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Spring in Spain - Mallorca, Ibiza, Barcelona, Valencia, Tarragona

Spring in Spain - Mallorca, Ibiza, Barcelona, Valencia, Tarragona

May 27th, 2019, 02:58 AM
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Spring in Spain - Mallorca, Ibiza, Barcelona, Valencia, Tarragona

The second half of March is a perfect time to visit Spain. I spent 4 nights on Mallorca, took the ferry to Ibiza for 2 nights, flew to Barcelona for 3, took the train to Tarragona for 2 nights and then on to Valencia for 4. Other than a few days on Mallorca/Ibiza, the temperatures were mid 60s to high 70s and beautiful sunshine.

The Balearic Islands have long been on my list of places to see, I love Mediterranean islands and both are on the UNESCO world heritage list, but I was turned off by the very intense party scene of especially Ibiza in summer. I figured March might be good, with decent (though not summer beach) weather but less crowds. Overall this turned out to be mostly true. I had been to Barcelona on previous trips but my traveling companion had not and really wanted to see as much of Barcelona as possible in the short time we had. Without really intending to, this became the third spring break trip in a row that we visited a major European city in a very short amount of time and were able to see a lot in a really enjoyable way. She then had to return home for work but I was able to get away for another week so decided to add on Tarragonna and Valencia which it turned out I really loved way more than I expected to.

In recent years at least part of the decision of where to go has to do with flights. We found incredibly cheap flights on Norwegian (my favorite airline) from Boston all the way to Palma de Mallorca (via layover in London) for $240 each way. Then I realized that involved returning home (via London) right at Brexit (which obviously turned out not to happen at the end of March). So we booked return flights on AerLingus through Dublin – but not quite as cheap.

Photos are at:
https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/p307332452 - Barcelona
https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/p467743716 - Mallorca & Ibiza
https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/p512518754 - Valencia & Tarragona

And blog version of this report with photos: https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/blog
isabel is online now  
May 27th, 2019, 02:59 AM
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Mallorca - We had 4 nights so 3 full days on Mallorca which was the perfect amount of time for us. We did a half day trip to the village of Valldemossa and another half day trip to Soller and spent the rest of the time exploring Palma.

We didn’t arrive until late afternoon the first day. Despite reading it was the 3rd busiest airport in Spain, Mallorca airport was easy to navigate, easily got the bus which dropped us directly in front of our hotel, Hotel Palladium, Room 101 on the 10th floor had a really decent view of the city including the cathedral and harbor. Room was fine and breakfast excellent. €114 for a double including breakfast. Just on the edge of the old town.
We had an introductory exploratory walk down to the harbor, decided we were very impressed with Mallorca, and found a cute little tapas bar for dinner.

Day 2 - Our first full day was gorgeous sunny and 70s and we explored the whole town. Palma is a fairly large city (350,000) but the historic center is fairly small, probably less than 1 km in diameter. There are a number of avenues and ‘passeiges’ with 19th century architecture and central pedestrian promenades, and a good size area of narrower streets and alleys and several small plazas. There are a few stepped streets but overall the center is fairly flat.

By far the main attraction is the Cathedral and Palace, right next to each other (almost blending in as one large ensemble). Built up onto the old city walls, down below is the huge reflecting bay in the Parc de le Mer (with a giant water fountain in the center shooting a water jet high into the sky), just inland from the Paseo (Avenida Gabriel Roca), the main road along the Bay of Palma which stretches over 5 km of coastline, with paths for cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles. The promenade just opposite the cathedral and palace, sitting up above the ramparts, had views that, for me, made the trip to Palma worth it.

I had read that the Cathedral has one of the largest stained glass windows of any Gothic Cathedral and was beautifully lit. You read stuff like that about almost every cathedral it seems. Well turns out this time it was true. I have visited a lot of cathedrals but this was truly amazing – the way the light turned the stone interior into almost a kaleidoscope. The palace was pretty nice too, with lots of nice stone interior rooms, courtyards, terraces with fabulous views of the harbor. Overall both very impressive. (€8 each)

We explored the center of town – numerous nice ‘passeiges’, plazas, narrow streets. Checked out the Arab Baths, found numerous modernista buildings (Gaudi spent ten years here and his influence is obvious). There are a couple of really nice ‘castle looking’ buildings. One is the town hall (ayuntamiento, on Placa de la Cort), another is the Llotja.

