In Valencia, the old mixes with the new and you can find true gems of architecture from different periods in the city’s history. From Gothic religious and civic buildings to splendid baroque palaces, and from colourful Modernist and Art Deco structures to the most spectacular modern buildings, you will find it hard to keep your eyes down.
If you are interested in architecture, you are in for a real treat in Valencia. As you wander around the city you will find amazing buildings in every corner, legacy of an illustrious past. Here are some suggestions for a tour of Valencia’s most impressive buildings.
Valencia’s Golden Age
You could start by entering the old town through one of the two imposing medieval gates – the Serranos and Quart Towers – all that remains from the old city walls. At the heart of the Ciutat Vella, the mostly-Gothic Cathedral offers in fact a mixture of artistic styles, from early Romanesque to 18th century Baroque.
Valencia thrived in the Middle Ages thanks mainly to the silk trade, reaching its peak in the 15th Century, the city’s Golden Age. No building represents this age of prosperity better than La Lonja or Silk Exchange, declared a World Heritage Site. In its grand hall, where the contracting took place, tall, twisting columns simulate drapes of silk falling from the ceiling.
The adjacent building was the Consulate of the Seas, a marine merchant tribunal. Go upstairs to admire the richly decorated wooden ceiling. And as you leave, watch out for the amazing gargoyles and some unexpected decorations in the exterior of the building.
There are more examples of Gothic civil architecture in the old town, including the impressive Palace of the Generalitat, which houses the regional government. This is just one of several palaces and noble houses dotted around the neighbourhoods of El Carmen, Seu and Xerea, around the Cathedral. These grand buildings date back to the 15th to 18th centuries and often feature vast doors and peaceful internal patios.
Many of the palaces are now home to government offices and not normally open to the public, but if you are lucky enough to be in Valencia for the celebration of the Regional Day on 9th October, you could take advantage of the special Open Doors day to access these buildings.
From Modernism to Art Deco
By the turn of the 20th century, Valencia fully embraced a new artistic movement: Modernism. Some of the most emblematic – and most beautiful – buildings in the city like the Central Market, North Train Station, Bullring, Post Office and Colon Market illustrate this period. Curved lines, forged iron structures and, above all, the use of colourful tiles (making the most of the local ceramics industry) define Modernist architecture in Valencia.
Arriving by train to be greeted by the ornate hall of the Estacion del Norte, feeling the buzz of the locals’ chatter under the impressive dome of the Central Market or relaxing with a coffee in the Colon Market are some of the most memorable experiences that visitors to Valencia can enjoy.
The Art Deco movement also found its way to Valencia in the early 20th century. Its influence can be seen in the façade of private buildings like Casa Judia in Calle Castellon or some of the city’s historic cinemas like Rialto and Capitol. In the outskirts, the Bombas Gens building is the best example of industrial art deco. The former hydraulic pumps factory is being transformed into a new centre of arts and gastronomy opening in April this year.
21st century Valencia
By the end of the Millennium, a spectacular new complex started to arise on the former riverbed of the Turia: the City of Arts and Sciences, the brainchild of Valencia’s most international architect, Santiago Calatrava. The futuristic white steel and glass structures of the six buildings have since featured in millions of photographs taken by both professionals and tourists, not to mention countless ads and even films (like Tomorrowland) and TV programs (watch out for the next Doctor Who series!).
A planetarium that resembles an eye, a science museum that looks like a giant rib cage, an opera house which reminds some people of Darth Vader’s helmet… each building is unique. The landscaped gardens and pools that surround them add to the magic. And if you get closer, you can appreciate the trencadis, the elaborate technique of covering surfaces with broken tiles. The effect can be mesmerising, particularly when the buildings catch the glow of the setting sun.
Finally, head towards the sea and the Marina of Valencia, where you will find one of the latest additions to the city’s amazing architecture: the Veles e Vents building. Now home to a new space for events, as