Viva La Revolución in Valencia
19th Sep 2008
arrivalLet’s get started. Flights into and out of Valencia are obviously less crowded than they were during the America's Cup, and the airport is adequate and modern to the point of being impressive. If tickets are too dear for just the weekend, try flying into Barcelona instead. A three-hour train ride from Barcelona Sants (the main station) will drop you in the centre of Valencia, and may be the perfect ticket if you want to visit more than one Spanish city.
Valencia is famous for its delicious oranges, and is underrated for a location nestled so close to the Mediterranean. Away from the coast much of it feels like it was built in 1972 during a Socialist Party architecture competition: bland blocks on arrow-straight boulevards sap the soul of the city until it becomes alive at night.
In October 1957 much of Valencia flooded. Central street such as Calle la Paz had water running 2.5 metres high. As a result, local authorities brilliantly diverted the Turia River southwards away from the city centre and turned the riverbed into a greenbelt and park and Valencia's self-proclaimed Garden of Eden now called the Turia Riverbed, saving the city from its otherwise bland architecture. And since it is Spain’s third largest metropolis, much attention has been paid to making it more appealing (massive protestes won over a brief proposal to make the park a motorway in 1966). So Valencia won the environmental battle and now features a robust arts program and a rocking new vibe that kicked off the great America’s Cup and continues to attract people to the centre of Spain’s Mediterranean coast reminiscing Allinghi’s victorious win.
where to stay
Locals like to say that anyone with four walls has put up a hotel sign in Valencia as everyone prepared for the impending crowds descended for the Cup. This would not be untrue, but several options stand out. The unforgettable Hotel Las Arenas Balneario Resort is situated right on the beach and features gorgeous event facilities, a huge pool and brand new, big rooms. It’s a knockout, and so popular that it was sold out through the whole Cup and following summer. If you can’t get a room for your key desired days, we’d forgive you for just booking a massage if only to enjoy that luxury and be seen sipping a Mimosa on the terrace.
The Barceló Hotel is well situated between the old city and the Port and directly in front of the fantastical futuristic Arts and Sciences Centre. Ask for a room facing this architectural majesty and you'll wake up feeling like you've stepped into film shot in 2105 starring you. The Barceló seems to be a favourite for yachtsman and corporates alike. Plenty of rooms in this large new modern hotel means that it is doing well, and its location is pretty unbeatable. If you can get a room on one of the top floors, the views are stunning. In town, try the Ad-Hoc Monumental — it’s the coolest boutique stay in town and situated in the more quaint and stylish old city. Other solid bets are the NH Hotels, a local Spanish chain with average locations but good capacity, and the Hotel Neptuno, also located on the beach and within stumbling distance of the Port.
In town you can't beat the chic Hotel Zenit. A remodeled old red brick building, its fresh modern interiors are well designed, the kind of modern you can feel plush in, not the kind where you're afraid to sit down in the overdesigned three-legged chair. For culture, you're right near the Cathedral, to relax, there is a health club and spa, and Bar Zenit and adjacent restaurant Azahar are some of the hippest places in town.
activitiesThe beaches of La Malvarrosa and Levante are the loveliest for ambience and activity. Evening diners flock there for lots of great restaurants and a fun quiet evening by the sea. More secluded beaches are further south toward the L'Albufera Nature Reserve where you’ll find intimate places for discrete or romantic sunset views.
The juxtaposition of architectural styles from prevailing primitive Gothic structures that house the ancient Silk Exchange, to 1970 post modern Socialism to Calatrava’a scallop-esque arts paradise showcase was has emerged as a 21st century Spanish star. The Silk Exchange has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site and is well worth a visit back to the 15th century when Silk Road and maritime trade brought the East to Spain through these doors.
The centrepiece of Valencia’s art angle is the Ciudad de las Artes y Las Cienia (The City of Arts and Sciences), Europe’s largest cultural and leisure complex designed by the famed architect Santiago Calatrava, who hails from Valencia. The venue features a plethora of ‘-iums’ to focus your attention and entertain you — aquarium, planetarium and laserium to name a few — but is really just amazing to look at as it hails as the architectural gem of the city rivalling Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim masterpiece. The new Port area built for the America’s Cup is also fantastic, modern, breezy and very chic.
As it was during the America’s Cup, yacht charters are a must, and while packages from ACM, the Cup’s official organizers are amazing, at up to $60,000 you may find it a bit out of your price range. For private charters, two recommended companies are Mundo Marino and Boramar, both of which can arrange a private boat for you and your guests, lunch and other activities to create a intimate experience.
For dinner, we do not recommend the Valencia's world famous paella. Apparently, it is only eaten for lunch in Valencia. (No wonder we all need a siesta in the afternoon!) Valencia is the paella capital of the world, so it's advisable to avoid insulting the locals by trying to order it after three. A couple of good locations include Chocomeli and Azalea. Bamboo (del Colón) is fantastic and conveniently the hottest restaurant in the city. Bamboo is located in the old but revamped Mercado del Colón in the barrio del Ensanche. You'll have your choice of eats as well and common areas that were the old market stalls. Definitely cool so definitely reserve: +34 9 6325 6318.
There are two noteworthy areas for activities en la sera: The port area hums with activity, music and events from spring through to autumn, and the adjacent beach area is a hotspot. A place to be seen is the Omega Lounge at the Hotel Neptuno, as was, of course, the Hub Culture America’s Cup Pavilion at the Beach Salons. Next to the Port is the giant open-air nightclub Dockas on Calle de Juan Izquierdo, which features beds, palm trees and giant lounge areas. The club can really pack them in, hosting up to 5,000 people on a big night during the summer. It is definitely rocking, and gaining entry not too difficult.
For a real stunner, pop over to the Centre for Arts and Sciences after dark where you can lounge and dance the night away inside the L'Umbracle at Tomás Alía's eclectic Terraza. Surely you'll feel like you're in 5th Element heaven, and Milla Jovovich might even be there fresh off her yacht.