Valencia - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Valencia


Valencia was founded by the ancient Romans in 137 BC and has been pillaged, burned and besieged numerous times by various conquerors over the centuries since, but the vivacious Spanish city has sailed into the second millennium as Europe's quintessential sophisticated modern holiday city, a favoured location for the America's Cup yacht race. Situated on the Mediterranean coast about four hours south of Barcelona, Valencia is spread out around its busy port and backed by the hills which give way to the plains of Aragon.

Valencia oozes traditional character, particularly in its old town (El Carmen), and has retained its cultural heritage not only in the form of medieval architecture but also in its quirky, exuberant festivals (like the Battle of the Flowers, the fireworks of Fallas and one dedicated to tomato-hurling). The Valencians even have their own language. Amid the old, Valencia has very much that is new, including its major attraction, the ultra-modern City of Arts and Sciences, which draws around four million appreciative visitors each year.

Outdoors it is hard to beat the golden beaches which fan out from the port along the coast, and the sprawling city offers plenty of green parks for strolling, cycling or simply lolling on a bench to get your breath back after indulging in the vibrancy of the city. Football is also a local passion, Valencia's team being at the top of the game, and fans should not miss the atmosphere at one of the carnival-like matches.

When night falls, dine on paella, which originated here, and then hit the high spots, because Valencia is renowned for its lively collection of bars and clubs. It may sound clichéd, but Valencia does indeed fit the bill as the holiday city, which 'has it all'.

Information & Facts


Valencia has a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. The average annual temperature is 62°F (17°C). Most of the rainy days occur during autumn and early spring. Summers can be baking hot, and humidity tends to be high.

Getting Around

With a comprehensive bus and metro system, it is easy to get around Valencia. Kiosks and tobacco shops sell cheap 'Bonos' tickets, which can be used on both buses and trains. The metro system is not extensive, consisting of four lines, but covers the major points in the city, including a tramway to the beach. Tickets for the tram must be bought separately from a vending machine, which is validated before boarding. Buses will get you to just about anywhere. More active visitors can opt to hire a bicycle for around EUR7 a day, and with Valencia's great network of cycle paths it is an excellent way to get around the city. Much of the city can be explored on foot, the central area being very compact.

Spanish is the official language, but English is widely understood in areas frequented by tourists. Catalan, Galician and Basque are spoken in the relevant areas.

Spain's official currency is the Euro (EUR). One Euro is divided into 100 cents. Money can be exchanged at bureaux de change and major hotels, but banks give the best rates. All major credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted at most hotels, restaurants, and shops. ATMs are widespread and are generally the cheapest and most convenient method of obtaining money.

Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October). The Canary Islands: GMT (GMT +1 in summer).

The impressive, futuristic landscape of the City of Arts and Science covers a vast area, rising out of a man-made lake, and encompasses various attractions, accessed along a magnificent arched walkway overhung with an array of flowering, aromatic plants and shrubs. The complex includes an Imax cinema, planetarium, and Europe's biggest aquarium. The 'wow' factor is topped off with the fascinating Prince Felipe Museum of Sciences.

It may sound creepy, but it is fascinating to visit the crypt of the Prison of Saint Vicente the Martyr, beneath the Church of Saint Vicente, formerly the site of an ancient Visigoth chapel, which later became a prison for Valencia's patron saint. An audiovisual tour of the crypt brings to life the city's ancient history, taking visitors through Visigoth altars, past exhibits of Muslim artefacts, and Roman murals.

The picturesque old town of Valencia is the city's favourite 'chill out' zone with its narrow alleyways, honey-coloured buildings, Bohemian atmosphere and nooks and crannies packed with bars and cafes. Apart from being the ideal spot for people-watching, El Carmen also has several interesting attractions, including the remains of the medieval city walls, the gothic towered gates of Torres de Serrano and Torres de Quart, the latter pocked with cannon-ball marks dating from an assault by Napoleon. Also in El Carmen is a convent complex dating from the 13th century, and several museums.

One of Valencia's loveliest squares, the Plaza de la Virgen is a great place to sit and soak up the atmosphere among the flapping pigeons. In the centre of this square, which was once the site of the ancient Roman forum, a fountain representing the Turia River plays, surrounded by plenty of open-air cafes. On one side of the square is the impressive Gothic façade of the Palau de la Generalitat, seat of government for the Valencia region, and opposite is the Baroque Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Desamparados, a grand name for a grand church dating from the 17th century and containing fascinating frescoes.

Valencia's World Heritage Site is the old Silk Exchange, founded in 1469, copied from a similar structure built in Palma de Mallorca. The crenellated tower and flamboyant Gothic trading hall, regarded as the city's most beautiful building, is now a top tourist attraction, often used for hosting exhibitions. The immensely high vaulted ceiling tops off some rather risqué etchings. A good time to visit is on a Sunday morning when a popular stamp and coin collectors market makes for a lively trading buzz.

It is reputedly the resting place of the Holy Grail, but whether you believe that or not the ornate Valencia Cathedral is worth a visit just because of its unique history and combination of architectural styles. Since it started out in 1262, it has shuffled back and forth from being a mosque to a Christian church, and has been added to accordingly in a variety of styles from Romanesque to Gothic, Baroque and even Moorish. It houses an interesting museum, treasury and the Holy Grail chapel. Most visitors, though, make a pilgrimage to the cathedral simply to climb its octagonal medieval tower, which provides a wonderful panorama of the city if you have the staying power to make it to the top of the winding staircase.

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