After sitting awhile in the sun in the Parc de la Mer gazing at the palace and cathedral up on the ramparts, we decided we wanted to go up to the Castell de Bellver so inquired at the TI how to get there. Apparently the public bus, which didn’t seem to run all that frequently only went part way up, there’s another ½ hour up hill walk. But the HOHO bus goes there so we figured it might be interesting, by this time sitting for a while sounded like a good idea anyway. The HOHO bus does get you up to the castle but a taxi probably would have been cheaper (HOHO was €18) and the rest of the 1¼ hour loop either went by stuff we had already walked by, or to very boring residential areas. So I don’t recommend it. But the castell is worth seeing.
Castell de Bellver, €4 Erected in 1309, was the summer palace of the kings of Mallorca—during the brief period when Mallorca had kings. The castle, which was a fortress with a double moat, is well preserved. The chief attraction here is the view—the name, Bellver, means “beautiful view.” It is perched on top of a wooded hill over the Bay of Palma, and is unusual in being one of only a few circular castles in Europe and the only one in Spain. It has three semi-circular towers, and a further large tower attached by a bridge over a moat. The spectacular inner courtyard has a series of gothic arches around it on the upper floor. Inside there are numerous rooms of archaeological findings. We had a light lunch at the very mediocre café.

By the time we got back to the hotel it was time for a short siesta and then another beautiful evening (Palma is very nicely lit in the evening).
isabel is online now  
May 27th, 2019, 12:35 PM
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I knew I was going to be running late for work when I saw you’d posted your report
Adelaidean is offline  
May 27th, 2019, 04:15 PM
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Enjoying your report! And your photos are gorgeous, as usual. March seems like a nice time to visit these places. They don't look crowded at all.
KarenWoo is online now  
May 27th, 2019, 04:30 PM
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Fantastic report and photos! We’ve pretty well decided on Valencia and a return to Madrid in the spring of 2021, but your photos of Valencia have me sold! Thanks so much for sharing.
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May 28th, 2019, 12:44 AM
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Yes Valencia was great, even better than I had anticipated. And March was the perfect time to be in the area.

Day 3 - Another drop dead gorgeous day. Not a cloud in the deep blue sky and 75 at least. We went to the train station with the intent of taking the 10:10 train to Soller. Huge long line. After waiting an hour we discovered that all the trains that day were sold out. They were having a special price (€13 round trip including tram, versus €32 normally), that combined with being Sunday and gorgeous day I guess.

So we took the HOHO bus (tickets still good from yesterday) to the Spanish Village – Poble Espanyol, similar to the one in Barcelona only smaller. But just as nicely done, almost deserted. Was worth the hour or so we spent. €6 – An overview tour of Spanish architecture, showing its development through Muslim and then Christian influences. A total of 22 replicas in 1: 2 scale. There is a reproduction of the baths and patio from the Alhambra Palace, a “barrio andaluz” (a street from Andalucía), a ‘Plaza Mayor’, a copy of the Santa Catalina tower from Valencia and several other interesting streets, plazas and buildings. I think Crista was a little bored but I really enjoyed it.

Then we walked back to Plaza Espanya and got the bus to Valldemosa (½ hour, €2 each way). Very cute little hill town, population about 2000, sprawls down a hillside in the Tramuntana mountains (which are a UNESCO world heritage site), bigger than it looks, you can get lost for a few hours exploring the tangle of cute cobbled alleys, tree lined streets, old stone houses. Valldemosa is famous for Cartoixa Reial, where George Sand and Frédéric Chopin wintered in 1838 and 1839. The monastery was founded in the 14th century. After monks abandoned the dwelling, the cells were rented to guests, which led to the appearance of Sand and Chopin, who managed to shock the conservative locals. Unfortunately it was closed Sundays. Also unfortunately since it was Sunday our choice of buses back to Palma were in one hour or 5 hours. We opted for five. We easily used up about 3 just walking around and a little shopping. Got gelato and sat in the sun. Then stores started closing around 5 and sun was going down and not a lot of inside dinner options. But the one we did find was great – we got steak and fries that were cooked in garlic and peppers. Very good meal for €19. Then only about a 20-minute wait in the cold (and now dark) for the 19:30 bus back.

