The Modernist Face of Valencia
Valencia is not all Calatrava and paella, just as Barcelona does not account for all of Spain’s Modernist buildings – well, someone had to say it! Clichés aside, if there is anything the first-time visitor to Valencia is likely to be amazed at it is the sheer quantity and quality of its Modernist heritage. It hits you as you wander down its streets, particularly in the historic centre and the Ensanche.
Valencia saw marked urban development in the late-19th century, the upshot of its economic boom at the time. The city grew beyond its old walled precinct, giving rise to an overspill known as the Ensanche. The expansion coincided with one of the burgeoning art movements of the moment, one that would become all the rage among Europe’s middle classes. The movement became known as Modernism, elsewhere dubbed Art Nouveau, Modern Style, Jugendstil, Liberty or Floreale, depending on the country. Not to be outdone, the Valencian middle classes became enthralled by this new style, which a marked a break with the prevailing academic tradition. Its artificers were inspired by nature and experimented with new applications of iron and glass in architecture.
Valencian Modernism is characterised by the use of glazed ceramics on facades and in interiors, which usually feature motifs associated with the region, notably oranges and orange blossom. Among the standout buildings, which you should make a point of visiting on your itinerary of Valencia’s Modernist heritage, are the following:
- Mercat Central. Built in 1914 and designed by Francesc Guàrdia i Vial and Alexandre Soler, both of whom trained at the Barcelona School of Architecture, this is one of the city’s major tourist attractions and it’s not for nothing. The interior metallic structure is painted white, making the colours of wares sold in the stalls stand out all the more. Further, visitors are met by the striking, spectacular central dome, which floods the interior with light. Both the stunning architecture and the congenial atmosphere in the market make this a must-visit for all sightseers in the city.
- Mercado de Colón. Inaugurated in 1916 and designed by Francisco Mora Berenguer, it was commissioned to provide services for the Ensanche district. Prominent is the ornamented brick facade, decorated with a host of ceramic figures – it couldn’t be otherwise! Restored in 2003, the interior now houses various shops, cafés and bars.
- Estación del Norte. Passengers arriving in Valencia by train are rewarded with the sight of this marvellous station. Opened in 1917, it boasts some beautiful areas, notably the vestibule, decorated in wood, glazed ceramics and marble.
- Casa Ordeig. Located next to the Mercat Central, it was designed by Francisco de Mora i Berenguer. He drew inspiration from the Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange), which accounts for the Neo-Gothic motifs on the facade.
- Edificio Suay. This grand edifice with its white facade is located on the corner of Calle Correos and the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. It was designed by the same architect as the Casa Ordeig.
- Edificio de los Dragones. Located on the corner of Calle Sorni and Calle Jorge Juan, it was designed by José María Manuel Cortina Pérez and built in 1901. Its Neo-Gothic-inspired decoration is striking and features a profusion of mythical animals, particularly dragons – hence its name.
Apart from the aforementioned landmarks, we recommend you take a stroll along Calle de la Paz, where you will come across numerous Modernist buildings, including the Edificio Camaña Laymon, Edificio Sancho, Casa Gray, and Casa Sagnier I and II.
Ready to discover one of Valencia’s most alluring and evocative architectural facets? Book your flight here.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
The Esmorçaret Route in Valencia
Any traveller stopping over at the city on the river Túria has their sightseeing venues cut out for them – The City of Arts and Sciences, The Cathedral, El Miguelete, The Silk Exchange, The Central Market, Torres de Serrano, Torres de Quart, The Port, The Bioparc – if you have kids in tow – and, of course, The Albufera. Needless to say, all this should be accompanied by a good paella for lunch, and an horchata for afternoon tea.
But, Valencia is a lot more than this. Indeed, locals delight in a practice which is almost a religion – what is known here as the esmorçaret, a mid-morning sandwich with freshly baked bread, accompanied by a dish of olives or nuts, a beer and coffee… all for less than five euros.
Here is a our recommendation of 8 must-visit bars where you will gradually become adepts of that healthy practice which is usually indulged in between ten and twelve o’clock in the morning.
For Omelette Lovers
Bar Alhambra. Every day Benito, the owner of this small bar in the Juan Llorens area, prepares an average of six, two-and-a-half-kilo omelettes. The main kind is the potato omelette, but you can also choose between potato and onion, as well as potato and spring garlic, potato and sobrasada, (a spicy, pork sausage) and potato and morcilla (blood sausage),among others. Another of their finger-licking specialities is the apaleao (dry-cured pork loin).
Bar Rojas Clemente. Hidden in one of the city’s smallest markets, its bar counter provides a spectacle of myriad types of omelette, scrambled eggs, sausage and savoury pies, a local classic. Be sure to try the goat’s-milk cheese, candied-tomato and spinach omelette.
