(SPOT.ph) Think of Valencia, Spain, and what immediately comes to mind are images of sun, sea, sand, and paella. The third-largest city in Spain traces its roots as a Roman colony back to 138 BC. Although it is a popular destination for outdoor pursuits such as swimming or sunbathing at the beaches, biking or relaxing along the Turia River, and strolling through its parks and plazas, there are also many museums and galleries dedicated to various interests, from archaeology to rice culture, that can occupy your days here. If you plan well, you can visit at least 10 museums for free.
Before you go, please note that although you may be familiar with words in Castilian Spanish, signs and street names in Valencia are usually in both Castilian and the region’s language, Valencian, which are markedly different. For example, the word for "street" is calle in Castilian but carrer in Valencian.
Within the walls of this 17th-century palace, you can find more than 2,000 pieces of art spanning from the medieval to the Renaissance period. Among them is a vast collection of retablos, other Catholic art from churches and convents, and works by great artists such as Diego Velazquez, Francisco de Goya, and El Greco. Expect a tour of various artistic styles, including Valencian Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo.
Museu de Belles Arts de Valencia/Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia is at Calle San Pio V no.9. Entry is free Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. They are closed on Mondays, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
The ceramics museum is housed in the opulent Palace of the Marqués de dos Aguas, with its ornate Rococo style dating back to the 15th century. It is a tribute to ceramics and decorative arts, emphasizing those produced by local artisans. The museum hosts a large collection of ceramics from the 18th century.
The palace alone is a feast for the senses, notably, the Red Room on the first floor with fantastic stucco and murals even on the ceilings. Even if you’re not a fan of ceramics, you will surely be mesmerized by the opulence and fantastic details of every corner of the property, from the outside to within the walls.
Museu Nacional de Ceramica y de les Arts Suptuaries "Gonzalez Marti"/The "Gonzalez Marti" National Museum of Ceramics and Decorative Arts is at Calle del Poeta Querol no. 2. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.; and on Sundays and public holidays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Entry is free on Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and all day on Sundays. They are closed on Mondays, Christmas Eve and Day, New Year’s Eve, and Labor Day.
Valencian Museum of Ethnology focuses on culture and anthropology, specifically, the local culture and Mediterranean society. The permanent exhibit, It’s not easy being Valencian, showcases objects ranging from material culture to audiovisual pieces, illustrating the interplay (or conflict) between strongly held customs and traditions and the increasingly expanding worldview influenced by various factors. Through such exhibits, the museum hopes to stimulate discussion long after you leave the premises.
A bonus: the onsite Cafeteria del Etno has a limited but varied menu of affordable drinks, snacks, and even set meals, including beer and tapa. Check out the blackboard for what they have on offer for the day.
Museu Valencià d’Etnologia/The Valencian Museum of Ethnology is at El Centro Cultural de la Beneficiencia, Calle Corona no. 36. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Christmas and New Year's Eve. Entry is free on all days. They are closed on Mondays, New Year’s Day, Labor Day, and Christmas Day.
Housed in the sprawling and historical Nuestra Señora del Carmen de Valencia Royal Monastery, built in the 13th century, Centro del Carmen de Cultura Contemporanea (CCCC) is in the heart of the El Carmen district (Barrio del Carmen), well-known for its artistic and bohemian vibe. You’ll find many murals and curiosities just by strolling the narrow streets.
Though walking through the convent’s two courtyards is an unparalleled experience, the permanent and ever-changing collection exhibitions of the CCCC are even better reasons to explore its halls. The old convent also holds the distinction of being a National Historic-Artistic Monument. The CCCC hosts film festivals, concert series, conferences, and other events annually.
A permanent exhibit is dedicated to children up to age three, called Espai de Telles, to explore guided by their curiosity and five senses.
The location became the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the Schools of Fine Arts and Crafts. And so, preeminent artists roamed its halls: Joaquín Sorolla, Francisco Domingo, Ignacio Pinazo, and Manuel Benedito, among others.
Centre del Carme Cultura Contemporania/Carme Contemporary Culture Centre is at Calle Museo no. 2. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Entry is free on all days. They are closed on Mondays, January 6, March 19, May 1, December 25. On December 24 and 31, they are open only from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If you’re interested (or even just curious) about modern and contemporary art, Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno Centre Julio González is a great, sweeping introduction. Permanent exhibits feature the works of abstract sculptor Julio González and impressionist painter Ignacio Pinazo, who both worked from the end of the 19th to the early 20th century.