Day 4 - Clouds all day, spit rain several times. We discovered when buying our bus tickets to Valldemossa that the train is not the only way to Soller, there is also a bus (€6 round trip, takes about 40 minutes each way). Through some nice mountains – but not really spectacular, not sure what makes it a UNESCO site. Lots of stone terraces, lemon and orange trees, olive groves, some other fruit type trees just flowering. Some sheep, few goats, horses. Pretty enough but I’ve seen much better. The town of Soller itself didn’t look like much – fairly large, might have had a cute center but the area the bus could go in was unimpressive. We stayed on to Port de Soller. Of course all of this would have been better in the sun. Medium size bay with lots of boats (wintering over, sailboats, yachts, didn’t see much in the way of fishing boats). Tons of seafood restaurants, some post card shops. The cute little tram only runs once an hour. We walked the whole length of the bay, climbed up as far as we could – decent view of the harbor on one side and some cliffs into the water on the other side. But after two hours and starting to rain we just got the bus back to Palma.

After lunch did some more exploring, I was looking for Palau March – interesting building with art museum I wanted to go to. Found it, it is an interesting building, but it was closing in 8 minutes. Oh well. Found some nice side streets, squares. Not the most wonderful of old cities but certainly bits of it are charming. Starting to rain again so I stopped into a really gorgeous pastry shop in a modernista building (Can Forteza Ray) and got a cappuccino and a ‘traditional sweet’.
isabel is online now  
May 28th, 2019, 06:45 AM
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Just curious. Did you have a favorite destination on this trip?
KarenWoo is online now  
May 28th, 2019, 12:31 PM
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Karen - well Valencia was the best surprise I guess and I would definitely plan to go back again. I did enjoy the islands but probably not as much as I like the Greek islands, or Sicily (Sardinia is very high on my list of places to go next). But I guess if I had to pick only one place to ever return to it would have to be Barcelona. How's that for an answer.
isabel is online now  
May 28th, 2019, 12:32 PM
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Days 5 & 6 – IBIZA

We took the ferry to Ibiza cause I love boat rides – I had envisioned something like some of the ferries I’ve taken between islands in Greece, sitting out on deck in the sun for a few hours with the wind I my hair. Well it was windy. But it was also cold and raining and the ferry is a gigantic boat with all inside seating – very comfortable, but not exactly what I had in mind. But it got us there is just 2 hours, where a waiting bus took us ten minutes closer to the center of Ibiza town, then a ten minute walk to Passeig Vera del Rey rooms are located.

Vera del Rey Rooms is right on the main pedestrian street/passeig in a nice old building. Three flights up but Lea (owner) ran downstairs and carried our bags up. Very funky rooms all decorated interestingly. Very unique furniture but comfy and roomy enough and room looks out over the main street. Very good bakery just two doors down, Spar market at end of street.

There was lots of construction going on getting ready for ‘season’. I chose to visit Ibiza in the off season as I didn’t want to go to the party scene of summer but still wanted to see the island. But I didn’t expect it to be this closed down. The fact that it was cloudy/drizzly/windy most of the two and a half days we were there didn’t help.

IBIZA is the other main Balearic island. It's well known for the very lively nightlife where major European nightclubs have summer outposts. Ibiza's art colony began to thrive in the 1950s, and in the 1960s it became the European resort most favored by the flower children. Today, Ibiza is overrun by middle-class package-tour visitors, mainly from England, France, Germany, and Scandinavia. It has become a major mecca for gay travelers as well. Birthplace of rave, Ibiza has some of Europe’s most famous clubs. But the rugged coastline is interspersed with dozens of sandy beaches, most now consumed by intensive tourist developments. Still it’s a UNESCO mixed World Heritage site because of the old town/castle and the islands rich sea life.

