Stylish and cosmopolitan, Valencia (pop. 750,000) presents a striking contrast to the surrounding orchards and mountain range. Valencia seems to possess all the best of its sister cities: the bustling energy of Madrid, the vibrant spirit of Alicante, the off-beat sophistication of Barcelona, the friendly warmth of Seville. Despite its cosmopolitan style, Valencia retains a small-town charm.
TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION. Trains arrive at C. Xativa 24 (963 52 02 02). RENFE (24hr. 902 24 02 02) runs to: Alicante (2-3hr. 9 per day, ‚10-25); Barcelona (3hr. 12 per day, ‚34); and Madrid (S’ahr. 9 per day, ‚18-37). Buses ( 963 49 72 22) go from Av. Menendez Pidal 13 to: Alicante via the Costa Blanca (412hr. 13 per day, ‚13-15); Barcelona (4V hr. 15 per day, ‚21); Madrid (4hr. 13 per day, ‚20-24); and Seville (llhr. 4 per day, ‚41-48). Bus #8 (‚0.90) connects to PI. Ayuntamiento and the train station. Trasmediterranea ferries (a 902 45 46 45) sail to the Balearic Islands (956).
The main tourist office, C. Paz 46-48, has branches at the train station and PI. Ayuntamiento. (963 98 64 22. Open M-F 9am-7pm and Sa 10am-7pm.) Internet access is at Ono, C. San Vicente 22, around the comer from PI. Ayuntamiento. ( 963 28 19 02. ‚1.80 per 45 min. 9am-2pm, ‚1.80 per 30 min. 2-10pm, ‚1.80 per hour lOpm-lam. Open M-Sa 9am-lam, Su lOam-lam.) The post office is at PI. Ayuntamiento 24. (Open M-F 8:30am-8:30pm, Sa 9:30am-2pm.) Postal Code: 46080.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD. The best lodgings are around Plaza del Ayuntamiento and Plaza del Mercado. The Home Youth Hostel O, C. Lonja 4, is directly behind the Lonja, on a side street off PI. Dr. Collado. Brightly painted rooms, a spacious common living room, and a kitchen create a homey atmosphere for road-weary guests. (963 91 62 29; www.likeathome.net. Laundry ‚5.50. Internet ‚0.50 per 15min. Dorms ‚14; singles ‚21; doubles ‚32; triples ‚48; quads ‚64.) Hostal Alicante , C. Ribera 8, is centrally located on the pedestrian street off PI. Ayuntamiento. Its clean, well-lit rooms and firm beds are hugely popular with backpackers. (963 51 22 96. Singles ‚20, with bath and A C ‚28; doubles ‚2937. MCV.) From PI. Ayuntamiento, turn right at C. Barcas, left at C. Poeta Querol, and take the second right onto C. Salva to reach Pension Paris 0, C. Salva 12, which has spotless, sunny rooms with balconies. ( 963 52 67 66. Singles ‚18; doubles ‚27, with shower ‚30; triples ‚3439.) To get to Hostal Antigua Morellana , C. En Bou 2, walk past PI. Dr. Collado; it’s on the small streets behind the Lonja. Quiet and comfortable rooms with bath and AC cater to an older crowd. (fax 963 91 57 73. Singles ‚30; doubles ‚45.)
Paella is the most famous of Valencia’s 200 rice dishes; try as many of them as you can before leaving. Buckets of fresh fish, meat, and fruit (including Valencia’s famous oranges) are sold at the Mercado Central, on PI. Mercado. (Open M-Sa 7am-3pm.) For groceries, stop by the basement of El Corte Ingles, C. Colon, or the fifth floor of the C. Pintor Sorilla building. (Open M-Sa lOam-lOpm.)
SIGHTS. Touring Valencia on foot is a good test of stamina. Most of the sights line Rio Turia or cluster near PI. Reina, which is linked to PI. Ayuntamiento by C. San Vicente Martir. EMT bus #5, dubbed the Bus Turistic (‚1), makes a loop around the old town sights. Head toward the beach along the riverbed off C. Alcalde Reig. or take bus #35 from PI. Ayuntamiento to reach the modern, airy, and thoroughly fascinating HCiudad de las artes y las ciencias. This mini-city has created quite a stir; it’s become the fourth biggest tourist destination in Spain. The complex is divided into four large attractions, only two of which are currently completed: Palau de les Arts and L’Oceanografic will not open until at least 2004. The KMuseu de Les Ciencias Principe Felipe is an interactive playground for science and technology fiends; L’Hemisferic has an IMAX theater and planetarium, (www.cac.es. Museum open June 15-Sept. 15 daily 10am-9pm, Sept. 16-June 14 M-F and Su 10am-8pm, Sa 10am-9pm. ‚6, M-F students ‚4.30. IMAX shows ‚6.60, M-F students ‚4.80.) The 13th-century ifcathedral, in PI. Reina, was built on the site of an Arab mosque. The Museo de la Catedrai squeezes several treasures into three tiny rooms. (Cathedral open in summer daily 7:30am- lpm and 4:30-8:30pm; off-season reduced hours. Free.