Over 18,200 square meters, the galleries extensively cover Spanish and international avant-garde art from the early 20th century to the present. Various events are regularly held here, including conferences to foster a growing community of artists and scholars. At the Sala de la Muralla, you can walk beside and marvel at the foundations of the building’s old medieval wall dating back to the 14th century.
Institut Valencia d’Art Modern/Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno Centre Julio González (IVAM) is at Calle de Guillem de Castro no. 118. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Entry is free only on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and all day on Sundays.
For most of March, visitors to Valencia will notice firecrackers being set off during the day and fireworks display lighting up the night sky. This is all part of the celebration of Fallas, a festival that culminates in the feast of St. Joseph. About 800 different groups from the neighborhoods of Valencia spend most of the year preparing for this festival, notably putting together a unique float display according to the year’s theme. For four days, the fallas are paraded around the city, with representatives of the groups in their traditional Valencian garb. On the night of March 19, all but a few of them are set ablaze in a grand bonfire, while two ninots (figures from the fallas) are saved by popular vote and join those on display at the Fallero Museum.
For those unable to witness the fallas proceedings in person, the museum provides background information through past posters and leaflets about the festival. It offers a comprehensive overview of the evolution of the practice and the artistry that has gone into every piece throughout its history. The Fallas Festival is inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity list.
Museu Faller de Valencia/Fallas Museum of Valencia is at Plaza Montolivet no. 4. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entry is free on Sundays and public holidays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is closed on Mondays, New Year’s Day, Labor Day, and Christmas Day.
Dedicated to preserving the ideas and values that led to the evolution of our modern world, the MuVIM is a museum of ideas. Its permanent exhibit, "The Adventure of Thought," takes viewers on a multi-sensory journey to explore the ideas that changed the world through new information technologies. Advance booking is required for this experience.
Different temporary exhibitions that feature expressions of the problems and changes in the contemporary world, as well as conferences and other events, occur regularly.
Outside and underneath, you’ll find some interesting archaeological items. On breezy, sunny days, you can sit on the steps with a snack, looking out at the excavated columns and ruins, and imagine what the space looked like many years ago.
Museu Valencia de la Il-lustracio i de la Modernitat/Valencian Museum of the Enlightenment and Modernity is at Calle de Quevedo no. 10. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Entry is free on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays, as well as on 18 May (International Museum Day).
Right in the heart of Valencia, the archaeological museum is a good place to start getting acquainted with the long and storied history of the city and the region.
At the very center of the site, you will see ruins from its beginnings as "Valentia," dating back to the second century B.C. until the Middle Ages. Over a sprawling 2,500 sqm, you will find what remains from its host of past inhabitants, like Roman baths, curia building, portico, Visigothic baptistery and tombs, and Moorish waterwheel, pool, and remnants of the fortification.
"Almoina" means alms, and gets its name from the charity center that once stood over this site before it was demolished.
Centre Arqueologic de l’Almoina/Almoina Archaeological Center is at Plaza de Decim Juni Brut. It is open Monday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Entry is free on Sundays and public holidays, when they are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
An awe-inspiring, well-preserved Gothic structure built in the 15th century, The Silk Exchange was built to house the burgeoning trade in fabric between the Americas, Asia, and Europe.
Have fun identifying the carvings on the building’s exterior, including the gargoyles. Step back in time when you enter the massive Sala de Contratación, the trading hall, which used to be bustling with commercial activities and sustained life in the city for many centuries.
From the moment you look at its intricate design, you will have no doubt why La Lonja has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Llotja de la Seda/The Silk Exchange is at Calle de la Llotja no. 2. It is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Entry is free on Sundays and public holidays, when they are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In a nondescript street in Valencia is the house where St. Vincent Ferrer was born in 1350 and where he grew up. Aside from being a preacher of the Catholic faith, miracles have been attributed to his intercession. From the Pouet Street entrance, there are four water spouts from which pilgrims may take water.
The house has been refurbished in the Valencian Civil Gothic style, and many eighteenth-century ceramic decorations depict noteworthy events in the saint's life.
The attached chapel is in the neo-Gothic style, and the altarpiece is wood-carved in the Gothic style. Behind the altar, the statue of St. Vincent amid preaching, also made of wood, is in the neo-Baroque style.
The Casa Natal de Sant Vicent Ferrer/Birthplace of St. Vincent Ferrer is at Carrer Pouet de Sant Vicent no. 1 (corner of Calle del Mar). It is accessible Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Entrance is free on all days.
Turkish Airlines flies (with a layover in Istanbul) between Manila and Valencia.