The Old Town is the area of the fortified citadel (D’alt Vila) and the old fishing area (Sa Penya) just below it. D’alt Vila was founded by the Phoenicians over 2500 years ago. There are traces of the Moors, and museums display artifacts from various periods of the island's history, including Phoenician, Carthaginian and Roman. A ramp leads from Placa de sa Font in Sa Penya up to the Portal de ses Tablas gateway, flanked by Roman statues, the main entrance to D’alt Vila. Steep streets and alleys lead up to the Cathedral, which overlooks everything. The castle is a lot larger than it looks from the water. You can walk all the way around the perimeter on ramparts, lots of outlooks. And in the center is the old town, very Greek (Cycladic island) looking with narrow lanes of stone buildings, great views out to the water.

Between D’Alt Vila and the harbor is Sa Penya, a jumble of narrow streets and lanes lined with whitewashed shops, bars and restaurants. Most of these were closed for the season in March – very deserted. And the higher up you went the dodgier it got – lots of trash, broken bits of furniture and machinery, dog poop, graffiti. The lower main part of the city is essentially very boring; mid 20th century pretty ugly buildings housing stores, businesses, and apartments. There is one large graceful plaza – Passeig de Vara de Rey with beautiful town houses from the beginning of the 20th century, tree lined with pavement cafes and a nice large statue in the center.

We had one full day plus two half days which was plenty to explore the old town, walk the ramparts. We visited three (very small) museums. To rent a car and explore the rest of the island and the beaches would have required more time (and better weather).
isabel is online now  
May 29th, 2019, 12:09 PM
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Day 7 – Barcelona

Uneventful 45 minute flight from Ibiza to Barcelona, airport bus to Placa Catalyuna, five minute walk to Hotel Lloret at the top of Las Ramblas. When I originally planned this trip, Barcelona was just a convenient stopping point between the islands and the rest of my trip and where Crista would need to fly back home from. I had been to Barcelona on previous trips but Crista had not and really wanted to see as much of Barcelona as possible in the short time we had. Without really intending to, this became the third spring break trip in a row that we visited a major European city in a very short amount of time and were able to see a lot of the major 'sites' in a really enjoyable way.

Since this was my third time in Barcelona I was reasonably adept at showing Crista the highlights. The first afternoon/evening we went out for a stroll down Las Ramblas, stopped at the market and got some tapas and wine for ‘first dinner’. The market is a highlight of ‘touristy’ Barcelona and clearly had even more stalls devoted to the things tourists want as opposed to unprepared food to take home for the locals than it did nine years ago. But it’s still a great place to explore and plenty of take out, bars and restaurants. Unlike most European food markets, it is open late.

We continued Las Ramblas down to the harbor and across and back up into the old town. After exploring the streets all around the cathedral we found a place we liked just behind it and had ‘second dinner’ of more tapas and wine. In front of the cathedral was an antique jewelry/coin/etc. market. By the time we got back to the hotel we had actually seen a big part of the Barri Gotic. And right next to the hotel was a handy Amarino for a nightcap of gelato.

Day 8 - We started the day by walking over to the Palau de la Musica to buy tickets for a concert the following night (€39). We thought about trying to see a flamenco show, but there wasn’t one at the Palau de la Musica while we were there, and I thought seeing something ( anything) there would be better than flamenco in some nondescript setting. I think I was right.

Then we headed into the Eixample area for a little 6 or so mile stroll past all the interesting buildings to Sagrada Famila (and back). All the Gaudi buildings had huge lines, and those were for the people who had reserved tickets. On Previous trips I had been to Casa Mila, Sagrada Familia, and Parc Guell and I do consider those ‘must sees’ - but with todays crowds they require advance planning which we did not do. But as interesting as the interiors of these buildings are, the exteriors are even more so and our route took us past the highlights.

