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Valencia Continues with its Revamp

Valencia Continues with its Revamp

Philippe Bourget - 2011-06-28

Since hosting the America's Cup in 2007, Spain’s third largest city continues with its urban revolution. Upgrades such as the Bioparc, the Agora and High speed AVE train links have confirmed its standing as an “in” cultural destination.

We rediscovered Valencia previous to the America's Cup in 2007. Now we return once again in 2011 to find her in a continual state of reinvention with the addition of several new assets. This is an amazing city. It had long been dormant in a staunch conservatism. However due to bold planning policies and the hosting of the prestigious sailing race in little more than ten years she has undergone an impressive transformation. As a result the city has revealed its rich historical heritage to the attention of an ever greater public (see the previous article Viva Valencia!). It has consequently attracted two million tourists per year (on average since 2007) with its modernized port area and its City of Arts and Sciences, a complex of ultra-contemporary buildings devoted to culture and leisure, and designed by the great names of Spanish architecture. 

 It is in the site of this complex where the Principe Felipe Science Museum, the Oceanografic, the Reina Sofia Palace of Arts (Opera of Valencia), Santiago Calatrava Valls, and Hemisferic, opened between 1998 and 2006, already stand, that the process of renewal is continuing. Two impressive new structures have been added here on the dry bed of Valencia’s former impulsive River Turia along a wonderful green corridor in the heart of the city. They are the Assut de l’Or, a slender new bridge over the Turia that shoots arrows and white harp-like veils towards the heavens at heights of 125 metres. Rivalling it close by with its symmetry and soft lines is the Agora, an auditorium made of glass and metal designed to receive major sporting and cultural events under its conch shaped roof. These architectural UFOs were inaugurated in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Both were designed by the inevitable Calatrava Valls, Valencia’s own son and a prodigious architect. 

Formula One Grand Prix every year at the port 

Adjoining the complex, the district of the Baleares, Francia and Nueva Alameda avenues have also been transformed into a trendy shopping area with restaurants and designer cafe bars. Nearby, the last part of the dried river bed, just before the mouth of the Turia, has met with obstacles in its march towards greatness due to the Spanish economic crisis. The project by the French architect Jean Nouvel with three skyscrapers surrounded by a residential area is now definitively off the cards. 

Nevertheless, the port area closed off to the east for the development of this spectacular complex has become the new place to be for young Valencians. After 2007, the city once again hosted an America's Cup in 2010 which strengthened the harbour as a hub for futuristic leisure, hip restaurants, lounge bars with terraces and warehouses converted into recreation areas. Whilst the city still isn’t sure what utility to give all the former "sailors" buildings at least it knew what to do with port’s access roads. Since 2008 and until at least 2013, they will be hosting the European Formula 1 Grand Prix. The street circuit is evocative of Monaco, with its racing cars reaching up to 200 miles an hour just metres from the shores. The 2011 event on 26th June will once again put Valencia in the spotlight. 

Valenbisi, Valencia’s new cycle hire scheme 

Football fans can also dream. As a football crazy city - the Príncipe Felipe Science Museum since March 2011 will house for at least two years a Science and Sports exhibition in partnership with Valencia Football Club, one of the leading clubs of La Liga. Valencia has also embarked on the building of a new arena - the Mestel Nou with 73,000 seats. The works have currently stopped due to financial problems and the stadium will not be finished until at least 2012. However the ambition is one day to be able to host the prestigious Champions League final. 

In Valencia, you can be sporty in an easy going manner. Cycle rides in the former Turia river bed have been even more popular since the summer of 2010 when the city launched its Valenbisi, a self-service bicycle hire scheme (which already has 200 ports and nearly 3,000 bicycles ). Visitors can take them right up to Cabecera Park. Here you’ll also find the Bioparc, an innovative concept of an urban, ecological zoo that was opened in 2008. This zoo works on an original principle of making the barriers between visitors and animals invisible. 

A Guardian of tradition 

What else is there to say except you should jump on a plane for a Valencian city break! It’s an ultra-modern city which nevertheless retains its traditions: the festival of Las Fallas in March, the Water Court every Thursday at the Cathedral, the art of trencadis, the famous mosaics made from broken ceramics or relaxing and enjoying the traditional horchata, a sweet milky juice made from a kind of sweet-potato. All these advantages are enough for Valencia to compete admirably with Barcelona and Madrid - two cities which may be Spain’s most prominent, but that also means considerably more expensive. 
Gettting to Valencia by air
Valencia's Aeropuerto de Manises receives flights from major cities all over Europe as well as regular scheduled services from Spanish centres including Barcelona, Madrid and Malaga. The airport is located just six miles to the west of the city, with trains running to the city centre every 30 minutes, buses every 10 minutes whilst taxis and shuttles are also available.
Getting to Valencia from Madrid.
Madrid to Valencia at top speed! Since mid-December 2010, the AVE (Spanish High speed trains) has been connecting the two cities. The 391 km journey has been swallowed up into a pleasant journey of 1 hour 20 minutes. A few hundred meters from the beautiful Art Nouveau train station, a new station, Valencia Joaquin Sorolla, has been as a terminus for the famous Alta Velocidad Española.

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