Spain Guide

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Valencia Tourist Attractions Things to Do

When it comes to the great cities of Spain, Valencia is one of the country's best kept secrets. You won't find hordes of British and German tourists here (they're all sunning themselves on the beaches of the Costa Blanca to the south of the city). What you will find is a vibrant city with wonderful shops, fascinating museums, beautiful palm fringed plazas and a Millennium science complex which boasts some of the finest facilities in the whole of Europe.

Don't be put off by the unappealing outskirts of the city a modern, industrialised sprawl of factories and high rise, concrete apartment blocks. Make your way to Valencia's historic heart (preferably without a car) and you'll find a magical mixture of ancient buildings, narrow streets and back street restaurants where you can enjoy some of the best (and cheapest) paella in Spain.

Valencia has remained surprisingly untouched by modern tourism despite its many allurements which include the chalice reputed to be the Holy Grail used by Jesus at the Last Supper. The chalice has been kept in a chapel of the city's Gothic cathedral since 1437 and has sparked centuries of debate about its authenticity.

Whatever your opinion of the Holy Grail (Christianity's most sacred treasure) the imposing cathedral itself is worth a visit. It houses the city's oldest museum, founded in 1761, which contains priceless collections of religious artefacts, silver and paintings including works by the Spanish master Francisco de Goya. Pop along to the cathedral's Puerta de los Apostoles (Door of the Apostles) on a Thursday morning and you'll be able to witness an ancient system of justice known as the Tribunal de las Aguas. The tribunal's judges have been meeting since the 13th century when Jaime I set up this regulatory body designed to control the distribution of water from the River Turia.

Climb the spiral staircase of the cathedral's bell tower for the most spectacular views of the city (not recommended for the elderly or infirm as there are 207 steps.)

The city's newest tourist attraction is the futuristic Arts and Science Centre by the side of the dry riverbed of the Turia. The complex is made up of four of the most extraordinary examples of avant garde architecture in the world. It includes a science museum with inter active exhibits which keep both children and adults happy for hours. There's the "Hemesferic" planetarium where you can take a virtual tour through space and the oceanarium which is one of the biggest and best of its kind in Europe a spectacular underwater city representing the marine life of all the world's oceans.

One of the riverbed's many other attractions is the Parque de Gulliver which is a must if you're visiting with children. A giant recreation of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver provides a wonderfully imaginative playground of climbing frames and slides which will delight the kids for hours (free of charge!).

Valencia has a huge number of museums and art galleries including the Institute of Modern Art which boasts one of the country's most important collections of contemporary work. The 16th century Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas, in Poeta Querol, is one of Spain's most beautiful palaces and houses the impressive National Ceramics Museum.

The Fallas Museum, on the outskirts of the city, is the place to see the prize winning papier mache tableaux which have been saved from the flames of the annual Fallas fiesta. Each year one statue is chosen to escape the ritual burning which sees hundreds of beautifully sculpted and painted figures destroyed throughout the city.

A visit to the Plaza del Mercado is a must. Here you'll see one of Europe's biggest and most impressive indoor markets and the beautiful 15th century silk market which has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).

The city's bullring, built in 1850 and still bringing in the crowds today, has seating for 16,000 and is one of the biggest and most beautiful in Spain.