Back in the old town we went to Casa Marti-Els Quatre Gats for a late lunch. Built in 1896, this Art Nouveau building houses the ‘Quatre Gats’ café (Four Cats, slang for “just a few guys” but also recalling the Chat Noir in Paris). The exterior is decorated with Eusebi Arnau sculptures. The interior is hung with reproductions of famous Ramon Casas paintings. It was a bohemian taverna that provided much of the impetus for the city’s cultural life in the early 20th Century. Picasso’s first exhibition was held here. Today it has one of the best eating experiences in Barcelona, lunch consisting of three courses plus wine for €20.
We spent the afternoon and evening exploring more of the Barri Gotic.

Day 9 We started the day at Parc Ciutadella. Another absolutely gorgeous day and the park really is lovely, day but giant fountain was off and the lake was empty. Lots of spring flowering trees and flowers. We walked down to the harbor with the intention of taking the cable car to Montjic, but then decided we didn’t really want to take the cable car so just took the metro (€2.2 single ticket) to Placa Espanya and Montjuic. Huge crowds up there. A really cool kind of a combo of bicycle and skateboard race/exhibition. We wandered around with the intention of looking for the way to the castle but I had not researched this very well. We did end up at the Olympic Village and that was kind of cool.

That evening we went to the concert at the Palau de la Musica – the Barcelona Guitar Trio. The concert was good but the music hall was amazing!
isabel is online now  
May 31st, 2019, 02:29 AM
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Days 10 & 11 Tarragona

Crista left for the airport and I took the train to Tarragona. Only about an hour, many people do Tarragona as a day trip from Barcelona but I chose to spend two nights so as to have one full day. Although I did want to see Tarragona itself and the Roman ruins, my main purpose was to visit the Monasterio de Santa Maria de Poblet. Although I had researched it pretty well I neglected one important detail. The bus to the monastery doesn’t run on Sunday, and the monastery is closed on Monday. So there went that plan. Since it was a beautiful sunny Sunday I decided to visit the ‘fishing village’ area of Tarragona and do the Roman stuff on Monday. Turns out the Roman sites are closed on Monday. I do extensive research before trips, but apparently not enough. Can’t imagine how much the average person who doesn’t do much research at all must miss.

Still, Tarragona is a lovely little city with a beautiful setting right on the Mediterranean and I enjoyed my two days there. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site for the ensemble of Roman archaeological sites that date to when it was the most important city in Iberia. The most impressive is the amphitheater, set right on the water, built in the 1st C AD, could hold 15,000 spectators. There are also ruins of the forum, fairly extensive sections of the Roman wall and a museum. All of these are what can be ‘visited’ with a ticket, but you can see most of it pretty well without going ‘in’. There are also numerous other Roman bits scattered around town. The map from the TI identifies things pretty well.

The main street in Tarragona, Rambla Nova, is a wide boulevard with car lanes on each side of the very wide pedestrian center – which is lined with trees and benches. At the end/beginning is the Balcón del Mediterráneo, a terrace with stunning views of the Mediterranean. Steps from the Balcón del Mediterráneo lead down to the railroad station and the beach. Part way down La Rambla is an interesting statue – Monumento de los Castellers. This is a huge sculpture representing a human castell, which is a Catalan tradition in which a "colla" composed of many people create a compact base with their bodies clutching together and then the other members begin to climb up on the shoulders of these forming up to 10 floors easily measuring more than 10 meters high. This is a Catalan tradition, also done in Barcelona, but it’s native to Tarragona and has been around for over 300 years. There are posters and a tile with pictures but the sculpture is the most impressive. Also in La Rambla Nova is a bronze of a ‘grandfather’ statue and a nice fountain. Very pleasant avenue. Stores were pretty boring though.

Near the Roman Forum (the next most impressive ruin after the theater) is the Mercat Central, much more sedate than the one in Barcelona, but it is in a Moderinsta building. The other main street in town, Rambla Vela is just a busy street. But just past that, Placa de la Font is a large rectangular square, with the Ayuntamiento at one end.

