Things to Do in Valencia - page 2
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.
For one week in May every year, Valencia’s streets turn into a gallery of giant, often cartoon-like sculptures. Come the end of the week, these colorful behemoths are incinerated in building-high bonfires, illuminating the town and filling the city skies with smoke. Though your visit to Valencia may not coincide with this fire- and firework-filled event, you can still become acquainted with it by visiting the Museum of Las Fallas.
But first, to understand the museum, you must grasp what makes up this wild celebration, and specifically the fallas themselves. The fallas are essentially massive, usually paper-mache-made sculptures, typically infused with some sort of political or pop-culture reference. Hundreds of these creations are erected in city squares and street junctions around town, with each big falla having a miniature version next to it, which is called a ninot.
Cruise ships dock about 2.5 miles (4 km) from the center of Valencia. It is walkable but some ships provide shuttles or taxis are easily found to take you to the central and picturesque Plaza del Ayuntamiento. Otherwise, you can stay in the docks area, which is a lively mix of old and new architecture, restaurants and bars.
From well-preserved Plaza del Ayuntamiento you can wander the ancient streets of Barrio del Carmen, as well as visit the many museums and churches including the Cathedral in the Placa de la Reina, a visually-striking opera house and music hall, and the nearby Gothic Basilica of the Virgin in the Placa de le Verge. The fabulous City of Arts and Sciences includes the aquarium L’Oceanografic - which is primarily under the sea and includes 45,000 creatures from 500 species in different habitats including whales, sharks, penguins and dolphins. The building itself is a very modern building designed by famed contemporary architect Salvatore Calatrava.
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.
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