Under the Valencian Sun
Kiosco La Pérgola. Located in the tranquil, sought-after Paseo de la Alameda, this is one of the city’s classic venues, both for its food and sunny terrace. The “bombón” is the star bite – with pork loin, mushrooms, cheese and a special sauce. You can also elect to order the sandwich with just mushrooms, or with grouper or liver, which in La Pérgola is a whole delicacy.
Bodega La Pascuala. All the rage among elevenses devotees, this venue is located in the seafaring quarter of El Cabañal, just a stone’s throw from La Malvarrosa Beach. Their star performer is the “Súper”, an oversize sandwich comprising a whole stick of bread, with horse meat, onion, bacon, cheese and typical Catalan tomato bread. The peanuts and olives are on the house.
Central Bar. A Michelin-starred elevenses is also doable. Run by the acclaimed chef, Ricard Camarena, this bar is in the amazing Central Market in El Carmen District, the city’s historic centre. The star sandwich is named after Ricard Camarena himself and features pork fillet, onion, cheese and mustard – a festival of flavours!
A Classic – Calamari Sandwich
Casa Mundo. Founded in 1953 by a football player and Valencia CF’s greatest ever goal-scorer, Edmundo Suárez “Mundo”, this bar in the city centre has held out admirably against the invasion of franchises. Noteworthy is their famous calamari sandwich, but also the blanco y negro (black and white) with broad beans, as well as the chivito (steakburger) and pepito de pisto (ratatouille meat sandwich), which has been made to the same recipe for over 50 years.
La Piulà. A wealth of sandwiches with juicy, crisp, homemade batter-fried calamari. The optional condiment is a mild mayonnaise. Also well worth trying is their ciclista, made of ham, omelette and tomato as the main ingredients.
Hidden in the Historic City
Tasca Ángel. The last stop on our route is a secluded venue near the Mercat Central (Central Market), a few metres away from La Lonja (Silk Exchange). This bar features what are possibly the best sardines in town – their great draw and speciality – but they have other delicacies worth trying, too. From griddled vegetables to tapas you’d be hard put to find elsewhere, notably the riñoncitos (kidneys) and lleterola (gizzard), a favourite in the Horta Valenciana rural district. Oh, and don’t pass up theirajo arriero(salt cod, potato and garlic paste).
Check out your Vueling here and join the culture of the “esmorçaret”.
Text by Laura Llamas for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
The Albufera Natural Park
The Albufera Natural Park in Valencia can be found in the town of El Palmar, some 18 kilometres south of the city of Valencia. The Albufera is the largest lake in Spain.
This is an area of great ecological interest in which several unique aquatic bird species can be seen. Many endangered species of considerable ecological value can be found here, such as the Spanish toothcarp and the Valencia toothcarp.
The famous Valencian writer Vicente Blasco Ibáñez immortalised the Albufera in his work entitled Cañas y barro, in which he portrayed the life of the society that inhabited this part of the world during the early 20th Century.
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The narrowest building in Europe
The architectural oddities we find in every city end up being the greatest attractions for tourism.
Some examples are the narrowest street in the world, Spreuerhofstraße, in the German town of Reutlingen, is only 31 centimetres in the narrowest part and 50 centimetres in the widest. In Spain, the narrowest street in Hervás, a town by the north of Extremadura; a little alley in the old Jewish neighbourhood that is barely 50 centimetres wide at the widest part. Another attraction for tourists is in San Francisco, Lombard street is a winding street, not longer than 120 meters, with up to eight turns on the way.
Besides the building at Singel street, number 7, in Amsterdam, a building in Valencia is considered the narrowest in the world. The difference is that in the famous building in Amsterdam, even the front is only one meter wide; the interior is a little bit wider. So, if we want to be precise, it’s the building with the narrowest façade in the world.
The building in Valencia is so narrow that it has only one room per floor. In order to make it liveable, rooms have being distributed high rather than across, as usual.
It’s located in the city centre of Valencia, at Lope de Vega square, number 6, right behind Santa Catalina’s church. In this case, Guinness World Records certificate is the widest in Europe.
Not long ago, cities were built across because there was enough space. But there was a time when cities started being overcrowded and new buildings were built high, because of it. That’s what happened at the world capital city for paella, apparently. We are not so sure, though, if it was build like this because there was not enough space or just to fill in an empty spot, but is clear that they were not pretending to build a skyscraper like those from Chicago school, not at all.
Anyway, less than a meter wide is the reason why hundreds of people take photos in front of this building every day and why this building became one of those unique architectonic attractions, catching the attention of everyone. With time, the building has become a remarkable landmark in the map, a place to go for tourists as much as other classic monumental buildings in Valencia, like the cathedral, or the modern Arts Palace. After years being unnoticed, the owner restored the building and even put a funny sign on it, which informs of the exact wide: 105 centimetres.
It’s strange that not many locals noticed the building. Maybe because it’s right in the middle between two bigger buildings and neither its 5 meters high nor the bright red colour were enough to catch their attention. Despite the building by the canals of Amsterdam or even some narrower houses in Japan, who could imagine that Valencia was part of the competition the be the narrowest building of the world?
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