Tarragona Cathedral (5€) Romanesque and Gothic, is large and really pretty from the outside, inside rather boring, one side chapel was cool, one side room looks more like a castle room than a church but overall nothing special. The cloister was very nice though, huge, very well kept with five fountains in the center, several of them with gold fish and one with 3 rather large turtles. Sat in the sun against the cloister wall for about half an hour. Most of the time there were only a couple other people there, a few tour groups came through but didn’t stay long, very peaceful. The cathedral’s setting is interesting, at the top of a large flight of stairs on a small plaza, with some atmospheric medieval looking buildings on one side. Surrounding the cathedral are medieval lanes and alleys, the section of town referred to as “Part Alta”, with houses from the 15th century onward but interspersed with bits of Roman ruins.

Besides the old town center, Tarragonna has a lovely beach (Platja del Miracle) and about a half hour walk past the train station along the water is the old fishing village of El Serrallo. There are a few interesting old buildings, some of the city’s best seafood restaurants, and some boats – but mostly yachts, not much in the way of ‘fishing’ boats.
isabel is online now  
May 31st, 2019, 05:44 AM
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Originally Posted by isabel View Post
Karen - well Valencia was the best surprise I guess and I would definitely plan to go back again. I did enjoy the islands but probably not as much as I like the Greek islands, or Sicily (Sardinia is very high on my list of places to go next). But I guess if I had to pick only one place to ever return to it would have to be Barcelona. How's that for an answer.
I like your answer! I really enjoy hearing about other people's opinions of different places. Good to know what you said about the Greek Islands because that will most likely be one of our trips in the near future, either 2020 or 2021.
KarenWoo is online now  
May 31st, 2019, 05:48 AM
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I enjoyed reading your description of Tarragona as I know nothing about it. Too bad about the Roman ruins and Monastery. I know from your other trip reports and posts that you are a meticulous planner, but sometimes these little details can easily slip past us. You could always return there if you visit Barcelona again.
KarenWoo is online now  
Jun 1st, 2019, 03:02 AM
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Days 12, 13, 14 & 15 Valencia -

Another gorgeous sunny day in Spain. The day before I had stopped at the train station to get ticket to Valencia. I knew I wanted ‘Valencia Nord’ but the trains at the times I wanted went to Joaquin Sorolla station. Turns out they are only a ten minute walk apart (and there’s even a free shuttle bus).

I was way more impressed with Valencia than I expected to be, don’t know why Valencia didn’t come up on my radar before now. The metro area has a population of over 750,000, the third largest city in Spain, but the ‘city center’ is quite manageable, just over a mile across. My first site was Estacion del Norte, Moderniste, 1917, with a main foyer decorated with ceramic mosaics. Next to it is Valencia’s bullring on Plaza de Toros. First sight you see coming out of the train station are gorgeous white buildings lining the block (¼ mile) to Plaza del Ayuntamiento, which is amazing, probably one of the most impressive squares in Europe – gorgeous buildings including the Ayuntamiento (neoclassical) and the Post Office (neo-baroque), probably the snazziest post office I’ve ever seen, the interior looks more like a theater lobby than a post office) plus a many more beautiful buildings – certainly rivaling Madrid or Barcelona. The plaza is a huge open area, beautiful large fountain, flower sellers. Just lovely.

Sweet Hotel Continental is in a great location, 2 minutes down the side street past the post office off the main Plaza Ayuntamiento. Less than 10 minutes from the train station. I was checked in and started exploring by lunchtime.

I had three and a half days in Valencia. I spent half a day at the City of Arts and Sciences, another half day trip to Xativa and it’s castle and the rest of the time just exploring Valencia.
The main part of the city is the oval area inside the Calles de Colon (ring road) where there are three major squares: besides the Plaza del Ayuntamiento there is the Plaza de la Reina and Plaza de la Virgen.

