It’s not every day that you can wander through an ornate 15th century palace surrounded by some of the finest ceramics in the world. Then again, Valencia is no ordinary city – this Spanish metropolis is filled with treasures and the National Ceramics Museum is one of the best.
How it all began
Founded in 1947 by local ceramics expert and art critic Manuel Gonzalez Marti, the museum was opened to the public in 1954. It houses Marti’s 6000 ceramics, paintings, furniture, prints and fans, which he donated on the condition they would never leave the city.
After the museum’s inception, many local individuals and institutions donated pieces and the permanent collection today includes clothing, graphic arts, engravings, furniture and sculpture.
The palace was bought in 1949 by the Ministry of Education to house the collection of ceramics donated by Marti and has undergone extensive renovation over the years to outstanding results.
As you enter, pass under the wonderful Baroque alabaster entrance into the patio area. Flanked by a decorative fountain guarded by cherubs, this leads into the main palace, where chandeliers hang high above your head and luxury is abound.
The palace itself is as beautiful as its contents, with elements of Oriental architecture and the original 15th century Gothic features as well as Rococo influences. Many of the expansive palatial rooms contain original furniture and marble flooring from the time when the Valencia nobility called the palace home, as well as ceiling artwork, stucco and ornaments. These embody the elegance of previous centuries and beautifully complement the items on display.
What to see
The museum is an easy place to navigate, with sections covering the history of Spanish ceramics, the decorative arts of Valencia and contemporary ceramics. Works from prehistoric times sit alongside Roman, Greek and Islamic treasures and traditional ceramics from towns across Spain.
There is a special focus on local talent and Valencia tradition, and a typical Valencia kitchen provides the centrepoint of the museum. Decked out entirely in ceramics, it also includes mosaics, friezes and ancient decorative panels. The porcelain room contains stunning examples of colourful artwork, while there is an entire section dedicated to Gonzalez Marti including many of his personal objects.
The clothing collection takes in bullfighter costumes and examples of local traditional dress, while visitors can also see the colourful Valencia lustreware, tiles, decorative plates and panels.
The museum is a great place to visit if you wish to get to the real heart of Valencia. As a source of great local pride, its roots are firmly planted in the depths of Valencia society, past and present.
Need to know
The museum is cheap to get into and is open every Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 to 14:00 and 16:00 to 20:00. It is also open on Sunday and holidays from 10:00 to 14:00. The closest metro station is Columbus (lines 3 and 5) while it is also on a number of bus routes.