Museum open Mar.-Nov. M-Sa 10am-lpm and 4:30-6pm; Dec.-Feb. lOam-lpm ‚1.20.) Across the river, the Museu Provincial de Belles Artes, on C. Sant Pius V, displays superb 14th- to 16th-century Valencian art. Its collection includes El Greco’s San Juan Bautista,
Velazquez’s self-portrait, and a slew of works by Goya. (Open Su and Tu-Sa 10am-8pm. Free.) West across the old river, the Institut Valencia d’Art Modern (IVAM), C. Guillem de Castro 118, has works by 20th-century sculptor Julio Gonzalez. (Open Su and Tu-Sa lOam-lOpm. ‚2.10, students ‚1. Su free.)
ENTERTAINMENT AND NIGHTLIFE
The most popular beaches are Las Arenas and Malvar-rosa buses #20, 21, 22, and 23 all pass through. To get to the more attractive Saler, 14km from the center of town, take an Autobuses Bunol bus (963 49 14 25) from the comer of Gran Via de Germanias and C.
Sueca (25min. every 30min. 7am-10pm, ‚0.90). Bars and pubs abound in the El Carme district Follow C.
Bolserfa out of PI. Mercado, bearing right at the fork, to guzzle agua de Valencia (orange juice, champagne, and vodka) in PI. Tossal. Carmen Sui Generis, C. Caballeros 38, is an upscale lounge in an 18th-century palace with eclectic decor and chic clientele. (Cocktails ‚5-6. Open W-Sa llpm-3am.) The loud Cafe Negrito, PI. del Negrito 1, off C. Caballeros, is wildly popular with locals. (Small pitcher of agua de Valencia ‚6. Open daily 10pm-3am.) Rumbo 144, Av.
Blasco Ibanez 144, plays a wide variety of music, from Spanish pop to house. (Cover ‚9. Open Th-Sa midnight-7am.) For more info, consult the weekly Que y Donde (‚1), available at newsstands, or the weekly entertainment supplement La Cartelera (‚0.75). The most famed festival in Valencia is Las Fallas (Mar. 12-19), which culminates with the burning of gigantic (up to 30m) papier-mache effigies.
You could while away a lifetime touring the charming resort towns of the Costa Blanca. The white coast that extends through Denia, Calpe, and Alicante derives its name from its fine white sands. ALSA buses ( 902 42 22 42) run from Valencia to: Alicante (2-4hr.12-15 per day, ‚13-15); Altea and Calpe (3414 hr. 8-10 per day 6am-5pm, ‚9.40-11); and Gandia (1 hr. 9-11 per day, ‚5.10). From Alicante buses run to: Altea (lhr. 11 per day, ‚3.80) and Calpe (l’ihr. llperday 6:30am-8pm, ‚5.95). Going to Calpe (Calp) is like stepping into a Dali landscape. The town cowers beneath the Penon d’lfach (327m), which drops straight to the sea, making it one of the most picturesque coastal set-
Paella is known throughout the world as a quintessential Spanish dish, but any valenciano can tell you where it all started-here. From the region’s rice fields to the factories where it is carefully processed to the tables of the best restaurants, rice is the spice of life in Valencia. The techniques of preparation have been perfected for years by rice cultivators, processors, and paelleros (traditionally male). And don’t call it all paella; there are hundreds of different rice dishes, each distinct in ingredients and preparation.
Paella, for example, is the Valenciano word for the typical pan in which the rice paella dish (originally called arroz en paella) is cooked. Arroz a banda, while similar to paella, is traditionally a more humble dish enjoyed by fishermen, who cook the fish separately (a banda) from the rice, saffron, garlic, and tomato.
If you prefer your rice baked, try arroz al horno, very popular in la Ribera and la Huerta for its mixes of meats and vegetables and slightly less complicated recipe. If you don’t prefer rice at all, try fideua, the cousin of paella, made with noodles instead of rice. Whichever you choose, you are certain not to be disappointed, so long as you go for the authentic version. Avoid the more touristy restaurants bearing pictures of pre-made paellas on sandwich boards; what you see is what you get, and it’s not the real thingtings in Spain. Peaceful Gandi’a has fine sand beaches. The tourist office, Marques de Campo, is opposite the train station, (a 962 87 77 88. Open June-Aug. M-F 9:30am-1:30pm and 4:30-7:30pm, Sa 10am-l:30pm; Sept.-May M-F 9:30am-l:30pm and 4-7pm, Sa lOam-lpm.) Buses depart from outside the train station for Platja de Piles (M-Sa 4-9 per day, ‚0.80). To sleep at the fantastic Alberg Mar i Vent (HI) O in Platja, follow the signs down C. Dr. Fleming. The beach is out the back door, (a 962 83 17 48. Sheets ‚1.80. 3-day max. stay, flexible if uncrowded. Curfew Su-F 2am, Sa 4am. Closed until March 2004 for renovations. Dorms ‚9-11, under-26 ‚6-9.)
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