Plaza de la Reina is a busy square, lots of traffic, but lined with nice buildings with the main entrance of the cathedral at one end. It is the official ‘center’ of Valencia, many streets meeting here, it’s book ended by the old town’s two best towers, the Micalet and Santa Catalina. Plaza de la Virgen is the site of the Roman forum of Valencia and now a pedestrian square with the cathedral and the smaller church of Nuestra Senora de los Desamparados as well as the 15th century Gothic Palau de la Generalitat, seat of government for the Valencia region and a beautiful fountain.

Only about a five minute walk from here is Torres de Serranos, the 14th century town gate which leads to Barcelona, and 20 minutes in the other direction is Torres de Quart, the 15th century gate which faces towards Madrid, the kingdom of Castile and the setting sun. Both towers are impressive whether approaching from the outside, or already “inside the walls”. Both can be climbed and are larger and more extensive than they appear from the outside. Torres de Serranos lies just inside the city from an especially nice section of Jardin de Turia, the riverbed park.

Another main area of interest is around the main market. Mercado Central, Plaza Mercado, is Modernista in style (1928), one of the best food markets in Spain, not quite rivaling La Boqueria in Barcelona but impressive enough, if somewhat more sedate (and with a lot less tourists). Heavily featured are Valencia oranges, which were in season in March. In fact, orange trees grow all over the center of the city and the scent was overwhelmingly wonderful. Citrus trees can have both flowers and full fruit at the same time and these all did in March. Several places I saw signs for “Aqua de Valencia” (OJ).

Just across the street is one of the prettiest, most interesting buildings, La Lonja, built between 1482 and 1533, originally used for trading in silk (hence its name, the Silk Exchange) and it has always been a center for commerce. It is a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is considered a top example of Gothic civic architecture. A forest of twisted columns supports the main trading hall, and the tranquil central courtyard is full of orange trees and a fountain. Besides being in a stunning state of preservation, the Lonja features some truly disgusting gargoyles. Walking around the building, both inside the Contract Room, and outside on the facade, you can find all manner of perversion in the decorations: chimeras biting women’s breasts, a maiden fondling the genitals of a bent-over pauper, acts of bestiality, drunken men peeing into jars and more. These gargoyles are meant to represent the sins of humanity… and they don’t overlook many types of deviance.

Between Plaza de la Reina and Mercado Central there is a perfectly round square. Redonda has been a part of Valencia’s layout since 1837, when it was a fish and meat market. Eventually, it became a place for sewing supplies; today there are still stalls dedicated to fabric and thread. A few years ago, the plaza was given a rather hideous makeover. The old stalls, which had been arranged in a circle around the perimeter of the plaza were moved into the center, and an ugly modern awning was added. Posters at the entrance show what it used to look like.

The other side of the old town has a few noteworthy buildings as well. Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas, 15th C Gothic, radically reformed in 18th century Baroque. A lot of historic buildings in Valencia have beautiful doors, but the grand prize must go to the marble entryway of this building. It houses the González Martí National Museum of Ceramics and Sumptuary Arts and consists of four floors arranged around an interior courtyard. The entryway is magnificent but sides of the building feature some very nice decorations as well and there’s a tranquil fountain on one side.

Plaza del Patriarca – a rectangular square with a symmetrical grid of orange trees, and home to a couple of Valencia’s oldest buildings: the Real Colegio Seminario del Corpus Christi and La Nau, both of which date from the 15th century. La Nau is the historic seat of the University of Valencia, 1498, centered around a spacious courtyard. The Colegio del Patriarca (or Seminario del Corpus Christi) has monks still living there, and every morning at 9:30, in the choir of the church, you can hear Gregorian chants. The church is covered in frescoes. In the foyer of the church, is the “Dragon of the Patriarch,” a stuffed crocodile mounted on the wall over the holy water basin.

The rest of central Valencia is just as impressive. Throughout the old town there was a lot of interesting street art (mixed in with normal graffiti). Outside of the oldest part of town are some lovely avenues with pedestrian centers, lined with beautiful Valencia style buildings (several modernista style) and palm and orange tress. In this area is the other major market, the Mercado de Colon on Called de Cirilo Amoros, a modernista building, which now houses boutiques and cafes. Ave del Regne de Valencia leads out towards one of the ‘must sees’, the City of Arts and Sciences.

