Valencia, Spain, is a city of hidden treasures: castles wait
behind high walls; narrow streets open up to centuries-old
churches. The world’s narrowest house is even squeezed into the
city’s architecture the sliver of a building’s entrance looks no
wider than a closet.
Valencia’s history is a cultural patchwork that has shaped the
city into what it is today. The Iberians’ paintings cover some of
the city’s caves. The Moors introduced oranges to the region, and
the silk industry grew up during Moorish times. The Romans also
made their mark, notably in Sagunto, where a well preserved Roman
theater sits. The Arabs bestowed their castles and architecture to
Valencia; the Christians also left their imprint.
Even though the city has collected many cultures over the
centuries, perhaps Valencia’s best kept secret is how it has
managed to stay off of American tourists’ radar. Europeans have
long known about this coastal gem, but U.S. visitors often only
make it to Spain’s larger cities, opting for Madrid or Barcelona
instead of venturing farther east.
But this 2,000-year-old city is on the rise, and travel agents
can bet that clients will want to venture to this seaside town to
see two very famous cups.
Hosting America’s Cup
Valencia has been chosen host the 32nd America’s Cup, with the
final regatta setting sail in June of 2007. The decision to hold
one of sailing’s most important events here wasn’t taken
Typically, the country that last won the Cup plays host, but
since land-locked Switzerland is the defending champ, Valencia beat
out several other eager cities to host the event likely for the
same reasons the city attracts travelers.
Valencia offers reliable weather conditions and boasts 300 sunny
days a year. All of the Valencia’s beaches are public, giving
clients ample locations to sunbathe along the Mediterranean.
As the third largest city in Spain, Valencia is also one of
Europe’s fastest growing cities. To make way for the famed regatta
races, the city has revamped its harbor at the Port of Valencia.
Come race time, the port will offer bases for the America’s Cup
teams, an extended dock and several shopping venues, including a
high-end Prada shop.
In Search of the Holy Grail
Another one of the city’s treasures also comes in the form of a
cup. Tucked away in one of the city’s cathedrals sits what some
experts believe to be the Holy Grail. The cup that some believe
Jesus drank from during the Last Super was hidden in Valencia from
thieves during the third century. The Holy Chalice, once used by
popes during Mass, is now on display.
I must admit the small, brown piece of flatware is a strange thing
to come face to face with. Inside a small room in the cathedral,
the cup is encased in glass, and patrons come from all over just to
share space with it. The dimly light room makes the cup difficult
to see from the pews: This is when a zoom lens comes in handy.
With the popularity of the “The Da Vinci Code” and an upcoming
movie based on the book starring Tom Hanks, more and more travelers
will want to get up close to this relic. Tour operators have even
started selling tours based on “The Da Vinci Code,” allowing
clients their own search for the Holy Grail.
A City Within a City
Valencia has also made way for the modern. Where the Turia River
once flowed and flooded, now sits Valencia’s City of Arts and
Sciences. It seems the city spared no expense turning the former
riverbed into a 21st-century landmark.
Even if clients don’t go inside, the City of Arts and Sciences
is a spectacle in itself. The complex stretches more than a mile
and is made up different buildings. Each all-white mammoth creation
was designed by Santiago Calatrava a renowned architect and native
This “city within a city” includes a center for performing arts,
a planetarium and a science museum (resembling a dinosaur’s
backbone), and recently the opera house opened which is best
described as a giant eyeball.
An aquarium sits at the other end. While clients would be wise
to spend a day exploring the entire complex, if they only have time
for a short visit, the aquarium is not to be missed. Inside,
visitors navigate a series tunnels and caves to get up close to
creatures of the deep.
Shopping and Other Treats
While it’s best to cab it to more central locations, Valencia is
a city best explored by foot. Modern and Medieval Valencia come
together in the historic center, where visitors can take in the
architecture and souvenir shops. For those looking for some
brand-names, Valencia hosts several high-end shops like a Carolina
Herrera store along Calle de la Paz.
Clients won’t go hungry while in Valencia. Guests looking for a
modern dining experience should check out Lalola. The decor looks
like giant checkers spread across the wall, and the food has a
tasty and trendy presentation. Clients looking for something more
white-tablecloth, but still reasonably priced, should check out the
multi-course fare at Vinatea. Both restaurants offer entrees in the
Clients should also try traditional Valencian treats like
horchata (an ice cream-like drink made from the tiger nut) and
paella (a meet and rice dish).
But whatever your clients crave old or new Valencia is sure to
meet their needs.
Getting There: Iberia airlines offers nonstop
flights from New York and Miami to Madrid. From Madrid, Iberia
offers connecting flights to any major city in Spain, including the
45-minute trip to Valencia.
Where to Stay: I spent the night at the Hotel
Valencia Center, located on the modern Avenida de Francia and
walking distance from the City of Arts and Sciences and several
Hits: The daily breakfast buffet was always
quite a spread with options like eggs, cheeses, fried tomatoes,
lattes and more. The hotel also features a small fitness center and
restaurant, and the rooftop pool offers panoramic city views. The
staff was friendly and helpful.
Misses: The Hotel Valencia Center opened its
doors not too long ago, and it’s still trying to work out a few
kinks. During my visit, the leaky air conditioning caused a large
puddle on the ceiling of many rooms. Wake-up calls weren’t always
consistent nor was the Internet.
Plugging In: Guestrooms feature high-speed
Internet access, and the front desk will provide clients with a
cable. Guests can also pay to log on at the hotel’s business
Rates: Single rooms start at about $150 a
night, while suites cost about $375.
The City of Arts and Sciences
(Ticket prices range from about $9-$23.)
Tourist Office of Spain in Los Angeles