planetarium, laserium, a museum of science that resembles the skeleton of a whale, an open air oceanographic park, an opera house, and a performing arts center, among other attractions.

City of Arts and Sciences

City of Arts and Sciences

City of Arts and Sciences at sunset…

Like to party? Valencia is known worldwide for Las Falles, a festival held annually in March. What started as a feast for St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, has evolved into a five-day celebration that would be the envy of any pyromaniac. Translated, Las Falles means “the fires” in Valencian. Before the celebration, huge (sometimes several stories tall) life-like yet satirical-looking puppets or “ninots” made of wood, cardboard, paper-machè and plaster are erected and displayed parade-style in the city. On the last day of the celebration, the puppets are stuffed with fireworks and lit on fire at exactly 12am. Each year, popular vote saves one puppet from the fires; these “pardoned puppets” can be seen on display at the Falles Museum in Valencia.

Las Falles

Las Falles – Burning the puppets…

Have you been to Valencia before? We would love to hear about your experiences and any ideas you have for exciting things to do there! Leave a comment below!

Flickr photos via Heather Cowper, Matthias Mueller , Aaron Davidson , Ben K, O Palsson, and Filippo Diotalevi .