The Jardi del Turia, is a park built along the former Turia River. After many floods the city of Valencia had the river diverted and in it’s place built a park, which now stretches all the way around the city center. In the center of the park sits The Ciutat de les Arts I les Ciencies (City of Arts and Sciences), blindingly white and futuristic buildings surrounded by blue reflecting pools - the whole thing is gorgeous. Largely designed by Santiago Calatrava, the engineer-architect previously known for visionary bridge designs and the World Trade Center Transportation Hub in NYC. The buildings house halls of science, art and performing arts but the space and the architecture are really the highlights. L’Hemisfèric, resembles a giant eye and eyelid and contains a massive IMAX theater, a planetarium, and a laser show. El Museu de les Ciències resembles the skeleton of a whale.
isabel is online now  
Jun 1st, 2019, 09:15 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 13,754
Glad more people are discovering Valencia
such a lovely city, only 1:40 min. from Madrid
the beaches are gorgeous but not right in town like Barcelona..
danon is online now  
Jun 2nd, 2019, 02:35 AM
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Posts: 6,718
I agree that more people should include Valencia. You rarely see it on the proposed itineraries people are always posting. I didn't visit the beach (had just come from Tarragona where the beach is right in the center of town) but I did do a half day trip to see the castle at Xativa.

While planning this trip I had researched how to get to Xativa. I’d been checking Renfe website for a few months and it always showed only a 7 am and then a 13:00 train to Xativa. I figured that was weird but it was always that way, regardless of date. Anyway, got to the train station a little after noon to find there were three trains within the hour. Got the 12:38, which arrived just under an hour later.

The train station is reasonably large (the town is 28,000) with a manned ticket booth, small café, WC. What it did not have was a TI or a sign to the castle. But you could see the castle up on the hill and I started walking towards town (with the castle on the other side of it), probably went a few blocks out of my way but eventually saw a sign for the TI where I got a map and was told is was 3km up hill, there was a ‘tourist train’ but wasn’t going again until 16:30 (it was only 14:00 at this time) so I started walking. There were little signs, although a few places there were a choice of directions and no sign. One was actually a good mistake, it was only a block off course and there was a really cute little square (Market Square) – just a block past the Cathedral. One other spot I had to ask a little old lady directions. I pointed up and said ‘castelo?’ and she pointed to the correct street.

Part way up is a bar/restaurant/church and a map and signs with two routes: the ‘old route’ (goat path) and the ‘wall route’ (car path). There were a couple Americans and a group of 4 Brits looking at the sign. The Americans (Shelly and Jeff from St George Utah) and I took the ‘wall route’ and the Brits took the goat path and we all got there at the same time. Took me just under an hour (45 minutes going back). But had Shelly and Jeff to keep me company, always nice to have someone to pal around with for a few hours when solo traveling.

The castle is quite impressive – it’s mostly wall with a few inside bits but it’s quite large and strung along a hill with views to the city (which is unfortunately quite built up although the Cathedral and the halfway up church are scenic) and on the opposite side it ‘s more rural. The smaller portion of the castle was closed for renovation which was unfortunate because, even though it’s the much smaller part it probably had great views of the bigger part. The hike back down was almost as bad as the hike up, got a tad lost (couple blocks) looking for the train station, there was a train in 7 minutes and I arrived back at Valencia Nord exactly 5 hours after I left. From the Xativa train station to the castle and back was 13,700 steps, 75 flights.
isabel is online now  
Jun 3rd, 2019, 04:35 PM
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 1,185
Enjoyed your description of Valencia! I am amazed by your memory. You have a great memory for details which makes the place come alive.
KarenWoo is online now  
Jun 3rd, 2019, 08:29 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 13,754
Thx for the report.

we started climbing towards the castle in Xativa..stopped at a nice restaurant
( hotel?) half way..had a few drinks ,.never made it to the castle..lol
danon is online now  
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